Monday, August 14, 2006

How Hezbollah (Can Claim They) Won

In 1948, Israel repelled the attacks of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Transjordan. In the Six Days War Israel used military force to stop a planned Egyptian attack and then defeated Syria, Iraq and Jordan when those nations launched their own attacks. During the Yom Kippur War, Israel again repelled attacks by Egypt and Syria.

Every time Arab nations have attacked Israel, the Israeli’s have won.

But today, after nearly a month of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel, it is Hezbollah who claims victory. And now we see the future. Weaker nations and peoples have learned that it is futile to directly attack stronger nations and peoples. Instead, they wage battle through the asymmetry of terrorism. But because a terrorist organization follows no international laws and has no boundaries or government, these groups never have to surrender. As long as one man with a camcorder claims to be the representative of the group, the group survives. And, in the new paradigm, survival is victory.

So Hezbollah wins because they wrote the rules—or, rather, the international community has permitted them to write the rules. By treating terrorist organizations more as criminal gangs (or, in more deluded corners, freedom fighters), rather than treating them as semi-nation states, we allow them to continue the asymmetry. We let them define the playing field.

Of course, the problem is, some terrorists really are no more than criminal gangs, receiving orders from no higher power than their own personal delusions. But others are nation-states in everything but name or are obvious appendages of recognized nations. They have strong structure. They have global reach. And they have citizens—although we call them followers or believers.

In 2001, the international community recognized the reality of the situation when we collectively invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban, the bloodthirsty regime we rightly held responsible for al Qaeda’s attack on the United States. But then we became distracted. We misjudged the threat posed by Iraq and overestimated the benefit of ousting Saddam. And, at the same time, we lost the will to forcibly confront al Qaeda sponsors in the governments of nations outside of Afghanistan.

We seemed, not just as a nation but as an international community, unable to effectively balance law enforcement, diplomatic and militaristic solutions. Yes, such choices and judgments are far from easy. But this has been more than just an inability to plot the right course. This has been an inability to maintain the right vision.

President Bush has been much maligned for his “you are either with us or with the terrorists” statement. But he was right (in his own overly simplified way). Nations either support a stable world with recognized nation states conforming to a series of international standards OR they support the continued existence of terrorist groups. There’s no wiggle room there. Even though there is plenty of room to find new methods of confronting terrorists.

Somewhere in the blood, dust and confusion of Iraq (and perhaps also somewhere in the bright blindness of ivory towers), we have lost sight of the primary goal. And by “we,” I mean the international community. How else is it that the world failed to rally to the side of Israel and instead scrambled to find a way out for Hezbollah? Couldn’t we as a group of nations have worked together to eradicate Hezbollah while also saving Lebanon and the innocent Lebanese caught in the middle? Shouldn’t we have done this years ago?

Instead, Hezbollah survives and now claims victory. This is no way to solve the terrorist problem. This only gives it strength.


Blogger Rob said...

Part of the question, for me (though you say there is no wiggle room), is the location of the line between legit. governments of nation states, to factions running a nation state to terrorist organizations commandeering nation states...and who is the world authority on which government/faction is recognized?

I'm not trying to split hairs. I agree with what you're saying, though I also know that superpower influence over ruling parties and the terms we use for unsupported parties can blur the lines in some cases

4:14 PM  
Blogger Chesty said...

My initial reaction is to paraphrase Eric Cartman: "You can call [victory] until your ass bleeds but that doesn't make it true!!!"

That said, you're right: Hez showed it's muscle in this just by staying alive. It's a scary view of warfare to come, and we need to find a way to address it.

I'm going to list you on my links; your reciprocity would be appreciated.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


Fair questions. Maybe I should have said "not much wiggle room" as clearly there is not a clear line dividing legit from illegit.


Thanks for the link. I've added your blog to my list.

10:36 PM  

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