July 27, 2006 - Israel has received much condemnation for its so-called "disproportionate" response to Hezbollah's provocations. Some who make such criticisms may be driven by a pre-existing hostility towards Israel. Others may simply fail to understand what Israel is up against. That is not surprising, since this is a new kind of war that cannot be understood within the framework of previous wars.
Many people are wondering, "How is Hezbollah able to do what no Arab country could do? In six days Israel defeated several Arab states, but the current conflict still has no end in sight." First, Hezbollah is no ragtag band of thugs. It is a very well organized and well trained army with state-of-the-art weapons from Iran and Syria. It is also an international organization with operatives and fund-raisers (often engaged in illegal activity) all over the world.
But more significantly, this is not the same kind of war Israel fought against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. There is a very critical difference. We might just as well ask, "How could the United States, the greatest power in the world today, defeat Saddam and his army so easily, and yet the insurgents seem to be winning in Iraq?"
Welcome to "fourth generation war." William Lind has used this term to describe a new style of warfare for the twenty-first century. Previous generations of war were fought between nation states with recognizable armies, air forces, and borders. In fourth generation war at least one party to the conflict is not a nation state. It wears no uniform, blends among the people, and uses guerrilla hit-and-run tactics to create a condition of anarchy in the country where the fighting occurs. In a more conventional war the belligerents are nation states and their goal is to survive and defeat the enemy. In fourth generation war (or 4GW as it is often called) the non-state entity has no vested interest in preserving the state. Anarchy works to its advantage, and may even create a vacuum it can fill with its expanding influence.
Lind notes that in 4GW the organized nation, even if militarily superior on paper, is always at a disadvantage. To date no nation has won a fourth generation war against a non-nation-state entity.
It is easier to destroy a state than to build one. The U.S. had no trouble knocking out the Iraqi regime. Rebuilding is another matter. The insurgent enemy has no interest in replacing the old structure with a new one. If it can keep Iraq in a state of anarchy, it wins. Unlike a traditional nation-state enemy, keeping the home state intact is not a priority for a 4GW entity.
Israel faces a similar dilemma in Lebanon. It is not fighting the Lebanese government. In fact, its wish is that the Lebanese government would be more helpful in reigning in Israel's real enemy, Hezbollah. If this were a war with Lebanon, it would be over and done with. In fact, Hezbollah has no interest in preserving the integrity of Lebanon. Anarchic conditions in Lebanon work to Hezbollah's advantage and may pave the way for it to emerge stronger than ever. Therefore Hezbollah has no compunctions about using Lebanese civilians as camouflage. Hezbollah operates in a way that
It worked. Kofi Annan directed his rage not at Hezbollah but at Israel, accusing Israel of targeting the U.N. post intentionally. That hardly makes any sense: the hit on the U.N. post was a disaster for Israel and disrupted its plans to stage a ground operation in the area. But never mind; Hezbollah's tactic succeeded: it bloodied Israel in the world press and drove an even bigger wedge between Israel and the international community (at least as represented by Kofi Annan).
The homeside civilian is perhaps the most potent weapon in 4GW. This is possibly the most significant innovation of 4GW over guerrilla warfare as we have known it. Lacking any real allegiance to the home country, 4GW combatants lose nothing by putting homeside civilians at risk. So they hide among the citizenry and attack from residential areas in violation of international law. A typical result is the bloody battle for Bint Jbail, an important and strategically located Hezbollah stronghold. Israel could easily have succeeded by flattening the village, but the cost in civilian life would have been too high. So Israel was forced into house-to-house combat, reducing Lebanese casualties but increasing losses on the Israeli side - including eight Israeli soldiers dead in a single ambush. [Reference 1]
And so it goes. Israel attacks fixed structures and buildings, many of them empty, but trying to eliminate the rocket launchers is like playing whack-a-mole. So two weeks into the fighting, missiles still rain down on Israel's cities. Many innocent Israelis have been killed, though not enough to elicit much sympathy from the world. But why should Hezbollah be concerned about not killing even more Israelis with its rockets, when civilian deaths on its own side are nearly as good as dead Jews? While Lebanese President Fouad Siniora laments that his country has been "torn to shreds," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is cocky and confident. Hezbollah is only too willing to fight this war down to the last Lebanese.
