Hezbollah, Hamas, and Humanitarians

While most Middle East watchers know about the takeover of Gaza by Hamas and its transformation into the terrorist enclave of "Hamastan," readers of the mainstream press might be surprised to learn that Hezbollah is alive, thriving, and steadily advancing in its quest to conquer the sovereign nation of Lebanon. Among those surprised would apparently be General Claudio Graziano, the Italian officer who since February has been commanding the United Nations "peacekeeping" forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). In an interview on June 15, the former mountain warfare and ski instructor declared that the terrorist group is fading into non-existence in the southern part of Lebanon, and will soon wither away altogether.

It is hard to know whether Gen. Graziano is woefully incompetent or merely willfully ignorant.  For the very same day that he was making his confident prediction, Hezbollah gunmen kidnapped three Lebanese policemen in south Beirut, stripped them of their weapons and interrogated them before setting them free. The policemen had had the audacity to try to settle a citizens' dispute on Hadi Nasrallah Avenue in Beirut, which is within Hezbollah's self-declared "secured square" in the southern part of the Lebanese capital, i.e., off-limits to Lebanese troops and police. Two days earlier, on June 13, a bomb exploded at a popular seaside club, killing a prominent lawmaker and nine other people. The bomb, believed to have been hidden inside a parked car, exploded as Walid Eido, a Sunni member of Parliament and an outspoken critic of Syria, drove by. Eido, 65, was a member of the Future Movement headed by Saad Hariri. Two years ago, Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated a few miles away on the same coastal road. Hezbollah's (along with Syria's and ultimately Iran's) involvement in Eido's and Hariri's assassinations is a virtual certainty.

And in Gen. Graziano's own backyard of Southern Lebanon, the often well-informed Debka reports that Hezbollah is employing hundreds of troops disguised as villagers to harass UN peacekeepers patrolling under UN Security Resolution 1701. One Hezbollah undercover group plants illegal yellow Hezbollah flags along the border with Israel, which are replaced as fast as they are removed by the peacekeepers. (Since UNIFIL has seized many thousands of such flags, one wonders how its commander could assert that Hezbollah is disappearing.) A second group fans out along south Lebanese roads, often waiting hours to waylay UN patrols with a hail of stones and rocks. On some roads, they build roadblocks to trap peacekeepers, who are not permitted to open fire on these "civilians." 

The most dangerous section of this anti-UN front is a pocket formed by Bint Jbeil, Joya, Tibnin and Maaruch, where Hezbollah has its southern regional HQ. One Israeli officer serving on the Jewish state's northern border, from which Hezbollah attacks on UNIFIL troops are visible, reports that UNIFIL now keeps its distance from high-risk areas, confining patrols to armored vehicles with closed flaps. This of course reduces UNIFIL's effectiveness as an observer to zero - which probably explains why four Katyusha rockets were fired at Kiryat Shmona on Sunday by "unknown elements" working within a zone ostensibly controlled by UNIFIL. Three of the 107 mm. bombs hit a factory and parked cars within the northern Israeli city.

Meanwhile, further south, the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis has of course conquered Gaza. Palestinian Authority (Fatah) officers were dragged from their posts and gruesomely executed. At least 35 people died in fighting on June 13:  thousands more are now at the mercy of Hamas, and will likely be disarmed and expelled from Gaza. Any international force in Gaza would be resisted the same way an Israeli occupation army would, declared a Hamas spokesman on Thursday, June 14.  The strategic "Philadelphi" crossing at the Egyptian border will now become a massive point of entry for materiel destined to be wage war on Israel. 

Connect the dots, folks - all these offensives are related. Sunday, Azam al Ahmad (the PA's deputy Prime Minister) declared in an interview in Ramallah that the fomentors of the coup in Gaza are the same people who killed Rafik Hariri, "Both come from the same hand [Syria]," he said. Syria = Iran = Hezbollah.

Let's see if we can sort this out.  Once upon a time, statesmen realized with Clausewitz that war was the continuation of politics by other means. Their charge was to do everything possible to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. But once it was clear that diplomacy failed or that one of the parties had initiated hostilities (casus belli), warriors were allowed to deliver what diplomats failed to produce: a definitive resolution of the conflict by determining a winner and a loser. The result was unconditional surrender, the political and military annihilation of the enemy. 

Nowadays, however, when a terrorist group financed by a sovereign powers commits a casus belli, the international community reacts in one of two ways:

  • 1. If the terrorist attack is successful, all those who resist are killed mercilessly. The international community wrings its hands and deplores the outcome.

  • 2. If the terrorist attack is unsuccessful, the terrorists are pushed back from whence they came. The international community establishes humanitarian institutions, which prevent the annihilation of the terrorists and give them a chance to rebuild before they next attack. When this happens, repeat 1 or 2.
War is, or at least used to be, a bloody business. Precisely because of this, bellicose strongmen had disincentives against initiating conflict: once they unleashed the dogs of war, they faced dire consequences, including debellatio, the ending of enemy belligerency through the complete destruction of their state. The unconditional surrender of the Third Reich was the end of the conflict it had loosed upon the world.

Today, no such disincentives exist. Warlords can wage war with certain knowledge that the "humanitarian considerations" of the United Nations will put aggressor and victim on the same level and save them from total defeat. Miscalculate your enemy's strength and resolve, and not only will the international community rally in midnight sessions of the UN Security Council to prevent your collapse, but the state you attack will have to tolerate inept "peacekeepers" such as General Graziano, and helplessly await your next onslaught.

Are we the only ones who see something cockeyed here?

