Turning the Arab Street

The NYTimes describes the prevailing swing in Arab sentiment:
At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.

Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.
Surprise, surprise - it's not good news. I love the line about being a "folk hero," in particular. Oy.

As Fareed Zakaria said on This Week, with the first five bombs everyone blames the one that started the fight, but with the five hundredth bomb people rapidly start blaming the people dropping the bombs. This is the beginning of the Helsinki-esque effect that guerrillas inspire. Through communal punishment everyone on the recieving end starts to feel like they're on the same side, the support base for the insurgencey grows, and the insurgents are emboldened. Eventually, while acting on their "Let's Knock Down Apartment Buildings" strategy, the Israelis are likely to hit a particularly unfortunate target, and then you'll see an even larger sentiment swing.

Hezbollah is not the small movement it was when Israel first engaged them. At this point they have had years to stockpile munitions and fortify positions. One of the worst case outcomes would be for the Hezbos (Rush Limbaugh's term) to fight and die against the Israelis, but still survive as a viable military and political force. Then Nasrallah would be more an epic hero than a folk hero, and Hezbollah and Iran would be the decisive victors. Note that I didn't say that Hezbollah had to win even a single military engagement - they merely need to survive while looking brave in the face of the "Zionist aggressors" and they win.

No comments: