Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Offensive Diplomacy

From the AP:
Meanwhile, Israeli military officials said the offensive could last several more weeks.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said diplomatic efforts were under way, but that a cease-fire would be impossible unless Israel's three captured soldiers were returned unharmed and Lebanese troops were deployed along the countries' border with a guarantee that the Hezbollah militia would be disarmed.

Are we still supposed to be pretending that this is about captured soldiers?  Really??  Because this seems more like a cheap excuse for continuing their offensive for several more weeks.  Especially as it seems kind of odd to kill many many civilians in an attempt to rescue three soldiers.  I just didn’t think it was supposed to work like that.

And frankly, I’ve never quite understood how it’s supposed to be a legitimate negotiating technique when you continue to insist that your enemy has to disarm and stop attacking before you stop attacking.  That makes sense after it’s become apparent that your enemy is willing to surrender.  But otherwise, it just seems like a cheap tactic to justify a continued assault by people more concerned with the appearance of diplomacy than with actual diplomacy.  

That was always one of their demands against the Palestinians, which they knew would be rejected; and it looks like they’re going this route again now.  Because the general rule is that if your negotiating position insists upon something that you know your opponent will never cede, then you’re really not negotiating.

And whether the Palestinians are trying to destroy Israel or merely trying to protect themselves, it would be foolish for them to give-in to this demand; which is probably one reason why Israel insisted upon it.  If the Palestinians submitted, then they’d lose their entire negotiating position.  But if they refused, then Israel could claim that its efforts at diplomacy failed and they were forced to act.  And even if the Palestinians submitted, it would only take the actions of a small group of extremists to end the cease-fire and Israel would have made significant gains in the meantime.  And it’s absurd to suggest that Israel hasn’t made the mental calculations that appear obvious to me.

And the same goes for this current disaster.  I honestly don’t see why anyone thinks this is a valid tactic.  I suspect that most Arabs don’t.  Nor do I think that Israel does either.  And yet people continue to describe this as an “overreaction” on Israel’s part, rather than a planned offensive that was merely waiting for a pretense.

1 comment:

trilobite said...

I don't think you're being fair. As you quoted, Israel is demanding a guarantee of disarmament, not prior disarmament. It's also not asking for the guarantee as a precondition, but rather as a trade: peace in exchange for disarmament. This is not an unusual demand. We demanded it of Japan, for example.

Most importantly, you ignore the difference between Lebanon and Hezbollah. Israel's position is that Lebanon's government has de facto supported Hezbollah and/or has violated its treaty with Israel merely by condoning Hezbollah's military activity, either of which is casus belli against Lebanon itself. But it is not demanding that Lebanon itself disarm, it is demanding that Lebanon disarm Hezbollah -- and presumably, like last time around, Israel would be willing to put up with some delay, and with a mere good faith effort. A timetable could perhaps be worked out, or Lebanon could propose a plan to apply for international assistance in disarming Hezbollah (which IIRC some EU nations have indicated they might be willing to give).

So the request is not for anything unusual, suicidal, impossible, or even infeasible. Just damned unpleasant.

Similarly, Israel didn't demand that the Palestinians disarm. The exact opposite is true: Israel armed the Palestinian "police" forces with military-grade weapons as part of the Oslo agreement. Israel has demanded that the Palestinians disarm their terrorists. If the Palestinians are ever serious about peace (i.e. ever find an Israeli land offer acceptable), then of course they're going to have to do that. Israel has also IIRC demanded that the Palestinians disarm of offensive weaponry like artillery and tanks -- this is a more unusual demand, but after decades of war, and with no defensible border between the countries, and considering that Israel is the only likely military enemy and that Israel would be in huge trouble with the rest of the world if it reneged on such a treaty, it's not crazy talk.