International

The new ‘asymmetry’ war

David Aaronovitch on the other ‘asymmetry’ in The Times this morning putting his finger quite firmly on what I think a lot of people, Harry’s Place readers among others feel, about the fighting in Lebanon. Yes, there is a desire to see the fighting stopped and peace ensue, but also knowing that right now it does not seem possible until Hezbollah is somehow checked.

“How, after all, can this be borne? We should stop it now. There should be no more killing. We should stop it even before Israel has secured its border, even while Hezbollah’s military force is still intact. How can you argue with the impulse to save innocent life?”

Then we hit the problem, what Aaronovitch calls the other ‘asymmetry’ and he’s right. We western liberals and lefties might well be torn over the misery and suffering served up by TV (and who could not be), but Hezbollah revel in it.

“Asymmetrical warfare” is a term usually employed to describe the deployment of insurgent and terrorist techniques against a massively better-armed adversary. It almost suggests that such an approach is defensible. But there is a second sense in which the phrase might be used. We weedy democrats and life-loving liberals cannot bear what the ideologues of Hamas and Hezbollah find all too bearable. We argue about whether we even want to see the pictures of the dead. They seem to want to look at nothing else.

“We understand the problem. Israeli violence may damage the democratic and reform movements in Lebanon and Syria. But Hezbollah’s violence, apparently, serves only to strengthen the forces of religious ecstasy. To us, hitting a UN force is a humanitarian outrage. To Hezbollah it’s a tactic. To Hezbollah every civilian is a warrior.”

He goes on to talk about the Israeli killing of four UN soldiers last week, condemned around the world, and quotes one of the doomed officers who emailed home to say that Israeli fire was landing nearby and that, “this has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity”.

“A retired Canadian general interpreted this for Canadian television. ‘What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favourite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields, knowing that they can’t be punished for it.”

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