August 27th, 2006

Hezbollah: still Miss Congeniality in Lebanon?

Our modern asymmetrical wars, post-Tet, no longer seem to consist of strategic battles fought on the ground by the military, with the winners declared through the gaining of territory and the loss of fighters and equipment. Rather, they are mainly propaganda wars, won or lost in the press and the field of public opinion.

In this country, views about foreign wars are largely shaped by the MSM. So the basic perception here is that Hezbollah, despite its losses in men and materials, won last month’s round with Israel handily. That opinion is probably widely held in Europe, for similar reasons, not to mention Europe’s greater sympathy to the Hezbollian cause.

And perhaps, after all–as that North Vietnamese colonel famously told the American negotiator at the end of the Vietnam War–winning battles isn’t so very important, but rather irrelevant; perception of victory is all that matters.

I don’t pretend to know whom the Lebanese perceive the winner to have been. One thing I think we can safely say is that they don’t regard themselves as the winners. But there do appear to be rumblings in Lebanon, among the people who experienced this war up close and personal rather than filtered through the giant maws of the MSM, that the verdict on Hezbollah is becoming a bit harsh.

Here’s Amir Taheri’s take on the subject. He points out that criticism of Hezbollah in Lebanon has been growing since the war, not shrinking, and that public opinion is against those rightly perceived as starting a useless war in which the Lebanese people suffered. Nor were those Lebanese people consulted, and they appear to be quite angry, despite the payoffs Hezbollah has tried to mount–featuring crisp new money from Iran–to buy them off.

Then there’s Michael Totten, who made a lot of friends during his lengthy prewar sojourn in Lebanon. He sees the unprecedented statements by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora accepting the possibility of peace talks with Israel as a watershed. Prior to the war, to breathe even a hint of the possibility of peace with Israel was committing political suicide.

And of course, perhaps it is; Siniora may have signed his own death warrant, as Alexandra speculates.

To those who say I’m picking and choosing articles that support my own wishful thinking, I plead guilty. But at least I’m acknowledging that fact. Yes, it is indeed my hope that Hezbollah has lost face and support in Lebanon. And it’s my fervent wish that this loss of popularity will end up mattering, that the people and government of Lebanon will muster both the will and the force to excise this entity from their body politic and their society.

And I have another hope, and that is that our own MSM would stop doing the propaganda work of the enemy. I can dream, can’t I?

[ADDENDUM: It’s not short, and yet it’s concise and well worth reading–an article that concurs with the notion that it’s only in the MSM that Hezbollah won this war. Hat tip Pajamas Media.]

{ADDENDUM II: And then there’s this.]

28 Responses to “Hezbollah: still Miss Congeniality in Lebanon?”

  1. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    Hi Neo,

    I think you meant “Congeniality”, with an N. Just saying.

    In re your optimism vis-a-vis Israel’s conflict with Hizballah, I’d like very much to believe it. But perceptions do indeed matter a lot here, and the perceptions — of both Hizballah and Israel — are that Israel lost this round. This virtually guarantees that there will be another round, which can only be more difficult than this one was.

    It would be wonderful if the people of Lebanon could regain their “Cedar Revolution” glory and deal with Hizballah on their own. But I don’t see it happening. Hizballah is very firmly entrenched in Lebanon… and they have the guns, and the will to use them, which is no small factor.

    Daniel in Brookline

  2. Ambiphibious Says:

    MSM as propagandists? What else are they qualified for? There’s nothing in a journalist’s training to allow them any other role.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Oh, those typos! Thanks. Any errors in the title of the post seem to evade the clutches of Spellcheck.

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    If the objective is to win the war in the public sphere, then the question is obviously, how can you make Hizbollah lose MORE face?

  5. Stephen Britton Says:

    Ymarakar wrote:

    “If the objective is to win the war in the public sphere, then the question is obviously, how can you make Hizbollah lose MORE face?”

    That’s quite easy, actually.

