Thursday, July 20, 2006

The situation in Lebanon

I am somewhat conflicted by what is happening in Israel and Lebanon, as I feel terrible about the civilian casualties on both sides, while at the same time I see the necessity and justification for the Israeli response. At any rate I think this Washington Post column by Charles Krauthammer describes why this is a unique opportunity:
Hence the golden, unprecedented opportunity. Hezbollah makes a fatal mistake. It crosses the U.N.-delineated international frontier to attack Israel, kill soldiers and take hostages. This aggression is so naked that even Russia joins in the Group of Eight summit communique blaming Hezbollah for the violence and calling for the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty in the south.
But only one country has the capacity to do the job. That is Israel, now recognized by the world as forced into this fight by Hezbollah's aggression.
The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.
Emphasis mine. I think the Israeli government should be more strenuous in asserting this last aspect. It should repeatedly call on the Lebanese government to cooperate with Israel, as Israel intends to pull back as soon as its very reasonable objectives are fulfilled, and collaborating will minimize civilian casualties, disarm Hezbollah more effectively and protect the Lebanese infrastructure. Obviously the Lebanese government would probably not accede to these sincere demands (as Hezbollah is even part of the governing coalition), but if so they would at least undermine the claim that Lebanon is stuck between two warring parties.
Naturally, the military straregy is of essence as well:
It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran's choosing.
Just as in Kuwait in 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded -- implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty.
Do read the whole thing. And to keep abreast of the latest news and commentary an excellent source is Pajamas Media, whose latest roundup can be found here.

Remembering someone

I usually try to avoid reading certain kinds of things during down time at work (like P. G. Wodehouse novels) because I don't want to attract attention by laughing out loud or being emotional, but I was taken off guard by this article in today's Wall Street Journal, which brought tears to my eyes. I think it's behind a subscriber wall so I am reproducing the whole text:
A Friend's Illness Can Change You

By Jeffrey Zaslow - Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2006; Page D2

In ninth grade, Justin Rochkind learned that he might lose his leg to bone cancer. No one told him he'd also lose his friends.
Yet when he returned to school after treatments, he felt ignored and abandoned. Former pals averted their eyes as he limped by. No one sat with him at lunch. Eventually, he chose to be home-schooled.
I met Justin in 2003, three years after his diagnosis. He was 17 years old then, in remission, but still angry at his peers. He lived in my community of West Bloomfield, Mich., and offered to share his story in this column in the hope that he'd help other ill kids who felt ostracized.
He had simple but vital advice for the classmates of such children. "Always assume you're their only friend," he said.
Three more years have now passed, and the kids who disappointed Justin are halfway through college. Some have taken action to deal with regrets about their behavior. Others offer an example of how a community can make amends and correct itself from within.
When I first wrote about Justin, he had turned mostly to his siblings for companionship. He recognized, gratefully, that family bonds can embrace us when the bonds of friendship collapse.
At the time, some of Justin's former classmates admitted they could have been more supportive of him. But they also wished he was more forgiving. "We all need to learn to be there for each other, and to let people love us," said Adam Kessler, then 17, and one of the few who kept in touch with Justin. "If Justin comes back, we'd like another chance with him."
Justin never returned to school, in part because the cancer returned. But slowly, friends and acquaintances came back into his life. They invited him to a Super Bowl party. Then they surprised him at a restaurant for his 18th birthday. At first, Justin was tentative and chilly, unwilling to let go of how they had hurt him. And some kids remained frightened by his illness. In time, however, they rediscovered that their old friend was more than his cancer. He was bright and funny -- a musician, magician, artist and aspiring filmmaker. Justin, meanwhile, found a measure of forgiveness.
In June 2004, while Justin was undergoing treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., his friends back in Michigan mounted "Rockin' for Rochkind," a fund-raiser featuring local musical acts. Fifty kids sold tickets and put up posters; 300 young people attended. "What we are doing here today is the absolute essence of what it means to be a community," one of the organizers, Zack Chutz, then 17, wrote in the program book.
That night in Memphis, Justin received phone updates about the event, and he was thrilled, especially because so many attractive girls had shown up. "He felt a lot of love from his peers," says his father, Sandy. "He saw that his friends had come full circle on their own -- they righted a wrong -- and they did it without the help of counselors or parents. I think they needed healing as much as Justin did."
Justin died in July 2004 at age 18.
Around the first anniversary of his death, his mother, Lynne, received a letter from a girl in the neighborhood. "She wanted me to know that she was thinking of Justin. She was one of those who hadn't given him the time he needed, and she wished he could know how sorry she was. It was a lovely letter."
Adam Kessler, now 20, calls Justin's mom each year on Mother's Day and Justin's birthday. At Indiana University, he is a vice president of "Circle of Life," a campus group now organizing a giant mini-marathon to benefit a scholarship fund for students with cancer. He calls Justin his inspiration. "Kids forgot about him in life. I don't want to forget about him in death."
In 2003, Tara Forman told me she hadn't been the friend Justin needed when he was first diagnosed. But she was grateful that their friendship was rekindled. She talked about how she'd gotten sick with the flu for a few days, and felt hurt that no friends called to check on her. "I can't imagine how tough it would be to have cancer, and not have friends to fall back on," she said.
Tara is now 19, and each summer since Justin died, she has volunteered at cancer facilities.
Zack Chutz, also 19, thinks of Justin daily, especially when the clock hits 3:22. (Justin's birthday was March 22.) Last week, to mark the second anniversary of Justin's death, Zack helped organize a memorial service at a summer camp he and Justin attended. Campers and counselors sang Justin's favorite song, "The Sound of Silence."
When I met Justin in 2003, he talked about his life before cancer. He said he'd be at the mall with friends, see kids in wheelchairs or bald from chemotherapy, and turn his head away. "I felt bad for them, but I felt uncomfortable," he admitted.
He asked me to give a message to young people to reach out to such kids. "Take that first step," he said. "And don't just do it out of sympathy. Do it from your heart."
I have never been closely acquainted with someone in similar circumstances, but these lessons apply to so many situations. I find it overpowering to reflect on how incredibly meaningful and lasting small actions or a few words can be in interpersonal relationships, and how oftentimes we do not think about these things enough.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Off with his head!

