Outside View: The tragedy of success

By MORGAN STRONG, UPI Outside View Commentator
U.S. President Barack Obama confers with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) during meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on March 5, 2012. The leaders discussed various issues including the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. UPI/Pat Benic
U.S. President Barack Obama confers with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) during meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on March 5, 2012. The leaders discussed various issues including the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. UPI/Pat Benic | License Photo

BRICK, N.J., March 9 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited U.S. President Barack Obama Monday. He has tried, and failed, to convince Obama to join Israel in attacking Iran.

Netanyahu says the purpose in attacking Iran is to prevent the development of nuclear weapons that Iran will use against Israel.


That is sheer fantasy. Iran is very far from the development of nuclear weapons. Even if Iran were to succeed in building a primitive nuclear device, they could never match Israel's vast nuclear arsenal.

Netanyahu's true purpose is to compel Obama, by using the immense power and resources of the American Israeli lobby, to commit U.S. military might critical to pursue Israel's broader agenda. Netanyahu will claim that peace and stability can be realized in the Middle East only if Iran is removed as an antagonist.


Israel says military conquest is the solution to its seemingly insoluble dilemma with the Arab states. This principle engaged without exception is; subjugation not negotiation.

The 1975 publication of the book "A Study Based on Moshe Sharett's Personal Diary and Other Documents," Israel's first foreign minister, revealed the implementation of that policy in the struggle for Israel's birth.

This remarkable book alters any previously held misconceptions, then or now, of Israel and its leadership. Sharett's first-hand narrative of the brutal tactics used to defeat the Palestinians, to usurp and occupy their land and name it Israel, is unsettling. They were brutal, unconscionable, acts; they brought to the Palestinian's many of the horrors that the Jewish people experienced at the hands the Nazi's.

These methods haven't changed because they were and are diabolically effective. They are most obvious in the present confrontation with Iran. Simply put, Israel will first provoke an enemy to commit an act of aggression, or create the appearance that an enemy poses an immediate and dire threat to Israel's safety. Israel will then reluctantly, but with all apparent justification, respond with uncompromising force.

Inexplicably, despite a history of failures, Israel continues to use this tactic to no certain end. This tactic borrowed by the Bush administration is the fullest explanation of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


In March of 1978 Israel invaded Lebanon. The invasion was a response to the infiltration of Israel by Palestine Liberation Organization forces who killed 37 Israelis. This was the first of what was to be a long line of destructive invasions of Lebanon by Israel.

Named "Operation Litani," it was quick and relatively painless for Israel. Israel suffered 20 killed but more than 1,200 Lebanese civilians, PLO and Syrian fighters died. The invasion the deaths and destruction in Lebanon, was a wholly disproportionate response to the provocation but consistent with Israel's enduring policy.

On June 6, 1982, Israel again invaded Lebanon. This invasion was claimed to be in response to the attempted assassination of Israel's ambassador to Great Britain. After protracted negotiations and heavy fighting, the Israelis accomplished their unstated and true purpose of forcing the PLO to leave Lebanon. The PLO decamped for Tunisia, from where it continued to launch terrorist attacks against Israel.

Israel bombarded Beirut relentlessly for four months during this invasion. The force used by Israel against the civilian population of Lebanon was unworthy of a civilized nation. The approximate death toll was 20,000 Lebanese civilians and 8,000 Palestinian and Syrian troops. Israel lost 300 soldiers. Beirut, once known as the Paris of the Middle East, was reduced to rubble.


U.S. relations with Israel worsened considerably during this invasion. President Ronald Reagan, perhaps the most pro-Israel president in the history of the relationship, was reportedly horrified when he watched the brutal Israeli bombardment of Beirut on television. Reagan became so angry that on Aug. 12, 1982, he telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and told him the bombing had gone too far. "You must stop it," Reagan told Begin.

The invasion, and the willful destruction of Beirut, and the effective killing of thousands of innocent civilians in Lebanon, was clearly a disproportionate response to the attempted assassination of a minor Israeli diplomat.

Another product of Israel's invasion was the creation of a new militant group in Lebanon opposed to Israel. The group was drawn from Lebanon's majority but marginalized Shiite population. First called "the Islamic Resistance" it is now known as "Hezbollah."

Begin had promised the nation that the invasion and conquest of Lebanon would bring Israel 40 years of peace. Instead it brought Hezbollah.

The invasion of 1993 followed cross-border attacks into northern Israel by Hezbollah, now in control of all of southern Lebanon. Israel claimed the invasion a success.

"Operation Grapes of Wrath", the invasion of 1996 was to stop rocket attacks into Northern Israel by Hezbollah. Israel claimed the invasion was successful.


Israel invaded Lebanon again in 2006 in response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight others.

During the invasion Hezbollah fired hundreds of Iranian-supplied, long-range rockets into northern Israel. The heavy rocket attacks forced a sizeable portion of Israel's population to flee.

Israel sent in ground forces after its aircraft were unable to stop the rocket attacks. The Israeli army met with strong resistance and suffered extremely high causalities. Israeli tank divisions were decimated by Hezbollah using Iranian-supplied anti-tank weapons. As one Israeli armored commander said, "Iran supplied the missiles, we supplied the targets."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised the invasion would realize significant achievements that would change the face of the Middle East forever.

The invasion of 1996 was the first defeat for the vaunted Israeli military.

Israel invaded Gaza in 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010, to eliminate the military threat of Hamas. Hamas was another enemy raised from the ashes of success.

Hamas's beginning was in the disaffected Palestinian's belief that peace through negotiations with Israel was unobtainable. Force appeared the only alternative.

Israel's separate invasions of Gaza have been marked by an excess of brutality; a barbarity so shocking that Israel was investigated for war crimes by the United Nations following the 2009 invasion.


Israel's belligerence and aggression arguably gained little. The cost of their self-proclaimed victories grows exponentially higher. The only apparent service of the tactic is to secure intransigence and foster an implacable resolve within the enemies of Israel.

We continue to drift ever nearer another conflict with Iran and it is unlikely that it can be avoided. The protocol of war, victory, war, victory, war, a cycle of uninterrupted failure, disguised as victory.


(Morgan Strong, is a former professor of Middle Eastern History, and was an adviser to CBS News "60 Minutes" on the Middle East.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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