    Israel gives back the Sheba farms to Lebanon(or Syria whichever they eventually decide), Israel stops violating Lebanon’s sovereignty after withdrawal(which they did almost daily after the 2000 withdrawal)end covert terrorist operations in Lebanon aimed at destabilizing the Lebanese government; and simply work out a diplomatic agreement over water supplies and buy it rather than steal it.

    This is clearly the best way to go. Taking away Hezbollah’s cause (excluding the Palestinian battle for sovereignty over the occupied territories which the Lebananese people, though sympathetic, aren’t prepared to endanger there own country over)eliminates it’s support as the countries primary military force.

    It’s a fact that Hezbollah is recognized by the vast majority of the Lebanese people as the Army of Lebanon – and not a foreign entity. And that is only because of Israel’s consistant aggression against Lebanon.

    Take that away and then let the Ceder revolution begin again.

    The balls in Israel’s court.

    ps I don’t believe that will happen though because I’ve heard some interesting ideas on why Israell, like clockwork, consistantly attacks Lebanon as it acheieves success as a democratic, ARAB state on the border with Israel.

    Having that simply won’t do when you are seeking to avoid giving back land as required for peace and by law.

    Israel knows the PR game well. And they know that keeping the Arabs radicalized, poor and primitive(“bombing Lebanon back 20 years”)keeps the Israeli charge of having ‘no partner for peace’ a reality.

    As it does the Jewish state’s chances for extinction as it seeks perpetual war…

  6. Zeno Says:

    Hey Britton,

    “Taking away Hezbollah’s cause”

    Hezollah’s cause is the destruction of Israel. Nasrallah himself said so. How do you “take that away” unless the country commits suicide?

    And it’s the Arab leaders themselves and their religious fanatics who keeps the Arabs “radicalized, poor and primitive”. Israel is only a good scapegoat. And why would Israel be interested in “perpetual war”? All it wants is to be recognized by islamic countries.

    You need to ask yourself, why are you so critic of Israel and never criticize countries such as Iran, Syria, etc. I know why.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Zeno: methinks Stephen Britton’s cause may be the same as Hezbollah’s.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    “Hezollah’s cause is the destruction of Israel. Nasrallah himself said so. How do you “take that away” unless the country commits suicide?”

    Actions speak louder than words, Zeno. If Nazarallah said that I’m quite sure it has more do with with the fact that Israel is indeed an enemy to Lebanon – most Lebanese recognize this. The fact that Hezbollah has sought to negogiate with Israel(abliet through a third party, but still)over various issues as well as the international community means more than some heated, pro-nationalist rhetoric.

    All of the so-called terrorist groups Hamas, Hezbollah, even Islamic Jihad(to a lesser extent)have been prepared to negogiate and even concede on some issues, with Israel.

    Recognition won’t bring security – and really the whole point is a red herring intended to detract from the issues involved in creating peace – a just settlement.

    You take away the rhetoric and lofty idealism of Hezbollah by engaging the Lebanese people who after 50 years of having Israel invade, bomb and kill 10’s of thousands of their civilians and destroy the country don’t trust Israel.

    And I’m sure even you can understand that.

    Negogiate on the issues – honour Israel’s obligations under internatinal law and the unanimous will of the international community – and then the Lebanese will no see the need for Hezbollah.

    It’s not rocket science, Zeno.

    And, by the way, I’m neutral – and that’s ‘why’ I see it the way I do.

    I look at the facts and not the catchy phrases that have very little to do with reality….

  9. Stephen Britton Says:

    Neo wrote:

    “Zeno: methinks Stephen Britton’s cause may be the same as Hezbollah’s.”

    I don’t know Neo. I think my cause – undertaken as I’ve outlined it – would make Israel a whole lot safer and bring it alot of goodwill throughout the Arab world.

    And I don’t think Hezbollah will see it quite that way, but that’s probably more realistic than believing that they simply want to destroy Israel.

    Leaving that aside – on the face of it Neo – I’d have no problems saying that your cause is the ’cause’ of Hezbollah(as you would define it).

