Reflections on the Lebanon War



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Will the Western World Win?

By Jason Guberman-Pfeffer

As war in the Middle East continues, the casual observer may see the bloodletting as just a continuation of the endless violence that too often characterizes the region. Eventually, it may be thought, a cease-fire will be worked out by the diplomats and instead of gory images of war, photo-ops in places like Oslo or maybe even the White House lawn will show peace agreements being signed. On closer examination however, the situation is quite different. This war is a turning point not only for Israel which, literally is fighting for its survival, but America and the Free World (even if the Europeans won’t openly admit it) as well. As Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadi-Najad recently commented, “Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems…” Unfortunately, right now he is right.

The IDF or Israel Defense Forces air campaign and artillery bombardment has failed to soften, no less destroy Hezbollah who apparently has put the past six years of Syrian support and Iranian training, weapons and funding to good use. The ground troops are finding “unexpectedly ferocious” opposition in communities that before Israel’s hasty withdraw in 2000 were secure and friendly – jointly being protected by the IDF and their alley, the South Lebanese Army (SLA). The region is watching with much satisfaction as the army that bested Nasser’s overwhelming coalition in only six days is seemingly unable to destroy Hezbollah or Hamas.

Israel’s problem is that 13 years of failed policies are hard to reverse. Harder still is a loss of resolve against fanatically committed enemies. Misguided agreements and unilateral retreats served to empower the region’s rejectionists. Ever in search of “moderates” the U.S. and Israel put hopes before reality, declaring peace when the other parties openly declared war. And when “moderates” could not be found? Israel gave the terrorists exactly what they wanted anyway. The Israeli malaise is best summed up by current PM Ehud Olmert who before last summer's Disengagement debacle commented “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies…” To the Islamist militants this roughly translated to: “dinner is served.”

As we are finding out with the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the continuing difficulties in Iraq, the terrorists aren’t showing fatigue any time soon. Believing in the inevitability of the collapse of the West and therefore, the submission of the world to their extremist brand of Islam be it Iranian Shi’ism or Saudi Wahhabism defeats on the battlefield are seen as only temporary. Cold War Strategist George Kennan’s “duel of infinite duration” is useful in understanding this mentality. Unlike the Soviets however, who at the end of the day no less shared the Westerner’s desire to live; the terrorists have no affinity to life, no reason to dissuade them from war. Mutually Assured Destruction is not a deterrent when martyrdom is a primary goal in and of itself.

So how do you defeat such an enemy? The answer is endurance, embarrassment and freedom.

The Free World must stop waging restrained wars and start winning. Fighting according to Western sensibilities is as if playing chess with one side unilaterally declaring that every one of their pieces only has the power of a pawn. Which side will win? The perception that if you kill enough soldiers, exploit the media, and hide behind your own civilians and the UN that America or Israel will give-up, created this monster to begin with.

Middle Eastern myths die hard. Even secular Nasserism which was soundly defeated in 1967 rebuilt itself to plunge the region again into war in 1973. Therefore, not only must Israel prove itself again on the battlefield but also humiliate its enemies in the process. A short term victory will be if neither Hezbullah nor Hamas are in a position to throw a stone across the border. A long term victory is if no one will give them one.

Finally, Hezbollah is succeeding in Lebanon where Arafat and the PLO failed, by building a movement around providing services to the disadvantaged Shi’a. Hamas also has a social-wing. The reason? It guarantees that generations will get inoculated with hate and belief in the Culture of Death. Providing an alternative to this dependency is vital so children can think of a free future without oppression or martyrdom.

Between Iranian designs on regional hegemony and the “stability” of old-guard Arab petrol-autocrats, the dream of democracy appears dead. But it is far more powerful than Western cynics can conceive and Syria is leaning on a cedar crutch. With more reservists getting called-up and Hezbollah rockets continuing to fall – Israel is nearing the moment of truth. Will Israel and America falter, unable to defeat Hezbollah - granting Iran, Syria and its proxy government in Beriut a victory? Or will they strike a decisive blow for the Free World and finally change the regional dynamic?

Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz), Chairman of the Guardians of the Cedars testifying before Congress on Feb. 16, 2000 pleaded for support for the SLA so it could face “Iranian Islamic terrorists (Hizbollah) and Syrian Arab occupation.” We can only hope that America and Israel will heed his call this time - “Please help us to regain our Free Lebanon! Long Live Lebanon!”

Jason Guberman-Pfeffer is in his sophomore year in the Thomas More Honors Program at Sacred Heart University ( Fairfield , CT ). He is majoring in political science in the Department of Government and Politics and pursuing minors in Middle East Studies and History.


from the September 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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