UN Resolution 1701 is “the Mideast’s Munich agreement”

August 22, 2006


1. Condi falls for it
2. “The Mideast’s Munich” (By Arthur Herman, New York Post, Aug. 16, 2006)
3. “Misreading the Lebanon war” (By Edward N. Luttwak, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 20, 2006)
4. “Madeleine Albright redux?” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 21, 2006)


I attach a rather alarming piece by historian Arthur Herman in The New York Post. Herman is the author of “To Rule The Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World,” and is presently writing a book on Churchill and Gandhi.

This is followed by a rather more optimistic piece by Edward Luttwak in The Jerusalem Post.

Finally, I attach the main editorial from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: “The French promise a military force and Condi falls for it.”

-- Tom Gross



The Mideast’s Munich
By Arthur Herman
The New York Post
August 16, 2006

Historians will look back at this weekend’s cease-fire agreement in Lebanon as a pivotal moment in the war on terror. It is pivotal in the same sense that the Munich agreement between Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain was pivotal in an earlier battle against the enemies of freedom. The accord in October 1938 revealed to the world that the solidarity of the Western allies was a sham, and that the balance of power had shifted to the fascist dictators.

Resolution 1701 shows that, for the time being at least, the balance has likewise shifted to the terrorists and their state sponsors. Like Munich, it marks the triumph of the principle of putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. Like Munich, it will mean not peace in our time, but a bigger war in our future.

In that sense, the cease-fire may be even more momentous than Munich, and a greater blunder. In 1938 Chamberlain and other appeasers had the excuse that they were trying to prevent an armed conflict no one wanted. Today, of course, that conflict is already here. Historians will conclude that by supporting U.N. Resolution 1701 and getting Israel to agree, the Bush administration has in effect declared that its global war on terror is over. We have reverted to the pre-9/11 box of tools, if not necessarily the pre-9/11 mindset. From now on, the worst Iran, Syria, and North Korea will have to worry about are serial resolutions in the United Nations. Terrorists will be busy dodging Justice Department subpoenas, not Tomahawk missiles.

Our enemies know better. They know the war is only entering a new stage, and they know who the winners and losers were last weekend.

The clear losers were the United States and Israel. Israel has sacrificed lives and treasure, and had its honor dragged through the mud of international opinion, for no purpose.

America squandered its political capital at the start of the crisis by getting moderate Arab regimes to condemn Hezbollah instead of Israel. They did so because they thought Hezbollah was about to be annihilated. However, they soon realized their mistake. They now know Tehran and Damascus will set the agenda in the Middle East, not Washington. The Arab League’s support for this U.N.-brokered deal is just one more measure of our strategic failure.

The other loser is Lebanon. The price of peace in 1938 was de jure dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, as Germany annexed the Sudetenland. The price of Resolution 1701 is de facto dismemberment of Lebanon. A large, well-armed terrorist army acting at the behest of a foreign power now controls the southern half of Lebanon, and pulls the strings in the other half. The facade of Lebanese self-government has been preserved. As a territorial state, it may even last longer than Czechoslovakia did (Hitler gave the Czechs five months before he annexed the rest of their country).

But other states in the region will have learned their lesson. Faced by an internal terrorist organization, especially one with links with Tehran, they will have to make accommodations. No white knight in the guise of U.S.

Marines will ride to their rescue; no Israeli tanks and F-16s will do their dirty work for them. Appeasement will be the order of the day.

That includes Iraq. The disarming of Sunni and Shia militias, the necessary first step to ending sectarian violence there, will be postponed perhaps for good. On the contrary, this crisis has taught Iraq’s Shia minority that extremism pays, particularly the Iranian kind.

For everyone in the Middle East knows Iran is the clear winner. Only the diplomats and politicians, including the Bush administration, will pretend otherwise. Iran has emerged as the clear champion of anti-Israeli feeling and radical Islam. The Iranians have their useful puppet in Syria; they have their proxy armies in place with Hezbollah and Hamas. They have been able to install missiles, even Revolutionary Guards, in Lebanon with impunity. Sunni regimes in the region will move to strike their own deals with Iran, just as Eastern European states did with Germany after Czechoslovakia. That includes Iraq; the lesson will not be lost on Russia and China, either. And all the while, the Iranians proceed with their nuclear plans with the same impunity.

