Tuesday, August 15, 2006 Posted by: Michael Medved http://michaelmedved.townhall.com/blog/g/ff4d13d7-cad7-4d08-80b3-41408f68402a In response to the UN ceasefire in Lebanon, the standard media incantation seems to be, "both sides are claiming victory." But both sides, obviously can't be right about those claims. To reach an honest deterimination of who lost and who won the war in Lebanon, consider the announced war aims of the two combatants. Neither Hezbollah nor Israel proved shy or equivocal in articulating their goals in the conflict. The Hezbollah terrorists fought, as they've always fought, to bring about the destruction of Israel -- or the "Zionist entity," as they prefer to designate the Jewish state. While some 4,000 rockets struck Northern Israel and killed more than 50 civilians (including, it should be noted, a wildly disproportionate percentage of Israeli Arabs), no serious observer could claim that Israel today stands notably closer to liquidation. While tourism certainly suffered, the economic in general remained remarkably strong and the nation's morale never flagged, with overwhelming support for the war even in the face of well-deserved criticism of the way it was conducted. Moreover, Hezbollah will find it even harder to launch Israel-destroying attacks after the insertion of a formidable UN army (the first serious international force ever dispatched to the Middle East) with the explicit purpose of stopping future Hezbollah raids or missile attacks across the border with Israel. The terrorists may fire their guns in the air in celebration of their alleged "victory" (they actually seize any excuse whatever to fire their guns) but with one fourth of their fighting men dead, their headquarters and infrastructure decimated, their weapons stocks depleted or destroyed, a month of fighting left them futher from, not closer to, their goal of Israel's destruction. Their "triumph" in Lebanon smacks of the "victory" Al Qaeda claimed in Afghanistan-- yes, Osama and Zawahri (and Nasrallah) escaped to fight another day, but in the process they lost crucial assets and gave up important territory. Meanwhile, Israel's war aims remained distinctly more modest than Hezbollah's, and the ceasefire resolution actually brought the nation closer to their achievement. Yes, the Jewish state wanted to disarm if not destroy Hezbollah, and to free its two kidnapped soldiers, and the Army (because of poor strategic decisions from the Cabinet, particularly at the beginning of the war) achieved neither of these goals. But the broader purpose of the conflict was to create greater security for Northern Israel and to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for Hezbollah to launch random attacks, without consequences, whenever they chose to do so. The UN force headed for Southern Lebanon can't prevent those attacks with absolute assurance (after all, the international army will be led by the French) but the presence of blue helmets will insure that future Hezbollah strikes bring international consequences. The cease-fire specifically reserves for Israel the right to defend herself -- ruling out only "offensive military action." Moreover, the presence of 15,000 UN troops to stiffen an additional 15,000 Lebanese troops will make it all but unthinkable for Hezbollah's co-sponsor, Syria, to reoccupy their neighboring nation. In other words, while the war brings Hezbollah no closer to its cherished goal of wiping out Israel, it does bring Israel somewhat closer to its aim of providing more reliable security for the population of the North. If nothing else, it's vastly preferable to see a UN-Lebanese force along the northern border than to look at the bloodthirsty maniacs of Hezbollah, massed and dug in just steps away from Israeli soil. The claims of Hezbollah triumph, by the terrorists themselves and by some of Israel's well-meaning but deluded friends, only assist the Shiite fanatics in their desperate attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of a painful defeat.