Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hezbollah eats humble pie

Hezbollah claims it ‘won’ the recent war between it and Israel. It is impossible to believe this in anything other than the standard terrorist doublespeak sense – Israel killed 20% of this terrorist group’s military cadres and wounded a multiple more and Hezbollah were thrashed in every direct military encounter with Israel. As a 'detail' Lebanon was left in devastation as a consequence of Hezbollah's adventurism.

But never underestimate the extent to which Islamic fanatics can delude themselves. The difficulty is that if Hezbollah’s propaganda claims of victory came to be believed, this would suggest doubt about the viability of the current ceasefire. As I wrote previously:
‘It may be that ordinary Lebanese returning to their shattered homes and a ruined economy may inject a sense of realism into Hezbollah's fantasies but the fear is that for many, hatred of Israel and celebration of this pyrrhic 'victory', fostered by the bearded religious fanatics in Iran, will turn this ceasefire into something only temporary’.
This theme is taken up in an article in today’s Age. Hezbollah has recently been trying to buy goodwill as compensation as ordinary Lebanese seek to rebuild lives ruined by the war. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has even apologized to Lebanon for kidnapping the Israeli soldiers – they would never have done so had they anticipated the consequences - what baloney, why did they ever not just return those kidnapped?

Hezbollah are also handing out Iranian money to those whose homes are destroyed. The symbolism of these transfers will not be lost on the Lebanese. We compensate you for loosing your homes and your brothers and sisters in the interests of imperialist religious fanatics in Iran.

Hezbollah are scrambling for political legitimacy in Lebanon and are confirming by their statements and actions that they were overwhelmingly defeated. The ceasefire may hold in which case the substantial force exercised by Israel against the terrorists in Lebanon will be seen in a more positive light. It may help force a reconfiguration of political forces in Lebanon that gives less power to the servants of a foreign country.


conrad said...

That sounds like the type of odd American appraisal of the Vietman war that went on for ever so long. Somehow you are winning if you kill more of the enemy than they do of you, or you destroy more of their infrastructure than they do of yours (or, in this case, you destroy more of the infrastructure of many people who probably didn't support Hezbollah to begin with). I don't really see how numbers of dead matter in a conflict with people with a basically infinitely renewable source of people willing to die, and an essentially unlimited weapons supply from Iran.

I think a better appraisal is that either both sides lost; or, given that Hezbollah is still here and intact, if some of the following happen: a) Hezbollah wins the next election; b) Hezbollah gets more popular in Lebanon; c) Hezbollah gets more popular in the Middle east; d) Hezbollah helps unite currently ununited forces in the Middle east; e) It is concluded that Israeli tactics make any action against Iran more unpopular and difficult; or f) Large numbers of Israeli hating fundamentalists are created,

and this is due to the recent conflict, then it seems safe to assume that Hezbollah won. There is clearly an asymetric victory criterion here. Israel can only really win by getting rid of Hezbollah or putting them back decades (which they didn't do), but Hezbollah can benefit in multiple ways.

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Jack said...

The Israeli men with guns (and anti-personnel cluster ordnance) killed more innocent civililans than those other men with guns killed seals. This is not an argument in defence of Hezbollah but a plea to you and others like you, to get a sense of proportion.

derrida derider said...

But never underestimate the extent to which Islamic fanatics can delude themselves.

I wonder just who is being self-deluding here, Harry. conrad summed it up pretty well, IMO - the Iranians are in a stronger position than ever.

If you're still swallowing neocon guff, all I can say is that you're like the Bourbons - learning nothing and forgetting nothing.

hc said...

What a ridiculous argument Jack. Hezbollah were firing from civilian centres in Lebanon to civilian centres in Israel. How was Israel expected to respond?

I agree people are more important than seals but seals are important. So is Israel's right to defend itself against terrorists who kidnap its citizens and fire missiles at exclusively civilian targets.

hc said...

Derrida Derrida,

I am not responding to 'neocon guff' but to a newspaper article asserting the opposite of your claims. Namely that the damage inflicted on Lebanon is causing Hezbollah problems and that statements made by Hezbollah and monies being paid to citizens of Lebanon suggests this is true.