Finally, the other winners are the conventional diplomats at the State Department, especially Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns. In a narrow professional sense, appeasement is their business. They never saw the point to a “war on terror they are delighted to take back the initiative from the hawks at the Pentagon and the White House.”

The war in Iraq has clearly sapped the moral strength of the Bush administration. The men of Munich acquiesced to Hitler because another world war like the first seemed unthinkable.

The Bush administration clearly feels it cannot face another major confrontation even with a second-rate power like Iran. Yet by calling off the war on terror, it has only postponed that conflict.

“We have passed an awful milestone in our history,” Winston Churchill said after the Munich agreement was signed. “Do not suppose this is the end... This is only the first sip, the first foretaste, of a bitter cup that will be proffered to us year by year.” Despite the failure of appeasement, Churchill still believed the Western democracies would make the “supreme recovery” and take up the banner for freedom again. The United States and the forces of democracy will recover from this debacle even with a Democratic Congress in 2006 and a Democratic president in 2008. The reason will not be because Bush’s opponents have a better strategy, or a clearer vision, or even a Winston Churchill waiting in the wings. It will be because our enemies will give us no choice.

Less than a year after Munich, Nazi panzers rolled into Poland. Instead of fighting a short, limited war over Czechoslovakia, the Western democracies ended up fighting a world war, the most destructive in history. The war with the mullahs of Iran is coming. It is only a question of whether it will be at a time or on a ground of our choosing, or theirs and whether it is fought within the shadow of a mushroom cloud.



Misreading the Lebanon war
By Edward N. Luttwak
The Jerusalem Post
August 20, 2006

In the immediate aftermath of the 1973 October War, there was much joy in the Arab world because the myth of Israeli invincibility had been shattered by the surprise Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal, and the Syrian offensive that swept across the Golan Heights. Even unbiased commentators noted the failure of the Israeli air force to repeat its feats of 1967 while losing fully one-quarter of its combat aircraft to ground fire, just as hundreds of Israeli tanks were damaged or destroyed by brave Egyptian infantrymen with their hand-carried missiles and rockets.

In Israel, there was harsh criticism of political and military chiefs alike, who were blamed for the loss of 3,000 soldiers in a war that ended without a clear victory. Prime Minister Golda Meir, defense minister Moshe Dayan, the chief of staff, David Elazar and the chief of military intelligence were all discredited and soon replaced.

It was only later that a sense of proportion was regained, ironically by the Egyptian and Syrian leaders before anyone else. While commentators in Israel and around the world were still mourning or gloating over Israel’s lost military supremacy, both Egypt’s president Sadat and Syrian president Assad soberly recognized that their countries had come closer to catastrophic defeat than in 1967, and that it was absolutely imperative to avoid another war. That led to Sadat’s peace and Assad’s 1974 cease-fire on the Golan Heights, never violated since then.

Only in retrospect can the 1973 war be satisfactorily analyzed. Israel had been caught by surprise, because perfectly good Intelligence was misinterpreted in a climate of arrogant over-confidence. The frontal sectors, left almost unguarded, were largely overrun. The Egyptians had an excellent war plan and fought well. Syrian tanks advanced boldly and even where a lone Israeli brigade held out, they kept attacking in wave after wave for three days and nights. Within 48 hours, Israel seemed on the verge of defeat on both fronts.

But as soon as its army was fully mobilized, as soon as the reservist brigades that make up nine-tenths of its strength were ready to deploy for battle, it turned out that they could stop both the Egyptian and Syrian armies in their tracks, and start their own advance almost immediately. The war ended with Israeli forces 70 miles from Cairo, and less than 20 miles from Damascus. As for the Israeli air force, its strength over the battlefields was certainly blunted by concentrated anti-aircraft missiles and guns, but its air-combat supremacy prevented almost all attacks by the large Egyptian and Syrian air forces, while itself being able to bomb in depth almost at will.

