World War III
Newt Gingrich argues that the conflict between Islamist extremists and the West is World War III and we should start talking about it that way. (Of course, others have argued that the Cold War was WWIII and this is WWIV.) The debate may become moot, as the current mess in the Middle East continues to escalate, with Iran now overtly vowing to do what it has already been doing covertly.
Iran warned its arch-enemy Israel of “unimaginable losses” if it attacks Syria and vowed that it was standing by the Syrian people. “We hope the Zionist regime does not make the mistake of attacking Syria, because extending the front would definitely make the Zionist regime face unimaginable losses,” foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters. “Iran is standing by the Syrian people,” he said of the Islamic republic’s sole regional ally. “We have offered and will offer Syria and Lebanon spiritual and humanitarian support,” Asefi insisted, reiterating Iran’s denial that it is providing military and financial assistance to the Hezbollah movement.
Meanwhile, the Arab League has issued a statement in support of Lebanon while asking the UN to intervene.
The Arab League said on Saturday after an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo that the Middle East peace process had failed, and called on the United Nations Security Council to intervene to stop the escalating violence. The Arab foreign ministers also adopted a resolution supporting Lebanon and the Palestinians, but also called on all parties to avoid actions that “may undermine peace and security in the region”.
“We all decided that the peace process has failed and that the mechanisms, proposals and committees were either deceptive or sedatives or contrary to the peace process, or handed the process over as a gift to Israeli diplomacy to do with as it wished,” Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said. “This has led to and is leading to the collapse of stability in the Middle East… So there is no peace process,” he added.
Sometimes, war is the best peace process, forcing the weaker side to face reality and make concessions they otherwise would be unable to stomach. Sadly, that has never seemed to be the case in the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the inevitable Israeli victory in war merely a holding action until one Arab faction or the other decides it is ready to seek revenge. With the possible exception of Egypt, the Arabs generally have not accepted that Israel is a fact of life.
Unfortunately, while my sympathies are mostly with Israel, I largely agree with Larry Johnson on substance if not style:
Olmert has somehow persuaded the Israeli military to ignore strategy, think tactically, and in the process become really stupid. The events in the next several weeks will expose as myth the canard that you can secure a nation by killing terrorists. No you can’t.
Killing “terrorists” has a place in policy but it is not a strategic military obective. It is a tactical objective and may serve political purposes, but achieves little in terms of securing Israel. Israel is attacking targets in Lebanon like a drunken sailor in a bar fight. Flailing about, causing significant damage, hitting innocent bystanders, and generally making a mess of things.
Then again, I understand Olmert’s frustration. Neither war nor diplomacy, which have been alternately and even simultaneoulsy tried over the last sixty-odd years, have gotten the job done. Kevin Drum is right to call the conflict “intractable.”
Regardless, the frustration over the inability to stop the terrorists from killing innocents makes escalation seem the best option. Jim Henley observes,
The Bush Administration and the Israelis remain obsessed with hostile states as the drivers of terrorism. Both have always assumed that if you just knock off the right leaders, you can make terrorism disappear or at least minimize it. The Bush Administration and Israel too figure that if they can take out Assad and the Mullahs, there’s no one left to “cause” terrorism.
While I think both camps understand that terrorism exists apart from state actors, states are easier to target and tend to be not only the prime financiers of terrorism but also their de facto harborers. Still, as Johnson points out, Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into quasi-state actors:
They carry out terrorist attacks, but they are not terrorists. They are something far more dangerous. They are fully functioning political, social, religious, and military organizations that use terrorism tactics, but they are far more formidible than terrorist groups like Al Qaeda or the Basque Terrorist Organization. They do have the resources and the personnel to project force, sustain operations, and cannot be easily defeated. Unlike the Egyptian and Syrian armies in 1973, Hamas and Hezbollah will not easily fold and cannot be defeated in a seven day war. If that is the assumption among some Israeli military planners it is a crazy fantasy.
