The truth about Lebanon

Joschka Fischer (picture European Commission)

An excellent posting by Joschka Fischer, former German foreign minister, on the Guardian comment site here.

Since leaving the Bundestag after the last election (in which the grand coalition pushed his party out of government) he has gone to Princeton to teach politics and, presumably, to have a bit more freedom to say what he thinks. (Even if he is saying it on the Guardian website and not at the foreign ministers meeting in Rome tomorrow.) Anyway, as I say, an excellent piece.

It is inconceivable that either side is actually going to win this war by military means, which means that it is going to go on at varying degrees of intensity until the two sides are dominated by people who would rather live in peace. The concessions that each side will have to make in those circumstances are fairly obvious: what is at stake is how either side can convince the other that it is sincere in its wish for peace without at the same time weakening its own position in the war.

Sure the Israelis can tear down this wall, but can they be sure that it is not simply going to lead to more terrorist attacks on pizza restaurants in Tel Aviv. It seems to be a recurrent theme on this blog of how countries can establish their motives and intentions unambiguously, given that their mode of communicating with each other, diplomacy, is designed to facilitate ambiguity.

Of course it is wrong that Lebanese civilians are being caught up in the fighting, and it may even be counterproductive to the Israeli war effort, too, but it is not going to stop until the Israelis have a better guarantee of peace than the one they have had up to now. The intensity of the fighting might diminish thanks to international pressure, but it will require a different approach altogether to make it go away for good.

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One of the comments in reaction to Joschka Fischer’s piece deserves to be quoted, too.

“Nor does any of this change the underlying problem – since World War Two it has become acceptable for private organisations and individuals to murder civilians for political causes. The people who did started out pretending to be national liberation movements but now anyone can do it. This needs to change. We need to reassert the basic moral principle that only States may wage war.”

It is a political principle, or perhaps a legal one, that only states may wage war. The basic moral principle is surely that not even states may wage war. The police may enforce the law, and that might sometimes involve using force, (and this applies by analogy internationally, too) but that is that.

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