When The Fighting Stops In Lebanon

A lot of conservatives are very pessimistic about the ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel. They figure, quite correctly, that the UN troops will be a joke and that Hezbollah will probably start rearming soon.

However, there’s another factor that I think a lot of people aren’t giving proper weight to yet and it’s why I am not as down on the whole arrangement as a lot of other hawkish, pro-Israeli conservatives. Here’s Thomas Friedman speculating about what’s going to happen once the fighting finally stops:

“On the morning after the morning after, Lebanese war refugees, who had real jobs and homes, will start streaming back by the hundreds of thousands, many of them Shiites. Tragically, they will find their homes or businesses badly damaged or obliterated. Yes, they will curse Israel. But they and other Arabs will also start asking Nasrallah publicly what many are already asking privately:

“What was this war all about? What did we get from this and at what price? Israel has some roofs to repair and some dead to bury. But its economy and state are fully intact, and it will recover quickly. We Lebanese have been set back by a decade. Our economy and our democracy lie in ruins, like our homes. For what? For a one-week boost in ‘Arab honor?’ So that Iran could distract the world’s attention from its nuclear program? You did all this to us for another country?”

As Michael Young, opinion editor of The Beirut Daily Star, put it an article in Slate: “Hezbollah’s … test will be to rapidly alleviate the suffering in its own community and, therefore, avoid losing its base. The party still has substantial backing among its coreligionists, and it is not about to see this disappear. But soon the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Shiites now living in schools, tent cities, and even public parks will be an overriding concern for Nasrallah. Many have fled areas partly or wholly destroyed, to which they might not return for months or years. … Hezbollah will have to provide funding for reconstruction and rehabilitation that is likely to run into the billions of dollars. … The party will have a monumental task to revive not only Shiite morale but confidence that Hezbollah can take care of its own. … Even the party’s most optimistic interpretation of the current war–that it is a heroic achievement–will not spare it having to tiptoe very carefully through Shiite trauma.”

Hezbollah can crow about their “great victory” all they like. But, that doesn’t change the fact that Nasrallah will spend the rest of his life in hiding, huge sections of Southern Lebanon have been bombed to rubble, and Hezbollah’s capacity to fight has been severely degraded. We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world and a few weeks from now, the Hezbollah supporters living in tents and wondering when their houses will be rebuilt aren’t going to be happy with Hezbollah or anxious to go another round with Israel. That’s why it’s possible that the long term political ramifications of this fighting will be a severe restraint on Hezbollah for years to come….or maybe not.

Time will tell.

PS: Don’t get the wrong idea, because I am not a fan of the ceasefire. I would have preferred to see fighting continue for a few more weeks and I would have liked to have seen Israel go into Syria. Still, I don’t think this whole shooting war was the total failure a lot of conservatives are making it out to be. In fact, I think it has the potential at least to be highly beneficial to Israel. We’ll see how it plays out.

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