I've always maintained that nobody really wins wars such as the one recently fought out between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon but I've been scratching my head for weeks over Hizbullah's boasts about how it miraculously defeated the region's strongest army and how its brave warriors (or what's now left of them) are now an inspiration for the entire Muslim world.
There was certainly no doubt in the mind of the Economist's leader writer that Hassan Nasrallah emerged the victor although the rationale for this conclusion was somewhat obtuse in NASRALLAH WINS THE WAR (The Economist August 19th 2006). Interestingly, the internet version carried a different headline banner for its internet version HIZBULLAH'S SHALLOW VICTORY :-
"Hassan Nasrallah and Ehud Olmert both say they won. But in asymmetrical warfare, the test of victory is asymmetrical too. Israel's prime minister set himself an absurd aim—the complete demolition of Hizbullah's power in Lebanon—and failed to achieve it. The shrewder Mr. Nasrallah said victory would consist merely of surviving, and Hizbullah, however battered, did survive."
An interesting interpretation but, as with most aspects of the violent history of this region, it's a touch delusional.
This is the sort of stuff that a little league coach would tell his eight year old kids. You know, "the objective is to have lots of fun and let's just ignore what the scoreboard says". That's an eminently reasonable approach when you're dealing with juveniles and trying to teach them how to enjoy their sport but war isn't sport.
Further, The Economist view is a touch confusing if not misleading, especially when you try to come to grips with the fact that the coach of the winning team was so shrewd that he spent the entire game hiding in a cave, that the grandstand is now a pile of rubble and that his first and second base, the pitcher and the catcher have gone missing. The only consolation is that the umpire's on his side and the team's sponsor (the local newspaper) is giving his performance some glowing reports!
But coming back to the war, I'd like to draw to your attention two interesting articles that might throw some light on the subject of who really won what?
The first is by IDF reservist Dan Gordon writing in the Jewish World Review - HOW ISRAEL WON ON THE BATTLEFIELD AGAINST HEZBALLAH AND LOST IN THE MEDIA AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO AMERICA
"This is not a group of loosely affiliated cells of would-be hijackers or suicide bombers. Hezballah is a terrorist army, trained like an army, organized like an army, funded and equipped like an army, with one glaring difference. The main use of its arsenal was terror aimed at Israel's civilian population while hiding behind Lebanon's civilian population. Its intent was to cause maximum civilian casualties amongst both. This was not by accident. This was by design. This was Hezballah's war, planned and prepared for six years, funded by close to a billion dollars by Iran, aided by Syria."
Later, he says:-
"Every part of their war plan except the manipulation of the media failed."
And here's the punch line -
"There was, of course one other indispensable element to their war plan; the centering of their offensive capability against Israel's civilian population within Lebanon's civilian population. Much has been made in the Western press of Hezballah's benign social services function in Lebanon, of the hospitals and schools it has built. Almost no notice however has been paid to the large numbers of these hospitals and schools which were built over its military bunkers and rocket launching sites.
This was perhaps both the most cynical and barbaric disregard for innocent civilian lives of all of Hezballah's and Iran's strategic choices. It was also the most successful. It was predicated not on its knowledge of its enemy (Israel) but its true genius lay in its knowledge of the press. The calculus was simple: launch a rocket from within a civilian population; if you kill Jews that's a victory. If the Jews hit back and in so doing kill Lebanese civilians, that's a victory. If they don't hit back because they're afraid to hit civilians, that's a victory. Now repeat the process until you kill so many Jews they have to hit back and in so doing kill more Lebanese civilians. That's the ultimate victory, because they know that in striking just those chords exactly what music the press will play."
And the Media gives the game to Hizbullah at the end of the ninth inning. Man of the match is a player wearing a green helmet!
The second article is from Emanuele Ottolenghi EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE RECENT MIDEAST WAR IS WRONG - DEBUNKING WAR MYTHS.
Nobody does a better job of debunking some of the many myths that have arisen from the recent Middle East War than Mr. Ottolenghi who concludes with these words:-
"What of Lebanon? Amidst the ruins of Beirut, the rubble of the bridges over the Litani, and the craters punctuating the highways, what does Nasrallah do? He proclaims victory. What does Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora do? He cries in front of the cameras, praises Hezbollah, and clings on to the myths of victory even as evidence of defeat is all around. They do not set up independent commissions, and they do not summon generals, politicians, and clerics, demanding they take responsibility. The last time an Arab country had its own commission of inquiry about a military defeat was in Iraq, in 1949. That precedent will remain the exception. Lebanon will not inquire now into how a foreign agent, having taken over half the country and infiltrated the government at all levels, dragged it into someone else’s war. It will do away with the need to understand what went wrong by proclaiming victory. So that when war returns, the 'shattered myth' will rise again, as reality catches up with the myths of Arab rhetoric."
And sadly ... that folks is the ball game for now.
When will they ever learn?