October 21, 2003

Arik Sharon Heavy-Handedness Barometer It's

Arik Sharon Heavy-Handedness Barometer

It's getting worse, isn't it, with this "IAF blitz"?

A Rafah a day (or week), keeps the terror at bay? Is this now the military strategy of Arik?

"Security forces were on high alert Tuesday for threatened terror attacks by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in retaliation for an unprecedented wave of IAF helicopter assaults throughout the day Monday, in which 14 Palestinians were killed and some 80 wounded."

"Most of the casualties were believed to be non-combatants. National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said Tuesday that Israel should apologize for the civilian casualties and compensate the victims, Israel Radio reported."

Asked Tuesday about the civilian casualties in IAF raids, Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim said "The murderous Hamas and Jihad terrorism nests deep within the civilian population. Some of this population - and I emphasize, some-collaborates and aids these murderous organizations.

"Not all are innocent there, certainly not those who store lathes (for producing Qassam rockets) and weaponry, bombs, and Qassams in their homes," Boim told Israel Radio, adding that "some of them also receive good money for this. This is also true of the (arms-smuggling) tunnels in Rafah." [emphasis added]

Yes, of course, Israel has a right to protect herself from the scourge of suicide bombing. But gunship attacks in crowded population centers are simply dumb policy.

Why? For one, such attacks won't deliver security. Robust IDF military activity has been underway in the Territories for some three years now. Have they stopped the suicide bombings?

For another, too many innocents are felled in such attacks and so Israel begins to lose the moral highground. If you are reasonably certain that an attack in a dense population center will kill and/or injure civilians that are not complicit with the terrorists/militants/gunmen how different is that, in actual effect, than a suicide bombing?

It's still removed from the purposeful intent of massacring as many innocent civilians as possible, to be sure, but the moral differences start getting blurred.

To put it differently, how many of the civilians are "collaborators" and how many are fully innocent? And who defines when one has become a "collaborator" anyway?

Is it just me, or is this a slippery slope where, in some sense, the IDF is beginning to rationalize the increasingly large numbers of so called "collateral damage" stemming from its operations?

Are we comfortable with this M.O.? It's getting too heavy-handed, I say. And it's not just the Mahatirs and Chiracs of the world who agree with me, by the way.

Minister Partizky sentiments to compensate the victims are all well and good. But those who have lost (or had injured) relatives are not waiting for checks from Tel Aviv. They're likely planning revenge. And when more blood of innocents is spilled in Haifa or Tel Aviv--then more gunship attacks. And so on.

Yeah, yeah. Lots of people get hot under the collar when you talk of the "cycle of violence." It smacks of some form of moral relativism. That's a fair criticism when IDF military responses target those directly culpable for the terror activity.

But if Sharon blows up a Hamas thug that's one thing. If he blows up a Hamas thug and injures 80 people, many of whom don't have blood on their hands, it's very much another.

We can't all sit around wishing that the Palis just turned in all their weapons, got rid of Arafat and played nice, so that we could move back to rosy Oslo days after a nice period of interim "understandings" and roadmap implementation-with the requisite "quiet" period achieved first.

Problem is, there is massive anger on both sides given the bloodshed that has transpired over the past three years. And waiting around for the parties to exhaust themselves again with reinvigorated bouts of bloodshed is a morally weak strategy.

Adult supervision by Washington is critically needed. We simply don't have the time to just wait around as various Palestinian PMs are trotted out and attempt to hash out with Arafat which leader has effective control of the security apparatus.

Yes, these are hard issues. I understand that Bush is frustrated that Abu Mazen is no longer available as a partner. But inertia and impotence do not constitute a diplomatic strategy.

In short, Bush's Middle East policymaking is in danger of becoming a bloody farce. The Bush Administration is just shy of being flat out AWOL. It's starting to look like a full-blown abdication of responsibility.

As a Bush supporter, I expect better. Don't you?

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