I would quibble and say that, “In addition to being terrorists….” but otherwise agree. But this just brings me back to the unsatisfying position I’ve had all along: I think what the Israelis are doing now is foolish but don’t have any better suggestions.
Diplomacy hasn’t worked. Nor has war. The ultimate answer, in a purely theoretical universe, is the mass annihilation of their enemies–the quite literal wiping of regimes friendly to terrorists off the map. But, even aside from moral objections, this is quite impractical. As Henley rightly notes,
Plan A is to decapitate Syria with an eye toward cowing Iran. (And of course, decapitating Syria is a goal in itself.) […] After that it will take months to years to decide that there is terrorism only because of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, or Azerbaijan and Yemen, or Venezuela and North Korea. Eventually we’re right up against the border of China, certain that if we can just take out their leadership we can end terrorism in Israel, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all the other places we’ve been stomping on that pesky fire. Then . .
And then indeed.
I think what Israel is doing now is politically necessary both from the standpoint of their domestic politics and regional politics. The conundrum is how to prevent it from escalating into a fullscale regional or, potentially, global conflict.
I also think that Israel is more than capable of handling itself with respect to Hezbollah, Lebanon, and Syria. I’ve been urging an explicit policy of negative reciprocity for the US WRT Iran in hopes of maintaining a controlled burn.
I can’t take you seriously if you are going to quote that idiot, Larry Johnson. He has no clue what he is talking about. If someone is shooting rockets over your border, you destroy them. I don’t care about root causes for terrorism, I believe in killing terrorists, until they are all gone. One at a time, if necessary. They need to be ground into dust.
Just a quick note, James. No-one has a shred of evidence that Iran is involved in any planning for Hizboullah or Hamas or that Iranian soldiers are working for either organisation. Although the fact is entirely under-reported, the Israelis have admitted as much – what they have is uncorroberated reports from sources that may be as dodgy as Walid Jumblatt, the Chalabi of Lebanon. Stipulated, they are sending financial support and weaponry – but then again the US does the same for Israel so the scales kinda balance on that one.
I respect you as a thinker even when I don’t agree with you. Please don’t join the rush to create a narrative for spreading this war around. Jeebus, even Rick Moran has worked out the way things are being spun and said he doesn’t want a part of it.
Cernig: It’s always been a given that Hezbollah was backed by the Iranian regime, well before its current incarnation. The CFR says so:
Wikipedia notes, too, that the group was “Founded with the aid of Iran and funded by it, it follows the distinctly Shiite Islamist ideology developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.”
As I said, James…”stipulated”. No-one is disputing “influence” but “direct instructions” are different – especially when they can be touted as a cause for war by the Militant Right and the Israel Lobby – such allegations need specific evidence. It seems there is none.
BTW. This from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about 2 hours ago:
July 16, 2006 — Iran said today that an incentives package presented last month by Western powers was an “acceptable basis” for negotiations over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi urged negotiations over the program.
Asefi’s remarks came just as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in St. Petersburg, told reporters that Iran will respond “soon” to a package of offers aimed at encouraging Tehran to halt sensitive uranium-enrichment work.
What do you make of that, then?
James, I’m with Cernig on this one. There’s a distinction between support and operational control or even (as some have claimed) active participation. If anyone has real proof that Iran is in operational control of Hezbollah or is actually firing missiles into Israel itself, please produce it.
What I’ve heard on this subject from the expert testimony reminds me of the rabbinic saying If a woman comes from a far country and tells you she’s divorced, believe her. Miraculously, every expert’s assertions and reliable informants support his or her preferred outcome.
Cernig and Dave: I don’t have any in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the Hezbollah-Iran relationship. My general impression is that the mullahs generally back the terrorists’ play with gobs of money; whether they get any operational so-so for that contribution, I don’t know for sure, but one usually doesn’t give money for nothing.
In any case, I’m merely quoting the Iranian foreign minister’s statements in this case and giving him the presumption that he means what he says. When people say they want to kill you, especially when they have a history of animus toward you, it’s best to take them at their word.
