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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hezbollah admits a catastrophic intelligence failure 


Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said today that he did not expect his attack on Israel to lead to war:

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a TV interview aired Sunday that he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

Guerrillas from the Islamic militant group killed three Israeli soldiers and seized two more in a cross-border raid July 12, which sparked 34 days of fighting that ended with a cease-fire on Aug. 14.

"We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not," he said in an interview with Lebanon's New TV station.

This is not the first time a Hezbollah officer has claimed to have misjudged the Israeli reaction, although if Nasrallah has said as much before today I must have missed it. The more interesting question, from the perspective of a Westerner, is why he would say such a thing even if it were true? In this one statement, Nasrallah has admitted that he does not understand the enemy he has vowed to destroy, and that he is willing to risk massive destruction in Lebanon notwithstanding his ignorance. Is he not admitting an intelligence and managerial failure of the first order? Why would any Lebanese reading this confession trust Nasrallah to provide security? Has he not revealed himself to be incompetent at the very thing that he relies upon for his legitimacy?

Perhaps the worst part of Nasrallah's claim -- at least from the perspective of the average Lebanese -- is that he is in effect telling Israel that he cannot be deterred. If, after all, he completely misjudges the preparations and threats of his enemy, how can Israel presume that Nasrallah will react rationally to future threats to retaliate? If Israel cannot, in fact, rely on Nasrallah's ultimate rationality, then Israel must strike Hezbollah massively and preemptively. To do anything less would be folly.

Now, I am sure that Nasrallah thinks that in making this point he is scoring a propaganda point over Israel: "Look at what barbarians the Jews are -- nobody would have expected such a massive response!" Many people, including perhaps most journalists, academics and Europeans, will be taken in by this. But anybody who takes Nasrallah at his word has to be worried that Hezbollah's high command launched a war by mistake. The obvious implications for the region, and particularly Lebanon, are so scary that it is very strange that Nasrallah would admit this, even if he thinks it will make Israel look bad. It certainly doesn't make Hezbollah look good.

10 Comments:

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Aug 27, 09:32:00 PM:

"Perhaps the worst part of Nasrallah's claim -- at least from the perspective of the average Lebanese -- is that he is in effect telling Israel that he cannot be deterred. If, after all, he completely misjudges the preparations and threats of his enemy, how can Israel presume that Nasrallah will react rationally to future threats to retaliate?"

For one thing, he just got a 1st hand dose of what life could be like with a fairly restrained Israeli retaliation. He ought to harbor no illusions about what will happen if the Israeli beast is prodded again.

2nd, intelligence and rationality are not the same thing. One may be perfectly rational and still be obtuse. That is, obtuse subject X will respond in rational way A once he feels threatened, but it may take him longer to feel threatened because he's not bright enough to notice the threat before.  

By Blogger Luc, at Sun Aug 27, 09:36:00 PM:

It seems to me that he is saying:
“Look I am not responsible for all the damage since I did not want to provoke Israel; it is Israel that is at fault for reacting disproportionately.”
Do not forget that in their culture one can switch from being an arrogant bully to being the underdog and ask, and very likely receive, sympathy and commiseration from the crowd: the all were dealt a terrible hand by fate = no responsibility for Hezbollah.
If you lived among them you would no difficulty in understand this aspect of their character.  

By Blogger Final Historian, at Sun Aug 27, 09:46:00 PM:

"Perhaps the worst part of Nasrallah's claim -- at least from the perspective of the average Lebanese -- is that he is in effect telling Israel that he cannot be deterred. If, after all, he completely misjudges the preparations and threats of his enemy, how can Israel presume that Nasrallah will react rationally to future threats to retaliate? If Israel cannot, in fact, rely on Nasrallah's ultimate rationality, then Israel must strike Hezbollah massively and preemptively. To do anything less would be folly."

Well, I think you misunderstand the concept of rationality in politics TH. For a greater understanding of the subject, you can check out the wiki here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_choice_theory

The problem here was a lack of information on Nasrallah's part, not a lack of rational behavior. If he had known the result of his actions, he wouldn't have undertaken them. That is the hallmark of a rational choice.  

By Anonymous Purple Avenger, at Sun Aug 27, 10:07:00 PM:

The problem here was a lack of information on Nasrallah's part

That "information" about how Israel responds has been there since the Entebee raid. he just chose to ignore or discount it -- which means he is a very dangerous fool.

Perceptive patriotic Lebanese (or Hizb who lost friends and family) will recognize this severe lack of judgment and act accordingly to hasten him to his virgins.  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Sun Aug 27, 11:48:00 PM:

I won't pretend to know Nasrallah's thought processes. Perhaps he thought that hiding among civilians would insulate Hezbollah from retaliation. After all, a good number of people came to think that it should have.

