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Monday, July 31, 2006

Three more asymmetries

I've recently posted about the asymmetry in international law where terrorist organizations have no incentive to follow the law while states do. I also posted on the asymmetry of tactics when one party in a conflict has an interest in seeing its own civilians die. In addition, I posted about the asymmetry of outside parties treating a terrorist organization and a state "evenhandedly."

These are not small advantages in a war. When one party has its hands tied behind its back because of legal and moral constraints while the other is free to do whatever barbaric acts it pleases, it becomes far more difficult for the moral party to truly win.

There are more asymmetries that Hezbollah takes to full advantage:
  • Hezbollah lies while Israel tells the truth. Since the war began we have seen Hezbollah consistently lie - about its supposed destruction of many Israeli tanks, about how only a tiny number of terrorists have been killed, about how they do not shoot from mosques. We have seen Hezbollah stage demonstrations and ambulance scenes for TV cameras. And there is more and more evidence that the Qana tragedy may have been the result of Hezbollah actions - and maybe even Hezbollah planning. Or at the very least, a carefully choreographed manipulation of facts by Hezbollah.

    On the other hand, it takes Israel hours or days to research and disseminate the truth to counter terrorist lies, and by the time they can accurately show the facts, the world has already passed judgment.

    There is literally nothing that can be done to fix this, although the world media is complicit in uncritically reporting clearly staged events and statements from people who have a track record of lying. Until the press acts more responsibly we have a clear disadvantage to those who care about the truth.

  • The definition of victory. While Israel has been rightly criticized over not being clear as to its objectives, Hezbollah merely needs to survive to be able to declare victory. So a core group of Hezbollah fighters who stay in bunkers and who don't even bother to fight can emerge after the war as heroes - which has huge geopolitical implications, pushing the balance of power in the Middle East towards Iran and Syria.

    A prizefight where one boxer only has to live to be declared the winner is a difficult fight to win.

  • Susceptibility to pressure. Israel, as a member of Western civilization, has to worry to some extent about what the world thinks. It has to worry about sanctions and calls for a cease fire and about public opinion, both from without and within.

    Hezbollah, on the other hand, has the full support of rogue terror states. Immoral acts do not pressure Hezbollah to moderate - quite the opposite. In the moral universe they inhabit, terror is rewarded and co-existence with Israel is regarded as the biggest evil. The only pressure that may have worked would have been from the Lebanese, but Hezbollah has effectively used its media manipulation and human shields to ensure that they support the terrorists.
Putting these together, and we have a war like no other, that will almost undoubtedly result in Iran being strengthened as the center of the Islamic world, poised to become a superpower.

And the West is largely clueless as to the importance of this war.

UPDATE: Welcome to those coming from the Huffington Post and AlterNet, but unfortunately I do not live in Israel.