If 4GW fighters have no true national allegiance, then what unites them? The answer is ideology. In this case, although the ideology comes in two distinct flavors (Sunni and Shiite), it has deep roots in the Islamic tradition of jihad. And it is a powerful ideology indeed. It is a utopian vision that justifies violence for the achievement of its ends. Its main goal is the Islamization of the world. Those who would throw Israel away in order to appease these radicals fail to realize that defeating Israel would only embolden them. After swallowing the Little Satan, their next target would be the Great One. Indeed, the Sunni branch of the global jihad already fired its first shots at New York and Washington. Even Europe, where Christianity is waning and Islam is gaining, is experiencing upheavals from radical Islam. No doubt if they ever achieve their aims the Sunni and Shiite factions will engage in a cosmic clash, but that is far down the horizon. The infidel comes first. On that they are united.
We in the West tend to dismiss as ridiculous the Islamic idealization of the martyr, who is destined to inherit paradise and 72 virgins. But this tradition was throughout history and still is a powerful motivator to the radical Muslim warrior. There is no greater honor than to die a martyr in a holy war, and those who cherish this honor constantly remind us how much they love death. The Crusaders too believed they would immediately go to heaven if they died as martyrs in combat. People are not that different. The Muslim 4GW fighter is empowered by the promise of Allah's sweet delights for his holy hatred. The Israeli fighting to defend his family from rockets and bombs has no such heavenly treasures waiting.
Hezbollah is therefore not just a tiny little group. It is a global network, armed and supported by powerful countries preferring to work in the shadows, and it wins if it destroys more than its opponents can build. War is disruption, and while disruption threatens Israel, Hezbollah thrives on it. Disruption weakens the regime whose responsibility it is to control Hezbollah. Disruption inflames passions and wins Hezbollah new converts. And disruption gratifies the racist hatred that Hezbollah warriors hold sacred.
No wonder Israel is at a disadvantage. It is fighting not a country but a violent ideology of worldwide scope, and you can't kill an ideology. The world measures this war by the wrong yardstick. It counts the dead on both sides, and calls Israel's response "disproportionate." But each dead civilian on each side is a score for Hezbollah. A dead infidel or a new martyr - each serves Hezbollah's purpose. Especially when your purpose is only to destroy.
To fight an ideology, we must unite and stand up against it. We must recognize what this war is really all about. Hezbollah is fighting for its right to shoot rockets at Israeli civilians. And Hezbollah has ensured that if Israel is to have a fighting chance against this, it must inflict unwanted civilian casualties on the other side. Otherwise Israel's only choice is to sit still while Hezbollah aims its increasingly sophisticated missiles at Israeli cities. Israel is forced to do a macabre balancing act: find some "acceptable" symmetry between casualties on its own side and casualties on the other. That is an impossible task, a true "Sophie's choice." No one could carry it out. Yet it is expected of Israel.
Those who tell Israel to cease fire and negotiate with Hezbollah are either disingenuous or stupid. For Israel to call off its army and ask for negotiations would be taken as a sign of weakness. It is crystal clear that Hezbollah will never disarm voluntarily. It is just as clear that if Hezbollah is allowed to accumulate missiles along the Israeli border, some day it will use them, regardless of what Israel does. Hezbollah's purpose for being is to fight jihad and destroy Israel - and then join the global jihad against the West.
People want Israel to negotiate with Hezbollah? Here is what Hezbollah says about negotiation:
We see in Israel the vanguard of the United States in our Islamic world. It is the hated enemy that must be fought until the hated ones get what they deserve....
Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.
We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Therefore we oppose and reject the Camp David Agreements, the proposals of King Fahd, the Fez and Reagan plan, Brezhnev's and the French-Egyptian proposals, and all other programs that include the recognition (even the implied recognition) of the Zionist entity.
Is there some part of this program the appeasers don't understand?