Maybe the Israelis should consider embracing the concept of disproportionate response as a deterrent. Her enemies already exploit the idea, for the purpose of prisoner exchanges, that one Israeli soldier is worth many more of their own. Why shouldn't the logic extend to Israeli retaliation?

If he has learned nothing else, let's hope Nasrallah has learned that hiding among civilians does not confer immunity from retaliation. Let's also hope the Lebanese people at large take the complementary lesson that getting too cozy with Hezbollah may well come at a cost they have no power to control.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 28, 03:48:00 AM:

The only problem I have with this is trying to make sensible commentary reaction to anything he says is like trying to debate reuters photos.

If you start from a doubtful false premise, it is very hard to reach any reasonable structured conclusion that could reflect the physical reality.

Enjoyable to do, but like chinese food, it still leaves you a bit hungry.  

By Blogger K. Pablo, at Mon Aug 28, 08:57:00 AM:

Robert Fisk, writing on 16 July:

It now appears clear that the Hizbullah leadership - Nasrallah used to be the organisation's military commander in southern Lebanon - thought carefully through the effects of their border crossing, relying on the cruelty of Israel's response to quell any criticism of their action within Lebanon. They were right in their planning. The Israeli retaliation was even crueller than some Hizbullah leaders imagined, and the Lebanese quickly silenced all criticism of the guerrilla movement.

Hizbullah had presumed the Israelis would cross into Lebanon after the capture of the two soldiers and they blew up the first Israeli Merkava tank when it was only 35 feet inside the country. All four Israeli crewmen were killed and the Israeli army moved no further forward. The long-range Iranian-made missiles which later exploded on Haifa had been preceded only a few weeks ago by a pilotless Hizbullah drone aircraft which surveyed northern Israel and then returned to land in eastern Lebanon after taking photographs during its flight. These pictures not only suggested a flight path for Hizbollah's rockets to Haifa; they also identified Israel's top-secret military air traffic control centre in Miron.

The next attack - concealed by Israel's censors - was directed at this facility. Codenamed "Apollo", Israeli military scientists work deep inside mountain caves and bunkers at Miron, guarded by watchtowers, guard-dogs and barbed wire, watching all air traffic moving in and out of Beirut, Damascus, Amman and other Arab cities. The mountain is surmounted by clusters of antennae which Hizbollah quickly identified as a military tracking centre. Before they fired rockets at Haifa, they therefore sent a cluster of missiles towards Miron. The caves are untouchable but the targeting of such a secret location by Hizbullah deeply shocked Israel's military planners. The "centre of world terror" - or whatever they imagine Lebanon to be - could not only breach their frontier and capture their soldiers but attack the nerve-centre of the Israeli northern military command.
 

By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Mon Aug 28, 09:15:00 AM:

I think Naz is lying. He clearly meant to provoke a response. We can quibble about the degrees that he expected or did not expect.

I think the larger issue is that Hez is that might be facing some real political problems in Lebanon. Their actions were devestating for the country, and, rather than sucker Isreal into a massive defeat among the bunkers of southern Lebanon, Isreal inflicted massive damage on the country's infrastructure, and did a lot to degrade Hezbullah's capabilities.

After the cease fire was declared, Hezbellah declared victory, but the fact that Naz is now making these kinds of statements, that it was all some kind of mistake, indicates to me that not a lot of people in Lebanon think Hezbullah won very much.  

By Anonymous Mike, at Mon Aug 28, 11:38:00 AM:

You can take Nasrallah at three levels - and they are all realistic:
1) face value - the Israelis have been cheapening their deterrent edge. It's been a long time since Entebbe and Nasrallah may have good cause to think that Israel has grown soft morale-wise. Peace Now has been a major voice for quite a while.
2) speaking to the Europeans - look at those barbaric Israelis
3) speaking to the Lebanese - you guys are blaming us for this disaster, but it was an honest mistake.

Personally, I sure hope the message was #3. But I don't see any lack of rationality - which worries me more as Iran closes in on the Bomb.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Mon Aug 28, 02:02:00 PM:

The problem is what we consider insanity, they consider a way of life. If your entire culture is built on the false principle that Israel is the sole cause for Arabic poverty, corruption and anything bad in your society, and that anything done to hurt Israel, No Matter What The Consequences, is good, then you have a normal Islamic country. In a normal society, these people are called Sociopaths. In the Middle East, they are called Great Leaders.  

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