They might've blown the hell out of Lebanon, but it looks like Israel lost the war.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in an interview with Le Monde today that the mission of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon would not include disarming Hizbollah by force.
"We never thought a purely military solution could resolve the problem of Hizbollah. We are agreed on the goal, the disarmament, but for us the means are purely political."
Compare this to what Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, said the other night:
"The U.N. force has been in there, has been absolutely incapable . . . it has not even been tasked with trying to remove arms from Hezbollah . . . The president's not going to sign on to anything that isn't going to push Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. That's going to prevent it from being a state within a state, is going to put an end to Hezbollah's ability to fire rockets into Israel, and for that matter, to hold hostages of everybody in southern Lebanon by putting rockets in their homes and radars on the rooftops."
Of course, this is simply not true. The president will sign off on the ceasefire, but once the ceasefire goes into effect and the Lebanese Army moves into South Lebanon, and refugees return, he will be unable to deliver on such statements, short of forcing Israel to give Lebanon's land back.
This basically means that either Israel and/or the US will have to eat a whole lotta crow, or Israel will be "forced" to invade Lebanon yet again. Israel may, in turn, lash out senselessly in some way and commit yet another strategic blunder in order to try to cover up any sign of weakness.
As for the combat itself, Israel has been losing a lot of troops on the battlefield, with approximately 17 killed and 50 wounded today alone.Sure, Hezbollah are dying too, but there is very little political effect within Lebanon to Hezbollah troops dying, which can't be said about Israel's response to their losses.
When the ceasefire goes into effect, Israel will find itself having to retreat from Lebanon again, leaving video of celebrating Hezbollah fighters in their wake. Rather than being isolated, Nasrallah will be seen as a hero by many, both inside and outside of Lebanon..
The UN will try -- and fail -- to prevent Hezbollah from rearming, and Iran will gain influence in Lebanon by helping them to rebuild... unless, of course, the US pick up the bill, and pay for the damage that their bombs caused.
Israel, of course, won't accept responsibility for the cost of rebuilding Lebanon, and will have to deal with the significant impact of the war on their own economy. There will be considerable criticism of their government by their own people, and even more criticism when they discover that they'll have to give Lebanon land if they want Hezbollah to disarm... because it's not going to happen any other way..
Hezbollah's relative success on the battlefield will be seen as evidence that they are the superstar of Islamic resistance movements, and the lessons learned by Hezbollah will find their way to Hamas, and to paramilitary groups within Iraq, such as those led by Moqtada al-Sadr, who has shown considerable support for Hezbollah over the past few weeks. This will, in turn, result in US soldiers dying in Iraq, as Iran explores the idea of using Iraq as a way to keep the US busy.
And, of course, this war significantly increases the worldwide risk for terrorist attacks on US and Israeli civilians.
Given the fact that Israel gave Hezbollah a significant strategic victory by invading, yet absolutely failing to destroy them, probably the best way for them to recover is basically to ink a permanent land-for-peace deal with Hezbollah, in exchange for disarmament. The fact that Hezbollah will view it as a victory might just be a good thing, because if they think they're getting a good deal, they *just* might keep it and not stir up any additional ruckus.
There's a story about a group of former warriors -- I don't remember which ones, but perhaps one of you do? -- and how they were effectively put out of business. When they became a political liability, rather than hunting them down, they were treated like heroes, given money, houses, wives, and special treatment. Within a few years, all that success, comfort, and domestic living made them soft, and they never were a problem again. Something like that might need to happen to the leaders of Hezbollah, before they decide to leave Israel alone.