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Fatal Delusions

Today, with one Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and two others by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel has responded with airstrikes, naval blockades and ground action. As a soldier, Hannibal gave me confidence and boosted morale among my comrades. And today, I believe that deploying our military to stop Hezbollah’s rocket attacks and to obtain the return of our troops is fully justified.

However, I fear that we might not stop there, and that we might succumb to the delusion that military action can transform Lebanon’s political and social realities. That same delusion led Israel to occupy Lebanon for an agonizing decade and a half in which hundreds of our troops — and many more Lebanese and Palestinians — were killed. ~Haim Watzman, The Washington Post

Perhaps a limited, punitive campaign would have made more sense, but it appears that Israel, indulged if not actually egged on by Washington and the usual cheering sections in the American media, may be succumbing to these very delusions that Mr. Watzman warns against.  The delusion that war can reliably transform social and political realities for the better is the preeminent delusion of our time.  It is the folly that inspired the invasion of Iraq and all of the loose talk of regional “transformation” and it is a delusion that still taints Mr. Bush’s foreign policy speeches with ridiculous claims about the “capacity of liberty to transform hostile regions.”  However, Mr. Watzman’s “solution” of “a multinational campaign against Iran and Syria,” is no less delusional and based on even more unrealistic assessments of what military victory over those states would yield in terms of regional stability.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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