The current conflict in southern Lebanon raises a number of issues. Moral and political clarity is needed to understand what the fighting is really all about. William Bennett recently penned an opinion piece (National Review Online, 11 August 2006) in which he reminds us of some basic truths.
In an article entitled “Why Israel Fights…and Why the US Must Let Her”, Bennett puts the present conflict into historical and geopolitical context: “Israel, which comprises some 10,000 square miles, compared with Arab countries that total over five million square miles – not including Iran – has shown itself to be a model of democracy and decency. Over one million Arabs live in Israel with full rights of citizenship, they vote and serve in Israel’s parliament. Syria wants Israel gone and Iran’s president openly calls for Israel’s destruction.”
He continues, “With the exceptions of Egypt and Jordan, no Arab state officially recognizes Israel as a state. And yet, bereft of oil, Israel’s per capita gross domestic product tops 24,000 dollars (compared with the oil-rich Saudi Arabia whose per capita GDP hovers at 13,000 dollars), and it remains a thriving bastion of democratic liberalism in an ocean of oligarchies and dictatorships.”
And Israel has attained these hallmarks of a prosperous and free nation while constantly living in fear of its neighbours; “Israel has been the state sponsor of no terror, has kidnapped no innocent citizens of other countries, and has fought for its life ever since it was founded in 1948 as its neighboring states have started war after war to wipe it off the map. And yet, Israel is continually asked to cease defending itself by the United Nations, by the European Union, and by a coterie of other international organizations that have called on Israel’s neighbors to cease their terrorist activities and human rights violations almost never.”
Thus Israel is the democratic exception in the Middle Eastern despotic norm. And with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah dedicated to eradicating Israel, the beleaguered nation is quite literally fighting for its very survival. The terrorist organisation has not hidden its aims, and its host nation, Lebanon, has done nothing to curtail them.
“Not only has Lebanon refused to eliminate or reign Hezbollah in over the past several years, it has instead allowed it to thrive. It has sat Hezbollah members in its parliament; it has allowed Hezbollah to operate in its capital city of Beirut, controlling entire neighborhoods. And, important and key parts of the Lebanese government — from the president to the speaker of the parliament — have openly supported both Hezbollah and Syria, one of the worst state sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East.”
Israel is seeking to eradicate this threat once and for all, while much of the world community is imploring it to desist. But the free world has much to lose if Israel is forced to abandon its plans: “Hezbollah’s purpose is not only an Islamist Lebanon but also the destruction of Israel and the United States. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran.”
Indeed, Bennett reminds us of the Iranian threat: “Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameni, delivered a recent speech stating not only that Hezbollah is ‘the front line of defense for the Muslim nation and for all the peoples of the region,” but that “the Islamic world, and the Muslim youth in all the Islamic countries know that there is no way to confront the barbaric Zionist wolves and the aggression of the “Great Satan” [i.e. America] except through martyrdom’.”
Of course the fighting will not be pretty. Conventional warfare, fought out in a lonely desert where no civilian casualties can take place, is no longer an option. Not when a terrorist organisation deliberated imbeds itself in civilian populations, begging for retaliation, knowing full well collateral damage will occur.
“Hezbollah and al Qaeda have defined the battlefield, they will secret themselves and their weapons in mosques and among civilian centers, they will dress in the clothing of the holy and the clothing of the man on the street – and they will make use of suicide bombers (including teenagers).”
But as unfortunate as these civilian casualties are, the number of innocents killed will be much higher if we do not strike at the heart of the terrorist menace. Says Bennett, “If Israel and the U.S. prevail, democracy and freedom will be strengthened, it will be saved. If Hezbollah or al Qaeda prevail, democracy and freedom – along with all the moral lights – will be blown out.”
He continues: “Yes, Israel’s war is our war. About this, our mutual enemies have no doubt. The same cannot be said of the international community. Now is the time for Israel to clean Hezbollah out of the Middle East, just as we are trying to clean al Qaeda out of everywhere else they have planted their soldiers. This is a long haul, and a dangerous war, but it will be longer and made more dangerous with appeasement and ceasefires being urged upon Israel and, for that matter, the United States.”
The enemies of Israel, America and the free world are clear about their aims. We must be clear about the threats that we face, and we must act accordingly. This article is a good introduction to what is at stake in this conflict.