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Who Won in Lebanon?
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. [writer] 8/22/06

It is commonly asserted even in the United States that we lost the war in Vietnam. Well, not really. The United States was hardly vanquished and, in fact was inflicting heavy losses in the final battles before “Vietnamization” of the conflict. No sensible person seriously doubts that the U.S. could have decisively defeated the Hanoi regime had it been willing to expend the necessary effort, take the gloves off and risk confrontation with China.

It is more accurate to say that our expeditionary forces failed to achieve the desired outcome in that conflict. The fault, of course, lay with the prosecution of the conflict and micromanagement by Washington civilians and civilianized generals. Still, the legend persists that we lost the war. Victory and defeat are often in the eye of the beholder.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

So it is in Lebanon. Hezbollah and most of the Arab and Muslim street are celebrating victory in the wake of the Israeli troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Iran’s leading lunatic has credited Hezbollah with a massive victory for Islam, leaving little doubt that he regards the conflict as part of a greater religious war.

Some victory! Southern Lebanon is in ruins and Hezbollah suffered substantial losses. Israeli troops were not defeated but withdrew in compliance with a UN cease fire resolution. Nevertheless, the Arab and Muslim world made lemonade out of these lemons by declaring a major victory over Zionism and American policy in the Middle East.

Where does the truth lie? Somewhere in the murky middle. In the global war on terrorism, there are mostly losers. Victories are often measured by who lost the least. In Lebanon that still remains to be seen. Clearly, Lebanon lost the most, its infrastructure in the south reduced to rubble. It paid the price for sheltering terrorists and allowing them free reign over part of its territory and to participate in its government. Hezbollah, by just surviving and remaining a continuing danger to Israel achieved a victory of sorts. So did its patrons, Iran and Syria, the former benefiting by the diversion of world attention from its continuing nuclear enrichment program in defiance of the UN and the western world. Hamas and the Palestinians were losers, too. Palestinian can forget their hopes for an independent state in the foreseeable future. Israel has enough threats to deal with without another hostile state nearby, free to breed suicide bombers and lob rockets at its cities.

Amid banners planted amid the rubble and unexploded ordinance reading “Made in the USA”, Hezbollah seized the moment on the world stage to lead the cleanup and reconstruction effort. Returning Lebanese praised them as defenders of the land. Sentiment against the United States ran strong. Hezbollah may have been temporarily weakened militarily but in the Muslim world its prestige and image soared as the first Arab force to survive a conflict with Israel without being totally routed. Everything is relative and perception is often what matters most. Polls throughout the Muslim countries and even among European Muslims showed large percentages blaming Israel and the United States for the conflict. Aid poured in from the oil rich Arab and Muslim countries, dwarfing that from western countries, increasing bitterness toward the West.

Israel has emerged from yet another crisis, resigned to the probability that more will follow. Hezbollah and Hamas remain dedicated to its destruction. Israel also remains convinced of the futility of negotiating with terrorists. Would you sit down to negotiate with someone who wants to kill you and your family? How does one begin such a dialogue? Do you say, “May we discuss your refusal to recognize my right to exist?’ Or as a recent political cartoon put it, “Is there any wiggle room on that position?”

Comes now the UN peacekeeping force to hold hands with the Lebanese Army to create a buffer zone; just as soon, that is as they can round up enough volunteers. But first they had better decide what their mission entails and what rules of engagement they will follow when fighting breaks out again. It is dangerous to venture into to such an area, protected only by what everyone knows is a fragile cease fire agreement. Could the UN forces disarm Hezbollah? Is the Lebanese Army capable of asserting control over the Hezbollah-dominated south? Might as well send in a few troops of Boy Scouts, augmented by the Keystone Cops.

Will rockets rain again on Israeli cities? Does anyone really have any doubt? What, after all, has changed? Certainly not Hezbollah’s hatred of Israel. Meanwhile, Iran’s threats against Israel grow more ominous as it races to acquire nuclear weapons.

What will Israel do to defend itself? Why, the same thing we would do under the circumstances. Whatever it takes. CRO

copyright 2006 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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