Monday, July 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

On Sunday the NYT (So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn’t Even Know You) noted the following:

People even look different today. American men, for example, are nearly three inches taller than they were 100 years ago and about 50 pounds heavier.

And I think I can safely say that airplanes, especially the commuter jet I rode in from Montgomery to Atlanta, are designed for 1906 man, not 2024 me (certainly, at least, not for my 6’2″+ and 210 lbs).

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By Steven L. Taylor

I am about to head out on a week-long trip to Peru, and will have limited access to the net at the start and end of the week.

As such, Team PoliBlog (Steven L, Bryan S., Brett Marston, Matthew Shugart, Chris Lawrence and occasionally me) will be taking over this space until early next week.

So, enjoy! (and my thanks to the Team for the help).

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Sunday, July 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

In noting the continued rocket attacks on northern Israel, Scott Lemieux at LGM hits the nail on the head:

Again, before we even start thinking about abstract questions of justice and morality it needs to be acknowledged that the policy isn’t working.

(Emphasis his).

This the point from which I was working earlier today as I took to the next step and asked, basically: how can the killing of civilians be justified when the policy isn’t even working?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Wrote Bill Hennessy earlier today in response to my post of earlier this morning:

The left, and even some normally sober thinkers like Dr. Steven Taylor, wish the Israelis would let the terrorists live to launch more murder on Israel.

I find that statement to be remarkable (and I am reigning in my emotions, as I don’t want this to be an emotional discussion, despite the ease with which these things can head that direction).

First off: if we are talking about wishes, I suppose I would wish that Hezbollah would throw down their arms, buy Israel a Coke and furnish it with love instead of Katushya rockets. However, we aren’t talking about the land of wish here, but hardcore political reality, not to mention the lives of thousands and thousands of people who have been substantially effected by the current action.

Do I wish that terrorism would go away and that everyone in the region would learn to live together in peace in democratic states? Yes, I do. However, that isn’t on the table right now, and the issue becomes how best to deal with the circumstances on the ground.

Second, nowhere in the post in question did I call for the sparing of terrorists so that they could murder Israelis. Feel free to read it again–I’ll wait here.

Now that you’re back:

What I asked was given that what Hezbollah wants is for Israeli counter-attack to kill Lebanese civilians, is it necessarily wise for Israel to respond to the attack in the manner that they have? Hezbollah wants death and destruction so that they can blame on Israel, as it will help Hezbollah recruit more fighters (and it proves, in a perverse way, that they are right: Israel becomes the enemy that killed your brother, your aunt, your nephew…). As such, it is a wholly legitimate question to ask as to whether Israel is achieving its long-terms strategic goals by winning a specific tactical encounter. How that is wishing for terrorists to live on to murder Israelis is beyond me.

In short, I am wondering whether Israel is necessarily making itself safer by its current course of action. Note that my concern would therefore be focused on Israeli security, not letting terrorists kill Israelis. As such, my position would be the opposite of what Hennessy ascribes to me.

Just because I am not convinced that the current military action against Hezbollah is a good idea does not mean that I am looking for more Israelis to be killed.

I am not naive–I certainly understand that civilians are killed in military conflicts, and sometimes the greater good is served by that unfortunate fact. The Allies could not have defeated the Axis if it did so in a way that would not have killed any civilians. And yes, evil people often use the innocents to protect their vile activities. Still, this situation is doubly complicated, because despite Hezbollah’s connection to the Lebanese state, it is not the Lebanese state that started this conflict, meanings its citizens are in many cases as much victims as the Israelis.

Further, this is not a conventional war where it is an issue of taking out assets and controlling territory–guerrilla groups can live to fight another day even when they have been severally degraded, because they fight to harass and frustrate, not to take over military assets or to control real estate.

Because of these factors, it is especially problematic to simply dismiss the problem of civilian casualties.

It is doubly problematic not to understand that what looks like a military victory for Israel now could be a massive problem in the future if Lebanon because a failed state populated by citizens who hate Israel.

I would close by noting that Bill has a banner on his site that states he supports Israel. I can’t disagree with the basic sentiment. I want Israel to be safe, secure and to thrive. However, it is possible to have differing views on the specific actions that Israel undertakes at a given moment in time without that meaning that one wants Israelis murdered.

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By Steven L. Taylor

In regards to the civilian deaths in Qana, Israel’s ambassador to the UN is saying (on MTP) that “this is what Hezbollah wanted” (i.e., the civilian deaths).

