Israel and Hezbollah Both Declare Victory

An AP report on Israel begining its troop pullout from Lebanon includes this passage several paragraphs in:

On Monday, both Israel and its main backer, the United States, portrayed Hezbollah as the loser — and by extension, its main backers, Iran and Syria. “There’s going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon,” Bush said.

But Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, claimed a “strategic, historic victory.” Much of the Arab and Muslim worlds would agree. Hezbollah’s ability to withstand the vastly superior Israeli military — and hit back with deadly ambushes and cross-border rocket volleys — has given it heroic stature. In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad said the region has changed “because of the achievements” of Hezbollah, and U.S.-supported political changes were “an illusion.”

The sentiments could complicate any attempts to disarm or sideline the guerrillas — who also have 14 votes in Lebanon’s legislature and two in the Cabinet. Nasrallah drove home the point by deriding Lebanese officials who have urged Hezbollah to give up its weapons. “This is immoral, incorrect and inappropriate,” he said.

While Israel won militarily–inflicting far more damage than it absorbed–it rather clearly lost politically. The evidence continues to mount that Hezbollah has emerged emboldened and with increased respect in the Arab world. The moderate Arab states that rushed to condemn Hezbollah for provoking the war, presumably expecting Israel to finish them off, have not been heard from in weeks.

OTB News

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rodney Dill says:

    Hezbollah hit Israel’s fists with their face until they won.

  2. So the perception is that Hizbollah won. Great. That guarantees the next battle wil be an order of magnitude greater. The only question now is when.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Unlike the previous two commenters I think that, for this particular conflict, a negotiated settlement of some kind was by far the best outcome that could have been expected. I’m concerned that UNSC1701 was as toothless as it was; as I noted in my post yesterday I think it gave Hezbollah more legitimacy than was required and that’s having an impact already.

  4. DC Loser says:

    Dave, 1701 basically said Israel and the international community “recognized” as a legitimate party, an equal so to speak, to the ceasefire. The government of Lebanon was basically pushed to the side in the agreement to provide a figleaf of legitimacy. Hezbollah definitely came out stronger.

  5. DC Loser says:

    meant to say they recognized Hezbollah as an equal.

  6. Anderson says:

    Not directly on point, but (1) tied to Bush’s absurd “Israel won!” statement and (2) too good to miss:

    George Will finds the administration “eager to repel all but the delusional“:

    Cooperation between Pakistani and British law enforcement (the British draw upon useful experience combating IRA terrorism) has validated John Kerry’s belief (as paraphrased by the New York Times Magazine of Oct. 10, 2004) that “many of the interdiction tactics that cripple drug lords, including governments working jointly to share intelligence, patrol borders and force banks to identify suspicious customers, can also be some of the most useful tools in the war on terror.” In a candidates’ debate in South Carolina (Jan. 29, 2004), Kerry said that although the war on terror will be “occasionally military,” it is “primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world.”

    (How bad did it hurt Will to write those words?)

    Immediately after the London plot was disrupted, a “senior administration official,” insisting on anonymity for his or her splenetic words, denied the obvious, that Kerry had a point. The official told The Weekly Standard:

    “The idea that the jihadists would all be peaceful, warm, lovable, God-fearing people if it weren’t for U.S. policies strikes me as not a valid idea. [Democrats] do not have the understanding or the commitment to take on these forces. It’s like John Kerry. The law enforcement approach doesn’t work.”

    This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional. But perhaps such rhetoric reflects the intellectual contortions required to sustain the illusion that the war in Iraq is central to the war on terrorism, and that the war, unlike “the law enforcement approach,” does “work.”

    The official is correct that it is wrong “to think that somehow we are responsible — that the actions of the jihadists are justified by U.S. policies.” But few outside the fog of paranoia that is the blogosphere think like that. It is more dismaying that someone at the center of government considers it clever to talk like that. It is the language of foreign policy — and domestic politics — unrealism.

    “Realism”–it’s the new idealism!

    JJ’s take on the Israel-Hezbollah debacle is simply realist: Israel set out to accomplish X, failed to do so, and probably hurt both its own and the U.S.’s goals. An administration that can’t see that, and that has to shred its own credibility rather than concede that any political opponent ever had a good point, is out of touch with reality.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: I submitted a piece for publication a couple hours ago making that point in a more detailed way.

  8. Anderson says:

    Anderson: I submitted a piece for publication a couple hours ago making that point in a more detailed way.

    Great minds, etc.

    The administration could defend itself by saying that “Israel won!” is propaganda necessary to avoid encouraging our enemies. I just don’t think that a democracy can afford to put that high an emphasis on propaganda; my hypothesis is that we ultimately make a stronger impression on our enemies by our realistically dealing with challenges and problems.

    Recall Asquith’s wry joke about the Imperial General Staff in WW1: they kept 3 sets of casualty figures, one to deceive the public, one to deceive Parliament, and one to deceive themselves. Sounds familiar.

  9. Bill Faith says:
  10. Not to mention the ceasefire only treats the symptoms and not the underlying illness. This is a zero-sum game–until one side achieves a hard goal truces and resolutions are nothing more than bandaids over a sucking chest wound.