That was the real military balance of the 1973 war, which was obscured by the tremendous shock of surprise, emotional overreaction, and the plain difficulty of seeing things as they are through the fog of war.

It is the same now, with the Lebanon war just ended. Future historians will no doubt see things much more clearly, but some gross misperceptions are perfectly obvious even now.

That even the heaviest and best-protected of battle tanks are sometimes penetrated by the latest anti-tank missiles should really not surprise anyone; they cannot be invulnerable, and did well enough in limiting Israeli casualties. Likewise, the lack of defenses against short-range rockets with small warheads is merely common sense. They are just not powerful enough to justify the expenditure of many billions of dollars for laser weapon systems the size of football fields.

More serious misperceptions are equally obvious. For example, instead of dismissing Nasrallah’s boasts, many commentators around the world kept repeating and endorsing his claim that his fighters fought much more bravely than the regular soldiers of Arab states in previous wars with Israel.

In 1973, after crossing the Suez Canal, Egyptian infantrymen by the thousands stood their ground unflinchingly against advancing 50-ton Israeli battle tanks, to attack them successfully with their puny hand-held weapons. They were in the open, flat desert, with none of the cover and protection that Hizbullah had in their fortified bunkers or in Lebanon’s rugged terrain.

Later, within the few square miles of the so-called Chinese farm near the Suez Canal, the Israelis lost more soldiers fighting against the Egyptians in a single day and night than the 116 killed in a month of war in Lebanon including the victims of vehicle accidents and friendly fire.

Even in 1967, the best Israeli troops lost 37 killed in four hours to take less than a mile of trenches on Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill. The defending Jordanian infantry kept fighting until the end, even though they were greatly outnumbered and encircled from the start.

Hizbullah certainly did not run away and did hold its ground, but its mediocrity is revealed by the casualties it inflicted, which were very few.

When an IDF company attacked the mountain town of Bint Jbail, losing eight men in one night, that number was perceived in Israel and broadcast around the world as a disastrous loss.

Many a surviving veteran of the 1943-1945 Italian campaign must have been amazed by this reaction. There too it was one stone-built village and hilltop town after another, and though the Germans were outnumbered, outgunned and poorly supplied, a company that went against them would consider the loss of only eight men as very fortunate, because attacking forces could suffer a 150% or even 300% casualty rates that mathematical impossibility being explained by the need for a second, third or fourth assault wave to take a small village.

Even that was not much as compared to the 6,821 Americans who died to conquer the eight square miles of Iwo Jima. Hizbullah should not of course be held to such standards, but on the whole it did not fight as fiercely as the Egyptians in 1973 or the Jordanians in 1967 as Israeli casualty figures demonstrate.

What is perfectly true is that the Israelis lacked a coherent war plan, so that even their most purposeful bombing came off as brutally destructive (though with a deterrence payoff, as Syria’s immobility showed), while the ground actions were hesitant and inconclusive from start to finish.

There was a fully developed plan, of course, in the contingency folders a sophisticated blend of amphibious, airborne and ground penetrations to swiftly reach deep behind the front, before rolling back, so as to destroy Hizbullah positions one by one from the rear, all the way to the Israeli border.

That plan was not implemented because of the lack of casualties among Israeli civilians. It had been a fair assumption that thousands of Hizbullah rockets fired in concentrated barrages would kill many civilians, perhaps hundreds of them each day. Barrages cancel out the inaccuracy of unguided rockets, and powerfully compound blast effects. That would make a large-scale offensive by more than 45,000 soldiers a compelling necessity, politically justifying the hundreds of casualties that it would certainly have cost.

Hizbullah, however, distributed its rockets to village militias that were very good at hiding them from air attacks, sheltering them from artillery and from probing Israeli unmanned air vehicles, but quite incapable of launching them effectively, in simultaneous launches against the same targets.

Instead of hundreds of dead civilians, the Israelis were therefore losing one or two a day, and even after three weeks, the grand total was less than in some one-man suicide bombings.

That made it politically unacceptable to launch the planned offensive that would kill young soldiers and family men, while not eradicating Hizbullah anyway, because it is a political movement in arms, and not just an army or a bunch of gunmen.

