Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel Hezbollah conflict

The Israel-Hezbollah war is into its sixth day. More than 200 people are dead in Lebanon and about 15 in Israel. The magnitude of Israel's reaction was a bit of a surprise, since skirmishes with Hezbollah are presumably not unusual and hostage/prisoner swaps have taken place in the past. The reasons may have to do with Ehud Olmert wanting to appear tough domestically. While that may be so, the military or strategic aim of the attacks remains a bit unclear. However, support for the Israeli reaction is widespread, with dissenting voices being in the minority.

This won't last long, for several reasons. First, there are not that many targets in Lebanon. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, citizens of western countries are beginning to suffer. Some have been killed. Now, we can't have that happening for too long, can we ? Indeed, there seem to be some noises from Israel which indicate that a search for a quick way out is on. The indispensable hyperpower itself is reportedly setting a deadline .

The comments sections of online news sites are teeming with people supporting Israel's right to "defend" itself. The suggestion that perhaps the Lebanese people have little control of Hezbollah and thus do not deserve to die is not entertained. The debate is in terms of entities ("state of Israel", "Lebanon", "Hezbollah") and notions of crime, punishment, fault and retaliation applied to them. Human casualties rarely enter the picture, if ever.

In any case, for the inside angle on Hezbollah, check out what Mark Perry and Alastair Crooke learned first hand. Robin Wright of the Washington Post has done something similar, though she feels compelled to strive for the obligatory neutrality so dear to American journalism. If you are looking for a quick primer, this serves quite well.

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