Welcome to my parlor, says the Hezbollah spider to the Israeli fly. The Israeli high command continues to express its faith in the foxfire of air power to destroy Hezbollah, but, as always, it’s not working. Lebanon is taking a pounding, to be sure, but Lebanon is not Hezbollah. Slowly, reluctantly, Israel is edging toward a ground invasion of Lebanon, for which Hezbollah devoutly prays. When air power fails, what other choice will Israel have?
A story in the July 24 Cleveland Plain Dealer gives a good idea of what awaits the IDF once it crosses the border in earnest. Israeli ground forces have been fighting for days to take Maroun al-Ras, a small village less than 500 yards into Lebanon. The battle has not gone well. Israel has lost five or six troops dead, with undoubtedly more wounded. It still does not control the whole village. According to the Plain Dealer piece by Benjamin Harvey of AP, Officers at the scene confirmed there was still fighting to do.
"They’re not fighting like we thought they would," one soldier said. "They’re fighting harder. They’re good on their own ground…."
"It will take the summer to beat them," said (Israeli soldier) Michael Sidorenko….
"They’re guerrillas. They’re very smart."
"Guerrillas" may not be exactly the right term here. As best I can determine from the wilds of Cleveland, Ohio, Hezbollah thus far seems to be waging a conventional light infantry fight for Maroun al-Ras. The line between guerrilla and light infantry tactics is thin, but Hezbollah seems to be putting up a determined fight for a piece of terrain, which guerrillas usually don’t do, because they can’t. The fact that Hezbollah can points to how far this 4GW entity has evolved.
Operationally, Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel are the matador’s cape. That too is working. What of the strategic level? The Arab street is cheering for Hezbollah, often across the Sunni-Shiite divide, while the governments of states such as Egypt hide under the bed. The goal of Islamic Fourth Generation forces is the destruction of most, if not all, Arab state governments, so Hezbollah is winning strategically as well. One can almost watch the legitimacy drain away from the region’s decrepit states, with incalculable consequences for American interests.
Not that Washington is doing anything to protect those interests. On the contrary, it has rushed more bombs and aviation fuel to Israel, lest there be any unwelcome let-up in the destruction of Lebanon. In no previous Israeli-Arab war has the United States revealed itself so nakedly as a de facto political adjunct of Israel. Perhaps the neo-cons have convinced President Bush that Israeli olive oil can substitute for Arab petroleum as fuel for America’s SUVs.
An interesting theoretical speculation is whether, if Hezbollah’s 4GW success continues, some Middle Eastern governments might try adopting Fourth Generation techniques themselves. Lebanon’s fictional government has suggested the Lebanese Army may join Hezbollah in defending southern Lebanon from an Israeli invasion. Militarily, such an action would be meaningless, and it probably reflects a desperate desire to keep the Lebanese Army (which is 40% Shiite) from fractioning, along with Lebanon itself. But what if instead the government called for a million marchers, mostly women and children, to head toward the Lebanese-Israeli frontier, waving palm branches and singing songs? That’s how Morocco took the Spanish Sahara, and it would present Israel with a sticky wicket indeed.
Similarly, the Iraqi puppet government, whose impotence is now almost total, may call for a complete domestic cease-fire so it could order the "New Iraqi Army" to Lebanon. Even al-Qaeda would have trouble saying no. The U.S. would howl bloody murder, but such an open breach with the Americans is exactly what the Green Zone regime needs if it is to gain even a shred of legitimacy. The possibility is far-fetched, but an emerging Hezbollah victory over Israel will make many far-fetched possibilities real.
A Hezbollah success against the hated Israelis will give governments throughout the Islamic world a stark choice. They can either snuggle up as close to Hezbollah and other Islamic 4GW entities as they can get, hoping to catch some reflected legitimacy, or they can become Vichy to their own peoples. Since the first rule of politics is to survive, I think we can look forward to a great deal of the former.
From that perspective, the Tea Lady, aka U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice, may just have uttered the most significant words of her remarkably empty career. Departing on her meaningless "shuttle diplomacy," meaningless because we will only talk to one side, she said current events mark "the birth pangs of a new Middle East, and whatever we do, we have to be certain that we are pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one." Don’t worry; we are, we are.
William Lind [send him mail] is an analyst based in Washington, DC.