What he said
I think a lot of the defenses of Israel's action aren't really addressing the real question. The issue isn't whether Israel has a right to respond, or even whether it should respond, the question is whether it should be responding in the manner that it is. Thus, it's not enough to point out the rocket attacks or the hostage-taking. That justifies a response, but not necessarily this particular type of response.Precisely. How many Lebanese civilian lives are three Israeli soldiers worth? I can understand Israel having a skewed calculus of lives, since it's their people. But we, as objective observers have to wonder about a nation that thinks one of its citizens is worth dozens of civilians in a country that did not attack it.
And that's what I'm looking for. To those who would convince me that Israel's actions are just fine, you need to explain why the actions against it justified the massive, civilian-and-infrastructure attack that we're seeing. Because, frankly, I'm not seeing right now.
Saying that the attacks originated in Lebanon is true only in the sense that the attacks of 9/11 originated in the US. That is, trivially true but missing the point. The technology involved is stateless, as is the threat behind it. Yes, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, but only because the group's political wing provides social services in a nation that for many years had no national leadership. If any nation is to be blamed, it's Iran, and do we really want to encourage Israel to fly its planes across Jordan and Iraq to bomb Iran? Is that in anyone's best interests?
Matt Yglesias has been pondering why the left half of the blogosphere doesn't write more about Israel. My answer is simple: Everyone involved sucks.
The Palestinians were terrorists for decades, and killing children and other non-combatants is never, ever acceptable. Accidents happen, and we forgive accidents. But targeting non-combatants just isn't OK. So they suck.
But they have fair complaints: their situation is horrific and something or other needs to be done.
Israel's complaints are valid, too. It's their land (by conquest if nothing else) and they have to do something about all the terrorism and such. But they target non-combatants, and target combatants throwing rocks by firing M16s. There's no proportionality. Neither side enjoys any moral edge at this point. The only person involved who seemed at all to recognize the problem – that someone had to stop being an asshole long enough for everyone to talk about things – was Yitzhak Rabin, and he was assassinated by an Israeli!
In short, the whole thing is a mess. Hezbollah and Hamas shouldn't kidnap anyone, and shouldn't launch missiles into Israel. And Israel shouldn't attack civilian airports and infrastructure in retaliation for those acts. Everyone's wrong. This is essentially point 2 of Kevin Drum's answer to Yglesias' query.