Winning: Hizbollah and Israel

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August 14, 2006: The conventional wisdom says that Israel has lost this latest conflict, and Hizbollah has won. This is not quite accurate. This latest round of fighting in Lebanon was a draw, and possibly a major defeat for Hizbollah. Both sides can point to real gains, and both sides also have lost things as a result. The same can be said about any direct or indirect participant in this point.
For instance, Israel has made some significant gains. They now have a decent idea of what the conditions in southern Lebanon look like should they need to engage in larger-scale combat in the region. The UN resolution also allows Israel to take "defensive" actions against Hizbollah. Keep in mind, only two countries need to agree on what would constitute "defensive" action: Israel and the United States (which has a veto on the Security Council).
Hizbollah has managed to publicly fight a limited Israeli offensive to a draw. This will give the terrorist group a huge amount of prestige among the Arab world, and it will likely see a jump in recruiting and support. However, Hizbollah's propaganda has now been exposed, thanks to the blogosphere. This is going to cost Hizbollah in the long run - the brazen lies will be brought up in the future. But in the meantime, the ceasefire calls for the disarming of Hizbollah, something Hizbollah says it will resist.
Iran, a somewhat indirect participant, now has tangible results it can show for giving Hizbollah $250 million a year. This is going to somewhat reduce the discontent over the expenditures. However, Iran's also been caught supplying weapons (including anti-ship missiles) to Hizbollah. This will make the United States even touchier about Iran's nuclear weapons program than it already is. The last time the United States got very touchy about a dictator pursuing weapons of mass destruction who was also known to assist terrorists was in 2003.
Lebanon wins by having more UN peacekeepers to assist its army in the southern portion of that country. This will, hopefully, give it some means to fight Hizbollah. The problem is that Lebanon's government has been revealed to have at least been aware of Hizbollah's plans to kidnap the soldiers. Once seen as another victim of Hizbollah, there will be some who now see Lebanon as a collaborator.
The UN can also claim a sense of accomplishment, pointing to the Security Council resolution that ended this round of fighting, and the bolstering of its peacekeeping force. However, the UN is already dealing with the embarrassment of having to admit that its peacekeeping force was unable to prevent Hizbollah from launching attacks on Israel. The UN will also have little room for failure due to other past failures (like Srebrenica, the conduct of peacekeepers in Africa, and the Oil-for-Food program). It also raises questions about who will enforce Security Council Resolution 1559, which requires the disarmament of Hizbollah.
The United States has gained some things. For instance, it has now built up more of a case against Hizbollah. It also has picked up proof of Iranian involvement in arming Hizbollah - which will make it easier to justify acting against Iran's nuclear weapons program. The United States has also managed to set things up so that if Israel has to go after Hizbollah again, they can cover the Israelis at the UN. However, the United States will have to deal with the fact that Hizbollah has now gained prestige in the Arab world, and that Iran will be more confident in that group's abilities.
In other words, everyone's got reasons to claim victory in this war, and at the same time, everyone has a few things that they will want to deal with at some point in the future. The result is a cease-fire that will not hold, mainly because Hizbollah refuses to disarm. When a war ends without a definite winner or loser, the result will be a future war. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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