For that very reason, the outcome of the war is likely to be more satisfactory than many now seem to believe. Hassan Nasrallah is not another Yasser Arafat, who was fighting for eternal Palestine and not for actually living Palestinians, whose prosperity and safety he was always willing to sacrifice for the cause.

Nasrallah has a political constituency, and it happens to be centered in southern Lebanon. Implicitly accepting responsibility for having started the war, Nasrallah has directed his Hizbullah to focus on rapid reconstruction in villages and towns, right up to the Israeli border.

He cannot start another round of fighting that would quickly destroy everything again. Yet another unexpected result of the war is that Nasrallah’s power-base in southern Lebanon is more than ever a hostage for Hizbullah’s good behavior.



Madeleine Albright redux?
Mission Unaccomplished
The French promise a military force and Condi falls for it
The Wall Street Journal
August 21, 2006


Most U.N. resolutions don’t have the shelf-life of a gallon of milk, which isn’t always a bad thing. But in the case of Resolution 1701 the cease-fire agreement for Lebanon and Israel adopted unanimously this month by the Security Council things seem to be going sour even faster than that. And that is cause for serious unease.

On Thursday, Jacques Chirac confirmed a Le Monde report that his government was prepared to offer only some 200 combat engineers (in addition to the 200 French troops already in Lebanon) to what is supposed to be the resolution’s centerpiece: A 15,000-man U.N. force that will help the Lebanese army patrol their southern border and ensure that Hezbollah will no longer use the area as a staging ground for future attacks against Israel.

Given that the French contingent was supposed to be at the vanguard of this enhanced force, it’s unclear whether other nations will be willing to chip in with troops of their own. All of this after the French used the promise of a robust, French-led international force to get the U.S. and Israel to agree to a cease-fire and withdrawal. Even less reassuring is the insistence by French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie that her troops will remain in the lead only until February, after which, apparently, it’s salaam and adieu.

Then there is the delicate matter of disarming Hezbollah. Although the terrorist militia is so far abiding by the cease-fire, its leader Hassan Nasrallah made a televised statement last week insisting it was the “wrong time” to discuss disarmament. “Who will defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive?” he asks.

The answer, presumably, is the Lebanese Army. By the terms of the 1989 Taif Accord that ended Lebanon’s civil war, all domestic Lebanese militias should have long since disarmed or been folded into the regular army. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 of 2004 makes the same demand, as does 1701.

But the U.N. resolutions are dismayingly vague about just who, other than Hezbollah itself, is supposed to do the disarming. “I don’t think there is an expectation that this [U.N.] force is going to physically disarm Hezbollah,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told USA Today last week. “You have to have a plan, first of all, for the disarmament of a militia, and then the hope is that some people lay down their arms voluntarily.”

That’s some “hope” on Secretary Rice’s part. Emile Lahoud, the pro-Syrian Lebanese President who is nominally commander-in-chief of the army, has described the notion of disarming Hezbollah as “disgraceful”: “How can they ask us to disarm while the blood of the martyrs is still warm?” Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has been less explicit but little better. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that he has entered into negotiations with Mr. Nasrallah to arrange a modus vivendi between Lebanese troops and Hezbollah fighters still operating in the south of Lebanon.

Resolution 1701 also calls for an arms embargo on Hezbollah, although it specifies no penalties for those who break it. Anyone who has visited the remote, unguarded and unmarked hinterland between Syria and Lebanon must know that such an embargo will be very hard to enforce.

All of this explains Israel’s increasing frustration with the cease-fire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bought into the agreement based on what now appear to have been insincere pledges that European troops would dominate the U.N. force. Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is displaying his trademark even-handedness by denouncing Israel for trying to enforce the arms embargo while staying silent on the failure of everyone else to enforce it.

Israel can and will defend itself. The person who should really be furious here is Secretary of State Rice. She midwifed this cease-fire in the name of Lebanese democracy and as a way to use diplomacy, and the U.N., to tame Hezbollah and frustrate its patrons. She also believed French promises, so it’d be good to know if she now feels she was lied to. If this U.N. exercise turns out to be as feckless as it increasingly appears, U.S. credibility will also be a loser.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.