Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Falklands War and The Hezbollah War 

I read this excellent, speculative post from Wretchard as to the prospects for Israel and Hezbollah in the ongoing war in Lebanon, which in turn made me reflect upon the 1982 Falklands War between Britain and Argentina and the parallels between the two.

Let's first acknowledge the enormous and important differences - from participants to terrain, strategy, tactics - in every way, the two conflicts seem and are vastly different.

And yet, I see important parallels as to wagers made, miscalculations and potential fallout which may be worth dwelling on. This is especially true if you accept Wretchard's core thesis that Hezbollah has made a series of strategic and tactical errors; that Israel is beginning to capitalize on those errors to the detriment and perhaps ultimate defeat of Hezbollah; and that Israel has been given time and space by the US and the relevant international community to complete the mission. I would urge you to read it all.

If you read up on the history of the Falklands War, you may be struck by some interesting, though imperfect, parallels:

Legitimacy and External Enemies

1) Argentina was not at the time a democratically led country. Political control had been seized by a military junta in 1975 and the current reigning General in 1982 was a fellow named Galtieri. He was under domestic and international pressure to liberalize the country and improve the economic fortunes of Argentines. As the leader of an illegitimate government, Galtieri needed and sought external enemies and objects to stoke nationalist fervor and generate legitimacy. In Argentina, the nationalist object of choice was the Malvinas Islands, a disputed group of islands known to their British steward as the Falklands.

2) Lebanon's government has taken strides towards legitimacy as reflected in the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops. But the Lebanese government remains illegitimate in the sense that it fails to have a monopoly on the force of arms. Hezbollah military dominance of Lebanon, and therefore its effective ability to dominate the conduct of foreign affairs and project power, make it the de facto military ruler of Lebanon until disarmed. Hezbollah derives its sole source of legitimacy from its avowed goal to destroy Israel and associated with this is its goal of projecting its fascistic, pan-Islamic vision.

The Miscalculations

3) Fueled by the Malvinas objective, its militaristic nationalism and its need for legitimacy, Galtieri landed on and assumed possession of the Malvinas. He calculated that the islands were a worthless possession to Britain; too far away to be worth the investment in treasure and people with which to bother; that Thatcher was perhaps too new to the job (we won't speculate on his sense for the strength female leadership) to muster sufficient political support in the British democracy to go to war; that the US would at worst be neutral in the war, and may even offer support and protection for Argentina viz. the Monroe Doctrine. Galtieri thought he was taking relatively little risk for a big nationalist payoff, especially for a military leader.

4) Nasrallah, fueled by a desire for greater political legitimacy within Lebanon, launched a crossborder raid to seize Israeli soldiers, of which the ostensible objective was to secure the release of a significant number of Lebanese prisoners. Nasrallah felt compelled to prove his political and military worth to Lebanon in a world in which Lebanon was under pressure to disarm Hezbollah. Nasrallah's long term objective was to consolidate his military power with complete political legitimacy. By delivering Lebanese from Israeli prisons, Nasrallah intended to defend his military presence and secure his political future. The history of Israeli responses, even under the mighty Sharon, had been to swap prisoners after a modest reprisal, not launch a massive assault. And even under these limited circumstances, international condemnation was heaped on Israel and cease fires were forced upon it. Israel had negotiated with terrorists because the US and the international community forced it to.

The Result

5) Britain launched a full scale military assault to reclaim the Malvinas. The US was nominally neutral and ultimately supportive of Britain, blocking UN action aimed at cease fire and negotiation. Though suffering losses (a ship sunk ironically by a French exocet missile -- sound a little familiar?), Britain defeated the Argentines and reclaimed the Falklands.

Military governments don't launch nationalist wars, lose and retain power. If the army can't win a war, it certainly can't run the government. Argentina's military junta collapsed shortly thereafter and the government of Argentina hasn't posed a threat to its domestic population or foreign governments since then (other than via utter economic mismanagement).

6) This bit relies on Wretchard's wonderful speculation (and my wishful thinking). If Wretchard is correct, and Hezbollah has elected to stand and fight the IDF from fixed positions as a proper Army, the IDF will defeat Hezbollah. It will come at a grave cost in Israeli life, but if Israel is committed through ground action to defeating Hezbollah (and it seems to be), and Hezbollah does not elect to run, the IDF will win. Since Hezbollah derives its standing from "the fight" with Israel, it is difficult for them to run, even if it preserves their lives, it may not preserve their legitimacy.