As I’ve said repeatedly in this and other posts, I don’t think there are any good options in this particular case or in the Iranian nuke case. There’s no one whose analysis I trust who thinks air strikes will be enough to achieve our goals and ground invasion/occupation has its own set of problems that would make Iraq look like a cake walk.
Of course, if it were easy, the Middle East mess would have been sorted out decades ago.
Why must the “scales balance.” Israel is an ally. Iran/Syria are not. In war, we don’t want the scales to “balance.” We want the whole goddamn thing to tip over in our favor. Balance means stalemate – not to mention a sickening kind of moral relativism that a nation in our position cannot afford.
I’m with Rick Moran on this one.
We’ve been playing a balancing act for far too long. We’ve also been forcing this moral relativism on Israel for far too long.
peace with Hamas and Hezbollah, as has Israel many times over the years. And many as times been sent back to the drawing board. Not because the peace deals offered and signed were not fair and equitable, but because Hamas and Hezbollah want it all.
The reason Israel is forced to do what they’re doing right now is because of the scales of “balance”. All Israel can do is find a holding action as they’ve been doing for the last 50 years. Frankly, that’s all I’ve ever seen this current action as accomplishing.
Hamas and Hezbollah however supported, and however funded, are the destabilizing force in the region. I don’t care how many legitimate governments manage to get set up… so long as militant Islam is in place, in whatever form, Hamas, Hezbollah, you name it, there is no way that any of these legit governments can stand, including Israel, however they are armed or defended.
As I’ve indicated in another thread history is replete with examples of this. It amazes me we haven’t learned this lesson yet.
Meantime, Israel knows full well that the remainder the world is not going to give her time to deal with Hamas and Hezbollah. Elimination of them was never fully in the cards on this one. Thus, all they can do is stomp them back from the picnic ham a little bit. Buy themselves a little time.
And so we continue to play this little game.
I submit that task before the white house now is to convince the supposedly moderate Middle East government’s that acting against Hamas and Hezbollah militarily and with overwhelming force is the only way that the world is ever going to get out of this box, and the only way those individual governments are going to survive as such.
Perhaps the game has a longer time span than is currently envisioned, at a surface level. Perhaps Iran (and others) are doing everything possible to destabilize the region to drive up the cost of oil. This hurts the West’s economies, puts much more money in their coffers, stirs up the proverbial street, takes the focus off of their failures, and buys them time — lots of time. Somehow, I doubt the folks behind all of this would really be all that pleased if they woke up tomorrow and Israel were magically no longer there. But I digress.
I am not criticizing Israel’s actions right now because any other alternative featuring the well-intentioned forces of diplomacy pushes Israel back into an on-going war of attrition with its sworn mortal enemies, and everyone on all sides knows that at some point in our lifetimes, a war of attrition will mean the utter destruction of Israel. Israel and the fate of its citizens still are at risk in a way it is difficult for us to seemingly comprehend at times. As Dr. Johnson once said, “The prospect of hanging wonderfully focuses the mind.” If the US were really in danger of being destroyed or subjugated, how would we be acting?
As things get worse, and they will get much worse, I will remember to blame those who are causing this to happen, and it isn’t the leadership of Israel. Of course, they will make tactical and strategis mistakes from time to time, but who hasn’t when pushed to the wall?
Balance means stalemate – not to mention a sickening kind of moral relativism that a nation in our position cannot afford. Do you really mean that as a general principle outwith the field of conflict? Describing balance as “a sickening kind of moral relativism” would seem to suggest so. What happened to “all men are created equal” and the scales of Justice depicted on every statue since classical times? Are those just examples of “a sickening kind of moral relativism” too? I’m asking for clarification of your position here, not just uselessly snarking.
James, your argument here – My general impression is that the mullahs generally back the terroristsÃ¢?? play with gobs of money; whether they get any operational so-so for that contribution, I donÃ¢??t know for sure, but one usually doesnÃ¢??t give money for nothing seems to be that with financial support comes operational control to some degree.
