Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Big Losers in the Israeli-Hezbollah War

As Israel and Hezbollah mumble their agreement to a (temporary) cease fire like children being forced to apologize by their parents, the blogosphere and talk radio is rich with assessments of who won and who lost. Our Patriarch of the Airwaves, Hugh Hewitt, is on vacation and his stand in, Jed Babbin, is convinced that Israel suffered a strategic defeat. I disagree. Strategically, there are several losers here and Israel is not one of them. By a strategic loss, I mean who will be in a worse position 5 years or so down the road. Here's my take on the situation.

Hezbollah

Israeli forces now control Lebanon all the way to the Litani River. That's all Hezbollah land. The Israeli infantry will stay there until the peacekeeping forces show up. Between now and then, the Israelis will have a chance to comb the area for weapons caches and Hezbollah fighters. There is no comparable occupation of Israel and the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey blindfolded missile attacks on Israel are drying up.

Economically, this war was a total disaster for Hezbollah. Lots of weapons expended and very few serious hits against Israel. More to the point, the Hezbollah farmland currently occupied by Israel is a major source of revenue for Hezbollah supporters. List three things that make farming easier. I'll bet that having Israeli tanks drive across your fields was not one of them. Where is the livestock? How much was lost? How long will it take to recover from the war? Put yourself in the farmers' position. If 50% of my cattle/goats/chickens have died or wandered off, how long will it take to rebuild my herd? Answer: years.

John Deere's latest line of farming equipment? No.

Israel's per capita income is $24,500. Lebanon's is $6,200. Israel has to repair damage from rocket attacks. Lebanon was heavily bombed and has an occupying army still on it's land. Who will recover faster?

Syria

Syria has a deadline. In 2008 or thereabouts, it's oil reserves start to run dry. When that happens it faces economic contraction because it uses oil revenues to prop up its inefficient Stalinist industrial base. The time frame to rebuild and rearm Hezbollah is significantly longer than that. This will most likely be the last major Hezbollah attack before Syria suffers a major recession. All politics are local and when the economy in Syria turns south, pouring money and material into Hezbollah won't be popular at home.

Additionally, as I noted before, the Arab world has split into two camps, the Iranian and the non-Iranian camp. The Iranian camp is down to two members, Iran and Syria plus terrorist auxiliaries. All those fatwas and press conferences condemning Hezbollah from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest weren't a joke. Syria did more to isolate itself from its neighbors than it got out of this one.

Iran

When Syria begins its economic decline, who will support it? Iran pays $250M a year to maintain Hezbollah. This is unpopular at home. When it starts having to pay, say, $2B a year to maintain Syria, how much more popular will that be? President Ahmadinejead recently visited Indonesia to rail against the Israelis. Indonesia? Why not Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Kuwait? Probably because he's angered all of his neighbors.

Yes, Iran is going to go nuclear soon. Nuclear weapons are wonderful for bringing on the apocalypse, but useless for just about anything else. They can keep you from being invaded, but they don't do much to project power outside of your borders. Once you use one, or your proxies use one, you're dead. In that sense, nuclear weapons don't enter into the analysis at all. If they're used, they dominate all else. If not, they're irrelevant.

The Mainstream Media (MSM)

Now we get to the biggest losers of all. Glenn Reynolds points out why this war was an unmitigated disaster for the AP, Reuters, the networks and the rest of the traditional newsmedia. Using fake photos, staging photos, using actors and props, out and out lies, all of these were caught and publicized. Yes, the MSM did some temporary political damage to Israel and America. Four weeks from now, everyone's attention will be on a hurricane or earthquake or some such event and Hezbollah and Israel will slide off the front page. The damage to their credibility of the MSM will be permanent.

If I were the CEO of any MSM company, I would throw up every time I saw this photo.

When the reporters and MSM pundits come on the talk shows, anyone who wants to will have a huge arsenal of unassailable facts to throw at them. They've had to admit their guilt in public and their self-doubt must be increasing. There was an excellent Rand Simberg column suggesting that the MSM will soon need to employ chains of custody for data such as photographs to keep from being spoofed again. Having worked with Information Assurance in the past, I can tell you that this is very, very expensive. This is huge. They took a body blow to their credibility and thus their source of revenue and they are likely to incur huge future costs to re-equip and train their personnel.

Summary

As you can see, I'm much less pessimistic than most of my colleagues. Some suggest that Israel and America lost in this war because Hezbollah was not disarmed and Lebanon has clearly become a failed state. Well, Olmerts come and Olmerts go, but the economic realities persist. When the fighting stops, the work resumes. Take a look at the bills that need to be paid and the funds available to pay them. Which side would you rather be on?

Differing Viewpoints

The Real Ugly American
Betsy's Page
Blue Crab Boulevard
Big Lizards (long)

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5 comments:

The Ugly American said...

Great post KT.

Anonymous said...

Debka files got a source that said Iran lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 billion bucks in military hardware in Southern Lebanon because of the Israelis. The builup of the hardware supposedly took two decades. If this is remotely true, it meant that the Hezzies screwed up big time.

Coudn't have happen to a bigger bunch of assclowns.

Icepick the Mad!

K T Cat said...

Anon,

Thanks for the comments. I saw that Strategy Page had the same figure. The cycle time for Hezbollah to recover definitely puts it past the decline of Syria's economy. It was bad all around for the bad guys.

Anonymous said...

Yup, since Syria ain't got that good of an ecomomy anyway, they may turn into the NorKo of the Middle East. They might have to "chastise" the Hezzbowlers for the blunder.

Somewhere, Sun Tzu is laughing his ass off.

Icepick the Mad!

ligneus said...

Excellent. There is so much almost hysteria on this, and all reasonable sounding as far as it goes, I think mainly Israel has bought time at little cost to itself free of serious threat from Hez until the big showdown with Iran.