Sunday, July 23, 2006

Did Hizballah Wish to Launch the War that Israel has Inflicted upon Lebanon?

There is ample evidence of HIzballah's preparation for war with Israel. These are serious people who have suffered under and studied their enemy for more than two decades. Moreover, they developed a deterrence theory that argued that Hizballah could not only more effectively defend Lebanon than the army, but that Hizballah would have greater freedom of action than the army. Hizballah reasoned that even if the army were resolute vis-a-vis Israel, it would expose the government of Lebanon to Israeli retaliation.

Granted, this was a totally self-serving doctrine that served to justify Hizballah armaments and domination of southern Lebanon, but it was a doctrine that many Shi'i Muslims took seriously and believed. My own view, as I told Hizballah supporters on several occasions in southern Lebanon and in Beirut since the Israeli withdrawal of 2000, was that they were making a dangerous gamble. If the deterrence of Israel did not succeed, what then? My view was that it would have been much better for the army to deploy in the south. To say that the people to whom I spoke, some that I have known for 25 years, were unconvinced was an understatement.

To argue that Hizballah expected Israel to respond as massively as it has indicates that the Hizballah decisionmakers, especially Hasan Nasrallah, calculated to provoke an attack that would destroy their homes, villages and towns, not to mention forfeit many lives. Nasrallah, for instance traces his roots to al-Bazuriyah, which is a small town east of Tyre. I have lived among, studied and written about the Shi'is in Lebanon for a quarter century, and I find the notion that Hizballah wished to provoke the sort of reaction we have seen to the July 12 operation unlikely to say the least. Instead, it is far more likely that Hizballah miscalculated.

In her article in the Washington Post, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb opines that "I'm sure that Hezbollah had envisaged, though perhaps not expected, a response of this kind." However, the burden or her argument is to suggest not that Hizballah simply envisaged the Israeli response, but that it relished it and knowingly provoked Israel's overreaction.

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