Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Who Wins?

Captain Ed, of Captain's Quarters, has some interesting analysis about the cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon/Hezbollah. He thinks it's a net gain for Israel:

In this war, they pushed Hezbollah out of the sub-Litani, forced them to fire off a third of their missile and rocket inventory, and destroyed a number of their launchers. This all took place over two kidnapped soldiers, and Hezbollah didn't even get the prisoner swap they wanted. After six years of relative non-action to Hezbollah provocations, Olmert changed the dynamic by launching a massive war after a relatively routine terrorist action by Hezbollah. Israel also forced Lebanon to finally address the conundrum of sovereignty and drove a wedge between Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanon's institutions. Does anyone think that Fuad Siniora would even have discussed disarming Hezbollah before this war? They had a year after UNSCR 1559 and completely shrugged it off.

The goals for Israel have always been a Hezbollah-free sub-Litani without having to conduct another generational occupation. They got the agreement they wanted that delivers on these goals, and at the same time served notice that the era of non-response to provocations had passed. The key for Israel is to insist on full implementation of 1701 and 1559. They cannot budge on these points. If Lebanon reneges, Israel can go back to their military options until the Lebanese get the message for good.

I hope he's right, that the benefit of pushing Hezbollah north makes enough of a difference to make the war worth it. Ultimately, however, I hope that Hezbollah has lost real ground and not just territory and munitions, and that Lebanon has gained some perspective that gives the government a spine where "The Party of God" is concerned. Ultimately, this would be a big gain for Lebanon as well. If Lebanon really can claim control over her own southern territories, her prospects for a peaceful and prosperous future will get a whole lot better. I know there have been people killed, and a great deal of infrastructure lost. I don't think anyone is denying the cost. No one can bring back the lost lives, but I think the world in general, and the U.S. and Israel in particular, will be eager to help Lebanon rebuild if she can show that the Lebanese government, and not the terrorist militia, controls her territory, her borders, and her actions.

There are a lot of pundits saying this is a loss for Israel, because Hezbollah has not been completely destroyed, but I think the Captain makes a good point; if Lebanon (and the U.N.) fails to restrain Hezbollah, Israel has the choice available of resuming military action. Israel is not giving up her options, here, but she is giving Lebanon the opportunity to seize the moment and decide who she will be in the future. Will she be a sovereign state, living at peace with her neighbors, or will she continue to be a human shield, allowing Hezbollah to keep striking blows at the peace and security of both Lebanon and Israel?

I wrote yesterday about not having a lot of faith that the U.N. would be any help in keeping the peace, but some of that depends on Lebanon. If the government and people of that country come together truly seeking for their military and U.N. force together to exert control, they could pull it off. If they lamely resist facing down Hezbollah in order to avoid internal conflict, after all this destruction and mayhem--if they allow Hezbollah to continue attacking Israel, then they will, in essence, be choosing war with Israel as preferable to cleaning their own house. I truly hope the Lebanese are stronger than that.