    Hopefully you’ll put your thinking cap on for a minute or two so you’ll understand what I mean…

  10. Cappy Says:

    Hi, me here again, already. A few posts ago I was accused of citing “International Law” in pointing out how weak was Lebanon’s case for soverignty or existence itself vis. it’s powerfull adjacent neighbors.

    I never cited “International Law”, as the rebuttal stated. I merely pointed out Lebanon’s fragility with Syria, which never recognized it and Israel, upon whome Lebanon itself declared war in 1948 and with whom it never has come to terms.

    And now Lebanon faces embargo by Syria and isolation from Israel. None of this (…pant, pant, Zionism, Chimpy McHitler, pant, pant) caused, but the results of the path chosen by Lebanon itself.

    Lebanon clearly will need to decide how to get along with it’s neighbor to the south, or repeatedly find itself in exactly this situation.

  11. strcpy Says:

    One thing to note in the propaganda war – it really doesn’t matter what anyone but Israel and Lebanon think.

    If we consider it a collosal failure, Europe considers a one of the great blunders in history does it matter? They aren’t the ones fighting or living with it. Nor does our opinion mean anymore than “international opinion” which we all know how much force that carries. The UN might maybe talk about it in a bad way for a few days.

    And, you are going to have to give it a little longer. Hizbolla may think it was a victory (after all, thier bar for victory was so low there could be no other option) but I suspect they are coming to regret it. Especially if what some of the signs coming from Lebanon continue to grow.

    As for Israel, eh – hard to tell. If you follow the MSM they fell utterly defeated, yet their internal papers,blogs, and reports from other people do not have it so. Once more the MSM really only counts for the US and Europe and is mostly irrelevant. I suspect that thier main goal is to stop the attacks and only time will tell.

  12. Good Ole Charlie Says:

    To paraphrase The Late Herman Goering:

    “Everytime I hear the phrase ‘International Law’, I reach for my gun.”

    To paraphrase Lorenzo da Ponte:

    “International Law is like the Phoenix; everyone thinks it exists, but nobody has seen it.”

    How can you discuss an object which does not exist? Treaties, Agreements,Pact, etc. do exist and have their place in the toolbox.

    But “International Law” is a pipe dream right from a ninth grade civics class.

    I just don’t get it…why the wishful thinking?

  13. ginger Says:

    Gosh, here’s my hawkish old lady stand on your ‘bringing good will to the arab world’…..don’t want to. They have no wish to make nice with me….and I’ve no wish to do so to them either. Victory is achieved with total defeat. That is the only thing they will understand. My government has become way way too PC and worried about ‘civilians’ to achieve victory. The Arabs have no hesitation to kill our civilians….hence, our current policy is decidedly defective. But bring good will? LMAO!

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    What Stephen Britton seems to be talking about is that you can get Hizbollah to lose face by putting limitations on Israel. Psychologically, that doesn’t parse, and neither does it parse logically either that the Arabs will respect someone less when their enemies are hobbled.

    Israel knows the PR game well

    If this is good PR, then I don’t want to see bad PR, Neo Neo.

    I don’t know Neo. I think my cause – undertaken as I’ve outlined it – would make Israel a whole lot safer and bring it alot of goodwill throughout the Arab world.

    It all depends. It all depends upon whether goodwill is derived from having weakness or whether goodwill is derived from respect for strength and fear.

  15. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    The WSJ also prints that Hez didn’t win.

    As for S. Brittan, who brings up the fact that Israel and Lebanon have not had peace for 50 years — actually, Lebanon attacked and invaded Israel after Israel declared its independence. Active fighting was postponed by the Lebanon Armistice of 1948, also referenced by the UN SC 1701.

    “Legally” they have been at war for 58 years — but I don’t consider “laws” without enforcement as “true law”. In fact, enforcement without legislation or judging — enforcement only — is more “true law” than nice legislation and judges but without enforcement. Enforcement needs boots on the ground.