US aid to Israel amounts to nearly $80 billion since 1974 (Source – Jewish Virtual Library). What operational control does the U.S. get for its “gobs of money”? Again, I’m looking for clarification of your assertion.
Or are we just playing kneejerk one-liner instead of considering carefully what we are saying from all sides first? (OK, I admit that last bit was snark.)
If you think what Israel is doing is “foolish”, but you can’t think of anything better they can do, then what they’re doing isn’t foolish.
I think that’s a lead pipe cinch, actually.
That’s possible, but I don’t really think in the primary motivation, here. I think the primary motivation closer to the fall of the west, which has rested its power on its ability to use energy. Increased prices of energy, would most certainly cause problems for that power base.
(The idea that increasing domestic production of oil would upset those plans , perhaps, being beside the point, for the moment)
Cernig, since 1975 U. S. aid to Egypt has been roughly $70 billion. I don’t believe either our aid to Israel or our aid to Egypt gives us any operational control in either place. But I do think that our money has purchased a little increased stability in the Middle East and much of what little influence we have in the region.
Similarly, as I suggested above, I think that Iran’s aid to Hezbollah does not translate to operational control. I’ve heard that asserted but never by anybody who didn’t have something to gain by saying it.
But I’d certainly welcome some evidence that Iran did have operational control over Hezbollah.
I think the relationship is more like contributing to your favorite politician. If you’re a major contributor it may get you a one-one-one lunch appointment but it’s still not a guarantee that the pol will vote your way. However, you’re probably more likely to contribute to a pol who will vote your way (whether you contribute or not).
I have read your blog for over 4 years, and I must say, you quoting Larry Johnson really baffles me. He’s a blubbering idiot that can’t even get his facts straight about Olmert’s military service.
I am disappointed in you to say the least.
Could we please have no more comparisons of US aid to Israel, a functioning nation-state, and Iranian/Syrian aid to Hezbollah/Hamas who exist as terrorist groups/political parties/charities but are no, by any stretch of the imagination, nation-states. When you are repeatedly attacked by people who cross the border from another nation that gives them aid and comfort, you have two choices: surrender or fight. If your neighbors permit attacks from their soil, they are as guilty as the attackers by giving them refuge. Israel has no other choice. Negotiation is meaningless with people who violate treaties and agreements as easily as breathing.
Ummm yea, WW3, that will take our minds off of Bush’s multitute of failures for a while…
Dave, you’re right. You often are. Not always, but often.
I recall your great series of posts on what options were available for striking Iran and what the blowback would be. If the Right just took your word for it when you wrote stuff about military matters in the ME the world would, I believe, be a more peaceful place.
P.S. Still no word from Rick on whether he thinks the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the foundations of jurisprudence are examples of Ã¢??a sickening kind of moral relativismÃ¢?? and if not, why his earlier statement doesn’t apply to them?
Because one’s about peaceably settling internal disputes through political means, and the other is about war.
Do you really not get that?
Are you seriously using Wikipedia as a source? Do you have any idea how it works?
What’s the alternative?
On the surface, your’s and Larry Johnson’s conclusions of not being able to kill enough terrorists for peace makes sense….until you visit Ground Zero.
The arab/persian terrorist organizations are rabid dogs.
If you don’t kill them, and keep killing them, they will keep coming and OVERWHELM us.
We don’t have a choice, or we get more 9/11’s.
BTW, Larry Johnson seems to be just another government pencil-neck whose second favorite word is “can’t.”; the first being “pension.”
McGeHee, “war is a continuation of politics carried on by other means,” remember? The two are not entirely different types for moral arguments.
Further, the idea of balance is surely meant to be a universal moral principle under which all ethical conduct in any matter whatsoever should be conducted.
Personally, I don’t see any “sickening moral relativism” in that at all. Apparently you do. Maybe Rick does too but he seems to now be taking Wittgenstein’s Tractatus 7.0 as his guide on discussions of ethics – at least on this thread.
