And so this is the outcome of Israel’s war. They have destroyed some of Hezbollah’s military capacity, rocket launchers and fighters. These are renewable resources. They have killed hundreds or perhaps thousands of Lebanese. Destroyed thousands of homes, and crippled the country’s infrastructure. They have inflamed hatred across the region; and the United States’ tin-ear backing has brought new animosity towards America.
Now Israel is withdrawing, and Hezbollah is moving in with bulldozers to clear the roads, performing those tasks that Lebanon’s shattered state cannot. Men with walkie talkies and promises of aid — which will be fulfilled almost immediately, thanks to money from Iran — are directing shocked refugees. Nasrallah’s stature is enormously increased; he is now the moral leader of the Arab world, in the way that Arafat once was. He has fought the Israeli army more successfully than any of the actual Arab states before him; and if he has dragged Lebanon into chaos and war behind him, he has nonethless bloodied Israel badly, and gotten away with it.
Bush is wrong. Hezbollah has not lost this war. Only Lebanon and its people, tragic and bloody, have truly lost.
It is increasingly obvious that the powers of the world, the US, Israel, perhaps even the Europeans, have not adapted successfully to the changing mode of war. Nation-states that can be attacked with tanks and smart bombs are not the problem. Iran notwithstanding (does anyone honestly think a military attack on Iran will solve problems?). What is happening today is not a war for territory. America is not an empire of land, and when it tries to act that way, it fails.
Todays conflicts take place in the emotions, in the head and heart. Guns fire differently here, turned against those who wield them. What does it matter if the US or Israel kills a few or a few hundred militants, if that empowers them further?
Learn the rules of engagement. Look at what’s happening around the world. For Bush and company to understand the future, they must genuinely understand the pain they are causing though violence. Ask themselves if their sons and daughters were killed, whether they would be likely to give up their struggle. Perhaps instead if their daughters were sent to school…
Traditional war is as useful as firing a bullet against the approach of the sea.