August 19, 2006

Israeli Commando Raid: the Case of the Curious Omission

Hatched by Dafydd

It's clear from reading the accounts in various antique-media sources what the Israeli raid into the Bekaa was all about: Iran has been trying to rearm Hezbollah through Syria; the Israeli commando raid sought to disrupt that rearming, and in addition, capture a high-value Hezbollah target.

The raid took place in "the village of Boudai west of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, about 17 miles from the Syrian border," according to AP. It was disrupted by Hezbollah fighters -- whether before or after it achieved its objectives depends upon whether you believe Israel or Hezbollah -- and a firefight ended up killing one Israeli soldier and three Hezbollah, and wounding a further two Israelis and three Hezbollah soldiers.

Beyond that much, the details are murky. But a couple of interesting tidbits remain. First, for those who insist that George W. Bush, the most pro-Israel president since Lyndon Johnson, threw Israel under the bus, here is an interesting counter-argument: according to every news account, we've still got Israel's back even now. Associated Press:

The White House declined to criticize the raid, noting that Israel said it acted in reaction to arms smuggling into Lebanon and that the U.N. resolution calls for the prevention of resupplying Hezbollah with weapons.

"The incident underscores the importance of quickly deploying the enhanced UNIFIL," White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said.


Washington, Israel's chief ally, said it had noted the Jewish state's position.

"The prevention of the resupply of weapons to Hizbollah by Syria and Iran is a key provision of the U.N. Security Council resolution 1701," a White House official said.

Whether we encouraged Israel until it flaked out on us, or whether we prevented the Jewish state from finally securing its own defense, is actually a very important question. The commentariat, both in the blogosphere and in the news media, divides neatly into two groups:

  1. Those who think Israel ran a feckless and infantile "pseudowar," and that the United States salvaged what little it could with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the ceasefire agreement;
  2. Those who think Israel was right on the brink of annihilating Hezbollah, when the US stuck out an invisible foot to trip them up, then dragged them, kicking and screaming, to the ceasefire.

Big Lizards is in Camp 1; the Center for Security Policy is clearly in Camp 2. But groups in the latter camp have never quite explained why, given a month of latitude, Israel itself didn't simply send in a strong enough force to get the job done (Camp-2 spokesfolks tend to mutter darkly about Israel being held back and prevented from fighting by mystery orders from Washington that are, alas, so secret that nobody has seen them).

The fact that we are still, today, championing Israel's right to conduct this commando raid while the ceasefire is in effect, that we refuse to characterize it as a violation, speaks volumes about which camp is correct: it seems rather unlikely to me that we would "force" Israel to stop and force them to agree to a ceasefire that leaves Hezbollah intact -- and then blithely tell them they can go ahead and raid deep into the Bekaa Valley against Hezbollah. Frank Gaffney will have to explain that one to me.

But there is a more interesting (to me, at least) media point: the fact that, while the Bush administration still backs Israel in this war against Hezbollah, some of the elite media definitely seem to have shifted to their more usual support for the terrorists. In discussing the legality of the raid, vis-à-vis the ceasefire agreement that Israel signed, all three stories above quote the senior United Nations envoy in Beirut, Terje Roed-Larsen:

The New York Times:

A high-ranking United Nations official, Terje Roed-Larsen, told Lebanese television that he could not independently confirm the details of the raid. “But if wat has been reported is correct,” he said, “it is of course a clear violation of the ceasefire.”

Associated Press:

Before departing for Israel, Roed-Larsen said if the report about the Israeli commando raid was true, the incident would be "a clear violation" of the U.N.-imposed cease-fire agreement.

"And it is also unhelpful in a very complex and very fragile situation," he said in an interview with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp.


"We had no independent means to verify...what has happened," envoy Terje Roed-Larsen told Lebanon's LBC television. "But if what has been reported is correct, it is of course a clear violation of the cease-fire."

This makes it quite clear that the United Nations officially considers such raids to violate the ceasefire: Israel is cheating -- again!

But only the last source, Reuters, added a second quotation from Mr. Roed-Larsen, one that responds to the Israeli claim that they were trying to prevent Hezbollah from being rearmed by Iran:

Israel said the operation, in which commandos were airlifted into the area by helicopter, was defensive and was designed to disrupt weapons supplies to Hizbollah from Syria and Iran.

