After two weeks away from the UK and reading the New York Times and Boston Globe, I have returned to find some e mails missing and a lot of the potential provided by tragically essential warfare, squandered.
Early on it was obvious that a full-scale land offensive was necessary to find Hizballah and to flush them out. It was also clear that aerial advantages had to be used to the full and provide every kind of protection for tanks and men in a close support role as well as a fully-fledged 'softening up' aspect. According to hopefully misleading media reports, Israel was surprised by enemy resistance levels. Or these reports were not mere disinformation and there was an Israeli intelligence failure. If however Israel knew what to expect, then its tactics did not use surprise and 'shock and awe' sufficiently.
What was also declared was that Hizballah was surprised by Israel's forceful response. Either that is disinformation or the Israeli deterrence level was very low. Punishment for kidnap and murder should, after all, be expected. Yet the Hamas-Hizballah axis meant a two front 'low intensity' war, avoidance of which was part of the reasoning for the cession of Sinai. Toleration of Hamas's election result by the EU and others, and the acceptance of the arms and man-power build-up under the yellow flag looming over Rosh Hanikra by the Lebanese government and by Israel meant strategic position and diplomatic capability were being lost progressively by Israel and for that matter by any right thinking personnel in the US; which latter gave way for no gain to the immoral pressure for a cease-fire.
Instead of no cessation until the kidnapped were returned, and the condition had to be alive, we now have rumours of trade-offs, massive moral equivalence emanating from a hostile to Israel UN Secretary-General, and diplomatic phrasing turning treatment of terror organisation Hizballah into the equivalent of a high contracting party to international treaties as if its state-within-a-state presence were not illegal but normative and merited full diplomatic and political status or at least that of a government representative, which , of course, to no small extent it is.
War aims of the return of the kidnapped and the destruction of terror organisations, themselves totally justifiable especially, in the context of constant civilian population bombardment now appear to have been bent and twisted to create a kind of non-peace for a short while, as if Israel has to buy this by military action and at the cost of lives and its economy. So much for withdrawal and the slur and injury to the SLA and its forces and so much for the UN and EU and the rest: constant attacks on Israel count for nothing and so does Israel's right to defend itself however often the US administration and perhaps occasionally although not in Europe Mr. Blair may mouth these platitudes.
Unless Israel goes to war, nobody else cares within the 'international community' about its civilian suffering and when it goes to war it is unwilling either to adopt the timing and tactics necessary and (perhaps for this reason) is unable diplomatically to finish an essential job. And thence militarily is left exposed without clear-cut victory because of weakness or fear or what among the political echelon. Reparations for Israel? Who discusses them seriously?
The figures for Lebanese casualties seem also to play out not at all justly on the international circuit. Who knows a civilian from a terrorist? Who knows who was what kind of casualty? Hozballah have boasted to the media that after fighting they change from their fatigues and become unrecognisable. And where is the condemnation for the use of human shields rather than for those trying to defend their children by having to attack their aggressor? For years, including those in the 'age of peace' created by the Oslo accords, the Palestinian Arabs have targeted Jewish children. The Israelis and their 'purity of arms' doctrine, from the 1980s to Jenin, and including all contemporary orders, have assiduously avoided, and apologised for, any civilian and child deaths. Yet there is no serious moral outrage and diplomatic damage done to those who deliberately target women and chlildren and put up theirs in the front line in the worst of danger, in some hideous inversion of the Western standard of safety rules demanding 'women and children first' in escape procedures.
When Winston Churchill demanded he be given the tools to finish the job he did not aim for anything less than total victory over grotesque evil. Shamefully the West, including the Bush government, has willed into being far less than such a victory in the 'war on terror'. My concern is that Israel has agreed to be forced into exactly the same compromise and the clarion fanfare of Nasrallah's supporters and those 'elected' terrorists, Hamas bear witness to this. The undermining of Israel's abilities in the Arab propaganda on these matters is echoed by the vitriol in the Western media.
My concern is that all Israel's supporters make it clear that terror must not be allowed to survive because when it does so, it claims and is proclaimed victorious, however militarily damaged and weakened it may be. President Bush showed considerable cheek when he proclaimed Israel victorious. The rest of us can only hope and wrestle with our doubts -- and with the Arab and Western media determination he shall be wrong and Israel also.
Christopher Barder is the author of OSLO'S GIFT OF "PEACE":THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL'S SECURITY. He has published in the Jerusalem Institute for Western Defence, The Maccabean, Outpost, Nativ and the Arial Center. Barder is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.