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News & Politics

The Cut-and-Run of Bombing

The Persian road we're traveling looks just like the war path we beat to Iraq.
Daniel Quinn makes a good point in his book Beyond Civilization: "The greatest discovery any alien anthropologist could make about our culture is our overriding response to failure: If it didn't work last year, do it AGAIN this year (and if possible do it MORE)."

Take the recent Israeli air war in Lebanon, for example. Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, triggering an Israeli military campaign to push Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon.

In case you're not familiar with the foreign policy background, the prevailing U.S.-Israeli position sees Hezbollah as an appendage of Iran -- an "existential threat" to the state of Israel, as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Condi.

In fact, as Seymour Hersh reported, Bush administration officials encouraged Israel's air war against Hezbollah, hoping to "learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in Lebanon."

What did Israel's air war in Lebanon do? Hopefully, it taught Olmert a lesson: dropping bombs on guerrilla-controlled territory from safe distances doesn't kill guerrillas; it multiplies them.

And there's a lesson for Bush hawks, too. "If the most dominant military force in the region -- the Israeli 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 70 million. The only thing that the bombing (in Lebanon) has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis," former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Hersh.

Still, air war theorists (and the general public) get all googly-eyed with hi-tech planes equipped with "precision" bombs -- to the point where it blinds them to the resilient reality of low-tech, ground-based asymmetrical warfare.

You'd think our experience in Vietnam would give pause to "strategic bombing" fans. Even those like John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School who supports Israel's war against Hezbollah, agrees that "strategic bombing" failed to achieve one of Israel's main goals -- rallying the Lebanese against Hezbollah.

"Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it," Hersh quotes Arquilla in his New Yorker piece in August.

Strategic bombing can destroy state infrastructure and kill a lot of civvies but it won't do a thing to a network of guerrilla insurgencies, except increase its base of popular support. On top of all this, we're dealing with a growing number of desperate human beings living in a culture that says suicide bombings will get you a first-class ticket to heaven. Yet, we have so-called realists arguing that "the terrorists" will see us as weak if we "cut and run" from Iraq, as if "strategic bombing" -- killing people from safe distances -- doesn't appear weak to ground-based fighters.

How anyone can think "shock and awe" will cow people willing to strap bombs to their own bodies blows my mind. Think about it: Chavez calls Bush a devil and even "cut-and-run" liberals like Charles Rangel defend the POTUS. And somehow there's an expectation that Shiites in Iraq, who are chomping at the bit for U.S. soldiers to leave, won't join the Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq should U.S. or Israeli bombs rain down on Shiite Iran?

Now, given the president's propensity to "stay the course," there's no reason to think he will see the foolishness of assuming it's possible to isolate Iranian leaders from the Iranian people; that the strategic bombing of Iran will somehow provoke an indigenous rebellion against the mullahs.

The Persian road we're traveling looks just like the war path we beat to Iraq -- regime change in the name of disarmament.

Now's a good time for the real patriots to publicly declare we cut and run from the idea: If it didn't work last time; do it AGAIN this time (and if possible do it MORE).

Unfortunately, we can't depend on Congress to watch our backs. They're too busy dealing with sexual predators that GOP leaders left in charge of keeping our kids safe from sexual predators.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff reporter and a syndicated columnist.
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