I am not sure Iran is in a stronger position - the vote that Hezbollah receives in the next election will provide some evidence on this. If the US strike Iran over the next few weeks - as I suspect will happen - that will settle the issue of whether its position was strengthened as a result of this encounter. Certainly it has become a feared imperial power throughout much of the rest of the Middle East.

It is delusional for Hezbollah to claim victory. They were not wiped out but they did not win.

Bring Back EP at LP said...


you seem to have forgot or missed the original reason for the war by Israel and then the nest reason.
First was the rescue of the two soldiers and then the destruction of Hezbollah.

both very bad failures.

Why Israel chose a war they could not win is beyond me but then I could never understand why the main thing the US security cabinet looked at after 11/9was an invasion of Iraq.

the second last issue of the economist had a good article of how bombing hardly ever helps in the winning of wars . I would have thought this would have been in spades against a guerrilla organisation who you clearly and Israel never really thought about very clearly.

hc said...

Homer, I think Hezbollah will think twice about carrying out this kind of caper again. The discussion here is about the status of Hezbollah after the conflict - my argument is that it has been damaged.

Bring Back EP at LP said...

You are poor in showing how they are damaged.

It wasn't just Hezbollah that didn't think Israel would declare war because of what happened. No-one else did either.
That was probably due to the less than impressive defence credentials of the two major Israeli politicians involved and why they did not question such insane advice.

Hezbollah guerrillas outfought the IDF. They fired more rockets on the last day than any other.
No Lebanese politician criticised them indeed they all seemed to want to get into the embrace.

When AQ and the Wahhabists start celebrating Hezbollah only a fool would say they 'lost'.

jack said...

I'll let the "ridiculous" go by, even though it is not ridiculous, because, as other contributors have written, your blog was concerned with winning as if it were a chess game, whereas not only was infrastructure trashed but civillians - some in ambulances - were targeted.

It is clear that Israel could have responded in a number of ways, yet you write as if there was just one strategy. You also assume that just because one side in a conflict behaves in a barbaric way, the other side must descend to a similar level of barbarism.

There are many people upset at Israel's methodology inside Israel, not just armchair critics outside.

Israel was badly advised by the Americans, in effect, to try out the "shock and awe" tactics.

The problem is that it does not work against savvy combatants. Or strictly speaking, works only the first time.

It worked in Guernica (Spain 1936) but it half-worked in Warsaw in 1939 (and less so there in 1944), not at all in Stalingrad in 1943, nor London 1940-1944, nor Berlin 1944-45; nor Hanoi/Plain of Jars 1968-71. The point was made by Antony Beevor, that defending ruins is a lot easier and much harder to take such ground.
The Americans "convinced" the Israelis to adopt the Douhet doctrine (Google it) against the latter's better judgement, citing success in Kosovo in 2000.

What the Israelis should have done, and what they are saying themselves they should have done, is to immediately go in on the ground and use air power tactically not strategically.

The results would have been far more tangible for Israel politically, hundreds of Lebanese would be alive today, and, importantly, it would have been more humane. Just like sparing the seals.

hc said...


Civilians in ambulances were not targeted.

I think most people accept the air war was less successful than was hoped. An ingredient in this failure was the ability of Hezbollah to shift mobile roocket lauches away quickly and to remotely trigger missiles. Israel has learned.

Hezbollah did the standard asymmetric warfare trick of holding civilians to ransom. These barbarians have no feeling for life or justice - they have openly stated that they seek to kill all Jews - they even encourage them to return to Israel so they can enjoy economies of scale in demolishing them. These are the modern Nazis - the Nazis had the same improbable stories that they used to try to wipe out a race.

The Lebanese civilians - yes all sympathy extended to these deluded people and particularly their unfortunate children who took no conscious decision to side with Hezbollah.

Adult Lebanese: Don't bed down with terrorists who seek to kill innocent civilians and who then hide behind your cradles and skirts.

jack said...

Civilians in ambulances were targeted on two occasions, as were people fleeing on choc-a-bloc roads. I go by evidence available and reportage. You have absolutely no evidence that they weren't targeted. The only thing you could possibly offer as "evidence" is the refutation by Israeli military spokesmen who are paid liars. This is called propaganda and is an important aspect of warfare, as you well know, Harry. So do not play a naif.

I think most people accept the air war was less successful than was hoped - you can say that again and include the Israelis themselves.