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
While most Middle East watchers know about the takeover of Gaza by Hamas and its transformation into the terrorist enclave of "Hamastan," readers of the mainstream press might be surprised to learn that Hezbollah is alive, thriving, and steadily advancing in its quest to conquer the sovereign nation of Lebanon. Among those surprised would apparently be General Claudio Graziano, the Italian officer who since February has been commanding the United Nations "peacekeeping" forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL). In an interview on June 15, the former mountain warfare and ski instructor declared that the terrorist group is fading into non-existence in the southern part of Lebanon, and will soon wither away altogether.

It is hard to know whether Gen. Graziano is woefully incompetent or merely willfully ignorant.  For the very same day that he was making his confident prediction, Hezbollah gunmen kidnapped three Lebanese policemen in south Beirut, stripped them of their weapons and interrogated them before setting them free. The policemen had had the audacity to try to settle a citizens' dispute on Hadi Nasrallah Avenue in Beirut, which is within Hezbollah's self-declared "secured square" in the southern part of the Lebanese capital, i.e., off-limits to Lebanese troops and police. Two days earlier, on June 13, a bomb exploded at a popular seaside club, killing a prominent lawmaker and nine other people. The bomb, believed to have been hidden inside a parked car, exploded as Walid Eido, a Sunni member of Parliament and an outspoken critic of Syria, drove by. Eido, 65, was a member of the Future Movement headed by Saad Hariri. Two years ago, Hariri's father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated a few miles away on the same coastal road. Hezbollah's (along with Syria's and ultimately Iran's) involvement in Eido's and Hariri's assassinations is a virtual certainty.

And in Gen. Graziano's own backyard of Southern Lebanon, the often well-informed Debka reports that Hezbollah is employing hundreds of troops disguised as villagers to harass UN peacekeepers patrolling under UN Security Resolution 1701. One Hezbollah undercover group plants illegal yellow Hezbollah flags along the border with Israel, which are replaced as fast as they are removed by the peacekeepers. (Since UNIFIL has seized many thousands of such flags, one wonders how its commander could assert that Hezbollah is disappearing.) A second group fans out along south Lebanese roads, often waiting hours to waylay UN patrols with a hail of stones and rocks. On some roads, they build roadblocks to trap peacekeepers, who are not permitted to open fire on these "civilians." 

The most dangerous section of this anti-UN front is a pocket formed by Bint Jbeil, Joya, Tibnin and Maaruch, where Hezbollah has its southern regional HQ. One Israeli officer serving on the Jewish state's northern border, from which Hezbollah attacks on UNIFIL troops are visible, reports that UNIFIL now keeps its distance from high-risk areas, confining patrols to armored vehicles with closed flaps. This of course reduces UNIFIL's effectiveness as an observer to zero - which probably explains why four Katyusha rockets were fired at Kiryat Shmona on Sunday by "unknown elements" working within a zone ostensibly controlled by UNIFIL. Three of the 107 mm. bombs hit a factory and parked cars within the northern Israeli city.

Meanwhile, further south, the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis has of course conquered Gaza. Palestinian Authority (Fatah) officers were dragged from their posts and gruesomely executed. At least 35 people died in fighting on June 13:  thousands more are now at the mercy of Hamas, and will likely be disarmed and expelled from Gaza. Any international force in Gaza would be resisted the same way an Israeli occupation army would, declared a Hamas spokesman on Thursday, June 14.  The strategic "Philadelphi" crossing at the Egyptian border will now become a massive point of entry for materiel destined to be wage war on Israel. 

Connect the dots, folks - all these offensives are related. Sunday, Azam al Ahmad (the PA's deputy Prime Minister) declared in an interview in Ramallah that the fomentors of the coup in Gaza are the same people who killed Rafik Hariri, "Both come from the same hand [Syria]," he said. Syria = Iran = Hezbollah.

Let's see if we can sort this out.  Once upon a time, statesmen realized with Clausewitz that war was the continuation of politics by other means. Their charge was to do everything possible to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. But once it was clear that diplomacy failed or that one of the parties had initiated hostilities (casus belli), warriors were allowed to deliver what diplomats failed to produce: a definitive resolution of the conflict by determining a winner and a loser. The result was unconditional surrender, the political and military annihilation of the enemy. 

Nowadays, however, when a terrorist group financed by a sovereign powers commits a casus belli, the international community reacts in one of two ways:

  • 1. If the terrorist attack is successful, all those who resist are killed mercilessly. The international community wrings its hands and deplores the outcome.

  • 2. If the terrorist attack is unsuccessful, the terrorists are pushed back from whence they came. The international community establishes humanitarian institutions, which prevent the annihilation of the terrorists and give them a chance to rebuild before they next attack. When this happens, repeat 1 or 2.
War is, or at least used to be, a bloody business. Precisely because of this, bellicose strongmen had disincentives against initiating conflict: once they unleashed the dogs of war, they faced dire consequences, including debellatio, the ending of enemy belligerency through the complete destruction of their state. The unconditional surrender of the Third Reich was the end of the conflict it had loosed upon the world.

Today, no such disincentives exist. Warlords can wage war with certain knowledge that the "humanitarian considerations" of the United Nations will put aggressor and victim on the same level and save them from total defeat. Miscalculate your enemy's strength and resolve, and not only will the international community rally in midnight sessions of the UN Security Council to prevent your collapse, but the state you attack will have to tolerate inept "peacekeepers" such as General Graziano, and helplessly await your next onslaught.

Are we the only ones who see something cockeyed here?

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.