The fog of war makes it impossible for me or anyone else to determine whether or not Israel’s war against Hezbollah is succeeding of failing militarily. But it’s painfully obvious that Israel’s attempt to influence Lebanese politics in its favor is an absolute catastrophe right now.
The (second in a decade) attack on Qana that killed scores of civilians has all but cemented the Lebanese public and Hezbollah together.
Cable news reports that 82 percent of Lebanese now support Hezbollah. Prime Minister Fouad Seniora — whatever his real opinion in private — is now closer to openly supporting Hezbollah in public than he has ever been.
The March 14 Movement (the Cedar Revolution) is, at best, in a coma if not outright dead.
Hezbollah was popular while Israel occupied South Lebanon. When Israel left Lebanon it finally became possible for Hezbollah’s power to be strictly relegated to it own little corner because support for the organization evaporated.
Now that Israel is back, Hezbollah’s support is back.
It doesn’t matter if this support is reasonable or not. (It isn’t reasonable. Israel wouldn’t even be in Lebanon if it weren’t for Hezbollah.) But it was entirely predictable.
Support for Hezbollah will drop again after Israel leaves. But Israel can’t (or won’t) leave until some kind of arrangement is hammered out. And Israel will now have to deal with a manifestly more hostile Lebanese public while working out that arrangement.
This is a disaster for Lebanon, a disaster for Israel, and a disaster for the United States. It is a tremendous boon to Syria and Iran.
I wish I knew what a possible solution might be, but I don’t. I’m pretty sure, though, that “more of the same” isn’t it.
UPDATE: Tony Badran says “Hezbollah’s plan all along was a classic coup d’etat, very similar, as Pierre Akel recently wrote, to the fascisti’s takeover in Italy.” Seems to be working very well for them right about now.
I’m sorry for not being my usual more-optimistic self. What can I say? It is not always warranted.
When I first arrived in Beirut a British expat friend who lived there for nine years said “Do not underestimate them” when I told him I was going to meet and interview Hezbollah.
Please allow me to second that.
UPDATE: Mary at Exit Zero (no peacenik, she) wrote in my comments:
Asymetric warfare makes the military branch of a terrorist organization hard to hit – but it leaves the supporters of terrorism in a relatively vulnerable position. If the world were an intelligent place, we’d be fighting the strategy of asymetric warfare, not its army or its cities.
The state leaders, bureaucrats and bankers who support Hez would be our targets. As Sun Tsu said:
Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy;
Next best is to disrupt his alliances;
The next best is to attack his army.
The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative.
The world in general seems to have read that advice backwards.