So, what has this war brought us?
The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah of July and August is in desperate need of interpretation. Never has an Israeli war ended so ambiguously. In the interest of clearing the fog, we offer the following tally, one which may allow us to reach provisional conclusions without waiting for the results of commissions of inquiry, the state comptroller, or the next round of elections. We begin with the bad news, and then move on to the good-which, we suggest, ultimately wins out.
The bad news: 1. At the beginning of the campaign, Israeli leaders asserted, vocally and repeatedly, that the campaign would not end until all its objectives were achieved. To wit: (i) Israel would secure the release of the two kidnapped soldiers; (ii) Israel would expel Hezbollah from Lebanon (later, this promise was changed to “significantly disarm,” and then finally, to “move out of rocket range”); (iii) Israel would restore its military deterrent capability in the region, which has been substantially eroded over the last decade and more. Having roused among Israelis the conviction that the war would rightfully be Israel’s final confrontation with Hezbollah, the country’s leaders set them up for a grave disappointment: The terrorist army and its leadership were left unvanquished and none of the objectives declared so unequivocally at the beginning of the war were accomplished. The result has been a sense of having lost, of catastrophe reminiscent of the debacle of the opening days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
2. The much-touted UN Security Council resolution 1701 has, just weeks later, proven about as effective as previous resolutions calling for Hezbollah’s disarmament: The new, improved unifil force will be another symbolic gesture, and there is no reason to believe that the Lebanese army will either disarm the terror group or enforce an arms embargo against it. Hezbollah is rearming and regrouping as we speak. In his landmark essay in Foreign Affairs in 1999, Edward N. Luttwak noted the following about such resolutions:
Cease-fires and armistices have frequently been imposed under the aegis of the Security Council in order to halt fighting…. But a cease-fire tends to arrest war-induced exhaustion and lets belligerents reconstitute and rearm their forces. It intensifies and prolongs the struggle once the cease-fire ends-and it does usually end.
As the war progressed, Israel was depleting Hezbollah’s store of weapons and fighters at a rate significantly higher than the reverse. By bringing the war to a premature pause, it seems unlikely that a long-term good will have been achieved. If anything, the next round will be longer and more brutal because of it.