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Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Hizbollah won, but Israel didn't lose

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, August 22, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
The concensus is that the Lebanon-Israeli conflict was a complete debacle. At the outset of the conflict, I mourned that Hizbollah was winning, again. It's worth reading Greg Djerjian for the definitive post-"cease fire" analysis in terms of what strategic advantage Israel has lost. Abu Aardvark has some observations about what the Arab press is saying. And Charles Malik has a morose look at the political scene in Lebanon.

Still, despite all the ways in which Israel came out the worse for its efforts, I can point to a few positives.

1. Some argue that the "myth of Israeli invincibility" with respect to conventional arms is now shaken. I argue otherwise: Israel showed that it could destroy Lebanon. Don't imagine for a moment that the message was not received in Damascus. As Razib pointed out, political rulers in Arab countries are not bred for suicidal impulses. And of course the elephant in the room is Israel's nuclear weapons, which everyone knows exist and which were not used. If anything, the take-home message is: Israel's not going anywhere, least of all the sea. Even Hizbollah's vaunted victory over Israel was in a strictly defensive context.

2. Even greater contempt for Arab regimes by the Arab people. Abu Aardvark touches on this in more detail, but in a nutshell the Arab regimes basically own-goaled themselves from a PR perspective. The general view is that Arab rulers are totally irrelevant when it comes to the defense of the Arab polity. From Israel's perspective this is a tremendously important development.

3. Iran is actually under increased scrutiny. The rise of Hizbollah and Nasrallah to folk hero status means that the Arab regimes see Iran as an even bigger threat to what they care about - not Islam, but rather their hold on power (see Point 2 above). Iranian money is flooding Lebanon right now which guarantees that they will have tremendous influence over Lebanon's future (another wasted opportunity by the US, but don't get me started). But more broadly speaking, for the region as a whole, Iran is now firmly on the threat radar. And the overblown promises of doomsday on Aug 22nd haven't exactly come to pass either.

Overall, the point is that the Israel-Lebanon conflict served to throw pressure on the old fault lines of division in teh region - and in some cases, those fault lines are useful in fracturing the threat facing Israel. When everyone who hates Israel hates each other just as much, then part of that hate energy is diffused.


I agree. Hiz didn't take one square inch of Israel's land. Their infrastructure is shattered. Their ranks have been seriously thinned. And now Israel knows exactly what they're facing and how to prepare for it.

Basically, Israel has asked for and gotten a hudna.

It ain't over, this is just a pause.


no it isnt a hudna. I wish that people wouldnt rush to try and misuse islamic terminology like that. they have a specific context and this isnt the right one (unless you accept that Hizb fights in the name of Islam rather than their own political power).


The major flaw in most analysis that I have read and heard is that they take the perspective of the Hezbollah-Israel as a self-contained war, i.e., an event, rather than a battle, i.e., a process.

As a war (event), it is a limited but strong Israeli victory. They moved in, killed hundreds of the enemy’s best-trained soldiers in a small army where quality, not quantity is the determination of effectiveness, severely damaged regional infrastructure, and forced the expenditure of billons of dollars in equipment and fortifications.

As a battle (process), the Israeli victory was far more profound, for two reasons. The political reason, you have detailed. I would elaborate only to say that it seems that Israel as now altered its status in the Arab Muslim world to one of a Sunni ally against Arab Shiites and the Iranians.

The other reason is that the Israeli goal of the battle, to secure its northern border from Hezbollah attack, was successful. If Hezbollah attacks again, Israel will respond similarly, but with even more power and with this battle’s experience accounted for. Hezbollah is too weak to survive another such attack without being overwhelmed by its Arab enemies afterwards.

The essential problem is that most commentators do not understand the basic truth of war, the notorious Clausewitzean “politics by other means,” as opposed to a game with a scoreboard and a clock, points and referees, and, most wrongheaded of all, a beginning and an end.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.