Don’t worry, be happy

Captain Ed has emailed NRO to explain why he thinks Israel wins by virtue of the cease-fire. Ed discusses what he perceives to be the three possible scenarios are under the agreement. First,

Lebanon and Hezbollah agree to implement it: Southern Lebanon gets cleared of Hezbollah and their launchers, they cannot re-arm, Lebanon finally takes control of its own territory south of the Litani. Israel gets a secured northern border and peace for its northern cities, and a sovereign partner with which to finalize the border settlement.

Ed wisely avoids attaching a probability to this scenario. If, by the statement “Hezbollah agree[s] to implement it,” he means Hezbollah agrees to turn over, for example, its remaining 10,000 or so rockets to the Lebanese and/or the U.N., we can assign a probability of roughly zero. If Ed contemplates that the Lebanese and the U.N. will forcibly seize Hezbollah’s weapons, the odds don’t improve much. Indeed, the French foreign minister now has said that France (whose troops apparently will take the lead in the U.N. force) intends to disarm Hezbollah through diplomatic means.

The second scenario is

Lebanon and Hezbollah reject it: Israel continues its military assault with just a few hours of rest for both sides. This time, however, they get tacit UN Security Council endorsement, since they agreed to the cease-fire and their enemy did not.

Absent the cease-fire, Israel would have continued its (belatedly forceful) military assault. With the cease-fire, that scenario becomes contingent on what the Lebanese and Hezbollah decide to do. In exchange for giving up control of its military decision-making, Israel gets “tacit UN Security Council endorsement.” Here, Ed falls into the same trap that threatens to undermine the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts — believing that UN Security Council endorsement is central. Moreover, any such “endorsement” would be short-lived. The Israel haters and Hezbollah appeasers at the U.N. would be back to assigning some of the blame to Israel within a few days.

The third scenario is

Lebanon and Hezbollah accept it, then renege once the UNIFIL forces are in place: This is the one loser scenario, and even that is overrated. Israel does not have to attack either the Lebanese or UN forces to attack Hezbollah positions in the sub-Litani, unless both are stupid enough to allow Hezbollah to position their weapons nearby their positions. If they are, then that positioning will become rapidly apparent.

The odds overwhelmingly favor this scenario. The first scenario is fantasy; the second is a temporary one that would give way to the third once Condi Rice and the French patch things up. Ed agrees that Israel loses in this scenario, but says that Israel still can attack Hezbollah without attacking the U.N. force. Maybe yes, maybe no. Hezbollah managed to position itself next to the U.N. in the last go- round, and there will be more “peacekeepers” among whom to inter-mingle this time. The real point, however, is that in another few years Hezbollah will be able to attack Israel with rockets that might well contain nuclear tips. A longer Israeli military action followed by a U.N resolution along the lines of what the U.S. and France originally proposed would have provided greater protection against this prospect.

Ed also notes that “Israel plays for the big game, and always has.” But part of its big game has typically included playing to win each “little game” big. That’s how Israel maintains its ability to deter. Here (to its great discredit) the Israeli government, which I’m told did not for the first time since the early 1960s contain an experienced military man as either prime minister or defense minister, failed to play to win at the outset. And by the time it got around to doing so, the U.S. worked with the U.N. to pull the plug.

Finally Ed says

[W]e need to quit worrying about whether terrorists can claim victory. As long as they breathe, they will claim anything as a stunning victory. It’s like taking Stalin’s farm forecasts seriously; only the chronic worriers bother.

This is way too facile. The problem is not that the terrorists can claim victory; it’s that the claim is highly plausible. Hezbollah has become the first force to provide substantial resistance to the IDF. The dissension between the IDF and Israel’s political leadership shows that Hezbollah is not just blowing smoke. Moreover, Ed does not deny that, the terrorists aside, Iran and Syria are winners. Should we not worry about that either?

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