No two wars are alike. Different players in different uniforms representing different constituencies fight for different reasons. When history seems to repeat itself with familiar schemes for gaining power, new scenarios of analysis and justification are nevertheless required.
In ancient wars, the killing fields were usually found far away from the places where civilians lived out their domestic lives. But sometimes battles overflowed into the cities and other centers of civilization, and civilians died, too. The Greeks, after all, could not have defeated Troy if they had not sneaked soldiers inside the walls in that infamous wooden horse. We all -- or most of us -- decry the death of a single innocent, but war never spares what we now euphemistically call "collateral damage."
It's a matter of degree with significant distinctions how each side calculates the death of civilians as a necessary cost of war. Israel has tried, with varying success, to keep their offensive arms away from places where women and children live, often at the price of their own casualties. But that's not always possible, particularly against a foe that mocks Western concern for life and boasts that his version of Islam welcomes and celebrates death.
Hezbollah hides its arms in private homes, inviting attack, and weaves its tunnels beneath the communities of civilian women and children. It's only with incredible chutzpah that anyone blames Israel for bombing those places where the enemy stockpiles its weapons and reserves. Israel aims at places where terrorists hide; Hezbollah aims at women and children where they live.
"We are doing something that no other country would do," Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, says in an interview with the German magazine der Spiegel. "We warn the people using Lebanese television, radio and flyers that we spread over the affected areas. We ask the people to leave their homes and get themselves to safety."
There's a growing understanding that Israel is in a fight for survival. The Hamas government, rising to power by popular election, attacked Israel from Gaza after Israel withdrew from its settlements in Gaza, giving eloquent lie to assertions that the occupation of Gaza was the reason the Islamists targeted Israel. Reluctant witnesses are forced by unfolding events to acknowledge who started this war. Even the Arab League calls Hezbollah's campaign of violence "dangerous adventurism."
The Lebanese know who is to blame for current misery. Michael Young, the editorial page editor of the Beirut Daily Star, says Israel must continue its campaign to weaken Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as the means to strengthen Lebanese sovereignty.