But you do the IDF a great disservice in suggesting that they didn't know about the mobile rocket launches or their remote activation. They have the best intelligence apparatus in the world! This is nothing new for them. The Hezbollah has been at it for years. Israel knows what colour underpants they have.

Yes, Hezbollah did the standard asymmetric warfare trick of holding civilians to ransom. Israel did the same, moreover they employed terror tactics of collective punishment. This was a favourite Nazi tactic but was also used by the Japanese in China, the Chechens in Beslan, certainly by the Americans when they firebombed Tokyo (not to mention nukes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the RAF did the same in Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, etc. The Americans did it in Laos. This is terror to gain a political end (remember Kissinger/Nixon and his Xmas truce feelers? Nixon wanted the Vietnamese to think he was unstable - we better negotiate, this guy could do anything... it didn't work. But is morally justifiable? I think it is incredibly counterproductive and it is time the Israelis stopped listening to the Americans, which is where the urging came from.

Let's not compare the Hezbollah to Nazis. That is ridiculous. The Hoezbollah are a to the Iranians what Gerard Henderson is to the Liberal Party. In other words, a dispensable tool and not an entity in any way independent. So you should have said the Iranians are... etc etc. They are Nazi like in their doctrinaire state fascism, agreed.

The Iranian theocracy is a worry and they are playing a Middle East populist game by waving a stick at Israel. This is because it gains them brownie points in the neighbourhood.

All the wannabies do and say the same thing: wipe Isreal off the face of the earth. Nasser did it, Saudi extremists including Osama say it, Saddam said it.

But Iranians are not quite the modern Nazis - claiming this only shows up your abject ignoraance of history.

I think when it comes to Nazis I have strong claims to know about this more than you, in depth: most of family were wiped out by them including all my uncles, aunts and grandparents on both sides. The reason why my parents came out to Australia is becuase of their fear of nascent and resurgent antisemitism in Poland. This is why I feel for the Lebanese.

Most Lebanese civilians had no say in the armed religious thugs in their midst just as most Afhanis had no say about the Taliban ruining their lives.

Israel made a hideous error tactically and morally. I say this as a Jew and as one who went to Israel to drive petrol tankers when Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur of October of 1973.

hc said...


I think the Israelis believed that they could target the missile launchers and get the Hezbollah firing them. They often failed.

Israel did not hold its civilians to ransom.

The relation between Iran and Hezbollah has no similarity to that between Gerard Henderson and the Liberal Party. GH is not a killing agent for Iran.

You say the Hezbollah are not Nazis but are Nazi-like in their docrinaire state fascism. What's the difference - do you assume ordinary Germans were monsters? They were not - just ordinary humans.

I know you are a Jew and I know broadly of your family history - I didn't know you went to fight for Israel in 1973 but feel proud of you that you did.

Your background like that of many Jews is grim. It can't be allowed to happen again and Israel is sensible to take threats against it seriously and not just as a sign of political points-scoring.

I think your penultimate sentence is an exaggeration but I cannot win this one can I? You have justifiable moral outrage on your side. But I think you are displaying ex post wisdom not sound ex ante logic.

jack said...

I think it is you who uses exaggeration to thec detriment of your argument. Hezbollah is not a state, like Germany under Nazism was. Therefore your comparison falls by the wayside. However, we both agree that Hezbollah's sponsor is Iran. Iran's ideology is fascist-like, or indeed islamo-fascist.

So, ipso facto, in Lebanon, Israel fought Iran by way of proxy, with the Lebanese people caught in the cross-fire.

So let me throw in another comparison your way, seeing as you are so keen on historical similes. Israel behaved just like Nazi Germany did when the latter bombed Guernica in Spain on behalf of its client, Franco.

Gerard Henderson is not a killing agent, but he is an agent nevertheless, or rather a claqueur for the Liberal Party. This is my view formed after reading his column over some time. I no longer read it because I know what he is going to say.

P.S. I did not say I fought for the Israelis. I just delivered petrol to petrol stations as a civilian driver, while the regular drivers went off to war. I happened to be in the neighbourhood at the time. I helped because Israel was struggling for survival in another proxy war: between the US and the USSR.

Bring Back EP at LP said...


Israel invaded Lebanon thus they set the conditions for 'winning' or 'losing' annd on their own conditions they lost!

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