Thursday, August 03, 2006

The revolution will not be televised - but the war will certainly be - updated Aug 4 

Yesterday I saw an interesting media report on how TV is playing a role in the Middle East conflict and it made me reflect even further on the question. One of the most disturbing aspects of the Israel-Lebanon war is that Lebanon has no army, apparently just a handful of rockets from the Hezbollah compared to the Israeli arsenal. If Israel directly attacks the Lebanese population, it's a cold-blooded massacre of civilians. In this "televised war" era, not such a good thing for public opinion support. So we watch as the Israelis destroy everything else in Southern Lebanon, including a few civilians. Although the numbers of deaths are relatively quite low - for a war - the images and reports are very poignant, showing the desperation and suffering of just normal people, families, the elderly, mothers and children. And although images from the areas destroyed by bombs prevail, veritable rubble ghost towns, I keep thinking of what caos is ensuing for the poor Lebanese who succeeded in fleeing but who have no other homes, no work, no social network. They may be alive in a city that was not bombed, but how will they survive from now on? That mass hardship and the consequent suffering is never televised.

This huge army against defenseless civilians is a very disturbing aspect of the Israeli-lebanon war. By sheer numbers, it seems almost as many people have died in Irak in the past couple of weeks, by sporadic bombs - however it seems much less worse than the bombing away of defenseless civilians in Lebanon and the entire destruction of their towns and means for survival.

I have always thought that the Zionists picked the worst possible spot on the globe to found the country of Israel. I mean, right in the middle of all the Arab countries - given the history of mutual hatred for eons? That's like Fidel Castro wanting to found a colony in the middle of Miami. Evidently, no country would have liked to have a part of it taken away so that Israel could be formed, so it's not like there were that many options, and maybe there weren't any other. But... given that the Israelis are where they are - and Iran is going forward as fast as possible with its nuclear arsenal - the more the Israelis adopt a policy of community and infrastructure destruction, the more they will fuel desolation, anger, and vengeance in their neighbors. They may feel powerful in the very short term, but they might pay a huge price down the road.

If a country or group feels it cannot wage a war by conventional arms, what is the obvious next thought?

Update Aug 4

I decided to move the comment discussion here so that I could write more.

Jack wrote (see comments for full text):
As a matter of fact, Lebanon does have an army, and it's doing absolutely nothing. It's simply too weak, and still recovering from the recent civil war (1975-1990). Hezbollah is not Lebanon's army; it's a militia. Think of the mafia, with better guns and foreign sponsorship (Syria and Iran).

Well, perhaps I wasn't explicitly clear, but that is exactly what I meant. By effectiveness standards and when compared to the Israeli army, Lebanon does not have an army, that is, it does not have any meaningful military capacity. It's like comparing France's military to the "gigantic" army of Luxemburg. I mean, it's a joke.

Jack wrote (see comments for full text):
Hezbollah is not Lebanon's army; it's a militia

I know that, but the issue is they are the ones who are fighting this war, and apparently, they are largely based in Lebanon. So the Lebanese state army is inactive and the Hezbollah is active, even if they are not the state army.

Q wrote (see comments for full text):

I will add that Hezbollah is hiding in the population as if they are civilians when they are in reality a para-military group. They hide rockets and weapons under schools, mosques, hospitals and the like. Also they prevent sount lebanese from fleeing north to use them as human shields.

So I think you also didn't understand what I was referring to. I wrote my post knowing full well that the Hezbollah are a para-military group. And those tactics you describe are all classic tactics of a guerrilla group.

What you and Jack did not comment on - maybe because you missed the most important point of my post, or maybe because you thought I had misunderstood the army set-up, is that if you fuel hatred and conflict in a population that does not have the conventional power arsenal, this guerrila/terrorist counter-action is exactly the result you are going to get. It's obvious.

I guess you haven't heard of all this where you are Alessandra... I wonder why.

Back to the TV analysis. For the most part, on local TV, I have seen a relative larger focus on the civilian catastrophy and on formal diplomacy maneuvers and power plays between all the major countries involved than on military analysis per se.

However, the specific program that I mentioned about the war and media coverage also focused on a comparison between how the war was being televised in Israel and in the muslim countries. Unfortunately we couldn't all watch it together :-)

But the differences in the coverage are so stark, it's like watching two different wars. In Israel, the coverage is very much like Desert storm, they don't show pictures of civilian casualties or suffering, they show the little computer screens with green lights flashing for targets - like a war video game with no real humanity. Out of sight is out of...

The Israeli media also focus on interviews with soldiers and generals, who are all very pro-war and beating their chests. On the other hand, in the various Muslim countries TV coverage, the images focus on the civilian bloodshed, on the infrastructure destruction, the growing protests and outbursts of anger, and the spreading demonstrations in support of... guess? All the terrorist leaders who have vowed vengeance.

In my opinion, the more civil society is stabilized and grows stronger, the more it would turn against a para-military group, its credos and its tactics. The more you hurt civilians and make their lives miserable and desperate, the more they will turn to guerrila groups for a solution.

This is when there are no nuclear options involved. Once you start bringing in the nuclear threat, then what is going to happen? Stop to examine the attitudes of the players involved. Are they working towards a peaceful solution or are they working towards a downward spiral of mutual hatred? They are going exactly in the direction of a regional war.

It's a catastrophy. The US is pushing for a war that could explode the entire region because this time it could involve a lot more people.

Every ten years, it's the same replay. The arms manufacturers can't all change their métier, can they?

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