Close Observations and Long Deliberations: Hezbollah, Israel and Lebanon
It’s been almost one month since Israel started its bombing and ground force campaign against Lebanon. The estimates of those killed during the attacks has varied, the IDF has confirmed 98 Israeli citizens and soldiers have died while the Lebanese authorities have placed a conservative estimate of 750 civilians (with some sources reporting as high as 900).
For the last few weeks, these are the observations which have recurred or have been reinforced in my mind:
1) Hezbollah is the only true Arab organization (pseudo state actor) which has put up a formidable resistance against Israel since the 1980s.
2) Hezbollah has made the puppet leaders of the Arab world (i.e. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia) look shameful in the eyes of their citizens as they remain idle and acquiesce to Israel’s aggression.
3) Hezbollah has started to gain more support among skeptical Lebanese citizens as the savior, guardian of Lebanon per se and not the instigator of violence (however the opposite is also true and still exists). Hezbollah’s popularity has also increased among Michel Aoun's Tayyar Wataniya al-Hur, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) since the FPM has been welcoming Shia refugees in to their homes and supporting them.
4) Hezbollah has been able to inflict more damage on Israel and IDF than previously anticipated. Hezbollah’s arsenal has proven to be more destructive than had been initially calculated.
5) The war looks like an adapted version of Vietnam minus the jungles. In addition to the difficult terrain, the true difference is that this time the war is taking place in the Middle East with much more sophisticated guerilla warfare.
6) The asymmetric war has frustrated Israel who has inflicted a much higher fold of citizen casualties than Hezbollah fighters – this has been the protagonist in fueling opposition to the war (i.e. the bombing in Qana dubbed Qana II after Israel bombed the same area during the 1980s).
7) The Bush administration has absolutely no idea what is truly going on within Lebanon’s borders and in the region on the whole. It is easy for them to support Israel in its fight against ‘terrorism.’ In fact this has been the easiest way out for the Bush administration in justifying its acts as well as those of Israel.
8) A ceasefire is essential at this point, however Israel will not stop until it feels it has disarmed Hezbollah.
9) It is difficult to defeat Hezbollah since the organization is an ‘idea’ a ‘concept’ and an ‘outlet’ for resisting Israel. This implies that even if Hezbollah is defeated militarily, the legacy and the support the organization has will live on and a new Hezbollah will surface with a vengeance, more powerful than ever (i.e. a la al-Qaeda and Zarqawi in Iraq).
A UN backed ceasefire will take place sooner or later and it is merely a matter of time. Hassan Nasrallah has publicly stated through Hezbollah’s owned broadcasting station al-Manar that if Israel’s halts the shelling, Hezbollah will stop as well – a simple tit for tat.
Lebanon will have years of rebuilding to come. The 1980s civil war was obviously much more detrimental however the damage the country has inflicted has been absolutely disastrous. The war will also leave room for a ‘reshuffling’ of sectarian order and hierarchy – a little early to determine the ultimate outcome since it rests on Hezbollah’s residual influence (i.e. post-war mortem analysis).
The geo-politics of the region will certainly change. A peacekeeping force will probably be deployed in Southern Lebanon in order to patrol the border and maintain order. Ehud Olmert has sarcastically stated that Lebanon’s voluntary decision to send 15,000 troops to help patrol is “interesting,” highlighting the lack of responsibility he places on the Lebanese government. Granted Syria stays out of the war militarily, Bashar al-Assad could find this a golden opportunity to extend his umbrella of influence back in Lebanon after Syrian troops were kicked out after the Cedar Revolution of 2004 and the assassination of former Lebanese prime-minister Rafik Hariri in February of 2005.
Israel is frustrated and has severed a blow to its confidence. The war has fueled more anger towards it as well as the US and the UK since they are the only three countries which continue to support the war and believe that a premature ceasefire would only make things worse.