Thursday, July 20, 2006

Big Mitch takes the Dershowitz challenge

I trust that it is no longer necessary to argue that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Further, relevant UN resolutions make it criminal for Hezbollah to continue its armed existence in Lebanon.

Prof. Dershowitz asks, “What would the United States do?” When the United States was attacked, it declared war on the terrorists, “and those that harbor them.” Notwithstanding differences of opinion regarding the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, against al Quaida and the Taliban, seems to meet with near universal approval.

The problem in Lebanon derives from the fact that morality and international law stand firmly against the idea of collective punishment. Arab leaders, ever-eager to blame Israel, describe any and all actions against terrorists that have any untoward consequences for civilians as “collective punishment.”

Therefore, a first step would be to marshal the international community to condemn Hezbollah for jeopardizing civilians by hiding among them. It is already a war-crime to use human shields. If it is true that for the first time in recent memory world opinion is on the side of Israel, this should not be an impossible goal to obtain a UN Resolution.

Next, the people of southern Lebanon must be made to understand that Israel is trying to uproot Hezbollah from their midst. This is more difficult because Hezbollah has promoted itself as a provider of services, if not a protector of civilians. The UN resolution is crucial in this regard.

The next move is Israel’s. She must liberate “the human hostages.” To do this, Israel must be prepared to relocate and support 60,000+ Lebanese for the duration of this war. These people should be treated with the utmost of respect and cordiality. It is important to bear in mind that hospitality is a core value in mid-Eastern cultures. The site should be deep within Israel, so there can be no claim that Israel wants to create a permanent displaced persons problem. The Israelis should sub-out the care and protection of these people to the French or the Canadians, or to a NGO, perhaps even the Red Crescent or Oxfam.

Not to disparage the difficulty of achieving the foregoing, the next step is even more difficult. It requires Israel to set up a perimeter around Southern Lebanon. The Golan is the eastern border, the blue line is the southern border, and the Mediterranean is the western border. The northern border is a line far enough away from Israel, so that a less than complete expungement of Hezbollah is not an intolerable threat to the Galilee.

With the establishment of this line, Israel can allow refugees to escape Northward to Beirut. The Lebanese of the south who are not at French-run DP camps in the Negev, can seek shelter in Beirut or beyond. Equally important, the Lebanese army can be supported in a drive south against the Hezbollah militia.

With Hezbollah routed in Southern Lebanon, the process of rebuilding must begin. Israel and the Lebanese Government must work cooperatively in this. American Jews must be visible in their support of the rebuilding of Southern Lebanon.

As I am not a military expert, I cannot express a judgment about the feasibility of this plan from a logistical perspective. The devil is, as always, in the details. However, the main points of the plan can be a template of sorts. First, protect non-Hezbollah Lebanese. Second, actively align with and support the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon. Third, destroy the military arm of Hezbollah. Fourth, a program of rebuilding that does for the people of southern Lebanon, what the Marshal plan did for the people of Europe.

The 800-pound gorilla is Iran. How to keep her from throwing a monkey-wrench in the works? This will take the concerted efforts of the Sunni Islamic world, the Europeans and Russians and, of course, the U.S. Unfortunately, the U.S. is already engaged in a campaign to pressure Iran for unrelated reasons. (Indeed, some would say that the Hezbollah attack on Israel was in the service of diverting attention from world condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program.)

There is a chance that the Iranian man-on-the-street can come around to opposing the government in Tehran, but not if he sees the west as imposing hardship on it. Tehran buys their loyalty with subsidized fuel – gasoline is 10¢ a liter. Can the Saudis bring to bear pressure on Tehran by undercutting Iran’s price of export oil? Can Iraqis create a situation that distracts Iran from meddling in Lebanon? Somehow Iran must be neutralized, and I suspect that it will be in the realm of cloak and dagger operations.

If the several miracles necessary to make the plan succeed should all come to fruition, it may be possible to apply the template with appropriate modifications against Hamas in Gaza. After all, we are speaking of area renown for the miracles that have occurred there.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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