Since 1948, when the land of Israel was established, there have been a number of actual "wars" -- but like any country's military history, what lands in textbooks and what actually happens on the ground (and in the air, and on the water) isn't always described as war.
I'm not sure how history will describe the conflict that is occurring right now between Israel and Lebanon -- in fact, I'm not sure if history will even mention it -- but it seems like, yet again, a powder keg with its lit fuse burning ever closer to the inevitable blast.
We can debate, discuss, argue and one-up one another in a futile, masturbatory discussion of who started this latest round of this conflict (this conflict doesn't, of course, refer to the Israel-Lebanese conflict, but the Israel-Arab conflict). However, if you were to ask an Israeli politician why Israel began pounding parts of Lebanon with mortars, rockets and other military accoutrement, he would respond that Hezbollah -- with the backing of the Lebanese government -- attacked an Israeli town near the Lebanese border. Subsequently, he would add, Hezbollah -- which is a terrorist group and some of whose members occupy positions in the Lebanese government (like Hamas in the Palestinian government), arranged for the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. Israel has attacked places of entry and exit within Lebanon -- airports, ports, bridges and highways -- in an effort to stop the flow of traffic and to prevent the easy transfer of prisoner(s). Lebanon, on the other hand, claims that Israel started the conflict by assassinating a Hezbollah general -- not a Lebanese general, but a higher-up in the Hezbollah organization -- on Lebanese soil, and then when Hezbollah retaliated by firing rockets into Israel, as they always do, Israel mounted a heavier assault -- to damage Lebanon's "tourism industry" -- and was declaring war, essentially, on Lebanon.
It's always nice to be able to sum up 5,000 years of conflict into a five-sentence paragraph. The problem is that we, as bystanders, can't call "Bullshit!" All we can do is stand back, essentially, and watch.
As terrorist groups go, both Hamas and Hezbollah are at the top of the list; but like a villain in a Batman movie, their purpose is overshadowed by one simple flaw: their members are so committed to destroying Israel and killing Israelis that they are willing to die to help accomplish this task. Any group that has suicide bombers in its midst is obviously committed; but in the general discussion of armed conflict, the fact is that some of the members of these groups should be committed -- to mental institutions. In any conflict, each of two or more sides has an interest in a situation, and any compromise which would result must be accepted by both parties. Israel assassinates terrorists that carry out missions to kill, injure and/or kidnap its citizens; this is a given. And the terrorist groups, which- and whatever they are called, retaliate by firing random, semi-guided missiles into Israel, and the conflict reheats itself more efficiently than a TV dinner in a microwave.
So now that we more clearly understand the facts that are loosely associated with the latest round of fighting between the two sides, it seems to me that there are several policies which must be observed and respected. If there is a cease-fire in place -- a loosely-adhered state of affairs with next-to-no teeth and no proper governance -- then Israel shouldn't be assassinating Hezbollah leaders, even if they are despicable characters who barely deserve being categorized as human beings. Conversely, governments in the Middle East -- especially ones whose anti-Israel stance is practically engraved and/or printed on that country's currency -- must, however abhorrent, reign in the terrorist groups and vigilante factions that could upset the temporary truce. Israel has the right to defend itself and its population against attack, and whether or not Lebanon's government was responsible for missile attacks or the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, the fact that the source of these attacks was inside Lebanon suggests that Lebanon, like the Palestinians with Hamas, a responsibility to halt activity by these various groups.
The Palestinian Authority, in the past, was anything but. Scores of Hamas attacks were happening while Yasir Arafat and his lackeys would watch from the sidelines and claim innocence and ignorance. But everyone knows -- now, and at the time -- that even if Arafat wasn't planning or green-lighting these attacks, it was clear that he and his government, by not preventing them or advising local terrorist group leaders they would not be permitted, was condoning them. Only in the past several years since Arafat's death have the majority of attacks subsided between Palestinian groups and Israel. If there are groups running around in a government's territory attacking another country, then the solution -- if one can call it that -- for the attacked country is to retaliate on the attackers' soil, even if it means crossing a big black line in the sand. And while I understand, in theory, Lebanon's claim of ignorance and innocence with regard to this current ongoing conflict, it's obviously rhetoric that has no legitimate bearing on reality. I know that Muslims and some Europeans find Lebanon a suitable place for holiday; but I can't really include among Lebanon's current, Israeli-inflicted woes as damage to their tourism industry. Then again, perhaps one day Beirut will be a hot choice for Westerners to visit on their vacations. Somehow, I don't see it.
The fact is that, in the post 9/11 world, and I hate referring to the world's current Islamic crisis with that generic, "post 9/11" label, countries who sponsor or host -- knowingly or otherwise -- terrorist groups that attack other nations are going to be hit -- hard. Some people refer to what Israel is doing right now as terrorist; however, when one considers that Israel is defending itself and attacking a nation (some of) whose citizens have kidnapped Israeli soldiers, it's understandable. I think it's excessive for Israel to possibly start a war over the kidnapping of two or three soldiers, but the Israeli mentality has not change in nearly sixty years, so this offensive -- not just here, but also, recently, in Gaza -- is far from surprising. And what most people don't bother acknowledging, or reading in the media, is that whenever Israel attacks a civilian area, in order to minimize civilian casualties, they announce -- whether verbally or by dropping leaflets -- that an attack is imminent and anyone who doesn't want to be involved in the conflict should temporarily evacuate. The problem, of course, is that dead civilians make for good PR.
I think it's fairly clear that this situation is still, and will always be, a "work in progress." When you have two sides diametrically opposed to one another -- where men, women and children are so heavily inundated and indoctrinated with hate that prevent even remote consideration of acceptance of another group's existence -- the question isn't whether the two sides can maintain some measure of lasting peace, but whether the proliferation of nuclear weapons winds up with one annihilating the other.
(Images courtesy CNN.com)