    Neo, I think you should also emphasize that Leb law makes it illegal to TALK to Israelis. Illegal to communicate! That’s not freedom.

    Finally, I offer a fourth Newspeak phrase, to go along with War is Peace (for 58 years?), Ignorance is Strength (for Hez, and Lebs not talking), Freedom is Slavery (why Hez hates the West).

    Defeat is Victory.

    Meaning that, since both Hez and Israel are claiming Victory, neither has really won. So I, too, fear another round. Just two weeks ago I argued for Lebanese surrender, or at least Hez surrender — Peace thru Victory.

    However, with the perception needs of the “so sensitive” Arabs in mind, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Israel can ONLY get Peace thru Defeat.

    Declare “defeat”, sign a Peace Agreement with Lebanon, promise to pay war reparations (to villages where Leb Army, only, has control); agree to accept some 1000 temp Leb workers a month, open the borders for at least 1000 Leb visitors (non-workers) a month, Shebaa Farms according to the UN.

    [US and EU Leb reconstruction money would then go thru Israel as war reparations. Newspeak, yes.]

    The relative high destruction of Leb vs. relative low destruction of Israel can even offer this as a model for gaining peace thru “losing” to the Palestinians, if they really want “Victory” so much … but it seems they really do. Or too many of them to be denied in any way short of mass killing of them and too many of their not-fully guilty supporters.

  16. strcpy Says:

    Again, someone assumes Hizbolla is a rational entity. They want Israel no longer on the map, not guest worker and trading agreements. You would simply be allowing 2000 anti-Israel insurgents unlmited access to the country per month. Yea, that’ll stop suicide bombings and attacks within the state. Not to mention bypassing the Lebonese govt and giving Hizbolla even more of a stranglehold on the country.

    How about we declare victory over radical Islam and allow worker privledges for 4000 Al-Qaida members per month into the US. That will make us safe.

    It’s the same exact thing Britton proposed worded differently.

    I’ve never been sure how to view these types of strategies – they come in at either wanting Israel (and the west in general) to loose or as horribly stupid. Neither looks good for the individual in question, though I generally think they are horribly stupid. I don’t think they really want the radical Islamists to win.

  17. Stephen Britton Says:

    Yes, strcpy, I do think Hezbollah is a rational entity. There is nothing, aside from the ‘destruction of Israel’ rhetoric(as I say, actions speak louder than words)to indicate otherwise. By now you should be aware of Hezbollah’s history – political and militarily.

    “They want Israel no longer on the map, not guest worker and trading agreements. You would simply be allowing 2000 anti-Israel insurgents unlmited access to the country per month.”

    I’ve no idea what your refering to here, stcrpy, but I’d luv to know.

    As I would your comments about al queda and worker ‘privledges’and this connection to Israel ending it’s aggression against Lebanon and signing a peace agreement.

    It doesn’t sound anything like what I’m proposing.

    If Israel living in peace with it’s neighbours – which is the goal, we are to believe – is ‘losing’ than yes, I want Israel to ‘lose’.

    The radical elements – the ‘resistance’ – are only radical because they take up arms against Israel(and it’s citizens – crimes against humanity). But they are supported by the entire Arab world precisely because of Israel’s history of aggression and aversion to the peace process – which is a given in the Arab world, whether you agree with that or not.

    The radical Islamists win with everyday Israel occupies Arab land and with every bomb and missle that kills innocent civilivans or that targets the infrastruture supporting those civilians.

    Take that away – and as we’ve seen in the case of Syria – Lebanese can be logically expected to rid themselves of Hezbollah as a military entity.

    Which is what Israel and the U.S want – and what they simply cannot achieve through war. Not going to happen – even if you ‘take the gloves off’ – whatever that entails…

  18. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Neville Chamberlain thougt Adolf Hitler was a rational entity. After all, the man rebuilt war-torn Germany and instituted a revolutionary social engineering project with great results. There was nothing, aside from the ‘destruction of Judaism’ rhetoric (which he had yet to take action on, and actions speak louder than words) to indicate otherwise.

