The aftermath of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict has raised numerous issues and brought to the fore the harsh and brutal reality of war. There are a number of repercussions and lessons to be learnt from the Israeli invasion and subsequent withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
One of the foremost results is the failure, yet again, of the United Nations as an international body that can promise to bring peace and justice to the conflict-ridden regions of the world. The inexplicable delay in passing the resolution calling for a ceasefire resulted in hundreds more casualties and a catastrophic destruction of the country's infrastructure. And now, observe how the U.N. can only urge Israel to lift the blockade which is continuing to make life hell for Lebanese citizens trying to rebuild their lives, and a country trying to recover from a recurring nightmare. The stalling by the U.S. in pushing for a ceasefire has also illustrated just how hollow is the claim that it is a neutral party in resolving the Middle East conflict.
Is it now being proposed that the real reasons behind the Israeli invasion were not the capture of the two soldiers but rather that that was simply an excuse for Israel to execute an agenda it had been working on for much longer. Contentious as that may be, no "retaliation" claims can stand up against the thousands of mostly civilian deaths, the billions of dollars of destruction, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of southern Lebanese and northern Israelis. Once again, the asymmetrical nature of modern warfare has been very effectively demonstrated whereby simply surviving the war was reason enough for Hezbollah to claim victory. I bet the famed Israeli PR machinery (link to Google video) is going to have a tough time putting a spin on this one.
The complete failure of Arab diplomacy shall also be something that the Arab world will need to contemplate. Gone are the days when UN resolutions could be influenced by the oil-rich nations putting their lot behind Palestine. All the rushing around that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia did during the first few weeks of the invasion came to naught. Neither were the other Arab countries able to come together and force the imposition of a cease-fire.
But much more than anything else, the biggest loss has been the complete quelling of the moderate Arab voice. For most people outside the Arab world, "moderate Arab" seems to be an oxymoron. And before arriving in Riyadh I would have been inclined to agree. But when I made my first visit here last year, one of the most surprising things was the moderate and critical viewpoint being expressed in the newspapers and among the intelligentsia within the Arab world.
When the Israeli attacks started, there was still hope in the region that it would be just a matter of a couple of days before better sense would prevail, or the international community would bring pressure on both sides to cease fire. As days became weeks, and U.S. government statements and Condy's trips increased the level of frustration, the moderate voice – and with it hopes for a peaceful and quick resolution – started to slowly disappear. There was no way that the Israeli aggression could be justified or even analyzed dispassionately. And then Qana happened. For those Arabs for whom Shabra and Shatila were still living memories, this was simply the last straw.
As just one example, the Arab News, is the leading newspaper in the region, and has consistently carried columns and editorials expressing a pro-peace viewpoint, very much accepting the existence of Israel, and highlighting the need for dialogue rather than violence. But as the conflict worsened, the moderates had no choice but to unequivocally condemn Israeli action and of course the vindicated fundamentalists were all over the place. Today's Arab News carries a very simple, but illustrative three-panel cartoon. The first panel shows a bomb being dropped on a piece of land. The second shows a trench-like crater created from the bomb's explosion. And the third shows an armed-to-the-teeth terrorist rising up from the trench.
The loss of the moderate viewpoint will deal a strategic blow to the US claims of bringing "freedom" to the region, and its failed efforts to force democracy down the throats of the Arab world. You try to do that and here's what happens:
- Muslim Brotherhood – Here's where Al Zawahiri – the ideologue for the Al Qaeda – comes from. In Egypt, they have 22% of seats and form the largest opposition bloc. In Jordan they have the largest number of seats of any political party. In Bahrain, their affiliated party is the joint largest party.
- Hamas – They yet don't recognize the right of Israel to exist, but they are the party in power in Palestine.
- Hezbollah - Of course, they, alliance with other parties, took 27% of the seats in the Lebanese parliament. Incidentally, Nasrallah's public "admission" that they would not have captured the soldiers if they had known the scale of the Israeli retaliation, is not acceptance of a mistake, but simply shrewd PR. Should an election happen in Lebanon now, Hezbollah will win far more seats than it holds currently.
The war has not only set back the entire peace process by many decades, but it has also completely alienated and quelled the very opinions that would have made it possible for the West to find any true allies in the region.