It denied it had violated the resolution, which allows it to act in self-defense, and accused Hizbollah of doing so by smuggling weapons. Roed-Larsen said that if the guerrilla group was [sic] found to have smuggled weapons, it would indeed be in breach of the truce.

Neither AP nor the Times noted that the very same UN envoy they all quoted condemning Israel likewise condemned Hezbollah... incidentally buttressing Israel's position that the raid was not a violation, since Israel was responding to a flagrant violation by Hezbollah.

To show that this is no accident, consider this comic exchange in the New York Times story:

The success of the effort was a matter of dispute. One Israeli special operations officer was killed and two commandos were wounded, one seriously, but an Israeli Army spokesman in Jerusalem said the mission’s “objectives had been attained in full.”

Villagers said otherwise. “They failed completely,” said Sadiq Hamdi, 36, a scrap-iron dealer. “They were still on the road when the Hezbollah came upon them. They did not take 1 percent of what they were trying to do.”

Ah -- so according to the Times, a "scrap-iron dealer" has the same credibility as an Israeli Army spokesman! Actually more; recall what I wrote in The Simple Art of Propaganda (I warned you to take careful notes, as this would be on the test):

I changed the font sizes above to indicate the propagandistic effect of "call and response." This occurs (in both print and broadcast media) when Party A makes a point, and the writer (or host) then allows Party B to have the resounding response.

You see it in operation here... and again, as in the Propaganda post, Israel gets the short end of the horse: the Israelis insist the raid was successful; but our resident expert, a scrap-iron dealer and Hezbollah supporter, puts the lie to that absurd claim!

We do know (via AP) that the Israelis destroyed a bridge; if that were a major bridge on a road used by arms smugglers, then the raid indeed may have been at least partially successful; and if the Israelis seized Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, who lives in Boudai, then it may have been completely successful.

So don't ever forget and please always remember: the subtext between the lines is often more interesting and informative than the printed words themselves. The United States still backs Israel in its actual warfare against Hezbollah (contrary to those folks in Camp 2, who cannot let go their charming fantasies about almighty Israel) -- and the mainstream media still supports the other side.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 19, 2006, at the time of 3:03 PM

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» Did the sun came up in the West? from Right Truth
Everything is backwards today. You know, everything that's up is down and vice versa? President George W. Bush is telling North Korea they better not test any nuclear devices, when in reality there's not a stinking thing he can do [Read More]

Tracked on August 21, 2006 6:02 AM

» The "Curious Omission" Gets Curiouser and Curiouser from Big Lizards
Three days ago, we noted a curious omission from the New York Times and the Associated Press stories about Israel's commando raid deep into the Bekaa Valley Saturday: while both of those two media sources, as well as the Reuters... [Read More]

Tracked on August 22, 2006 3:18 PM


The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Needless to say Annan has said this is a violation of the cease fire. The man is worthless.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2006 5:47 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Excellent post, Dafydd. I excerpted and linked from Old War Dogs. Just prior to reading your post I wrote Is Israel ready for what comes next?, which places me firmly in Camp 1. An excerpt from that post

The message it sends is "Nobody's driving." Regardless of what other tactical or strategic goals the Israeli government had in mind they should have sent as many troops as it took as far north as necessary to put an immediate end to those rocket attacks, and they should not have withdrawn from Lebanon as long as there was any possibility of renewed attacks.

The recent Israel/Hezbollah war is widely seen, and properly so, as a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran. By displaying weakness the Olmert government made the U.S. and all of her allies look weak. The odds of President Ahmashiithead getting a case of juevos grandes and doing something stupid sometime soon just went way up.

Color me p*ssed.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2006 9:06 PM

The following hissed in response by: mbnyan

The author is among: "Those who think Israel ran a feckless and infantile "pseudowar," and that the United States salvaged what little it could with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the ceasefire agreement;"

I don't think it is quite right to imply that the US came to Israel's rescue at the UN. The US certainly worked at the behest of Israel, but from the very beginning, it was always Olmert's idea to end this first round with diplomacy. That explains the conduct of the military campaign, the gradual escalation, starting with just an air campaign, then sending in a few troops, and ending with the "massive" invasion only as the resolution negotiations were coming to a close to enhance Israel's barganing position. Israel took incremental steps to find the necessary point of leverage at the lowest possible cost in lives and material. Of course, whether this was a wise strategy is debatable.