  19. maryatexitzero Says:

    Stephen Britton – gee, you seem to know so much about the thoughts and feelings of the entire Arab world. When did they elect you as their spokesman?

    Since you know and see all, do you mind explaining why Islamists, funded by Saudi Arabia and trained by Libya, are beheading little girls and Buddhist monks in Thailand? Why do these Saudi/Iranian-funded ‘resistance’ fighters burn down Buddhist Girls schools and why are they murdering Buddhist teachers? Why has HIndu/Muslim India suffered from more Islamist radical attacks than Israel? Why are the Islamist attacks against civilians in Buddhist Thailand second only to Islamist atttacks against civilians in Muslim Iraq? And why are similar oil-money funded militant/resistance fighters killing teachers and children, burning down schools, raping women and blowing up marketplaces/subways/trains in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Sudan, America, Turkey, Yemen, Spain, Britain, Sweden, Russia, America…

    Are we supposed to believe that all of this worldwide Arab/Muslim oil-money funded imperialism will be stopped if Israel just gives the Palestinians back their olive trees? Give me a break.

    Arab/Muslim funded and trained paramiliaty fighters are attacking Hindus, atheists, Christians, Democrats, Republican and Communists worldwide because they’re seeking lebensraum, money, power – the usual stuff. Israel’s enemies are our enemies. Terrorism is their weapon of choice, because it’s a cheap and easy way to gain political power. If we want to win the war, we’ll learn how to fight this strategy effectively. If we want to lose the war, we’ll follow your advice.

  20. goesh Says:

    This Britton mentality is part of the problem, if not part of the enemy.

  21. goesh Says:

    Iran is going to have to sell alot more energy to China to make all those cash payments to hezzie families, that’s for sure. Amidst all the rubble they can at least blame the Jews, but I think many are beyond making the connection with hizbullah being the culprit that produced all the destruction. All the more reason for regarding civilians as assets when fighting terrorists, but that is for another discussion. IDF learned some more tactical lessons and the hezzies tipped their hand as to what all they had in their arsenal and Lebanon will suffer more financially more than the Israelis. The real test of victory remains to be seen primarily in whether or not the Israelis allow Olmert to stay in power. He clearly blew it and could have more seriously crippled the hezzies than he did. With the hezzies, Syria and Iran on your flanks, would you want to place your national safety in his hands?? I for one am not about to convert to Judaism at present, that’s for sure.

  22. grackle Says:

    One thing the UN forces will be in Lebanon to do is to make sure Israel doesn’t interfere with the arming and reorganization of the terrorists. The terrorists were hurt and need to regroup, otherwise there wouldn’t be a cease fire. Forcing Israel into a hot war with all the destroyed infrastructure and civilian casualties such a war entails may turn out to have been a public relations minus for the terrorists among the Lebanese. We can only hope.

    In a certain sense the terrorists, their supporters and the despots who use all of them may have hit what might be called a ceiling of hatred. With the eager collusion of much of the Media they have much of the world hating America, Israel and the West very hard to such an extent that a saturation point may have occurred and terrorist organizations that provoke hot war may not get off so easily with the affected public in the future. It’s OK to lob rockets into Israel and do other things but not to such an extent that Israel feels compelled to cross the border to do something about it.

    As well as shielding the terrorists, UNIFIL seems to also serve as an intelligence organ of the terrorists – the ones who warn the terrorists about Israeli movements, amount and type of Israeli troops involved in various actions, the whereabouts of Israeli armament and supply routes, etc. Once the rockets are replenished by Iran through Syria and the terrorists are sufficiently reorganized, at the convenience of Iran the cease fire will cease.

  23. Anonymous Says:

    Nasrallah Says He Regrets Soldier Captures
    Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has admitted he would not have ordered last month’s capture of two Israeli soldiers had he known Israel would have responded as it did. In an interview with Lebanese TV, Nasrallah said: “We did not think, even one percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude… Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it.”

