WB: Rush Takes the Islamofascist Line +++
IV. Beau Geste
WB: The Times Gets a Clue
WB: Not Ready to Make Nice? ++++
Not for the first time I ask: Have Israeli's political and military leaders completely lost their marbles?
III. Reckless Disregard
[T]he Israelis are doing their level best to make it appear as if nothing has changed and they've put nothing on the table, except a fig leaf for Madame Supertanker to use to cover her diplomatic nakedness.
Perhaps this is true -- I may have underestimated both the cynicism of the Israeli PR apparatus and the domestic political pressure to achieve something that can be called a victory before the clock runs out. Or, it may simply be elaborate bluster to cover the fact that the clock has already run out. We'll see.
WB: Life of the Party
WB: Life Imitates Insanity
WB: War By Tantrum II
We'll see how things play out, but right now it looks to me like the Israelis and Madame Supertanker are trying to throw in the towel -- without admitting that they're throwing in the towel. This particular war (knock on wood) may almost be over.
WB: Days of Darkness
WB: The Show Must Go On
There is, however, a big risk, which is that Sheikh Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, will soon feel compelled by pressure from his own clueless hotheads to unleash the Tel Aviv rockets. This would force Israel to respond with some sort of savage escalation, and since the only available instrument is pure terror bombing [unless Jerusalem wants to take the war to downtown Damascus] the civilian death toll would probably soar even higher.
Welcome to the "new" Middle East -- the geopolitical equivalent of the "new" Coke. The recipe may be different, but it still tastes like blood.
Other news & views - open thread - ...
WB: The Definition of Losing +
It is in that sense -- the sense Clausewitz used -- that Israel is losing, and has probably lost, this war. There's always the possibility that the IDF will dream up a bold, imaginative stroke to redress the balance, like the brilliant '73 counterattack that trapped an entire Egyptian Army on the banks of the Suez Canal. But this IDF isn't showing that kind of creativity and daring. It's also not clear what kind of a stroke against a guerrilla army like Hizbullah could give Israel the smashing success it needs in the limited time left. ..
WB: Dark Horse
WB: A Parting of the Ways
But the fundamental difference of interest (existential versus optional) remains, and the isolationist tide continues to build. This wouldn't be a problem if the allies were winning, but the losses are mounting up. As in any marriage, adversity doesn't decrease the chances of divorce, it increases them.
WB: Boys Town + The Debacle
What is clear is that the failure of Israel's blitzkrieg (and at the moment, it looks like a catastrophic failure, at least politically) will have enormous repercussions in the Middle East, just as the downfall of Louis Napoleon had in late 19th century Europe. By betting the ranch on a quick, decisive victory, the Anglo-Israeli alliance has committed both a crime and a mistake. The architects may escape punishment for the former, but I think the latter is going to come back to haunt them, and probably very soon.
II: The Debacle
I. Boys Town
Swamp Dreams - Part 2
by b real
Swamp Dreams IV, III, II, I (full view, ~ 280 kb each)
WB: Unsound Methods +
II. Another Atrocity
Killing Death Squad Leaders +
The US military has opened a new war on Al Sadr and his Mahdi militia. It is the Iraq part of the Oceania moment - declaring a new war on the Shiite militia instead of the old war on Sunni dead enders.
In this war the US is taking out the leaders of Sadr's militia one by one and prepares, by rushing more soldiers to Baghdad, for the expected reprisal and a third all out fight against Al Sadr in a second phase.
Based on interviews with Khalizad and other officials David Ignatius reports on, and is sceptical of, this importent shift in the US strategy in Iraq. Let's try to pick this apart.
Ignatius on phase 1:
Maliki has endorsed an aggressive strategy to retake Baghdad from the Shiite death squads roaming the streets. That means taking on militia gangs tied to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The strategy is premised on a view that unless Maliki's Shiite-dominated government can stop the death squads from his own sect, he will have no chance of co-opting Sunni insurgent groups.
Khalizad did put up a long fight to get Maliki installed instead of Jaafari. The selected man has now endorsed, we are to believe, a plan to kill his friends and only his friends. Attacks on Sunni death squads seem not to be part of the new plan.
The military calls the new battle for Baghdad "Operation Together Forward." It began about two weeks ago, with raids by U.S. and British special operations forces to capture or kill death squad leaders. So far, about 10 have been "taken out," most of them members of the Mahdi Army, according to administration officials.
Looks like Sadr Inc. may lose a bit of its middle management. But with this, the US forces are just another death squad within the hodgepod of death squads in the Iraqi civil war.
One wonders who will decide who is the "death squad leader" that needs be be "taken out" next. On what and who's intelligence are and will these actions be based?
This third war against assumed Iran supporter Sadr did start two weeks ago, i.e. July 14.
As it is the Middles East, one might assumes this to be a pure coincidence that another war of attrition against another assumed Iran supporter organisation started on July 13.
(Incidently: I currently have several bombed bridges in Beirut and Baghdad on sale. Is anybody interested?)
Although U.S. military planners were worried that Sadr might respond by bringing his fighters out in the streets en masse, Khalilzad said that, so far, "Moqtada's reaction has been muted. He understands that the death squads are out of control. They include former Saddamists who joined the Mahdi Army and are not under his control." Administration officials say that they don't want a pitched battle with Sadr, but that, in the words of one official: "If confrontation comes, it's best that it come now."
Khalilzad's explanation of former Saddamists (secular Baath Sunni) having joined the Mahdi Army (radical religious Shia) to fight a religion and tribe based civil war is, of course, pure male bovine dropping.
But why would a confrontation comming later be worse? Are there circumstances envisioned where such a confrontation would intervene with other endeavors?
This stealthy war against the death squads is at the center of the new strategy for securing Baghdad. [..]
In addition to targeting death squad leaders, the United States plans to retake Baghdad neighborhoods by starting with the city's 117 police stations. The plan is to install stronger Iraqi police leadership and embed U.S. forces with them. Administration officials speak of an "ink spot" strategy for Baghdad, establishing these pockets of security and then expanding them outward.
As the fight against Sadr forces by "taking out" his leadership ranks is the "center idea", the military will have to prepare for the inevitable backslash. Al Sadr has not taken the bait yet, but at one point he may have to respond.
(Sidenote: Putting small contingents of US forces into 117 police station makes for 117 distributed and easy to pick targets who depend on reenforcement coming through narrow, easy to blockade city streets. This plan will really motivate the GI's involved in the mess.)
In preparation for this second phase (and maybe other eventualities), the U.S. is increasing its official troop strenght in Iraq from currentlly 128,000 to 135,000 men.
The AP reports 16 brigades are in Iraq now compared to 14 brigades a few weeks ago. (A brigade has about 3,500 men and women.) The LA Times writes that the 172nd Brigade, which was scheduled to go home these days, will now have to stay in Iraq for another three month. The 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division is moving to Iraq and a another brigade stationed in Germany did get orders to prepare to move to Iraq. The major in-theatre reserve force that was stationed in Kuwait is now committed to battle in Baghdad.
Unlike the last big fight against the Mahdi army in the Najaf cementary, this fight will take place in Baghdad. There, the Sadr folks are an indigenous force. They will fight in the streets they grew up in. Even with the additional forces committed now, I do doubt that the US has any chance to make more than a decent dent into their capabilities.
But then that may not even be the intent. The idea might to be to increase pressure on Iran by pushing against its assumed allies. Degrading their capacities now, could lessen the negative effects of a later attack on the center of the axis of evil.
WB: How To Win Friends and Influence People
Open thread ... other news & views ...
WB: Axis of Weevil
I think David Frum badly needs to sit down and re-read his own book. Maybe then he'll remember that Iraq is a stunning success -- a role model for the war on terrorism, the key to democracy in the Middle East, the cure for the heartbreak of halitosis and a lot of other wonderful things, although I can't think of any more at the moment.
David should be proud of the role he played in making this foreign policy triumph possible. He should give himself a manly pat on the back. And then I think he ought to take a 45 caliber pistol, lock himself in his office, and "do the right thing."
WB: Grapes of Wrath +
II. Hirohito Watch
WB: A Blight Unto the Nations
It has a nasty edge of hysteria to it, a compulsive need to prove to the Arabs, and the world, that Israel still can and will stomp on anyone who gets in its way. The fact that Hizbullah is now demonstrating the limits of Israeli power -- or rather, the limits on how much Jewish blood Israel is willing to spend to exercise that power -- is only making matters worse. The Israeli leadership elite is starting to sound like the semen-crusted violence addicts at Little Green Footballs. Given how much real violence the generals and politicians can inflict, that's a sobering thought, to say the least.
WB: Breaking Wind
The ultimate result, of course, is a truly insane combination of bed partners, with the Iraqi prime minister giving a stemwinder of a speech against Zionist aggression in Baghdad one day, and then flying off to Washington the next day to vow enternal vigilance against terrorism in front of the most pro-Israel body on the planet -- the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, Iranian-backed guerrillas are killing Israeli soldiers in Lebanon while an Iranian-backed government in Iraq sends its troops out on patrols with the U.S. military, which is speeding bunker buster bombs to the Israeli military so it can go kill more Iranian-backed guerrillas.
WB: Fog of War +
I. Fog of War
Weird but Real
This is weird but very, very real:
But even if Hizbullah does not at this time pose an existential threat to the country - Hizbullah will not throw us into the sea -- Israel needs to win this war, and deliver a punishing blow to Hizbullah, for another key reason: to preserve our status as a key strategic US ally.
Beyond all the talk about how the US supports Israel because it is the only democracy in the Middle East, and because of shared values, the US supports Israel because it sees Israel as an important component of its own national security dogma, an American bridgehead in a region hostile to the US.
As such, Washington is watching to see how we do. The US wants to see Hizbullah weakened badly; it wants to see Damascus weakened badly; it wants to see Iran suffer the loss of a key proxy. This is in their interest. This will help their own efforts in Iraq.
A democratic Lebanon, something impossible with a strong Hizbullah and Syrian meddling, will enhance the American status in the region, a status that is declining with each passing Iraqi day.
It's a safe bet to assume that in Washington they are watching very carefully how this war is going, and whether Israel is able to deliver the knockout punch to Hizbullah that the US wants to see delivered. Washington is watching and judging Israel, to see how effective a strategic asset Israel really is.
Added: Abu Aadvark
Real American leadership, such as quickly restraining the Israeli offensive and taking the lead in ceasefire negotiations, could have created a Suez moment and dramatically increased American influence and prestige (especially if the Saudis had delivered Iran in a ceasefire agreement, as I've heard that Saudi officials believed that they could). But by disappearing for the first days of the war and then resurfacing only to provide a megaphone for Israeli arguments and to prevent international efforts at achieving a ceasefire, the Bush administration put America at the center of the storm of blame. I think that the Lebanon war will go down in history as one of the greatest missed opportunities in recent American diplomatic history - not because we failed to go after Iran, or whatever the bobbleheads are ranting about these days, but because we failed to rise to the occasion and exercise real global leadership in the national interest.
WB: Waist Deep
Other News & Views
Open thread ...
WB: How I'm Feeling at the Moment +
If all this sounds familiar -- the half-baked war plan, the unexpected setbacks, the frantic search for foreign legions, the lack of an exit strategy, the rising tide of blood -- it certainly should. We've already seen this movie, in fact we're still sitting through the last reel. It's a hell of a time to release the sequel.
II. Better Now
WB: Off the Reservation ++
Do Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell know about this?
III. The Lavender Threat
I'm beginning to think that the IDF has completely lost its collective mind.
II. Big Fish
Man, there's going to be some serious erections at Little Green Footballs tonight!
WB: Bottom of the Barrel +
Endgame: Stalemate + WB: Two Steps Forward, One Back
How will the current Lebanon conflict end?
Israel is day by day losing its moral ground. Attacks on clearly marked ambulances, the use of cluster ammunition and phosphorous bombs are now toping the obviously unproportional use of force applied since the first days of this war on Lebanon.
The mainstream media folks are in history altering propaganda mode, so here is my take for you to discuss of what has led to this and what, I think, the current endgame may be.
(Update: Correlated Billmon post: Two Steps Forward, One Back?)
This war, planed for a long time, did not start in a vacuum and it did not start with the two Israeli soldiers taken POW by Hezbollah.
After 22 years of bloody occupation, Israel forces left Lebanon unilaterally, i.e. without any peace agreement, in 2000. The UN security council certified that Israel thereby had fullfilled resolution 425, i.e. leaving all of Lebanon. But the Lebanese government claims that the Shebaa farms, part of the Syrian Golan heights and occupied by Israel since 1973, are part of its country and demands them to be returned. Israel also for years has imprisoned several Lebanese it fetched during the occupation.
Since it withdrawed, Israel has made daily illegal "reconnaissances" flights within Lebanese air space. It did attack Lebanese fisherman. There were several skirmishes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces in the Shebaa farm area, especially after a 15 year old shepard was shot on Lebanese ground.
There were also several unsuccessful and successful targeted killings of Palestinian and Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon this year. In June the Lebanese government busted a terror ring, alleged to have done these assessinations and connected to Mossad, an Israeli secret service.
Whoever claims that Hezbollah started the current event, ignores this decade old history of violent tit for tat.
Unlike Israel claims, the prisoner taking of the IDF soldiers by Hezbollah's military wing may have happened on Lebanese ground. At least five of the Israeli eight soldiers who died that day definitely were killed within Lebanon. Hezbollah demands all Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails to be released in an exchange for the POWs.
Israel now, for the first time and wrongly, declared the Lebanese government to be responsible for a Hezbollah act. In haste, it ordered the Israeli Defense Forces to implement the long prepared plans for an all out air war on Lebanon. After the first air attacks, Hesbollah started to launch katjushas and bigger unguided rockets on Israel military installations and population centers.
Yesterday Rice presented the Israeli ceasefire conditions to the Lebanese Premier. This was an ultimatum to fulfill all of Israel's demands before the bombing stops, not a negotiation offer. After she left Beirut, the bombings, which had been halted for a few hours, started to anew.
Israel demands that Hezbollah shall be disarmed in accordance with UN resolution 1559 by either the Lebanese government or an international force. (Israel, with dozens of unfulfilled UN resolutions against it, demanding such, is a serious joke by itself.) No Lebanese government can do so and survive and no international force will be willing (although some German politicians here are getting cocky) to disarm Hezbollah. Any "neutral" force would also have to shoot down Israeli planes violating Lebanese air space. Otherwise it would be rightly seen as an Israeli pawn. Any volunteers out there to fight down the IAF?
Hezbollah has agreed to lay down its arms, if the Shebaa farms are returned to Lebanon and it has promised to free the Israeli soldiers, if Israel returns all Lebanese prisoners.
That is the "durable solution" Rice is demanding in Israel's name.
Israel is running out of time. The propaganda wall of a "moral" war of "poor little Israel" is crumbling with each report on the ongoing atrocites. The IAF is also running out of targets to bomb, while Hezbollah has enough rockets left to keep a third of Israel's population in bunkers for at least another month. It even could escalate by firing its longest range weapons into Tel Aviv.
The Israeli demand can not be fullfilled by any Lebanese government. No international force will pop up to do the dirty work. The Israeli negotiation position is quite bad now. Either they escalate the conflict by attacking Syria under some fable excuse, or they need to negotiate seriously and they will have to accept Lebanese conditions too.
As Zvi Bar'el writes in Haaretz, The road to peace runs through Shaba Farms. He is right, but here it is getting tricky because Syria comes into the game.
The UN security council regards the Shebaa Farms as Syrian territory, because all available historic maps showed it to be Syrian proper. Syrian has, through its Foreign minister, orally declared that the Shebaa farms are Lebanese territory. Also the people of the farms claim to be Lebanese and payed taxes to the Lebanense state. The UN demands a written declaration from Syria. But de jure, Syria does not even accept Lebanon to be a seperate state, but regards it as a historic pre-colonial part of a greater Syria.
To solve this mess Syria has to be part of the solution. The Syrian president Assad of course knows this and he will come up with his own demands. These will definitly include the return of the Golan heights to Syria after which he may give the Shebaa farms back to Lebanon.
But the Golan heights are an important water resource and Israel definitly does not want to give them back to anybody.
So all this points well to a stalemate. Israel may try to catch and to occupy again some very bloody few miles of Lebanese ground, but it can not bomb Beirut forever. After the bombing stops, Hezbollah will replenish its arsenals and will continue to drop a few katjushas here and there, but it will stop firing them at major population center. They have been through an occupation before and did win and they think they will win again.
Without any ceasefire and peace deal in sight, the conflict will settle down in a few days and then keep simmering for some more years until another Israeli and/or another US administration will find some brain and try to implement a real solution.
The Lebanese have lost a lot of people and a lot of money. They will recover.
But the US' and Israeli government have lost a whole lot political standing in front of their populations, the middle east and the whole world. It will take many years for them to recover any of that now lost moral ground.
Meanwhile Palestinians in the Gaza strip and the West Bank get hit really hard and nobody is looking their way.
Precise Weapons - Precise Targets + WB: Bull's Eye
Medics, injured civilians under attack
Red Cross trucks in south Lebanon targeted by pilots
WB: Revolt of the Puppets
That's not an Arab or a Muslim thing, really -- just basic human psychology. And it appears that in the concentric circles of Middle East loyalties, Sunni versus Shi'a is still trumped by Arab versus Jew, believer versus infidel and (it would appear) tough Islamic fighters versus corrupt pro-U.S. elites.
WB: War by Tantrum
One can have some sympathy for the Israelis, who love life and don't want to die (although that hasn't stopped them from killing a lot of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians) but considering the stakes, a little more aggressiveness on the ground, against an enemy who can shoot back, seems to be necessary. Unless that is, the Israelis really do want a cease fire sooner rather than later, in which case the psychological and political map of the Middle East has just been completely redrawn.
WB: Pity Party
Perhaps we can assume that Ricks, like the child who touched the hot stove, is now once burned and twice shy. But what about his colleagues -- the ones out there now writing down whatever propaganda bullshit an Israeli general or embassy military attache is pushing their way? How many years will we have to wait before they let us know they got it all wrong?
WB: Hirohito Effects
I don't know how much they're paying Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright to crank out this crap, but it's gotta be a lot more than the old Pravda writers used to get. But they're worth it: Your typical Pravda story would have you dozing and dreaming about tractor parts in no time. But this stuff is almost good enough for The Daily Show.
WB: Iraq 1921-2006
WB: Gullible's Travels
News & views ...
WB: Big Muddy
Dr. van Creveld, more than most, should understand where that logic ends in this kind of war: in defeat or genocide. For some time now, one of my biggest fears has been that the neocons and their helpmates will finally drag America into a situation in the Midlde East where those are the only choices. The last twelve days seem to have taken us -- or at least our Middle East proxy -- another step in that direction.
WB: Democracy in Action
If "democracies" can and do fight "democracies" -- presumably with the support of their citizens, who otherwise would vote the warmongers out of office -- then what exactly is the point of trying to spread "democracy" throughout the Middle East? I mean other than providing government consulting contracts to "democracy" experts like Dr. Feldman?
WB: Department of the Bleedin' Obvious
I could go on and on, but really, what's the point? Only that Ricks is as responsible as anyone for leading the American people (and the military itself) to believe the war was being won -- quickly and decisively. That being the case, why should the generals have bothered to remember the lessons of Vietnam?
WB: Old War Criminals Never Die
WB: Another Oceania Moment
This is the closest thing I’ve seen yet to a flat-out admission that the Iraq War was a disastrous strategic mistake. Or conversely, if you’re a true Orwell disciple, it’s simply another meaningless switch in an endless war whose real purpose isn’t to defeat the enemy, but to keep the prols docile and the ruling party firmly in power in this country.
WB: Apologist for War Crimes? It Depends
The German army has given well-publicized notice to all Jews to depart those areas of the Warsaw Ghetto that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — could be counted among the innocent victims of the need for German living space.
The Spirit of the King David Hotel
In the 60 years since the attack at the King David Hotel, Israel has hurt some two million civilians, including 750,000 who lost their homes in 1948, another quarter million Palestinians who were forced to leave the West Bank in the Six-Day War and hundreds of thousands of Egyptian civilians who were expelled from the cities along the Suez Canal during the War of Attrition. And now tens of thousands of Lebanese villagers are being forced to abandon their homes, and air force pilots are once again bombing Beirut and other cities. Hundreds of civilians have been killed. Regrettably. It's all in the spirit of the King David Hotel.
The spirit has infested not only the Israeli public, but also the U.S. media and U.S. political institutions. One can gather some hope for sanity reading of anti-war protests in Tel Aviv and Gideon Levi's comments, but would any major U.S. paper ever (re-)print or any U.S. politician ever acknowledge this?
The president of the United States can push us to continue the war all he wants, the prime minister of Britain can cheer us in parliament, but in Israel and Lebanon, the blood is being spilled, the horror is intensifying, the price is rising and it is all for naught.
A commentator on Pat Lang's blog did post the transcript of a recent Charlie Rose interview with Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of the "Daily Star. (I didn´t find any other open source for that transcript, but it seams real.)
I recommand to read it in full. It shows how little the interviewer and the U.S. general public know about the conflict and its roots while Khouri is able to explain some underlying reasons.
CHARLIE ROSE: I have two big questions. Number one, do you think the Israelis, if they continue these attacks will be successful in doing great damage if not destroying the capabilities of Hezbollah?
RAMI KHOURI: I am pretty certain that they will fail in doing that, and the reason I say that is because they`ve tried this three or four times with various groups in Lebanon and failed.
And the reason it has failed is that you cannot provide a military solution to a political problem. And you cannot win with overwhelming military force against a determined guerrilla group fighting for its national sovereignty and its human dignity. [...]
CHARLIE ROSE: Why do you think the Israelis have not learned the lesson you think they should have?
RAMI KHOURI: I think Israel fundamentally as a nation has never been able to come to grips with two central notions in its modern history. One is the idea of a viable legitimate Palestinian state, and the other one is with the nature and the identity of Arab national identity, which also includes national identity in Lebanon for the country of Lebanon itself. The Israelis have been so obsessed with the idea of their own security and certainly, you know, rightly so, given their modern and ancient history of being persecuted and subjected to pogroms and holocausts. But they have allowed their over-focus on their security to blind them to the fact that they can never have security if their neighbors don`t have it. And I think this has been an irrational strain in - in modern Zionism. And unfortunately, the irrationality seems to have expanded into the White House now as well.
Which leads me back to the bigger war on the Middle East and U.S. politics.
Bush is using the war on Lebanon and will use its extention on Syria and Iran to rally his crowd for the November election. The Democrats take whatever it needs to help him.
Last week, with 410 to 8, the House passed a resolution that reads like having been written in AIPAC offices. It endorses Israel's illegal indiscriminate killing of civilians. But more important, the resolution is giving Bush a free hand to attack Iran and Syria. It:
.. affirms that all governments that have provided continued support to Hamas or Hezbollah share responsibility for the hostage-taking and attacks against Israel and, as such, should be held accountable for their actions [and] condemns the Governments of Iran and Syria for their continued support for Hezbollah and Hamas in their armed attacks against Israelis and their other terrorist activities;
The U.S. media of course hardly did mention this part while lauding the destruction of Beirut. But you can be sure that the White House will trot this out prominently when the bombs are falling on Tehran in an effort to hold them accountable. Then, some Democrats will protest, but their votes are now on record.
When the other side has a winning campaign issue, it does not make much sense to scream "me too". In doubt, the voters, having no real choice, will always favor the proven war party, not the unproven "me too" one.
The Democrats just handed out another two years of unrestrained warpower. Two more years (at least) of King George in the spirit of the King David Hotel.
WB: Midwives + Losing an Army
We're talking, on other words, about a potential debacle -- the worst U.S. military defeat since Pearl Harbor. Not because the Iranians are brilliant strategists or tough fighters (although they may be; we really don't know) but because the Iraq occupation has left the U.S. Army dangerously overextended, given its massive supply requirements.
I don't know whether the Cheney administration wants to start the next world war by attacking Iran or not. At the end of the day, it's all up to our ignorant man child of a president, and I don't know if he even knows at this point. But what does seem apparent, however, is that if Shrub and company do want a world war, they may not be any better prepared to fight one than the guys in charge at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941.
II. Losing an Army
News & views ...
WB: Birth Pangs
All Alone (and in the shadow)
by anna missed
(detail, bigger - 170 kb)
(full view - 170 kb)