August 14, 2006
Boxers Versus Chessplayers

Seymour Hersh is back.

The Bush Administration … was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

And sure enough, it’s been a prelude to the disaster and humiliation the US would suffer if it attacked Iran. Certainly the US could inflict massive damage on the civilian infrastructure in Iran; but doing so would hasten rather than postpone the arrival of the Islamic bomb, and unite the Iranians in opposition to the Crusaders and the Zionists.

…the Administration had several reasons for supporting the Israeli bombing campaign. Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country, much of which is controlled by Hezbollah. He went on, “The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush wanted both. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the Axis of Evil, and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hezbollah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy.”

Worked like a charm! The Lebanese government is indeed strengthened by Hezbollah’s ability to resist the IDF.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

Yeah, it was cheap all right. Cheap for Iran.

Here’s what we’ve come to: Richard Armitage, who as an arms-control official never saw a weapon he didn’t like, is today sounding like the voice of reason.

“If the most dominant military force in the region — the Israel Defense Forces — can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,” Armitage said. “The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis.”

Hersh confirms the reports that Israel saw how well the US plan to win Iraqi hearts and minds through violence was going, and decided to adopt the same strategy in Lebanon.

Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon’s large Christian and Sunni populations to turn against Hezbollah, according to the former senior intelligence official. The airport, highways, and bridges, among other things, have been hit in the bombing campaign. The Israeli Air Force had flown almost nine thousand missions as of last week. (David Siegel, the Israeli spokesman, said that Israel had targeted only sites connected to Hezbollah; the bombing of bridges and roads was meant to prevent the transport of weapons.)

Apparently the bombing of apartment buildings, and the dropping of cluster bombs in civilian areas, was for the same purpose.

Israeli representatives naturally began their gathering of support in the Vice President’s office, where they were certain to be successful.

Cheney’s point, the former senior intelligence official said, was “What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really successful? It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in Lebanon.”

Hey, there’s a one percent chance it’ll succeed; can we afford not to bet the farm on that?

Hersh’s contacts tell him that the Cheney administration’s plan was to set up a coalition of Sunni countries that would join the US and Europe in pressuring Iran.

“But the thought behind that plan was that Israel would defeat Hezbollah, not lose to it,” the consultant with close ties to Israel said.


“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,” John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism. “The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he said. “You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focussed on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”

It seems clear that from the Cheney viewpoint this is all about Iran. Of course, no one’s sure that Cheney can still see, given all that salt.

…some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. “There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this,” [a Middle East expert] said. “When the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran.”

Seems likely. They’ve drawn the wrong conclusions from all their other experiences; why stop now?

This appears to me to be a competition where one side is boxing and the other side is playing chess.

“Our” side still seems to believe that if you hit your opponent hard enough, he’ll give up. I’ve never been able to figure out why people think this; as far as I know, it’s never worked. I expect it derives from father-figure issues rather than an analysis of history.

The other side is neither so childish nor so ignorant of history. Persians had universities and were playing chess at a time when Europeans were living in mud huts and their kings were illiterate.

If I were betting on this fight, I’d bet on the chess-player. Fortunately, I don’t think it’s going to be necessary.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at August 14, 2006 02:02 PM
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