Sunday, August 06, 2006

Donny's Doppleganger

What we still don't understand about Hizbollah

"Israel has finally conceded that air power alone will not defeat Hizbollah. Over the coming weeks, it will learn that ground power won't work either. The problem is not that the Israelis have insufficient military might, but that they misunderstand the nature of the enemy.

In terms of structure and hierarchy, it is less comparable with, say, a religious cult such as the Taliban than to the multi-dimensional American civil rights movement of the 1960s. What made its rise so rapid, and will make it impossible to defeat militarily, was not its international support but the fact that it evolved from a reorientation of pre-existing Lebanese social groups.Evidence of the broad nature of Hizbollah's resistance to Israeli occupation can be seen in the identity of its suicide attackers. Hizbollah conducted a broad campaign of suicide bombings against American, French and Israeli targets from 1982 to 1986. Altogether, these attacks, which included the infamous bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, involved 41 suicide terrorists.

Researching my book, which covered all 462 suicide bombings around the globe, I had colleagues scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and biographies of the Hizbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. We were shocked to find that only eight were Islamic fundamentalists; 27 were from leftist political groups such as the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union; three were Christians, including a female secondary school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.

What these suicide attackers - and their heirs today - shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hizbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.


But Israel must take the initiative. Unless it calls off the offensive and accepts a genuine ceasefire, there are likely to be many, many dead Israelis in the coming weeks - and a much stronger Hizbollah."

"What we still don't understand about Hizbollah" - Robert Pape. All emphases added by me - mfi

I don't agree with all of the article which is after all written very much from the standpoint of someone who wants American dominance to continue. When I got to this sentence; "Syria's total control of its border with Lebanon," I rubbed my eyes in astonishment (reading it will doubtless cause hollow laughter in Damascus.) Syria's borders are porous. Look at a map. But Pape's general thrust is correct.

I am not even slightly surprised by the percentages involved. Amongst other things I used to do activity analysis when I was in Lebanon. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, involved knew that religiously motiviated suicide attacks were in the order of 20%. I think that Pape seriously understates the numbers of Christians involved. My recollection is that in the order of 50% of suicide attackers were from an ethnic Christian background. I presume he's not counting them as "Christian" because they were avowed atheists. In a country where your sectarian background largely defines your social identity (and did so to an even greater extent back then) this is a classification error, it doesn't invalidate his methodology or his conclusions. On to the second article:

"Israel underestimated Hezbollah:

Israel completely underestimated the size of Hezbollah's arsenal and has been seemingly wrongfooted by the Shiite militant group's strength and nature, an expert at a London-based think-thank has told AFP.

"The Israelis lack good intelligence. They have completely underestimated the size of the Hezbollah arsenal, the amount of weapons they've got stockpiled," Rosemary Hollis of the Chatham House foreign affairs institute said Saturday.

"It's the classic situation of a guerrilla (war). You can't win except by the most appalling devastation, which is a pyrrhic victory anyway."

Israel failed to identify how deep the militants bury themselves in southern Lebanon, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert allowed himself to be convinced by the chief of staff -- who is from the air force -- that air power could achieve more that it can, the analyst believes.

The level of ground forces that would be required to "really smash this kind of enemy is probably something that not even a good proportion of the Israelis could tolerate," she added.

Israel is now scaling back its operations accordingly and is hoping to score some kind of success -- such as the killing of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or reducing the number of rockets fired at Israel -- before a ceasefire is inevitable.

"They would quite like a ceasefire, but they need a success in order to get it," Hollis said.

"You need to address the grievances that the supporters of Hezbollah have, more effectively than Hezbollah.

"Even if Hezbollah stands for the elimination of Israel, that is not a grievance of their supporters. The plight of the Palestinians, the occupation or the use of military force against Israel's neighbours, the seemingly double standards by which Israel is allowed to flout international law and others are not... You have to address all of those things."

Letting the fly boys take over your high command is dumb mistake number one. Not understanding your enemy is dumb mistake number two. Underestimating them is dumb mistake number three. Believing your own propaganda is spectacularly idiotic mistake number four. Any one of these by themselves is a great way to lose a war. Somebody tell Rummy his doppleganger lives in Israel.


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