Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ricks Talks Turkey on Israel and Hezbollah

Thomas E. Ricks, Pulitzer Prize winning pentagon correspondent with the Washington Post and author of the recently released book FIASCO, offered this perspective of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict on Howard Kurtz's Reliable Sources today:
KURTZ: Tom Ricks, you've covered a number of military conflicts, including Iraq, as I just mentioned. Is civilian casualties increasingly going to be a major media issue? In conflicts where you don't have two standing armies shooting at each other?

RICKS: I think it will be. But I think civilian casualties are also part of the battlefield play for both sides here. One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon. __

KURTZ: Hold on, you're suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of it's fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?

RICKS: Yes, that's what military analysts have told me.

KURTZ: That's an extraordinary testament to the notion that having people on your own side killed actually works to your benefit in that nobody wants to see your own citizens killed but it works to your benefit in terms of the battle of perceptions here.

RICKS: Exactly. It helps you with the moral high ground problem, because you know your operations in Lebanon are going to be killing civilians as well.

Yes, boys and girls. That's how these things work.


  1. Bankrupt moral calculus, defined: Allow the enemy to kill more people on your side, to entitle you to kill more people on their side.

    When killing becomes both the means and the end, the forces of evil have taken over.

  2. I'm not a big "evil believer," but I sure believe in bad judgment and moral confusion.

  3. To clarify: The evil to which I refer is that which is present in people whose hearts have turned to stone, who view people (and all life) as 'things,' who have no capacity for empathy, and who would kill (or harm) anyone at all if they had something to gain by it.

  4. I know. It's "ends justify means" mentality.

    One of the main reasons I shun the "evil" concept is that it shifts blame for bad deeds from the people who commit them onto some abstract concept.

    Satan isn't resonsible for Dick Cheney's deeds. Dick Cheney is.

  5. Sociopath, psychopath, the exact diagnosis doesn't matter -- not to their victims.

    Speaking of neocons and their misdeeds, I hope you let us know your thoughts on Juan Cole's post/topic: One Ring to Rule Them,

  6. you know what? I'm actually not surprised. It's unfortunately how much I mistrust them even though I try to keep an open mind. For all that's worth.. As a cold calculated strategy though, I guess it makes sense. I've often complained, railed against this 'the end justifies the means' mentality here in the States but it's no different in certain other countries. I wonder how Israelis would feel about this.. I'll mention this post to some of my Israeli readers..tsss

  7. Jeff,

    Playing devil's advocate, I'd have to say that Cole doesn't understand a few things use of air power in armed conflict. From a purely tactical and operational standpoint, bombing certain types of infrastructure and lines of communication targets away from the actual battlefield makes a lot of sense.

    Nonetheless, the long term strategic blowback will stink for a long, long time.


    As I've said elsewhere, if this were coming from anyone else from Ricks, I'd dismiss it.

  8. Jeff, shows you my ignorance, I don't know who Ricks' is. And shows you how much I've been disillusioned by Israel. After I decided to join the blogosphere, I have been reading and learning so much and you know at the same time, feeling that at times I know so little. So much more (!) to read and so little's frustrating. I cannot be on the computer all day and just read, research and post and comment! Well, if I could I would anyway. I will always defer to people more knowledgable than myself and if I have opinions or feel strongly about them, share them for whatever they're worth. I very much enjoy your writings and appreciate the tone of this blog (and your commenters) as well.

  9. Ingrid,

    War is a horrible thing, and the people who run it do horrible things. Once war starts, "winning" becomes the end that means justify. I haven't seen the footage the Ricks transcript came from; I suspect that to some extent, he's addressing war practices in general.

    Thanks so much for making this site part of your regular

  10. The argument smells like rationalization, because it seems to me that if Israel was going to leave a few weapons caches around, you'd expect a dozen or so Hezbollah rocket launches (which is considerably more than the status quo was) instead of the ballpark of 200 launches a day that it worked up to last week.