So morality never chooses sides? One side is never more wrong than the other? One side is never more right than the other?
And yet you deny that this kind of nonsense is relativism.
Waiter! Check, please!
Some of these comments are truly representative of Democratic foreign policy, something we should all remember come election time:
1.) Iran should be given more time to comply with(i.e. actually complete their nuclear weapons programs) international pressure to cease uranium enrichment.
2.) Since the U.S. funds Israel, what’s so bad about Iran funding Hezbollah? (Except that Iran has called for the destruction of Israel, and Syria and IRan are actively supporting terror in Iraq and elsewhere in the mideast.)
3.) Everything’s just peachy in the mideast, this is all just a distraction from Bush’s utter failure to bend to wacky liberal ideas.
Forget all the rhetoric:
If there is anyone that does not think that WW111 didn’t start on 9/11, then he or she is a babbling idiot.
So if the DNC decides to launch an armed invasion of the Capitol, there’s no qualitative difference between that and trying to get Democrats elected to a majority of seats?
I think what started on 9/11 was the active phase of World War Four (the Cold War was WW3) but I doubt we’re far apart otherwise.
First of all the perpetraitors of 9/11 remain dubious at best. Let’s not use one tragedy as an excuse to commit another atrocious crime.
It’s time the Israel is brought to heel – it is out of control. Start with cutting aid. It does not need it.
Not really buying most of the arguments here.
So if the DNC decides to launch an armed invasion of the Capitol, thereÃ¢??s no qualitative difference between that and trying to get Democrats elected to a majority of seats?
Of course there would be, were such a paranoid fantasy to actually occur. My entire point is that the moral judgement process that leads us to who is right or wrong, good or bad in any given situation includes such universals as the concept of balance – “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. How else do you intend to arrive at a judgement?
To say the idea of balance is “a sickening moral relativism” is begging the question. Rather, to push a notion of right or wrong without including balance (i.e. judgements of proportionate or disporportionate intent, actions or beliefs) is itself an example of moral relativism.
Like what? By whom?
Yeah. How dare they attempt to defend themselves.
Kind of like justifying kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombs, while demonizing air strikes, detention of combatants, and the like. I guess it all just depends on how you apply your even-handedness.
Hm. It was a thoughtful thread, for a while.
Blowing up Lebanese women and children is recruiting for Hezbollah and Hamas. I appreciate Israel’s frustration, but they’re not fixing anything here. Quite the contrary.
Leaning heavily on Syria would at least rein in Hamas a bit. Unfortunately we don’t have much to lean on Iran with.
Note that if we (1) weren’t mired in Iraq and (2) didn’t take Israel’s side on every single issue, we would be a lot more influential right now. As it is, why pay attention to the U.S.?
Great Dem talking points, Andersen, however untrue.
‘Leaning’ on Syria would likely lead to the total regional conflict everybody’s concerned with.
1.) We’re not ‘mired’ in Iraq. If the U.S. were faced with a threat from Iran, you would see what our military’s capabilities are. For now, I’m fine with keeping some things on the down-low.
2.) If we were against Israel on EVERY issue, these terrorsits would continue about their business. They simply don’t give a damn about what we think. They only respond to force.
Congratulations, you have confirmed that you are one of the “Babbling Idiots”
Get a Life dingbat, Just how stupid can you be, If we lost Israel, the entire Middle East would be lost and you would be running around like the chicken. (You know, with your head cut off)
Kind of like justifying kidnappings, beheadings, and suicide bombs, while demonizing air strikes, detention of combatants, and the like.
Go on, point to where I said that. Here or anywhere else.
I’m not a member of ANYONES clique but my own. I do my own thinking. I recommend you try it.
LeaningÃ¢?? on Syria would likely lead to the total regional conflict everybodyÃ¢??s concerned with.
I don’t think Syria’s military is any great shakes, and I don’t think they can afford to be ostracized. Syria isn’t especially oil-rich, is it? Note that I’m not advocating invasion or attacks–look up “leaning on.”
