Lessons learnt from the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict, by Eric Koo

“Starting with a tiger’s head and ending with a snake’s tail.” This Chinese saying aptly describes the conclusion of the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict that lasted more than a month, and which killed around 1719 and wounded about 5479 people on all sides in total.
International pressure and outrage at bombings on Lebanese civilians, had led to a settlement under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). Under the UN mandate, Israeli forces finally withdrew from Lebanon after UN Resolution 1701 was passed on 11 August 2006.
Wars such as this latest Israeli-Hizbollah conflict from , which were sparked off because of unforeseen contingencies developing into political situations, are not something new in the history of mankind. Politicians, statesmen, and regimes had long seized such unexpected opportunities as justifications to advance their own agendas and goals. Many such historical incidents followed similar patterns of development.

For example, the Mukden incident in 1931 that occurred in China led to the rapid occupation of the Chinese territory of Manchuria and gradually led to the Sino-Japanese War which lasted from 1931 to 1945, a total of 14 years. In a more recent example of history, there is a theory and general perception, in particular in the Middle East and Asia, that the United States of America (USA) and West took the opportunity of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein having invading Kuwait in August 1990 as political justification to launch the Gulf War in 1991and thus be rid of a potentially dangerous regional hegemony in the Middle East region.
What is of interest and concern, however, is that decision makers at the highest national and governmental levels do not take advantage of such situations in future and let events develop out of control.

The Israeli military was reluctant to commit ground troops for a full scale invasion and occupation of Lebanese territory. Hizbollah, for all its touted success in the media about successfully using anti-tank rockets to inflict heavy casualties on well armed Israeli troops and tanks, clearly lacked the military technology and strength as a guerilla force, to evict the Israeli military off the battle-field through force of arms alone. Under such conditions, there could be no clear victors in such a war. It was well and good that the UN mandate was implemented and not a moment too soon after a wasted month of diplomatic negotiations and media statements.

The answer to this unexpected conflict in the volatile Middle East region was the negotiating table obviously, in which international recognition and diplomacy was brought to bear to halt the fighting between Israeli and Hizbollah military forces. Throughout the period of conflict, major external players like the USA have been accused of having dragged their feet in seeking a diplomatic solution to peace. It was implied that US intentions for deliberately delaying brokering a cease-fire had indirectly aided the Israeli agenda of weakening the Hizbollah, a political and armed opposition group of that is active in the Middle East and anti-western in interests. In any case, the Israel-Hizbollah conflict was certainly not another feather in the cap of the USA.

Ultimately, the real losers of the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict in 2006 were the Lebanese people, whose lives are caught up in a sudden, unprepared war which shattered their lives and homes. Ironically, the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict was one in which the Lebanese population had no deciding power whatsoever, and the developments of the entire chain of events, ultimately lay in external, foreign factors.
In terms of national defence and security, it must be pointed out that nations which did not, or could not build up a conventional military force capable of deterring its neighbours, could do little to prevent the woes of war and foreign aggression on its borders. It was indeed the case for Kuwait in 1990 and Iraq in 2003. Lebanon in 2006 merely joins the latest nation with weak national defenses that depended solely on the outcome of international intervention by external players in bringing about a conclusion to the conflict within its borders. It is a lesson that should not be lost on other nations not to neglect their own national security.

The writer has a M.Sc in Strategic Studies and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London. He currently writes commentaries and analysis articles on international affairs, security issues and terrorism for newspapers. The views expressed here are his own and he can be reached at erickoopk@yahoo.com

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