The Screaming Pen

Providing Global Insight, Context, and Perspective

Israel’s Fog of War

Guest Author KPC Weighs the Costs of Battle in the Middle East

August 19, 2006 – The Israeli-Lebanese conflict entered a new phase on Monday, August 14 when a cease-fire negotiated by the United Nations came into effect. Now as the fog of war dissipates, Israel must weigh the outcome of the fighting against the objectives of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Despite 33 days of intense bombing of Hezbollah strongholds and a ground assault, which pushed North to the Litani River, Israel may have done more harm to its interests than good.

The most recent Middle East conflict was ignited on July 12 when agents of Hezbollah crossed the Israeli border, killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two others. In retaliation, Israel launched a military campaign against Hezbollah’s fractious state within Lebanon.

Olmert’s decision to mobilize the military was based largely on his determination to save the captured soldiers, deter future terrorist attacks, cripple Hezbollah and cut off the militant group’s supply of arms from Iran and Syria.


Which way home?

As Hezbollah began to launch hundreds of rockets each day into Northern Israel, Olmert also sought to push Hezbollah out of range of Israel’s densely populated cities.

While Israel has a right to protect its interests and defend itself against attacks, it is difficult to determine how Olmert’s recent military campaign has served these interests.

In the first days of the fighting, Israel seemed to garner support from countries around the world, including moderate Arab states such as Egypt. Even many within Lebanon initially viewed Hezbollah’s incursion as an unprovoked and foolish attack. But as the days wore on and as images of Lebanese civilian casualties flooded the mass media, anti-Israeli sentiment began to spread at a pace that rivaled Israel’s rush to destroy Hezbollah targets.

As sympathy for Israel has declined, support for Hezbollah and its charismatic leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has surged within Lebanon and throughout the region. Nasrallah has galvanized a resistance movement that has spread well beyond Lebanon’s borders, creating a burgeoning group of followers eager to challenge Israel’s military might, if not its very existence.

Israel forged its status as a regional superpower in 1967 when it vanquished a coalition of Arab armies in six days, capturing Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. But now, unable to claim a decisive victory over Hezbollah, Israel risks tarnishing that reputation, which has long served as a deterrent to militant groups.

In the wake of the fighting, Nasrallah has become an international hero. From Iran to Palestine, followers chant his name, wave his image as a banner of defiance and revere him for defending Lebanon against a Zionist “oppressor.” Not to be outdone, even al-Qaida has issued statements praising Hezbollah and its leader. Nasrallah has become a hero because he is viewed as a man who accomplished what a host of Arab armies failed to do in 1967.

This hero worship will only grow as Hezbollah, with financial support from Iran, begins to help rebuild the areas of Lebanon devastated by Israeli bombing. Hezbollah’s reconstruction project will also have the effect of marginalizing Lebanon’s democratically-elected government.

Contrary to Olmert’s aims, Hezbollah—although weakened—remains in possession of its arms and has gained hero status among hoards of militant groups. Olmert has failed to secure the safe return of the captured Israeli soldiers, and worst of all, Israel has called its own military strength into question.

In the days to come, Israel must fight hard to garner through negotiations what it could not achieve in battle.

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August 27, 2006 - Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine

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