On the cover of this week’s The Economist is the disturbing image of a civilian coming out of a battered Lebanese city displaying a poster of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader and emerging symbol of Hezbollah, as a show of solidarity with the terrorist militia network.
Next to this image the heading reads, “Nasrallah wins the war,” washing away any doubts about who really came out on top of this midsummer’s nightmare.
The image on the cover emits a mixture of resilience and devastation; resilience in the sense that the Lebanese people overcame a campaign of constant and unrelenting bombardments over the course of the summer.
Devastation, on the other hand, was also evident – the sort of devastation that often results from unnecessary wars and translates to hundreds of lost lives, an outpouring of refugees, destruction of homes and an unearthing of resentment and hatred.
So, after all was said and done – who won the war? Was it the battered but resilient Lebanese or the militarily robust Israelis?
Going by official statements, it is hard to tell as both Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel and Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah have proclaimed victory for their respective sides.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe it was Israel. After all, Israel dealt Lebanon a heavier blow in terms of casualties and effectively administered an air, sea and land blockade cutting food and fuel supplies. Furthermore, Israel demolished a good portion of Lebanon’s infrastructure.
Overall, Israel not only flexed its military muscles, but it also strangled an entire country economically – especially when one considers that Lebanon’s economy is import-dependent.
So much for conventional wisdom.
As The Economist reports, it was precisely because Israel was so successful in inflicting widespread shock and awe that it lost. As a result of Israel’s attack, more anti-Semitism has flared up in the region and Lebanese who were previously not members of Hezbollah have become staunch supporters of the terrorist organization.
This could have a tipping-point effect for the fragmented Lebanese government, which has been operating under a fragile coalition of different political parties, of which Hezbollah is one.
History seems to repeat itself. Israel miscalculated the limitations of militaristic responses to confronting an adversary – much as the United States did when confronted with the problem of illusionary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Moreover, it should be noted that Olmert set unobtainable aims for Israel; namely, the discombobulating of Hezbollah. Far from destroying or even disarming Hezbollah, however, Israel has really given Hezbollah an incentive to keep fighting.
Also, countries that were formerly more cautious about associating themselves with Hezbollah are now doing so in an outspoken manner. Iran and Syria are good examples.
Nasrallah, for his part, was cleverer than Olmert. From the onset, the goal he set was strictly surviving the Israeli assault. When one compares both these aims, it is clear that Hezbollah had more reasonable aspirations.
Whereas Hezbollah was able to resist Israeli attacks, Israel was unable to completely destroy Hezbollah. Therefore, in this regard, Hezbollah fulfilled its prophecy and Israel gave up its own.
A final point worth mentioning is that Israel lost favor within the international community. With the exception of the unconditional support coming from the United States and to a lesser extent Great Britain, most countries condemned Israel’s response to a provocation as disproportionate and exaggerated. It would not pain Israel to remember that just because there might be a couple of bad apples, you do not necessarily have to cut down the entire tree.
While I sympathize in part with Israel because it was undisputedly provoked, I would also argue that it did itself a disservice by using its military superiority in an irresponsible manner.
Instead of discriminately rooting out Hezbollah, Israel wrought havoc on a collective civilian population – that’s the stuff of rogue nations.
Israel should know better.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a junior political science and philosophy major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.