…so said the witches in Macbeth. But can a battle be both lost and won at the same time? It’s really the symbolism of war that begs to be looked at.
Israel has stated its intentions quite clearly over the past month: crush Hizballah and return its two soldiers; although the latter has been seen as a scapegoat for the former. In crushing Hizballah the objective was two-fold: using their superior military force all the while bombing Lebanon like crazy in an attempt to encourage the Lebanese to rise up against Hizballah. Leaflets dropped from the sky intended to play on the fact that a significant amount of Lebanese had no love for Hizballah and would look to them to blame for bringing on this Israeli wrath.
What it accomplished could not be further from the objective.
For some strange reason the Lebanese blamed Israel for bombing their homes and cities instead of Hizballah and what opinion of the group was held before has been replaced with love and admiration thanks to Israel.
Hizballah is a militia. Well-trained, well financed, well armed but a militia nevertheless, especially when compared to one of the strongest and technologically advanced armies in the world and indeed the region. A militia doesn’t need to win the battle, it need only to survive it and Hizballah has.
After such a long history of Israeli occupation and atrocities in Palestine the region’s people have been begging for a military victory and Hizballah has offered that. Images of bloody Israeli soldiers retreating coupled with images of Israel’s high ratio killing of women and children have served as an affirmation of some sense of justice and vengeance the likes of which have been absent for the longest time. Not to mention that most of the 150 Israelis killed were soldiers as opposed to the high number of Lebanese civilians killed. And we are talking about mostly unguided katyusha rockets in the face of tanks, jets, missiles and bombs.
There is a psychological victory to consider as well as a symbolic one. Israel facing such resistance has not served it well, especially for a country accustomed to a certain level of military victory over its neighbors. And this very fact has served to empower the Arab masses.
On the other hand…
At what cost does the symbolism come?
So many Lebanese have died. So much infrastructure lost especially after over a decade of rebuilding. An ugly oil spill, destroyed bridges, electric grids and over 15,000 homes and thousands of displaced peoples with no where to live.
Was it adventurism on Hizballah’s part? It was indeed quite a gamble. Nasrallah as he said, did not expect such a reaction from Israel and being a militia operating within a state it’s quite a risk to put all your money down on one hand at a level where all the players play for keeps. The stability, security, infrastructure and people of Lebanon were all laid out on the table for a gamble that could have frankly gone quite differently for Hizballah.
Symbolism carries a lot of currency in our region especially now at a time when Israel occupies Palestine and the U.S. occupies Iraq. But at this level and at this point in time symbolism also comes at a heavy price.
The question then becomes not only about what the cost of symbolism is but can we afford it?
Suffice to say one fact is indisputable: Hizballah was born from Israeli occupation and what has happened recently only goes to show that it will continue to exist and resist while Israel occupies one inch of Lebanese land. Hence this was not a single war but a battle amongst many to come.
You reap what you sow and Israel has discovered as Lady Macbeth did that when you have this much blood on your hands rubbing it out is not so easy.