Friday, August 11, 2006

Invincible Hezbollah?

The Thinking Lebanese says so: claim a victory without occupying Lebanon, Israel needs to destroy all twelve thousand of Hezbollah's missiles, and to ensure that it withdraws at its own time and pace. To claim victory, Hezbollah has to thwart these plans and retain the ability to fire no more than two or three rockets into northern Israel and at the withdrawing Israeli troops on the last day of fighting, thereby showing it still has the ability to and that Israel's military campaign had failed.

Yet the director of The Jerusalem Summit, argues that Hezbollah need only be routed, for -
Our victory lies in accomplishing Israel's mission: being the light unto nations. Our victory would mean transforming their conscious and their social structures, liberating Islam from the demons of bestiality that have taken possession of their spiritual realm.

Israel must achieve security by liberating Arabs, not destroying them, and it is Israel, not Americans, who are best able to achieve this:
Israel must develop a clear theo-political strategy and work hard to implement it. It is Israel – not American neo-cons – who should spearhead the offensive on the distorted Islam. Israel must be the spiritual leader in this great war, because it is Isaac who knows the soul of Ishmael as a soul of one's brother.

So as far as Israel is concerned, victory may be achieved even if Hezbollah fires the occasional rocket capability once Israel stops shooting. Yet in the Middle East outside of Israel it is perception, not reality, that matters. It will be for the Lebanese themselves to decide who "won" this conflict and act accordingly: whether to keep supporting Hezbollah after the Israel stops shooting, or to dismantle its military structure.

Given their past record, I have trouble believing that Lebanese politicians will actually follow the path of peace, but I do think it is possible. Lebanon can now justify foreign military assistance to disarm Hezbollah, arguing that this will rob Israel of a pretext for military operations against Lebanon.

On a more depressing note, Mehdi Khalaji of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy argues that
Even if one day Hizballah is disarmed, either as a result of a voluntary agreement or successful Israeli efforts to devastate its arsenal, its social and political capital, so closely tied to Iranian power, will enable it to remain a real political threat in the region. That popularity may enable Hizballah to transform itself into the largest and most influential political force in Lebanon, a party that can use any potential free and fair election to become an important force in the government. Therefore, disarming Hizballah should not be considered a sufficient step...A total severing of ties between Hizballah and Iran is probably the only way to eliminate Hizballah’s threat to the region and prevent Iran from using the group as an effective tool for its anti-Western ideological agenda.

Sometimes there are no good solutions, only less-bad ones. If Hezbollah remains an active and existential security threat to Israel, there is one more alternative to the total destruction of Lebanon:
It is only because Israel's previous wars have been won relatively quickly that Israel felt secure within its small bounds. If Israel cannot achieve its security goals by destroying 80%+ of Hezbollah and departing, then the obvious alternative is for Israel to stay permanently, annex Lebanese territory for settlements, and toss out the local population. The Israelis have no desire to do it, yet it may have to happen!

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