However, the Israel Misistry of Foreign Affairs says openly that this was their strategy:

The MFA web page says, "The purpose of the Israeli operation was two-fold - to free its abducted soldiers, and to remove the terrorist threat from its northern border. . . . Israel understood from the outset that although military operations were necessary to defend its citizens by neutralizing the threat posed by Hizbullah’s terrorist infrastructure, the eventual solution would indeed be diplomatic."

Also StrategyPage has an article on the trade offs:

"The Hizbollah attack left Israel with two options. They could either launch a massive invasion, and overrun all of Lebanon and Syria, or do what they did (to encourage the Lebanese and UN to deal with Hizbollah.) The trouble with the second ("small war") option is that it takes longer, and that leaves Hizbollah intact for longer. But the first ("big war") option would leave thousands of Israeli soldiers dead, and involve the occupation, for months, if not years, of Lebanon and Syria."
There's always risk, it's a question of which one you estimate will do you the most good. Israel still has the "big war" option available, and Lebanon and Syria know it. If the small war option doesn't work out, Hizbollah, Lebanon, Syria and Iran know what comes next."

The above hissed in response by: mbnyan [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 19, 2006 11:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

Whether we encouraged Israel until it flaked out on us, or whether we prevented the Jewish state from finally securing its own defense, is actually a very important question. The commentariat, both in the blogosphere and in the news media, divides neatly into two groups:

There are more than just "two groups", in my humble opinion.

3. The "Age of Aquarius" group
4. The 'Blood Thirsty' group (i fall into this one - this one will require some pruning here in America first...say, the destruction of a few cities.)

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 8:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

We should all know by now, after the long, sad history of Israeli interventions in Lebanon, that beating Hezbollah isn't going to be simple. They are entrenched in difficult country, well-armed and trained, and the Israelis evidently couldn't figure out how to distrupt theri command and control, which suggests to me there are redundant communication lines. Nobody can beat such a foe without total war, and the Israelis weren't waging battle that way, but they were on the verge.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 9:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: gregdn

The L.A. Times suggests that the Israelis were wearing Lebanese army uniforms.

The above hissed in response by: gregdn [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 9:25 AM

The following hissed in response by: diane

There's another, very interesting take on the diplomacy-war perspective at Pundita: The question I always put to myself when I get frustrated is, "Do you want to win with blood or do you want to win?"

Her view on Hez and Nasrallah:

Maybe State was blind at first but as soon as they realized what was going on, they scrambled to throw together any kind of cease fire. They saw that it didn't matter for US and Israel interests whether Israel thrashed around in Lebanon or had a clear victory; either way Lebanon's government had been landed a big pile of lemons and proceeded to make lemonade with them.

All that put Hassan Nasrallah, who is famously an Iranian puppet, in a terrible position. He really had no choice but to accept the cease fire if he didn't want to appear as trampling on Lebanon's sovereignty -- which Hezbollah is supposed to defend!

And on choices:

However, the choice is not the Carthage Solution or nothing. The choice is to bog ourselves down in Cold War strategies or fight with 'empty hands' -- adjust on a dime to fast-moving situations so we can make the best use of them. This means making use of deadly force sometimes, and other times racing to the negotiation table to take advantage of a mistake by the enemy.
It's a long post (Pundita is almost always long-winded as well as well-informed and thought-provoking). How much you accept this post depends on how much you want to trust the government to take unseen actions on unseen information. She usually doesn't trust the diplomats, which makes this post all the more interesting.

Read the whole thing.

The above hissed in response by: diane [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 1:21 PM

The following hissed in response by: bpilch

the interesting point made in the Times article is the Israelis were met and fired on by Hezbollah commandos guarding the road. I thought under 1701 Hezbollah was supposed to be disarmed or at a minimum "hiding" their arms.... doesn't sound like guarding a road is "hiding"...

The above hissed in response by: bpilch [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 20, 2006 4:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: k2aggie07

Linked and Hat Tip at my blog. Nice post.

The above hissed in response by: k2aggie07 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 21, 2006 1:23 PM

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