A good friend of mine mentioned a very interesting point in a discussion we had last week which got me thinking: did Hezbollah REALLY win the the July War? My friend had correctly stated that Nasrallah failed to export their “Divine Victory” to the rest of the Lebanese population. In other words, they took ownership of a victory although all Lebanese lives were affected by it.
Initially, one would say, of course they should take ownership of the victory since they were the ones that were fighting and not the Lebanese Army. I completely agree. However, if Nasrallah is claiming that his vision of Lebanon is a Lebanese vision and not one that is being dictated by Syria and Iran, then Nasrallah, as a political strategic move, should have taken the iniative to allow all Lebanese to celebrate this victory with him and his supporters. This would have increased his support base and made him more popular among Lebanese who identify Israel as a common enemy, regardless of confessional community differences.
Declaring a victory or defeat depends on the particular indicators and benchmarks you are using to support your claim. I feel that many people forget that you can have losers and no winners. Just because one side lost doesn’t automatically imply that the other won. When the war ended, I did not for one second believe that Hezbollah “won” the war. Let me explain why.
Firstly, the Israeli government and army had set very clear goals which made prospects for victory very inflexible. Firstly, they justified their offensive on the basis of bringing back their two kidnapped soldiers. Secondly, given that they would be entering Lebanese territory, they chose to hit two birds with one stone, that is, not only take back their prisoners, but also disarm Hezbollah in the process. As the war progressed and the Israeli government became aware of the difficulty of attaining this second objective, they adopted a third: bringing the Lebanese Army to monitor the border between Israel and Lebanon, which would at least act as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah and hence enhance Israeli security. The first two objectives were not met. The third objective was met but not because of Israeli prerogatives but rather Lebanese incentives: Israel did not bring the Lebanese Army to the South because Hezbollah was not disarmed and the prisonners were not returned. The Lebanese government under the premiership of Seniora brought in the Lebanese Army. Therefore, Israel also lost in fulfilling its third objective simply because it was not the won that fulfilled it.
Hezbollah under the leadership of Nasrallah, on the other hand, did not have clear set goals. If anything, all it cared for was to survive. Yes, they did succeed at doing so. However, does this mean that they won? Nasrallah’s “miscalculation” (because according to his first public interview after the war ended, he had no idea Israel would retaliate as such and if he did know, he would never have committed himself to a war) caused, like you said, the death of hundreds, the displacement of one million people, etc. Furthermore, Nasrallah defied Lebanese sovereignty, the authority of the Lebanese army, fragmented an already confessional society, created a high-state of vulnerability which favors conditions for Syria and Iran to enter the country, and, most importantly, chose a war on behalf of all the Lebanese– a level of authority only the Lebanese government has the right to.
Therefore, I do not for one second believe that Hezbollah won the war. They lost the war as badly, if not as worse as the Israeli government, because, look at what ended the war: Resolution 1701. This resolution states that the Lebanese Army return to the South, brings in a foreign force into the country under the name UNIFIL 2, and gives this force authority to report to the Lebanese Army any encounters with armed Hezbollah fighters, which, in effect, gives the Lebanese Army much leverage to disarm them. Hezbollah lost and this Divine Victory is a fantastic propaganda show that people are blinded by and many consider this show to in fact be reality.
However, let’s say that Hezbollah did win for the sake of an argument. The very fact that, as my colleague correctly stated, Nasrallah was unable to export this victory out of Hezbollah’s circle and share it with the rest of the Lebanese is, for me, the pinnacle of his failure.
The only party that came out as some form of a victor was the Lebanese government. The Lebanese government survived a war that threatened their very existence proving the leadership and competence of its members and its prime minister. The Lebanese government brought back the Lebanese Army to the south after 15 years of absence. The Lebanese government has guaranteed donors that will be aiding this country throughout its reconstruction process. The Lebanese government has won the support of the international community, the respect of the United Nations, and the admiration of all our Arab neighbors for we are the only country that has been able to kick out the Israelis twice from out land: once in 2000 and again in 2006.
December 10, 2006