I haven't put anything on the blog yet about Lebanon, and when people have asked me what I think, I have generally demurred. The reason is that I am trying to grapple with the troubling issue: how can a state defend itself against attacks from an armed group that does not play by the rules of war? Specifically, how can a state (which has a duty to protects its citizens) respond to an enemy that--on purpose--intermingles with civilians? A reader at Talking Points Memo poses the problem and laments the lack of discussion on this issue. In yesterday's mail, I received this week's New Republic where Michael Walzer judiciously lays out the issues and some tentative conclusions. As Jonathan Chait points out in the on-line version of that journal, we may not have answers to these questions for some time. Thus, I think (contra Juan Cole)that assertions that the Israeli army has committed war crimes are pre-mature. I'm not ready to give Israel a free pass, but there is a big step from harming civilians (bad) or civilian infrastructure (bad but perhaps necessary) to war crimes (bad and criminal). On the other hand, it seems quite obivous that Hezbollah's mixing itself with a civilian population in Lebanon, using civilian residential buildings to store weapons, and indiscriminately targeting civilians in Israel are war crimes (Hezbollah does not even pretend to be going after military targets in Haifa or Nahariya.) For another judicious consideration with which I generally agree, see this discussion by Norman Geras at his Normblog.
There is also some interesting discussion in--of all places--these comments to a posting at History News Network.
I don't expect that this posting will be of any interest or use to people who:
a) believe that Israel can do no wrong and that any criticism of Israel is antisemitic or, if it comes from a Jew, treachery.
or b) believe that Israel's status as a sovereign state is illegitimate, and that Israeli civilians are fair game.
Comments that state these views or obviously proceed from these premises will be deleted.
Comments that offer serious reflection on the difficult issues involved are welcomed.