Friday, July 28, 2006

Hezbollah and the IRA

Much of the justification for Israel's onslaught has centered on the use of "civilian hostages" by Hezbollah. By embedding themselves deeply in the civilian community, the argument goes, civilian casualties are inevitable, and entirely the fault of Hezbollah. But this misunderstands the relationship between Hezbollah and the Shia population. A close analogy would be the relationship between the IRA and the national populations of inner city Belfast (say, the Falls Road) in the 1970s and early 1980s. The IRA was a terrorist organization, and its acts were at least as immoral as Hizbollah's, in terms of targeting civilians. But they were also immensely popular in their own community, and replaced the state in terms of their own (thuggish) brand of law and order, and had a whole network of safe houses, arms dumps etc. Now, it would certainly be licit for the armed forces of the United Kingdom to try to stamp out the IRA. But would this justify bombing the Falls Road back to the stone age? Of course not! Not only would such an action would be a grave wrong, it would only serve to boost the popularity of the IRA among the disenchanted population. Sound familiar?

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