The consequences of Hezbollah's military defeat by the IDF, should it be completed, will be dramatic -- the Shi'ite Islamist military capacity to dominate Lebanon will be gone. Lebanon will now be free to build on its Cedar Revolution against Syria and consolidate its democracy, in all likelihood without a Civil War (since Hezbollah would have been disabled militarily).

Let's hope these parallels aren't mere speculation, and we can look forward to a Lebanon sans a militarized Hezbollah.


By Blogger d_Brit, at Thu Jul 27, 05:32:00 PM:

The comparitive analysis between the two wars is fine but limited in its applicability. 'Logistics' is the difference.

Argentina did not have the military capability to continue the conflict once it lost its military conrol of the Falklands. Iran will continue to fund with money and arms Hamas, Hezbollah and others as well.

But most importantly, Lebanon is a side stage. It is meant to 'buy' time for the Iranians as they pursue Nuclear capability. Iran, nor the other ME Nations inclined to fight Israel can never hope to defeat Israel through conventional means. They know this and so Hezbollah and Hamas are a 'feint' in the larger Islamic strategy.

Even if Hezbollah maintains control in Lebanon, in the larger scheme of things, they will remain, at most an 'irritant' for Israel.

If Israel completely defeats Hezbollah and Lebanon attains full independence, the Iranians and Syrians will still 'find a way' to harass Israel.

As example, by covertly overthrowing the Hasemite dynasty in Jordan. Jordan, as everyone knows, is the 'true' nation of Palestine. For a number of reasons, the various 'players' in the region 'prefer' that the 'moderate' government of Jordan remain in power, but a determined Iran could overturn that equation.

In any case, Iran has clearly decided to up the 'ante'. Lebanon was intentional and Israel's escalation of the conflict into a small scale war is playing right into Iran's plans. As long as israel doesn't attack Syria, this is just another in the long line of hollow Israeli 'victories'. Israel's Olmert is NOT the man to lead Israel to a decisive finale with militant Isalm.

Once Iran acquires the bomb, everything changes and Iran is elevated to Alpha-male status in Islam. Europe and the UN will then raise appeasement to a new art form. Options for importation and support of democracy by the US will become greatly curtailed. Opec will become a proxy for Iranian economic foreign policy. Pressure and strident calls for 'diplomacy and negotiation' will greatly increase in the US as well. US pacifist's who balk at conventional war will have no stomach whatsoever for nuclear confrontation with Iranian madmen.

All of this will be used by an Iranian-directed Islam to increase the overt and covert war upon the west.

Russia and China will continue to play their 'cards' in the geopolitical 'Chess' match being waged as this is written. Undermining US efforts in the UN, all part of a larger geopolitical strategy, masquerading as 'disagreement' thier low-scale covert 'war' upon the west. Russia and China are subtly 'using' Islam to defeat the West, counting on their own ability to overcome Islam once it has done its job.

Given the logistical and technological advantages they enjoy over Islamic nations and a ruthlessness that the west cannot begin to match, their prospects for eventual success are excellent.

History may well record that Tehran, Mecca and much of the ME was turned into a 'sea of glass' in the 21st century. But that it was Russia, not the US who decisively defeated Islam.  

By Blogger J.Fred, at Thu Jul 27, 06:49:00 PM:

Whatever happenend to the phrase 'speculation alert'?

Below is an IF'y question, my apologies if it is bad form to re-cross-waddever-post it [it was first a comment to Neo-Neocon's article about M. Totten's speculations regarding Lebanon and then a comment to Totten's article].

Neo-Neocon: Disarming Hezbollah: either way, the punishment is war

Totten: Lebanon’s Premature Liberalism

My IF'y Question:
Assuming most/all non-Hizballah political figures--pro-Syrians included--remain on the scene, then...

IF Hizballah's military is crushed,
- AND -
IF Syria is crippled (destroy air force and tanks),
- AND -
IF Turkey, et al, interdict Iranian arms shipments by air,
- AND -
IF the Bekaa Valley is under some plausibly imaginable counter-Syrian Lebanese National Army control...

...would Lebanese pluralism & democracy have a chance?  

By Anonymous larwyn, at Thu Jul 27, 09:56:00 PM:

Posted the link to Belmont club earlier on JOM with thought that I see a lot of truth in Wretchard's post.

The Israelis are playing a great psych game and luring Hez in. We know they love "the strong horse". Israelis are comming out of battle telling of the "strong good brave fighting Hezzes".

Now had the IDF gone in with 20,000 troops, dreams of virgins notwithstanding, many of the brave fighters would have fled north.

Instead, students from Iran are getting on buses to go and help out.

I expect the Israelis to continue with their "praise" of the Hezzie seasoned fighters.

"Bring us your brave and we grant them their dream"  

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