Given that Hezbollah fighter stage their weapons amidst civilians, and launch attacks from amidst civilians, I can’t disagree with the assessment.

However, the question hangs heavy in the air: then why give Hezbollah what it wants?

If, in fact, this campaign could have resulted in the destruction of Hezbollah as a fighting force then the argument can be made, but as I have argued from the beginning from this campaign (for example here), it seems to me that what is going to result from this fight is that there will be more persons willing to fight with Hezbollah within Lebanon, not less.

As I wrote on July 12th:

As such, the exact goals here are unclear–especially since the sad truth is that the kidnap victims are unlikely to be recovered alive.

Instead, the Israeli government has allowed two terrorist groups to create a great deal of death and chaos with no discernible endgame in sight.

Eighteen days later, I don’t think anything has changed.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Dozens killed in Lebanon air raid

More than 40 civilians, including 20 children, have been killed in a town in southern Lebanon in the deadliest Israeli strike of the conflict.

Displaced families had been sheltering in the basement of a house in Qana, which was crushed after a direct hit.


Israel said the Shia militant group was responsible for the Qana strike, by using the town to launch rockets.

On the one hand, one understands the need to strike back at a valid military target and the fact that Hezbollah is using civilian areas to stage their strikes puts a great deal of the responsibility of the deaths on the. However, on the other, the “he hit me first” defense doesn’t absolve he who punches back of all culpability. Indeed, as we learned as children and as football players who throw the second punch learn all the time, it is typically the counter-puncher who gets in more trouble that than he who threw the first punch. Juvenile examples aside, it is the case that those who respond to provocation cannot simply absolve themselves of all responsibility of their actions because another party “started it.”

More to the point: given that we do know that civilians are at serious risk in these counter-attacks, one has to wonder at what point it ceases to be worth it for Israel to strike back at a small Hezbollah cell with a rocket launcher, if the result can be the death of civilians.

The basic question is this: given that it is becoming quite apparent that Israel is not going to be able to significantly destroy Hezbollah’s military capability, then why not negotiate a ceasefire and get an international force in place? While I am dubious as to the ability of such a force to keep the peace, it is a better alternative than what is going on at the moment.

In short: given that the endgame at this point is some sort of international peacekeeping force, why keep fighting? What is to be accomplished at this point, given that the supposed goal (which has always been overly murky) of degrading Hezbollah appears not to be working.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The Herald Sun of Australia reportsPhotos that damn Hezbollah

The images, obtained exclusively by the Sunday Herald Sun, show Hezbollah using high-density residential areas as launch pads for rockets and heavy-calibre weapons.

Dressed in civilian clothing so they can quickly disappear, the militants carrying automatic assault rifles and ride in on trucks mounted with cannon.

The photos themselves are not quite as dramatic as the headline. I say that mostly because it is hardly a secret that Hezbollah has been operating amongst the civilian population. It is the nature of this kind of guerrilla warfare (and I say that not to excuse or defend, but to state fact).

Having said that that I have no doubts that Hezbollah has staged their weapons in such a way as to purposefully put civilians in harms way, and also acknowledging that some of the civilian deaths in Lebanon have been Hezbollah fighters in civilian clothing, I must confess that these photos aren’t really all that useful.

First, only two of the three (and those two are two shot of the same scene) look to be obviously in the middle of building that potentially is a residential complex. And, quite honestly, it is unclear from the picture that the building in the photo is a residential in nature.

As such, the photos are not as damning as the headline writer would like them to be.

Of more significance, perhaps, the photos show most of the militants as being in civilian clothing.

Much will still be made of this pictures, I expect. That the fact that Hezbollah fights among the civilian population does not, however, take away from the tragedy of the innocents who have died in this conflict.

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Saturday, July 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters (Hizbollah demands end to offensive) comes this tidbit:

In a softening of Israel’s position that could help Rice steer the sides toward a ceasefire, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Israel would not demand the immediate disarming of Hizbollah as part of a deal to end the fighting.

More than a softening of their position it is a tacit admission that they do not think that the current offensive can accomplish that goal.

Still, such a position will allow for a ceasefire to be negotiated. If the goal is that Hezbollah has to be disarmed first, then this fight will continue for some time.

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By Steven L. Taylor

This time, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate from DC:

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By Steven L. Taylor

Here’s an amusing follow-up to the Wexler digs coke story from the other day:

h/t: Lis

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