    This is consistent with Nasrallah’s view of kidnappings as a political mechanism, expressed months ago in a video-recorded interview with a former American diplomat.

    Had Hezbollah started the war they would have had strategies and goals reflected in a multi-dimensional campaign.

    Neo-neocon: why endure a painful personal transformation only to exchange one set of biases for another? I’ve read your blog for about 18 months now, and keep waiting for those elements (worth retaining) from your liberal youth to find voice. All these issues are more complex than envisioned by the objectivists in your comment threads, and you have the talent and rare life experience to address that complexity.

    Don’t stop transforming. A larger audience awaits you.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    And we recognize that the liberalism of your youth is still present in your actions and words, every day. Fortunately you have abandoned the absurd leftist lockstep indoctrination, which is separate from liberalism.

    We are all free to transform in any way we see fit, and we are all fortunate to have your blog as an example, comments and all.

  25. goesh Says:

    Anonymous said”
    “Had Hezbollah started the war they would have had strategies and goals reflected in a multi-dimensional campaign.”

    Pray tell, what would this multi-dimensional campaign involve? Perhaps fighting beside their bunkers instead of being inside them? Selecting different civilian areas to set up their rockets? Using milk wagons to transport supplies and fighters instead of ambulances? Target other Israeli cities than the ones they did? Perhaps Nasrallah would have fled sooner than he did? Staged more fake photo sessions? Used different roads to bring men into the south? Built new reinforced bunkers overnight? Move the underground ones they had? You don’t have a clue what you are alluding to. And while you are at it, define and identify the larger audience that awaits Neo too…..

  26. Sergey Says:

    Nothing in 13-century old history of Islam indicates that this culture can peacefully coexist with any other culture. Just opposite is true. If you need the most short and informative definition what exactly tells cultured humans from barbarians, try following: cultured people able to stop and restrain themselves from violence even when they are stronger than their opponents, barbarians never can. That is morale underlying Churchill’s aphorism: The Hun is always at your feet or at your throat. So the only practical way to deal with Hun is to keep him at your feet, or better, under your heel.

  27. Steve Says:

    Just for the record, the buzz I get from my Jewish and/or very interested in Israel friends is that Israel “lost” in a variety of ways.

    #1 – When you use force, it is because other options are exhausted. In this case, Israel resorted to force after two of its soldiers were abducted. The application of force did not lead to the return of the two soldiers. IOW, they failed.

    #2 – After Hezbollah started launching rockets, Israel obviously had to continue to use force in order to defend itself; the aim of that use of force being to stop the rockets from being launched. But the rockets didn’t stop until the cease fire. IOW, they failed.

    #3 – A large part of Israel’s campaign involved bombing, which led to a great deal of infrastructure damage throughout Lebanon. The only justification for it was that Israel was “shaping the battlefield” with a view to invading and completely wiping out Hezbollah. However, they did very little after invading, and did not wipe out Hezbollah. IOW, they failed.

    The upshot of this campaign is that, after Hezbollah kidnapped 2 Israeli soldiers, the Israelis bombed Lebanese infrastructure, killed hundreds, suffered several dozen dead and wounded Israeli soldiers, and had the northern third of their country paralyzed for weeks because of incessant rocket attacks. As the end result of this expenditure of energy, Israel did not succeed in stopping the cause of the kidnappings or rocket attacks, lost a propaganda war, lost dozens of lives, and did not get the two soldiers back.

    I wouldn’t say that Hezbollah “won” — after all, they were trying to kidnap two guys and use them for hostage exchanges. That failed. On the other hand, I can’t see any way in which Israel “won.” And that’s not a POV that people need the MSM for.

  28. Synova Says:

    Maybe next time Nasrallah gets the bright idea to capture Israelis expecting nothing bad to happen he’ll get knocked upside the head and reminded what happened last time?

    Deterance works.

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