The Corner

Re: Nasrallah and Spin

This passage from David Galula’s treatise on insurgency war is relevant to J-Pod’s earlier post. Propaganda and spin is always easier for an insurgent force:

“The asymmetrical situation has important effects on propaganda. The insurgent, having no responsibility, is free to use every trick; if necessary, he can lie, cheat, exaggerate. He is not obliged to prove; he is judged by what he promises, not by what he does. Consequently, propaganda is a powerful weapon for him. With no positive policy but with good propaganda, the insurgent may still win.

The counterinsurgent is tied to his responsibilities and to his past, and for him, facts speak louder than works. He is judged on what he does, not on what he says. If he lies, cheats, exaggerates, and does not prove, he may achieve some temporary successes, but at the price of being discredited for good. And he cannot cheat much unless his political structures are monolithic, for the legitimate opposition in his own camp would soon disclose his every psychological maneuver. For him, propaganda can be no more than a secondary weapon, valuable only if intended to inform and not to fool. A counterinsurgent can seldom cover bad or nonexistent policy with propaganda. “

UPDATE:

E-mail from a Stuttafordite:

Hey Rich,

Thanks for posting that quote.  It’s true that propaganda is easier for the insurgent, but in addition to that and more importantly victory is also easier.  This should lead to a more sober assessment by the counter-insurgent of the prospect for success before taking dramatic actions such as those Israel has taken.  Israel and its supporters established from the beginning expansive and hard to achieve goals in this round of fighting with Hezbollah whereas Hezbollah didn’t establish any.  Therefore, if nothing changes (which is looking more and more likely, as you have even begun to point out [For the record: I still think it’s possible at least to get Hezbollah off the border –R.L.]) Hezbollah doesn’t just score a propaganda victory, they score a real victory.  They achieve their goals, and Israel fails (and kills a lot of people doing so, which sad fact I hope never gets lost in the discussion of tactics and strategy and who hit who first). 

One thing I think is interesting about this is that Hezbollah is actually getting more than they bargained for, and they are happy about it!  When a spokesman for them said that they did not anticipate this kind of response from Israel some people wondered if they were regretting their initial provocation.  I think the truth is that what they are getting is a bigger victory than they had any reason to expect based on past conflicts with Israel, and they have Israel to thank for it.  Hezbollah needs a stage to be relevant, and Israel took their small-town, outdoor ampitheater and turned it into the JFK Center.  Now the PM of Lebanon, product of the Cedar Revolution, anti-Syria and anti-Hezbollah, is speaking well of Hezbollah, bitterly criticizing Israel (as well he should, his country is in ruins) and embarrassing the US Secretary of State by telling her she isn’t wanted in Beirut without more than she has to offer.  Nasrallah et al are kneeling on their prayer rugs five times a day thankful for Israel flying off the handle, and thankful for the United States for so predictably taking the plunge with it. 

Andrew is right, this has been a disaster for Israel, for the United States, and for Lebanon.  It didn’t need to be this way, but for some reason people couldn’t see that destroying a country was not going to succeed in galvanizing that country against and marginalizing a group that had kidnapped a couple of soldiers in a cross-border raid.  With apologies to Jonah, we had better think of another way of dealing with Hezbollah other than killing them because they aren’t dying.  Not because I’m a liberal, but because I want this to be solved.  Failure that follows conservative principles is still failure, and in a fight like this that should be unacceptable to everybody.

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