Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Successful Failures as Victories

How is it that Hizballah can claim victory after the cease-fire came into effect yesterday? How many times did Hassan Nasrallah warn that his group would attack Tel Aviv if Israel struck Beirut? It was more than once. How many times did Hizballah hit Tel Aviv with any rockets or missiles? Less than once. If the goal of groups like Hizballah and Hamas, and countries like Syria and Iran, is the destruction of Israel…how is it that at the end of the day when Israel is still around, they can claim any sort of victory? Well, they still can, in their own way.

As I’ve pointed out in earlier blog posts, the Olmert government did not fight this war as it should have been fought. It brought about – needlessly – the perception of weakness on the part of Israel, and that is dangerous.

While Israel is still around, though, it cannot claim a victory of the sort that Hizballah can. The Israel Defense Forces were unable to do the job that the world knows the IDF can do, because a left-wing Defense Minister, a Prime Minister who has traveled left during his political career and who has a far left-wing wife, as well as a dovish octogenarian Vice Premier, failed to see that you can’t half-fight a war and continually change your mind about what its goals are, and then realistically expect the public to gain a perception of victory. Israel’s deterrence has been severely compromised as a result of this, and Israel’s enemies – and I bet, former enemies – are likely thinking hard about the lessons learned from this development.

Even now, the Lebanese government is working out a way with Hizballah to allow the group to retain its weapons even as it will be required to remain north of the Litani River. This directly contravenes United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, a resolution that had Lebanon followed in the first place, might have – would likely have – prevented this war from ever starting.

If Hizballah remains armed at the end of all this, the seeds of another war will be sown and some months down the line the UN will be debating another Security Council resolution for yet another cease-fire instead of ensuring that previous Security Council resolutions are followed through on. And if Israel does not insist on the implementation of 1559, very few other nations will probably pay it much attention either. If such is the case, then when the next war breaks out – and keep in mind, this one might not really be over, yet – Israel will not be able to do what the Arabs do best…that is to say, Israel will not be able to blame other nations for its own predicament.

Israel, being overly cautious, refrained from giving Syria a black eye during the war. This means that Syria is now likely more confident than ever that its position has been strengthened - even as its beloved neighbor, Lebanon, is in ruins. Syria - and Iran - learned nothing from this war except that Damascus and Tehran can stir up trouble and not pay the price for it. All the talk in the world from Washington, Jerusalem and London will be of little use.

Saying that “Syria knows what it needs to do,” rings hollow, as no one is forcing Syria to do what needs to be done. Pointing the finger at Damascus and Tehran, but not doing much else, will likely only lead to one or the other trying to bite the appendage off...or at the very least, trying to sprain it.

So who really benefited from all this death and destruction? Only the Islamic terrorist groups and their supporters of the world, who have seen that mediocrity is what Israel has to show in its government these days. Yes, Hassan Nasrallah’s failure to follow through on his word to strike Tel Aviv – for those who pay attention – reveals him to be the big bullshit artist that he is. But he gets results on the battlefield, that you can’t deny.

Whether Hizballah struck Haifa, Tiberias, Nazareth, Safed, Hadera, Kiryat Shmona or Metulla or anywhere else, the death count is…what counts. Within Lebanon itself, Nasrallah and his terror troops showed that Hizballah is the best Arab army in the world – that is an accomplishment that, even though he and his group are an enemy of all that I stand for, I must acknowledge.

And what about Israel?

The rockets didn’t stop coming in. The kidnapped Israeli soldiers weren’t rescued. Soldiers were killed by rockets before they had a chance to fight. Hundreds of thousands fled or needed to sleep in the shelters in northern Israel that nearly six decades of unasked-for warfare have made necessary. Israel is now considering a prisoner swap – and if Israel is considering a prisoner swap after a cease-fire, after rejecting the idea of a prisoner swap in mid-July and choosing to go to war instead...what does this mean?

Israel called up many tens of thousands of soldiers, and left them to twiddle their thumbs. Israel only sent ground troops into Lebanon when it was too late for them to make any real difference. Sure, the Lebanese Army is going to deploy on the border – this is a positive step, and a key demand of Israel. But the ineffective United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – UNIFIL – is boosting its numbers, and it isn’t clear why – UNIFIL failed to prevent this war because it didn’t do its job.

Then again, when all its mandate consisted of was watching, this isn’t exactly surprising. Anyway, a weak Lebanese Army on the border along with an ineffectual, weak, obstructive UNIFIL is not exactly a huge comfort.

In other circumstances, it would be a toss-up, really, as to who can be considered the true winner from this war when so many people on both sides lost. Israel still exists, yes. It will likely endure, with God’s help. However, whenever an enemy of Israel gains in confidence, the Free World loses…one way or the other. If Hizballah’s confidence boost coincides with the disarmament of the group, then the result may be similar one day to that of the post-Yom Kippur war era – Arab honor regained in battle, and so now no longer humiliated, another Arab country can seek peace. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, that country was Egypt. Could Lebanon or Syria be next?

Probably not. But maybe.

As stated before, if UNSCR 1559 is not carried out, and Hizballah retains its arms and its position in the Lebanese government, then Israel would be in trouble. In such a case, the Jewish state might one day face a situation similar to that which it faced in late May-early June 1967: surrounded by confident enemies on multiple sides, with restraint urged upon Jerusalem by the world’s powers and Israel wondering if it should act, or wait.

Israel’s reaction in June 1967 was to shoot first and deal with issues later, and the result was the capture of the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, Golan Heights and the liberation and reunification of eastern Jerusalem with western Jerusalem. In Six Days the armies and air forces that were the pride of the Arab World were decimated. Few thought Israel could do it, but it did. Israel had the spirit, the tenacity, the sheer will to do such a thing.

If, though, in the future you combine a 1967-type situation with a 1973-style Arab/Muslim surprise attack, what will happen? If Israel has any sort of government in power like it does now…as the past 34 days have shown, Israel isn’t a “Six Day War Winner” any more. It seems that it doesn’t have the will to be such a winner, and Israel certainly doesn’t have the leadership to be such a winner. At least, not at the moment. Sure, Israelis are fighting for their homes while Arabs and Muslims fight for ideologies and regimes, but…God only knows.

If such a war breaks out…will Israel be able to come back from behind like it did in 1973?

We may yet still have an opportunity to see that question answered.

In the meantime, if this is to be considered an Israeli victory, then let it be considered a Pyrrhic one. Let us too consider this kind of victory to be a “successful failure”, just like the Apollo 13 mission in 1970 – the astronauts got to the Moon, but were not able to land upon it.

At least they got home alive.

Should hostilities escalate again, may Israel’s leaders have the wisdom to learn from the mistakes of the last round…for the sake of all.

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