Posted by: sean | October 7, 2008

About deterrence

Abu Muqawama has some thoughts about the recent Israeli announcement:

[T]he 2006 war — as bad as it was — could have been much, much worse. People know that. And from that perspective, this rhetoric coming out of Israel is pure genius. Because the worry after the last war was that Israel had lost its deterrence capability. But rhetoric like this — and its reception in Beirut — proves that it has not. If Hizballah and its Lebanese allies really do believe that Israel will level the Dahiyeh in the event of a new war, that’s great news for Israel because it might deter Hizballah from launching any kind of foolish cross-border raids.

On the other hand, if Israel actually implemented this doctrine in an actual shooting war, that would be beyond stupid.

As I said in comments on the Abu Muqawama site, I obviously can’t speak as to what the Hezbollah cadres think about this latest announcement, but I can relay what I’ve heard in cabs, on the street and from friends here in Beirut.

Overwhelmingly, it seems that this pretty much reinforces the image that most people have of Israelis in the first place. Furthermore, I remember in 2006 that people were initially really mad at Hezbollah for sparking another war, but as soon as it became clear that Israel was attacking Lebanon more or less indiscriminately, people fell in line behind Hezbollah.

Likewise, when Israel makes statements like this, everyone I know becomes immediately more aggressive, sounding a little like Bush: “Bring it on!”

All that to say that I’m not sure the distinction he’s making between announcing and implementing attacks on civilian targets is all that important. So while this might have a deterrent effect on Hezbollah itself (and even this, I’m not convinced about), it certainly won’t have a deterrent effect on general attitudes of the Lebanese, and certainly Hezbollah’s supporters.

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