Cease Fire: To What End?

The news that purports to be hopeful on this Sunday is of a cease-fire in Lebanon to begin Monday at 8 a.m. local time. Whether this cessation of firing actually happens, and for how long, and to what end will only be seen as the world turns. We can be certain of course that the boys with the guns — Hezbollah and Israel alike — will not be turning out the lights to take a nap.

On the Israeli side the recriminations are all ready spitting: the milis saying the polis ruined their perfect plan; the polis saying the milis didn’t execute. Some are blaming Bush for pushing the inexperienced Olmert as early as May for a military blow against Hezbollah. There are calls for Olmert’s head from the revanchanist right and general agreement in the Israeli populace that the withdrawal of troops from the Gaza strip was a gesture of conciliation that has failed, and so eff em. The barrages of rockets into Israel’s north has been terrifying to all, but mostly injurious to the poor –mostly recent immigrants– who couldn’t escape to the south, and the Israeli Arabs, likewise poor, living there. One hundred dead as recent counts would have it. 250 rockets lobbed in today as if a turd in the ceasefire punch bowl.

The Lebanese, as far as I can read it, are mostly mourning. Even those who once lived in the south and appreciated the social services of Hezbollah didn’t seem to have a dog in this fight; they just got their bodies chewed up in the viciousness. Count is about one thousand dead plus destruction of home and neighborhood on a scale not seen since German and British raids in WW II: entire blocks are reduced to brick and dust. The Hezbollah fighters, despite their reputation for martyrdom, have learned the number one rule of all soldiers: the point is not to die for your country/faith it’s to kill for it. They have surprised the hell out of their adversaries and, according to some, are ushering in the birth of a new Middle East not quite as Con Rice is envisioning. Even those who cursed Hezbollah in the beginning have been heard, and seen, to be singing their praises.

Of course whatever is thought to be happening when marked off by the boundaries of Israel / Hezbollah-in-Lebanon takes on a whole other character when the boundaries are moved – to the US and Iran, for example. Seymour Hersh’s article in the New Yorker breaks into the open what has been going on between Israel and the U.S. Israel did not, he says, quoting others, ask permission to invade Lebanon. The U.S. was not unhappy that they did; in fact have known for some time that the desire was there; and felt it was a good thing.

Earlier this summer, before the Hezbollah kidnappings, the U.S. government consultant said, several Israeli officials visited Washington, separately, “to get a green light for the bombing operation and to find out how much the United States would bear.” The consultant added, “Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security Council.” After that, “persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi Rice was on board,” the consultant said.

The initial plan, as outlined by the Israelis, called for a major bombing campaign in response to the next Hezbollah provocation, according to the Middle East expert with knowledge of U.S. and Israeli thinking. Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon’s large Christian and Sunni populations to turn against Hezbollah, according to the former senior intelligence official. The airport, highways, and bridges, among other things, have been hit in the bombing campaign. The Israeli Air Force had flown almost nine thousand missions as of last week. (David Siegel, the Israeli spokesman, said that Israel had targeted only sites connected to Hezbollah; the bombing of bridges and roads was meant to prevent the transport of weapons.)

The Israeli plan, according to the former senior intelligence official, was “the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran.” (The initial U.S. Air Force proposals for an air attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity, which included the option of intense bombing of civilian infrastructure targets inside Iran, have been resisted by the top leadership of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps, according to current and former officials. They argue that the Air Force plan will not work and will inevitably lead, as in the Israeli war with Hezbollah, to the insertion of troops on the ground.)

Later in the article the relation of the Israel venture to Iran planning in the minds of U.S. war dogs is made clear.

Cheney’s office supported the Israeli plan, as did Elliott Abrams, a deputy national-security adviser, according to several former and current officials. (A spokesman for the N.S.C. denied that Abrams had done so.) They believed that Israel should move quickly in its air war against Hezbollah. A former intelligence officer said, “We told Israel, ‘Look, if you guys have to go, we’re behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later—the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.’ ”

Of course the unexpected is always, er, unexpected …

The surprising strength of Hezbollah’s resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing, the Middle East expert told me, “is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back.”

Whether the surprise is due to piss-poor intelligence — where are the underground facilities? how did 10,000 rockets get into the area and where are they? — or due to a failure to understand the simplest rules of human combat: don’t count on the cowardice of your enemy, will be looked at down the line.

In the soul searching and armaments inventorying voices from armageddonists such as Tashbih Sayed will enter the fray, voices loud and certain, raising the fear at every level with assertions as to what Muslims think, showing the long history of their perfidy and calling somehow — it seems to me — for an unthinkable (let’s not call it a final) solution.

The latest flare-up in a 59 years long war to wipe the Jewish state off the map of the world is fast approaching its expected closure. Israel is once again being forced to leave the job of eliminating the Islamist threat unfinished. The world’s powers, blinded by their anti-Semitism, politico-commercial considerations, and regional agendas, want Israel to stop pursuing its legitimate campaign to secure itself by eradicating the Islamist threat from its door steps: they want an immediate cease-fire.

They are not ready to accept that in case of political Islam, cease-fires are nothing but tactical pauses which are used as tools to gain time in order to recoup losses, re-arm forces, and rebuild terrorist infrastructure

The Cease Fire, in Pakistan Today

Meanwhile, ceasefire or not, all sides are preparing not for peace but for the next round. Without understanding the elemental particles of human behavior — identity, belonging, fear, agression, loyalty, justice, vengefulness, dignity, hope — progress in slowing the impetus towards critical mass will be nil.

Update: For more commentary on the Hersh article go to billmon at Whiskey Bar.

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