Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dangerous overconfidence

The situation is alarming; there is little doubt about that. But every time I have a conversation with supporter of Hezbollah or its allies they have the same confident reaction: There will be no civil war.

I usual ask why, and I receive different replies, most of them unconvincing, like “the situation is not that dire, no one wants a civil war”, or the usual who against whom. If I insist on finding out the true reason, my interlocutor usually explains that there will be no civil war because no can stand against Hezbollah, and if the party of God really wanted to start a war it will be over in 5 minutes…

Overconfidence is very dangerous, especially in these situations. In this case it is overconfidence, because Nassrallah or at least his supporters are (once again) making the same mistakes Israel made in the last war: being overconfident of their own strengthen and underestimating their enemy.

Let me elaborate, this overconfidence of Hezbollah’s power compared to the rest of the Lebanese faction (potential military) strength stems from several factors: Hezbollah’s tactics, arms and experience.

Concerning the tactics aspect, Hezbollah (using guerilla warfare tactics and organization with modern arms) excels in a war against a regular army. However, against another guerilla these advantages will disappear, and civil wars are by definition fought between guerillas…

The same caveat also applies to the arm advantage. And anyways there are many “good doers” in the world, who would be more than happy to provide all Lebanese factions with any weapons they want overnight.

Regarding the experience aspect, I agree this is an advantage, but that factor does not significantly change the balance of power; at least not to the point that Hezbollah will be able to wrap up the battle in a few days of weeks. Throughout history many factions embarked on a civil war claiming their ability to rapidly reach conclusion, finding themselves years later still stuck in the same swap of death. (the example of the Palestinian-Kamla Joumblatt-leftist Lebanese coalition who made this mistake in 1975)

Hezbollah overconfidence is dangerous because it is based on false assumption, and because it will render the opposition blind to many pitfalls and potential clashes that might arise from their constant protests and possible future escalations.

Finally, this whole deadlock will not end until both parties are convinced that their actions will definitely lead to a civil war. Until then both parties will keep on raising the stakes, hoping to ensure the highest political gain.
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