Deterrence works by creating fear.
And veteran Israeli Arab affairs specialist Zvi Bar'el says Israel's military deterrence is no longer working. “Why, after more than 150 have been killed in three weeks, do the Palestinians continue firing Qassams, mortar shells, whatever? Why is it that the logic of the Israeli Defence Force, which measures its forces by the amount of steel it possesses, does not work on them?” he asks. And the answer, he says, is the same as in Lebanon: “when war is waged without discrimination, deterrence is meaningless.” The Arabs have lost their fear, and they can no longer be bombed into submission, a new reality the Americans face every day in Iraq.
Much of Lebanon is destroyed, more than 900 Lebanese have been killed and 3,200 wounded - one third of the casualties had been children under 12 - and one million people, a quarter of the population, displaced. There have been significant civilian deaths in Israel, too. This is a catastrophe.
Yet it fits a pattern of action by Israel, supported by the United States, that will eventually lead to disaster for both.
Last week, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to US President Jimmy Carter, told New Perspectives Quarterly, “These neocon prescriptions, of which Israel has its equivalents, are fatal for America and ultimately for Israel. They will totally turn the overwhelming majority of the Middle East's population against the United States. The lessons of Iraq speak for themselves. Eventually, if neo-con policies continue to be pursued, the United States will be expelled from the region and that will be the beginning of the end for Israel as well.”
From Israel's leading defence correspondent Ze'ev Schiff to former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, the informed view is that Israel has lost the military battle and international support, strengthened Lebanese resolve and handed Hezbollah a recruiting bonanza.
Fraser says, “Israel is building hatred. It is guaranteeing that if Hezbollah wants volunteers, it will obtain them in their tens of thousands ... The Israeli tactics cannot work and there is indeed in this sense a similarity with the Vietnam War of decades ago ... Israel then has been living, I believe, in a fantasy land. The military campaign is not working and its political demands are not achievable.”
Former deputy prime minister Tim Fisher says, “this war is going to embed the hatred for the next 20 years”.
Israel has brutally denied Palestinian rights to statehood in a policy of escalating repression that leaves it increasing bereft of friends. In the late 1970s, it funded and supported Islamic charities, the precursors of Hamas, as a “moderate” alternative to the PLO.
Its 1982 invasion of Lebanon signalled the beginning of the end of Israel's moral hegemony in the West, and the emergence of Hezbollah as a direct result of Israel's war and occupation of south Lebanon. The expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon to Tunisia brought the focus of Palestinian resistance to the 1967-occupied territories, which Israel has brutally engineered into Bantustans reminiscent of South Africa's apartheid era.
The current mayhem is a product of the immunity the United States has granted Israel from UN conventions and resolutions. Harsh rule has gone unpunished and become standard practice. Palestinians have been humiliated and harassed, detained and killed in their thousands, but they are not deterred.
The United States has stumbled from disaster to disaster.
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