Asking Israel to cease fire and negotiate with Hezbollah is throwing Israel to the wolves. And the wolf is never satisfied with just one bite. Listen to history. Listen to the Islamic extremists in their own words.
The world has already paid a price for failing to stand up to a poisonous ideology with pretensions to global power. How many times must we learn that lesson? Hezbollah is not merely a local Lebanese phenomenon. It has ties to Iran. It claims to have sleeper cells all over the world and ready to strike. It is powered by the age-old desire to bring the world to its god.
Hezbollah tells us who they are:
We do not constitute an organized and closed party in Lebanon. nor are we a tight political cadre. We are an umma linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam, whose message God wanted to be fulfilled by the Seal of the Prophets, i.e., Muhammad....
No one can imagine the importance of our military potential as our military apparatus is not separate from our overall social fabric. Each of us is a fighting soldier. And when it becomes necessary to carry out the Holy War, each of us takes up his assignment in the fight in accordance with the injunctions of the Law, and that in the framework of the mission carried out under the tutelage of the Commanding Jurist. [Reference 2]
And Hezbollah is not out to destroy Israel only, but also the U.S.:
The US has tried, through its local agents, to persuade the people that those who crushed their arrogance in Lebanon and frustrated their conspiracy against the oppressed (mustad'afin) were nothing but a bunch of fanatic terrorists whose sole aim is to dynamite bars and destroy slot machines. Such suggestions cannot and will not mislead our umma, for the whole world knows that whoever wishes to oppose the US, that arrogant superpower, cannot indulge in marginal acts which may make it deviate from its major objective. We combat abomination and we shall tear out its very roots, its primary roots, which are the US. All attempts made to drive us into marginal actions will fail, especially as our determination to fight the US is solid. [Reference 2]
And it will not stop with the U.S. An official of the Revolutionary Guard in Hezbollah's patron state Iran has proclaimed:
We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization and for the uprooting of the Americans and the English.
Our missiles are now ready to strike at their civilization, and as soon as the instructions arrive... we will launch our missiles at their cities and installations....
The global infidel front is a front against Allah and the Muslims, and we must make use of everything we have at hand to strike at this front, by means of our suicide operations or by means of our missiles. There are 29 sensitive sites in the U.S. and in the West. We have already spied on these sites and we know how we are going to attack them. [Reference 3]
And just today a warning was issued from the Sunni faction of the global jihad. Top Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri called for Muslims around the world to join the war against Israel in Lebanon and Gaza. But he did not stop with Israel. He continued:
It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq. We will attack everywhere....
All the world [is] a battlefield open in front of us. [Reference 5]
We have been put on notice. The target is not merely Israel or even the U.S. but Western civilization. The ideology that is attacking Israel is much bigger than a group of terrorists in Lebanon. We are all in its crosshairs.
We won't be saved by condemning Israel for defending itself while the global jihad already plans to move beyond Israel. Those who cherish the liberties of Western democracy must recognize the enemy for what it is - a powerful set of ideas that appeals to resentment and a false sense of victimization - and have the courage to unite behind a better set of ideas. That is the only way to win. Forget about winning the "hearts and minds" of those already committed to radicalism. It is our own hearts and minds that we must care about. The surest way to lose will be to play each other off in a game of appeasement, to hope vainly that if the lion devours the other guy, maybe it won't devour me.
When the cities the jihad missiles hit are no longer Israeli, perhaps then will we pay attention?
Sources and References:
1. Dan, Uri. "Grim Day for Israel in Leb." New York Post, July 27, 2006.
2. "Hezbollah Program." Jerusalem Quarterly, Fall 1988; republished by the Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
3. "Iran's Revolutionary Guards Official Threatens Suicide Operations: 'Our Missiles Are Ready to Strike at Anglo-Saxon Culture… There Are 29 Sensitive Sites in the U.S. and the West'." Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch no. 723, May 28, 2004.
4. Lind, William S. "Understanding Fourth Generation War." AntiWar.com, January 15, 2004.
5. Thayer, Willa for Associated Press. "Al-Zawahri Calls for Muslims to Rise Up." Times Herald-Record Online, July 27, 2006.
Peace with Realism