Both Israel and Hezbollah have declared victory in their recent conflict.With their infrastructure bombed to rumble and an international commitment to secure Israel’s objectives, how can Hezbollah declare victory?Because their goal wasn’t to win a military victory of destroying the military capacity of their opponent and imposing their will on the defeated, instead they appear to have had several goals that they did achieve:
(1) serve the interests of their Iranian benefactor’s by distracting international attention from Iran’s nuclear program and proclaiming Iran’s surrogates as a credible threat to Western interests,
(2) focus Arab/Muslim dissatisfaction on Israel and by extension the West,
(3) expand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by creating a third front to diffuse Israeli military strength, and
(4) re-enforce their position within the Lebanon’s Shiite community by demonstrating themselves capable of attacking into Israel, and emphasizing their “benevolent” role as humanitarian service provider after the damage created by the conflict.
As their infrastructure is a means to achieve those ends, its exhaustion is not a loss but an anticipated cost of pursuing those goals. While the quantity of that cost may have exceeded their expectation, the quality did not.
Thanks to the international community, Hezbollah’s costs were limited to prevent their annihilation. In part, this was because the international community refuses to recognize Hezbollah as the terrorist organization that it is. But, this evasion is a symptom of the refusal to make a moral distinction between good and evil. So long as a moral equivalence is drawn between the initiator of force and the victim acting in self-defense, the war against terrorism will be one that the international community is incapable of fighting.
So while Israel won an agreement from Lebanon and the international community to do what they have failed to do in the past, disarm Hezbollah, this hollow lie will be a pyrrhic victory for Israel, the West, and the international community. As occurred in the early ’80s, international forces in Lebanon will likely be ineffective targets of terrorist attacks and hostage taking.
So by my scorecard, and I think by the eventual judgment of history, Hezbollah did win its recent shootout with Israel.
President Bush fails to recognize it because he is not looking at Hezbollah’s objectives. Further, this is a major loss for America as the encirclement of Iran attempted by President Bush has been outflanked by this Hezbollah breakout. The only way the Bush Administration can salvage their policy is to get the international community to actually liquidate the Hezbollah threat, while moving the international community to effective action is a Sisyphean task.