Recently we’ve been hearing — both from Hezbollah and Israel — about the massive installations the terrorist group has been building just across the Lebanese border with Israel, and what will happen when war breaks out.
Omri Ceren of The Israel Project explains:
They’ve taken their arsenal – 100,000+ rockets including Burkan rockets with half-ton warheads, ballistic missiles including Scud-Ds that can hit all of Israel, supersonic advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-aircraft assets, drones and mini drones, tunnels, etc. – and embedded it across hundreds of villages and probably thousands of homes. …
The Israelis can’t afford a war of attrition with Hezbollah. The Iran-backed terror group has the ability to saturation bomb Israeli civilians with 1,500 projectiles a day, every day, for over two months. They will try to bring down Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers with ballistic missiles. They will try to fly suicide drones into Israel’s nuclear reactor. They will try to detonate Israel’s off-shore energy infrastructure. They will try to destroy Israeli military and civilian runways. And – mainly but not exclusively through their tunnels – they will try to overrun Israeli towns and drag away women and children as hostages. Israeli casualties would range in the thousands to tens of thousands.
And so the Israelis will have to mobilize massive force to shorten the duration of a future war. One of the things they’ll do is immediately is move to eliminate as much of Hezbollah’s vast arsenal as possible. Hezbollah is counting on the resulting deaths of their human shields – and they’ve guaranteed to that the body count will be significant – to turn Israel into an international pariah.
Hezbollah has adopted the most extreme form of the human shield strategy pioneered by Hamas in Gaza. The IDF will be forced to choose between killing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Lebanese civilians and seeing its own country laid waste.
Until recently, a strategy like Hezbollah’s would have been considered ludicrous. When the RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF devastated Germany toward the end of WWII, it wasn’t even a question of collateral damage — civilians were a large part of the target. Sir Charles Portal of the RAF issued a directive in 1943 to combined British and US air forces that
Your primary object will be the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.
But times have changed. Although I do not think that the legalities involved have changed much since then, such “morale bombing” would be considered morally indefensible by most people today. So we can expect that when the next war does start, and when Israel bombs Hezbollah installations in South Lebanon with an unavoidably great loss of civilian life, there will be outcries against Israel for its brutality. There are a few things we should keep in mind:
First, the IDF response to a Hezbollah rocket attack — and it will be a response, not a preemptive attack — will have as its objective the neutralization of rocket launchers, attack tunnels, and other military targets. Unlike the allied air raids over Germany and Japan, civilian casualties will be entirely collateral damage, not part of the objective.
This means that the requirement of proportionality found in the international law of war, that the use of force that could cause collateral damage be limited to what is necessary to achieve a military objective, will be met as long as the IDF attacks military targets rather than bombing indiscriminately, doesn’t use WMD, etc.
But even if it’s legal, isn’t it wrong to kill innocent civilians, women and children who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?
There is certainly a moral evil here, but even though the immediate cause of the catastrophe will be the IDF, what Aristotle called the “final cause” — the ‘for what’ that an event occurs — is Hezbollah’s intention to deter Israel from defending herself. The civilians who will be hurt are deliberately intermingled with military targets, just in order to act as human shields.
In a 2013 article, Ron Ben-Yishai described one way Hezbollah implemented its strategy after its 2006 war with Israel:
…the Shiite terror group launched a major social/real-estate project that bolstered its political standing: It purchased lands on the outskirts of the villages, built homes on these lands and offered them to poor Shiite families at bargain prices (to rent or buy), one the condition that at least one rocket launcher would be placed in one of the house’s rooms or in the basement, along with a number of rockets, which will be fired at predetermined targets in Israel when the order is given.
There can be no doubt of Hezbollah’s intentions, and thus no doubt of its responsibility if these families suffer. Israel’s reaction, on the other hand, is morally justified as an application of the principle of self-defense. That is, because of their action we are forced to choose between causing massive civilian casualties or suicide.
The use of human shields is not only morally reprehensible, it is illegal according to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and other statutes of international law. Of course, the asymmetric warfare strategies used by terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas, ISIS, etc. deliberately contravene international law, which gives them an advantage over nations like Israel that are bound by these principles.
This leads to the absurd consequence that the more a nation tries to behave morally and legally, the more of its advantage it gives up. Further, the more technologically advanced a nation is, the more it is expected to use its technology to protect the enemy population. Quite a change from the past, when military technology was only used to kill and terrorize.
It has also created a de facto alliance between the barbarians of Hezbollah and Hamas and sophisticated, supposedly morally conscious Western leaders.
Israel has been fighting an information war in parallel with its military conflicts. Its enemies in this non-violent but ultimately deadly struggle include not only the Arabs and Iranians, but Europe, the UN and the Obama Administration (usually through intermediates such as “human rights” NGOs). Their objective has been to promulgate the idea that the IDF deliberately targets civilians, acts disproportionately and with unnecessary brutality.
Once implanted, this false perception can be rolled out at the time of military conflict and deployed in international fora and by governments (e.g., the arms embargo applied by the US during last year’s Gaza conflict) to justify actions that limit Israel’s ability to defend herself. The EU and Mr. Obama will not launch any rockets against Israel, but they will do what they can to force her to absorb those fired by the terrorists.
It is a sign of Western moral weakness and reality inversion that instead of taking the difficult path of preventing the Hezbollah buildup after 2006, as promised, it joined the infowar against Israel. In a real sense, the West will share responsibility with the terrorists for the devastation of southern Lebanon that is sure to come.
Israel will take the actions it must to survive, despite the hypocritical cries that will be heard from those that have been building the case for the terrorists all along. And, to paraphrase Naftali Bennett, there will be no reason to apologize.