The Corner

Stop That Analogy

Sebastian Mallaby, often the author of sensible things, has got one plain awful analogy holding down an otherwise okay op-ed. He says Israel should have responded to Hezbollah’s attack much the same way the Indians responded to last week’s terrorist attacks in Bombay:

The India-Israel comparison is startling. Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorists shower rockets on Northern Israel and carry out a raid that inflicts eight deaths and two abductions. Israel justifiably responds by bombing the headquarters of the Hezbollah leader, but it also rains fire on Beirut’s airport, roads and apartment towers, destroying the props of a new and hopeful Lebanon.

Almost everybody understands that failed states are good for terrorists. With their bitter experience of the Palestinian territories and the Lebanon of old, Israelis ought to grasp that better than anyone. But their leaders seem determined to re-create a failed state to their north. They complain that the Lebanese government has failed to rein in Hezbollah terrorists, then destroy the infrastructure that provides that same Lebanese government with its only chance of functioning.

Now consider India. Coordinated bombings in Bombay commuter trains kill 182 people and wound hundreds. On the same day a grenade attack at a bus station in Kashmir injures at least six tourists. The Indians announce that a new incarnation of a Kashmir independence group called Lashkar-e-Taiba is the main suspect in the Bombay attacks. Just as Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s ruling coalition, the group operates openly in Pakistan and is said to be backed by the country’s intelligence services.

India’s response? No reprisals, no bombings. No threat to cut off diplomatic communications with Pakistan and no massing of troops on the India-Pakistan border. Instead, the Indians tell Pakistan that a forthcoming meeting of foreign ministers must be postponed. And they seek support from the Bush administration and the United Nations to get Pakistan to clamp down on the terrorists.

Me: Maybe it’s just me, but this seems like palpable nonsense and grotesquely unfair. The India-Pakistan situation is profoundly different than the Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon-Syria-Iran situation. I can think of dozens of reasons why the situations are not analogous. A few examples: Pakistan is a nuclear power. Is it a huge surprise that this encourages “restraint” in the Indian government? Pakistan is a state with which India has serious relations and diplomatic avenues. Pakistan is not dedicated to the destruction of India. Indeed, India’s existence is not nearly so fragile a thing as Israel’s. India also has millions upon millions of Muslim citizens. And so on, and so on. It’s fine to celebrate India’s restraint in response to those murderous attacks. But it’s grotesque to say, in effect, “if India can do it, so can Israel.”

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