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Israel's Presumptive Reprisals

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Lebanon's Daily Star has an editorial describing what they call, 'Israel's signature strategy: collective punishment. That's one of the apparent goals of Israel's bombardment of targets inside of Lebanon. The idea is to cause the Lebanon government to do what they have insisted they cannot; to get them to influence Hizbollah against their violence and urge them to release the soldiers that were captured.

"Lebanese civilians," the Star writes, "who have absolutely no control over the events that are unfolding . . . once again find themselves in the eye of the storm." Indeed, Israel's re-invasion of Lebanon is bound to be seen by the Lebanese as opportunistic and too convenient as Israeli officials stretch their blame for Hizbollah's actions to include Syria and Iran, without any evidence presented at all.

Syria's ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha, told CNN that "Israel is trying to escalate a situation, the tension in the region. We have to call for restraint."

The Lebanese Government denied responsibility for Hizbollah's capture of the two Israeli soldiers. They called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to address Israel's "aggressive" retaliation."

That's the nub of the danger, apart from the obvious threat posed by the militarized factions of Hizbollah . . . the danger of Israel using the abhorrent actions of some splinter group as a pretext for war against Lebanon; using the aggression of Palestinian 'militants' that occurred in late June as justification for their attacks and repression of the Palestinians; as a justification to re-invade Lebanon.

Where do the innocent civilians in Gaza and in Lebanon who are the inevitable targets of Israel's "shock and awe" campaign go for justice? They have a right to defend themselves against unwarranted aggression. Now that our government has completely abandoned any meaningful diplomacy, Israel feels free and obligated to resume their systematic destruction of the autonomy and territorial integrity they pretended to accept for Palestinians.

You don't have to support Hamas and Hizbollah to recognize the rights of those caught in the middle to the freedom and liberty the Bush regime is always harping about. The trouble here is that some folks consider American lives and those of our allies and agents to be more important than the lives of those folks who happen to be in the way of these 'democracy's' mindless flailing of their nation's military forces.

Any and all actions can easily be couched in the justification of 'security'. The problem is that the American govt. and the Israeli govt. seem to know how to perform nothing else but this blustering militarism which has the effect of creating more 'enemies' with every 'collateral' casualty they inflict. No one would deny the barbarism of the 'militant's' actions, but our great nation, humbled by bloody wars and tempered by our own struggles for justice, should be a model of restraint and comity for these nations we seek to influence away from systemic violence.
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We used to have a government that understood this.

It's not just that Israel should have a right to defend themselves, it's HOW they intend to do so that's the concern. We used to have an interest and ability to manage that, but we've ceded that authority or influence with our own mindless aggressions. When does 'defense', as potentially pernicious as any 'terrorist' attack, become unwarranted aggression?

'Line in the sand', sending a message, shock and awe . . . nothing has been learned from the folly in Iraq, nothing has been learned from the years the Israelis let agitators draw them into counterproductive reprisals. That's what makes up the conflict there, reprisals and recriminations on both sides. One atrocity is replaced with counterattacks, escalating already dangerous situations into full-blown military engagements.

The understanding that the usual purpose of splinter attacks is to draw the targets into a larger conflict, exacerbating an already abhorrent situation, has apparently been lost to these new leaders who are determined to re-cast the nature of war and man to comport with their belief that overwhelming force will dislodge and intimidate those who would act against our countries and interests into submission and defeat.

But these tactics, as practiced by the U.S. and allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, have only brought about more violent reprisals and more resentment from the populations whose liberty and freedom we claim to be defending. "Sending a message" is how Blair described what motivated him to accept Bush's plan to invade Iraq. Never mind that they were leaving the notorious target of their hunt to escape into the mountains of Afghanistan while they postured as Iraq's saviors. Never mind that they created a entirely new generation of antagonists and 'enemies' who were driven to violent expressions of liberty and self-determination which our heavy-handed forces disregarded as mere obstacles to their consolidation of power.
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Israel knows well that Syria, Lebanon, Iran, or any other nation-state in that region ultimately cannot prevent determined groups and individuals from committing violent acts designed to inflame tensions and derail prospects for peaceful co-existence between Israelis and the Palestinians. But, they do know the power of restraint, their present government just lost the will.

Nothing will be served by Israel escalating the missile attacks by Hizbollah into a state of war against Syria or Lebanon, except the interests of this splinter group in widening the unrest; drawing the onlookers to their own militarism. Nothing will be served by Israel's flailing of their military forces and warplanes, except the possibility of drawing Iran into some action that would serve to justify an Israeli attack on their sovereign territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has already ruled out talks between his government and Hizbollah which would serve to defuse the conflict. But, Israel will eventually have to talk to the Lebanese his military now has in their cross-hairs if he expects them to regard Israel as any more than an aggressor nation bent on Lebanon's destruction. It's difficult to imagine any meaningful cooperation against these militarized elements that portend to defend Lebanon's border that Israel has again compromised.

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price

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