Friday, July 21, 2006

Is Israel's Strategy Working?

The Age tells of a report from an Italian paper that Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has made a dramatic change in policy, and is now demanding that Hezbollah, which he calls "a state within a state," must be disarmed.
HEZBOLLAH has created a "state within a state" in Lebanon and must be disarmed, the country's Prime Minister says.

Fouad Siniora said the Shiite militia had been doing the bidding of Syria and Iran, and could only be disarmed with the help of the international community once a ceasefire had been achieved.

While Siniora is still claiming that a ceasefire must come first, this is a noted move away from Hezbollah and towards the Israeli position.

When Israel first began its aerial attack on Lebanon, I was hesitant as to whether such an attack would be counterproductive to Israel's political aims. Many make the claim that a foreign power attacking a state in the hopes of separating the people from their government so as to inspire them to turn on the government. The counter to this argument, however, was that nationalism would lead a population to "rally round the flag," so to speak, thereby supporting the government, no matter how unpopular it may otherwise be, in response to a foreign aggressor.

In reality, I'm not sure either side is entirely right on this count. As we saw after the first Gulf War, a great number of Shia and Kurds did rise up against Saddam, only to be abandoned by the United States. The result, as told by Kenneth Pollack, was slaughter by the Iraq forces, with the unwitting help of General Schwarzkopf.
[...] at the cease-fire talks after Desert-Storm was halted, the Iraqis asked for permission to fly their helicopters to move personnel and supplies around, and General Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of the U.S. forces — acting without any instructions but trying to show magnanimity — permitted Iraq to use all of its helicopters, including armed gunships. As should have been expected, the Iraqis began using their gunships to attack the rebels, and the United States could have prohibited the Iraqis from doing so.
Nevertheless, the argument is not as clear cut as its arguments like to argue either, as the backfiring of countless aerial bombardments, blockades and ground invasions, with the only result being increased hostility towards the aggressor, have shown throughout history.

Even without taking Israel's side, world opinion has clearly come down against Hezbollah as the instigator of the crisis. Admittedly, this is a somewhat more complicated situation than those that simply involve two governments and the people of the target state. In some cases, therefore, nationalism could be causing the Lebanese to side with the Hezbollah-skeptic government over the arguably more powerful Hezbollah. At the same time, claims by the usual suspects (which, as I mentioned, I considered myself) that Israeli bombing would turn the Lebanese back to Hezbollah are apparently unfounded. In the end, I suppose whether or not this situation is playing out as the "nationalism as the strongest force" argument would suggest is irrelevant - as long as the result is the weakening of Hezbollah and the strengthening of the Siniora government in Beirut.


Blogger Robert said...

The most interesting aspect of the Hezbollah attack is their lack of success. They've had six years to accumulate weapons and refine tactics. Their rockets have accomplished nothing. Those who say Israel cannot win without going in on the ground do not apply the same logic to Hezbollah, who cannot win by standing off and sending inaccurate rockets. They cannot invade Israel in significant force. They cannot keep the IDF out of South Lebanon. They have been condemned by Saudi Arabia (!). Looks like a loss to me.

10:07 AM  

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