Yesterday a year ago Israel's 2nd Lebanon War ended. A week or two later Michael Totten and I had a talk about it, which he then posted on his blog. It's a bit wordy, but you can see that I was angry at the time. The reason to re-read it - if there's a reason at all - is because I felt then, and still do, that my position was pretty much what most Israelis were thinking.
A single year cannot give historical perspective. But it can perhaps demonstrate why the passing of years and decades can make events look different than what they looked like to their contemporaries. So here are some initial comments, one year after:
1. We were going to get rid of the leaders: Well, sort of. Dan Halutz, the top general, left his job, and then after a while Amir Peretz was released from his job as Minister of Defense, so that's two out of three - but Olmert is still there. Moreover, when he eventually gets removed from his position, the immediate cause will not be that war but some other matter - five or six possible ones spring effortlessly to mind. For all the fact that being Prime Minister of Israel is not a reliable job, it isn't so easy to get rid of the person, either. Public anger can help, of course, which brings us to the next point.
2. The public anger seems to have been less than we thought at the time. True, Olmert's popularity plummeted to depths unheard of anywhere else ever (lower single digit), but beyond all of us agreeing that Olmert was useless, we never remotely agreed upon a possible replacement. So he's still around. In some scenarios, he could even salvage his name, and if - unlikely - he were to lead us to peace with this neighbor or that, he might yet be remembered fondly.
3. It was a stupid war, partly for having achieved nothing. But did it really achieve nothing? The border between Israel and Lebanon has been completely quiet. So far as we know, Hezbullah has not returned to the border or its immediate vicinity (though I remind you of this earlier post). Hassan Nasrallah yesterday gave a speech, part of which was bellicose, but part not. And anyway, he gave it by video, since he seems to assume that public appearances are no longer good for his health. We really don't have enough perspective, but it is at least conceivable that as a result of that war, Iran and its proxies lost a military advantage that it will yet regret.
4. The war proved to the Israelis that they (we) were not adequately prepared for a real war, and that we'd been focusing far too much on the singularities of the Palestinian enemy, and not enough on all the others. If one thing is clear, it is that the IDF, and to an extent also the politicians and even the voters have now rectified this. If you assume there will be additional military rounds, the fact that the IDF is taking the full gamut of its challenges seriously is significant (by which I mean training, training of reserve units, equipment, planing and preparations, and so on). If you assume that possible conflagrations can be avoided through the perception of being formidable, the sea change this past year may even delay the next round.
5. The kidnapped soldiers are still kidnapped. We don't even know if they're alive, since the Hezbollah and Hamas don't deal with basic humanitarian gestures and international law such as offering information about the well-being of their prisoners.