Day: July 14, 2006

A war by any other name…

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Hizbollah’s chief pledged open war on Israel on Friday after it bombed his home, saying “look at it burn” when an Israeli warship that had earlier rocketed Lebanon was attacked and set ablaze.

“You wanted open war. We are going to (wage) open war,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a telephone message broadcast live on Hizbollah television after his house was hit as Israel ramped up the assault it launched after Hizbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers and killed eight.

This is what war looks like.

I heard a news reporter yesterday describe how camera crews had decided not to release footage of a nine-month old girl dismembered by an Israeli bomb: “too graphic.”

Rockets pour into Israel.

Certainly puts Yossi Klein Halevi’s article or Glenn Reynold’s “instapunditry” in perspective….

As academics and virtual commentators, I think all of us tend to distance ourselves from the reality of war. Let’s please remember that real costs of violence, whatever our particular slant may be.

(Photos from the AP, Reuters, and AFP.)

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Excuse me Sir, but your lack of ability to project power is showing

For an administration that likes to keep things secret they sure do pick some funny things to make public–like our military’s operational weakness. This was accomplished in large part by partaking in a strategically questionable operation that begins with the letters I-R-A and ends in Q. This has long been a complaint of mine. Yours truly in January of ’06:

“…the Iraq War not only decreased the capability of the US to launch any kind of substantial invasion/occupation of Iran but it also demonstrated (and continues to demonstrate) this fact in the most public way. It is virtually impossible for the US to hide its operational military weakness (wow, never thought I would utter this phrase in my lifetime) from Iran or any other state at this time–this information is no longer private but public.”

It would appear that others agree. From the Washington Post:

“…American doctrine is premised on the idea that military force will deter adversaries. But as more force has been used in recent years, the deterrent value has inevitably gone down. That’s the inner spring of this crisis: The Iranians (and their clients in Hezbollah and Hamas) watch the American military mired in Iraq and see weakness. They are emboldened rather than intimidated.”

I am unaware of any poker players who win by showing their opponents how weak their hand is, do you?

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Given how the US reacted to the traumatic 9/11 attacks — wars against Afghanistan and Iraq that are still ongoing and adoption of a dangerous public doctrine of “preemptive” action that openly embraces preventive war — security scholars ought to be thinking seriously about India’s possible reaction to this week’s Mumbai commuter train bombings.

Indeed, this should be a central concern to security strategists as well. Why?

Though the Indian government has not accused Pakistan of direct involvement in this week’s commuter train bombings, officials like Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have drawn some connections — and offered fairly clear warnings:

“We are also certain that … terrorist modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border,” Mr Singh said….

“We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that terrorist elements in India are neutralised,”

Unnamed Indian security officials are telling the BBC that the latest “bombings bore the hallmarks of Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Kashmiri militant group operating from Pakistan.”

Pakistan says the allegations are unsubstantiated and rejects them, as does Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Students’ Islamic Movement (Simi), which is outlawed in India, also denies any involvement. President President Pervez Musharraf has condemned the attacks and offered Pakistani assistance with the investigation.

Would any of those denials matter if India decided that Pakistan wasn’t doing enough to crack down on radical militants? Worse, what if India decided that there was a clear link between Pakistan and the bombers?

When discussing nuclear proliferation and deterrence in my “International security” classes, I typically argue that India and Pakistan are the most likely participants in any near-term nuclear exchange between states. That view was fairly common among security scholars a few years ago, though ongoing peace talks have moved the two states further from the brink than they once were.

India and Pakistan have gone to war several times in the past half century or so and despite ongoing peace talks, the nuclear-armed neighbors really aren’t close to resolving the Kashmir issue. Periodically, leaders launch rhetorical salvos at the other side.

While the US and other affluent states should be offering India assistance in the post-terror cleanup and investigation, these states should also be doing all that they can to reduce the risk of war between India and Pakistan.

In the ongoing investigation, by the way, 100s of people have been detained for questioning and sketches of three (named) suspects wanted in connection with the bombing have been circulated to the media. Let’s hope that the suspects are apprehended quickly and that they have no connection to the government in Islamabad or to militants in the region.

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