Hezbollah Is Winning... So Far
By William S Lind
20 July, 2006
stakes in the Israel-Hezbollah-Hamas war are significantly higher than
most observers understand. If Hezbollah and Hamas win—and winning
just means surviving, given that Israel’s objective is to destroy
both entities—a powerful state will have suffered a new kind of
defeat, again, a defeat across at least one international boundary and
maybe two, depending on how one defines Gaza’s border. The balance
between states and “fourth generation warfare” forces will
be altered world-wide, and not to a trivial degree.
So far, Hezbollah is winning.
As Arab states stood silent and helpless before Israel’s assault
on Hamas, another non-state entity, Hezbollah, intervened to relieve
the siege of Gaza by opening a second front. Its initial move, a brilliantly
conducted raid that killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two for
the loss of one Hezbollah fighter, showed once again that Hezbollah
can take on state armed forces on even terms (the Chechens are the only
other 4GW force to demonstrate that capability). In both respects, the
contrast with Arab states will be clear on the street, pushing the Arab
and larger Islamic worlds further away from the state.
Hezbollah then pulled off
two more firsts. It responded effectively to terror bombing from the
air, which state think is their monopoly, with rocket barrages that
reached deep into Israel. Once can only imagine how this resonated world-wide
with people who are often bombed but can never bomb back. And, it attacked
another state monopoly, navies, by hitting and disabling a blockading
Israeli warship with something (I question Israel’s claim that
the weapon was a C-801 anti-ship missile, which should have sunk a small
missile corvette). Hezbollah’s leadership has promised more such
In response, Israel has had
to hit not Hezbollah but the state of Lebanon. Israel’s Prime
Minister, Ehud Olmert, referring to the initial Hezbollah raid, said,
“I want to make clear that the event this morning is not a terror
act but the act of a sovereign state that attacked Israel without reason.”
This is an obvious fiction, as the state of Lebanon had nothing to do
with the raid and cannot control Hezbollah. But it is a necessary fiction
for Israel, because otherwise who can it respond against? Again we see
the power 4GW entities obtain by hiding within states but not being
What comes next? In the short
run, the question may be which runs out first, Hezbollah’s supply
of rockets or the world’s patience with Israel bombing the helpless
state of Lebanon. If the latter continues much longer, the Lebanese
government may collapse, undoing one of America’s few recent successes
in the Islamic world.
The critical question is
whether the current fighting spreads region-wide. It is possible that
Hezbollah attacked Israel not only to relieve the siege of Hamas in
Gaza but also to pre-empt an Israeli strike on Iran. The current Iranian
government is not disposed to sit passively like Saddam and await an
Israeli or American attack. It may have given Hezbollah a green light
in order to bog Israel down locally to the point where it would not
also want war with Iran.
However, Israel’s response
may be exactly the opposite. Olmert also said, “Nothing will deter
us, whatever far-reaching ramifications regarding our relations on the
northern border and in the region there may be.” The phrase “in
the region” could refer to Syria, Iran or both.
If Israel does attack Iran,
the “summer of 1914” analogy may play itself out, catastrophically
for the United States. As I have warned many times, war with Iran (Iran
has publicly stated it would regard an Israeli attack as an attack by
the U.S. also) could easily cost America the army it now has deployed
in Iraq. It would almost certainly send shock waves through an already
fragile world economy, potentially bringing that house of cards down.
A Bush administration that has sneered at “stability” could
find out just how high the price of instability can be.
It is clear what Washington
needs to do to try to prevent such an outcome: publicly distance the
U.S. from Israel while privately informing Mr. Olmert that it will not
tolerate an Israeli strike on Iran. Unfortunately, Israel is to America
what Serbia was to Russia in 1914. That may be the most disturbing aspect
of the “summer of 1914” analogy.
William Lind, expressing
his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism
for the Free Congress Foundation.