August 6, 2006:
Take a close look at Hizbollah, it's tactics and its prospects, and you realize that their terrorism campaign against Israel is doomed to failure. Yet that is rarely reported in the media. No matter. Here we'll explain it all for you.
Terrorism is the weapon of the weak. It's a weapon that is more likely to fail, than succeed. But if you have really determined bunch of weaklings, willing to gamble all for the cause, terrorism is the way to go. Thus, we have several Moslem (mostly Arab) groups, and even entire countries, trying to use terrorism to destroy Israel. Half a century ago, these countries tried using war, with armies and such, but this was a spectacular and expensive failure. Terrorism was another matter. It was a lot cheaper, and the Soviet Union, until its demise in 1991, was willing to share some of the costs (as long as all the targets were enemies of the Soviet Union, which eventually included Israel.)
But after four decades of anti-Israeli terrorism, there is nothing to show for it but a long string of failures, and an Israel that is more powerful than ever. Since the media has to report news (exciting stuff, real or imagined), rather than what really happened (which is what history books are for, most of the time), you don't hear much about this development. Kind of boring. Terrorists keep trying, playing the media with great effectiveness, but consistently failing in their stated objective. So let's take a look at what is really happening.
During the 20th century. Arabs waged many terror campaigns against Jews in the Middle East. All these failed, a development spotlighted by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Starting in 2000, the Palestinians began a terror campaign against Israel, in an effort to get a better deal for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The terrorists used lots of suicide bombers, plus guns and knives. Before the terrorists were defeated in 2005, nearly 5,000 people were killed (80 percent of the Palestinians.) Israel found the terrorists weak spot (their support and leadership system), and went after it. By 2005, the Israeli efforts had so disrupted the terrorist operations that hardly any suicide bombers were getting through. Some still did, but so infrequently that it wasn't newsworthy. For the terrorists, these infrequent successes (and the many failed attempts) actually hurt the terrorists, because it showed that their efforts were in vain and wasted.
Terrorism is still popular among Palestinians, because, while it doesn't work against Israelis, it does work against Palestinians. The most recent Palestinian elections, earlier this year, saw one inept terrorist group (Fatah) defeated (more for being corrupt than anything else), by another terrorist group (Hamas) that promised cleaner government and more effective terrorism. Hamas has delivered neither, and is now in big political trouble.
Which brings us to those terrorists in the north, Hizbollah. Founded in the 1980s, to funnel Iranian aid to fellow Shias fighting in Lebanon's civil war, Hizbollah cast about for new work when a 1990 peace deal ended the civil war. Iran, then and now, was run by a religious dictatorship, composed of Islamic conservatives that wanted Israel destroyed. Iran also liked the idea of having a client (Hizbollah) running its own state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon. Iran didn't really care what the rest of Lebanese thought of all this, because those other Lebanese were all Christians, Sunni Moslems, Druze and worse.
In 1982, Israel had invaded Lebanon, in order to drive out Palestinian terrorists who were making raids across the Lebanese border into northern Israel. With the civil war going on, no one was really watching the border, except the Israelis. The 1982 war was unpopular in Israel, because the Palestinian terrorists were not doing that much damage. Moreover, the Israeli operations lasted three years, and left over 1,200 Israeli soldiers dead. The Palestinian terrorist were forced to flee (to a North African sanctuary), but they were replaced by Hizbollah. The Israeli solution for that was to take control of a band of terrain 10-15 kilometers north of their border with Lebanon. While this kept terrorist attacks away from northern Israel, it exposed Israeli soldiers to constant attacks from Hizbollah terrorists. While much of the fighting in south Lebanon was done by pro-Israeli Lebanese, there were still Israeli casualties (50-100 a year, plus 100-150 for Israel's Lebanese allies). Finally, in 2000, Israel just up and withdrew from southern Lebanon. The understanding was that this gesture would give the UN, Syria, Lebanon and Hizbollah an opportunity to bring peace to southern Lebanon. The UN approved such a deal in 2004, but Hizbollah ignored it, and the Lebanese government refused to enforce it. It didn't work. The Syrian army stayed, Hizbollah refused to disarm and the UN wrung it hands and looked distressed. UN peacekeepers on the border quickly became corrupted or intimidated by Hizbollah.
The way in which Hizbollah, Lebanon and the UN exploited Israel's 2000 gesture, has turned Israeli population against any more such deals that rely on trusting Hizbollah or the UN. Actually, not even the Lebanese trust Hizbollah any more. Most Lebanese believe that Hizbollah set off the current round of fighting because of a pending attempt, by the Lebanese government, to disarm Hizbollah. This is called a "diversionary attack," the intention being to divert the Lebanese from their plans to disarm Hizbollah. Being disarmed would be catastrophic for the Hizbollah leadership, because many of these guys were deep into criminal scams, and collaboration with the hated Syrian army of occupation. Most Lebanese would like to see a little justice here, and the Hizbollah brass, quite naturally, would rather skip that sort of thing altogether.
But going to war with Israel, as any historian of Arab-Israeli relations can tell you, is a losing proposition. The Israelis are famously not stupid, and take any attack on them as a threat to their very existence. These are not the kind of people you want to fight a war with. But Hizbollah thought they had no other choice (there weren't even many options), and now has to stick it out and hope for the best. Hope won't do them much good. While the Hizbollah rocket arsenal is a new touch, it's not like the Israelis have not dealt with new terrorist tricks before. While journalists are keen to figure out what the Israelis are up to, many of the Israeli counter-terror innovations only work if they are kept under wraps for as long as possible. Pundits love this, because they can spout whatever they want, secure in the knowledge that few people will remember that they were way off the mark.
But if you pay close attention, you can figure out who is going to win, and how they are going to do it. The Israelis are hitting Hizbollah where they are vulnerable, but are not broadcasting the target list ahead of time, for obvious reasons. Just like a few years ago, months of seemingly ineffective efforts will suddenly produce results. That has happened before, terrorist victories have not.