This story is truly incredible (and note that Die Welt isn't some wacky - or even neocon - paper; via Instapundit, also see here):
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively fired his lead Iran investigator this spring at the request of the Iranians, according to a new report in the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag.
The lead inspector of the 15-man IAEA team in Iran, Chris Charlier, told the newspaper that the IAEA chief, Mohammad ElBaradei, agreed to a request the Iranian government made, and relegated Mr. Charlier, a 64-year-old Belgian, to office work at the organization's Vienna-based headquarters. The Iranian request was reportedly made when Mr. ElBaradei visited Iran in April.
The news could have explosive consequences for America's policy of entrusting Mr. ElBaradei to negotiate an end to Iran's uranium enrichment. In 2004, after intelligence reports found him coaching the Iranians on the intricacies of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the State Department launched a campaign to prevent Mr. ElBaradei, an Egyptian, from running for an unprecedented third term as IAEA secretary-general. That campaign failed after other countries expressed their support for him.
Mr. Charlier told the German newspaper that he believes Iran is hiding elements of its nuclear program. In comments that echoed U.N. inspectors' during the 1990s looking at Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, he said, "Wherever we went, whatever we did, they always followed us, monitoring us with video cameras and capturing every single one of our conversations. Never letting us out of their sight for a second, watching everything over our shoulder. ... How the devil were we supposed to rationally do our work?"
A spokesman for the IAEA yesterday would not comment on the story. Die Welt wrote that officials from the organization confirmed the key facts of the piece and asked the newspaper not to publish it. One of the reasons the officials gave was that it would harm the work of its inspectors on the ground.
And we (neocons) should trust international law and organizations more to resolve world conflicts? Are you nuts?!

This is leadership

Good news:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Monday to continue his plan for unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, saying that the current round of violence would not stop the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
"I haven't changed my basic commitment to the realignment plan," Olmert told foreign reporters in Jerusalem. "I am absolutely determined to carry out the separation from the Palestinians and establish secure borders."
He said that Israel had no policy of trying to topple the Hamas-led Palestinian government despite its arrest of dozens of Hamas officials and military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
"We have no particular desire to topple the Hamas government as a policy. We have a desire to prevent terrorists from inflicting terrorism on the Israeli people," he said.
Olmert also rejected European Union criticism of Israel's
military offensive in Gaza, saying the EU should focus instead on Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.
"When was the last time that the European Union condemned this shooting and suggested effective measures to stop it?" Olmert asked. "At some point, Israel had no point but to take some measures in order to stop this thing."
I'm glad to see I agree with everything Olmert said. I strongly feel this is a courageous and moderate stand to take. See this and also see some interesting comments from Melanie Phillips which put things in much needed perspective:
Let us remind ourselves of the context. Israel was condemned for its occupation of Gaza, which was said to be creating 'despair' and 'frustration' that was causing violence against Israel. Israel withdrew from Gaza. From the day it withdrew, the Palestinians started firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. These rockets have caused some fatalities and injuries. More than 1000 have been fired since the withdrawal. Now two rockets have hit Ashkelon, one hitting a school playground which just happened to be empty. As the Haaretz writer Ze'ev Schiff has observed, this constitutes 'an unequivocal invitation by Hamas to war.'
Virtually none of these attacks has been reported in Britain.
The Palestinians have been smuggling into Gaza a vast arsenal of weaponry and have been tunnelling into Israel. If they haven't got it already, it is only a matter of time before they get chemical or biological material with which to arm these weapons still further. For the Palestinians, withdrawal from Gaza has provided the opportunity to ratchet up their war against Israel. So much was always entirely predictable (including to people like myself, who supported withdrawal as the lesser of two terrible evils). Since Israel no longer occupied Gaza, it should have been plain — to those who didn't believe it previously — from these post-withdrawal attacks that the Palestinians' war was not one of liberation but of extermination (as they had so helpfully announced in both the Palestinian national charter and the Hamas charter).
Virtually none of this has been reported in Britain.
It was only with the tunnel raid on Israel, the killing of the Israeli soldiers, the kidnapping of Cpl Shalit and the subsequent murder of an Israeli teenager on the West Bank that Israel finally responded. It had taken months for it to do so. And so how did it respond? It destroyed two bridges and a power station — and the British media immediately screamed that these were war crimes and 'collective punishment', even though virtually no Palestinians at that stage had been killed.
Today, the fighting escalated and so did the casualties. Such is the inevitable price of a war declared upon Israel. Such civilians who are regrettably killed become casualties because the men of terror position themselves amongst them, thus effectively using the Palestinian population as human shields as this small snippet illustrates.
Do read the whole thing.