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Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Israeli Forces Cross Border Into Lebanon

posted by Tim Saler at Wednesday, July 12, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
From Reuters,

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (Reuters) - Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed up to seven Israelis in violence on either side of the Lebanese border on Wednesday, further inflaming Middle East tensions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hizbollah attacks as an "act of war" by Lebanon and promised a "very painful and far-reaching" response.

Two Lebanese civilians were killed and five people wounded in retaliatory Israeli air strikes after Hizbollah announced it had captured the Israelis.

Israeli ground forces crossed into Lebanon to search for the captured soldiers, Israeli Army Radio said. Hizbollah and the Lebanese authorities said there was no large-scale incursion.

Israeli troops have not struck deep into Lebanon since they withdrew from a southern border strip in 2000 after waging an 18-year war of attrition with Hizbollah's Shi'ite fighters.

First and foremost, it almost goes without saying that I hope this conflict ends with as little bloodshed as possible and the Israeli soldiers who have been kidnapped are found alive and rescued. Now that I've said that, I don't expect that we will see a scenario such as that one play out.

Read on for more analysis...

If I may comment for just a moment on the internal politics of the situation: Ehud Olmert does not have the kind of military background that his predecessors had. Ariel Sharon, for better or for worse, was a military giant before he entered Israeli politics. Just as Richard Nixon, a fervent anti-communist, had to be the one to go to communist China, Ariel Sharon had to be the one to take the big steps towards Israeli withdrawal from some Palestinian-dominated territory. Anybody else who attempted such a thing would have been considered weak or worse.

Olmert is in a very difficult situation. If he doesn't respond to threats and violent acts with immediate and overwhelming force, he will be perceived as weak. This is all because he doesn't have the kind of military background as previous leaders. Ariel Sharon could afford not to overreact to the situation we have today with Hizbollah and Lebanon because no one would ever seriously question whether he had lost his toughness and his resolve.

I think this insecurity--which is not irrational, by the way, but rather very well-founded--is what has led to the conflict we are witnessing right now. Don't interpret this as meaning that I am blaming Olmert for responding to provocation, because that's not what I'm saying. I am saying, however, that he needs to respond based on his own domestic political situation, and that his enemies know that. It is possible to provoke Olmert from all sides and really put him into a bind where he finds himself fighting Palestinian terrorist groups, Lebanon, and Syria all at the same time. He can't back down from any fight, and it would be foolish to think his enemies don't know that.


Perhaps the Palestinian leadership sees a rare opportunity here. If they can overextend the IDF, by opening multiple fronts in Gaza and Lebanon, and then escalate things in the West Bank as well, then they can cause a lot of political damage, AND play the victim card to boot.

What is not clear to me is what the political agenda is on the Palestinan side. It's not like any of the above will lead to a West Bank withdrawal.


though, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is probably at the core.


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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.