Are Israel and Lebanon at war right now?

This question probably sounds idiotic. But has Israel declared war on Lebanon? If they have not, how can Lebanon just take all this pounding without declaring war on Israel? Are these two countries just laying into each other but not technically at war?

No, Israel hasn’t. Lebanon takes it without declaring war because otherwise Israel might go into mini-total war mode and do to it what the US did to Germany / Japan during WWII, more or less obliterate its infrastructure and government, etc. and reconstitute it according to its wishes. Its a bit like if the US attacked Canada, what on earth would it benefit Canada to declare war on the US when it would be limiting both parties’ options to accede to the UN’s requests, cease fire, simply withdraw, etc.

Also there is the distiction that Israel isn’t fighting with Labanon but with Hezbollah which is a group within Lebanon.

“Declaring war” is not what starts a war; that’s just a legal construct that serves whatever political or diplomatic purpose the declaring nation needs.

Israel and Lebanon certainly are in a state of war. As it happens, the Lebanese Republic is not really able to defend itself, and so the fighting going the other way is mostly Hezbollah, but it’s certainly a war. If the United States attacked Canada and a Canadian paramilitary organziation was lobbing rockets into Buffalo, that would be a war even if neither side “declared” it.

Technically, Israel and Lebanon have been at war since 1948, when Lebanon sent a symbolic force to the pan-Arab invasion of Israel. No peace agreement has ever been signed between the two nations.

Hezbollah, though, forms part of the government of Lebanon, which tends to complicate matters somewhat.

That is one hell of an understatement.