1.) WeÃ¢??re not Ã¢??miredÃ¢?? in Iraq. If the U.S. were faced with a threat from Iran, you would see what our militaryÃ¢??s capabilities are. For now, IÃ¢??m fine with keeping some things on the down-low.
In your dreams, sir.
2.) If we were against Israel on EVERY issue, these terrorsits would continue about their business. They simply donÃ¢??t give a damn about what we think. They only respond to force.
Aside from the stupidity of the “only respond to force” meme, this misses the point. No one cares about persuading the terrorists. They’re unpersuadable and a small % of the population. What we need is to win over the civilians without whose support the terrorists can barely function.
If we can get to where Palestinian reaction to terror attacks is “bastards, quit messing things up for us” instead of cheering like their team scored a goal, then we’ll see progress.
The sports analogy is accurate. Few people who cheer a team on have anything to gain by its win. The Palestinian attitude to terror demonstrates their alienation from any sense of real involvement or consequences in the continuation of terror. They feel they have nothing to lose.
Not pointing to any specific quote by you Cernie, just your (and the media’s) willingness juxtapose military operations by us or Israel to terrorists.
Clique? Now you lost me. I am a free thinker.
Andersen- you just haven’t been paying attnetion to world affairs. MAybe to busy bashing the President or making contributions to the ACLU… In case you missed it, the only leaning Syria will take seriously is quite literally, a threat of force.
At least the ‘only responing to force’ meme isn’t as tired as the ‘if we all could just get along’ meme. I don’t think there’s much in the way of diplomacy that hasn’t already been tried and tried again.
Would be great if that actually worked anywhere… North Korea, Iran, Iraq…
Now who’s dreaming.
In case you missed it, the only leaning Syria will take seriously is quite literally, a threat of force.
Really? Remind me what else the West has tried?
At least the Ã¢??only responing to forceÃ¢?? meme isnÃ¢??t as tired as the Ã¢??if we all could just get alongÃ¢?? meme.
Right, which is why I didn’t say any such thing. (For that matter, what do *Americans* respond to, except force?)
Would be great if that actually worked anywhereÃ¢?Â¦ North Korea, Iran, IraqÃ¢?Â¦
Would be great if that had been tried … and your naming 3 completely different situations doesn’t inspire much faith in your analytical powers, alas.
Knee-jerk anti-Israel or anti-Palestinian sentiment is not going to get anyone anywhere, except further down the present path.
Perhaps you are right that WW 111 was the cold war. I remember the Cold War from start to finish and can tell you that during that period of time I never felt as threatened as I do now. Americans, during the cold war were “Together” to fight the fight”. Now, we have not only to feel threatened by terrorist but we are threatened from within and we are NOT together as the result of the 2000 elections and a hell of a lot of Left Wing Liberals doing everything possible to divide our country and make us a weaker nation.
Thinking about it further, Maybe WW 111 really started when Bush beat Gore in the 2000 elections.
Herb, WWIV (or III, depending on what you call the Cold War) started on November 4, 1979. We just ignored it for a generation or so.
Maybe would should just ask Syria real nice, like ‘Would you please stop providing weapons and training to people who are actively trying to kill us and our allies?’
We’ll see if Condi comes up with anything. You’ll probably think she isn’t trying hard enough because she’s not giving away the whole store…
Now that’s just stupid. How many resolutions in Iraq? How many surrounding Israel? The problem is a world body that cannot act independently of the selfish motives of its members. That’s how we get to this position. Every. Single. Time. We can’t head off the war with diplomacy because it goes totally unsupported, while people are dying. We can’t count on the U.N. to take a position, and do the right thing.
Are you friggin’ stoned Anderson? Arte you really saying that we have never tried to get Palestinians to reject terror? Hell, even your hero cigar n’ a blue dress tried that.
Alas, my analytical ability has kept me alive for this long, which is more than I can say for your current tack.