This column was sent to the eXile on July 23rd
July in Fresno, and yet I'm happy. In a mean way, the only way I know. For once I don't care how hot and miserable it is, because I've got something waiting for me at home: AC and CNN. God, I love watching CNN right now. Watching that needlenose whiner Anderson Cooper, trying not to state the obvious: Hezbollah is not only winning every round of this fight, but it was bound to win from the start. Get Jane Fonda out in the streets again, spray some pain relief on her saggy old throat, stuff a bullhorn in her liver-spotted hand and have her sing out: "Who needs Ho Chi Minh/Hezbollah is gonna win!"
The rest of you idiots actually seem to take Cooper seriously when he talks about how the IDF is going to "expel Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon." Christ, Hezbollah IS Southern Lebanon. You might as well try to expel ants.
I said in a column 16 months ago that Lebanon was due for a slow but unstoppable warming trend, finishing up with a hot war.
Like I said in that column, we're not dealing with a few bad apples or bad luck. We're dealing with demographics, and demographics has no more mercy than a glacier. For a hundred years Lebanon has been shifting from a Maronite-Christian country with a bunch of non-Christian minorities (the Druze -- my personal favorites, the Sunni, the Shia) to a Muslim country with a Christian minority that's trying to emigrate as fast as it can fake up its resume for Uncle Sam's Migras. That part of the war is over, and Islam won. All that's left to see now is which Islam ends up in power: the Shia, with Syria and Iran backing them, or the Sunni, who have the backing of...well, nobody, actually.
Add in a couple of real important facts nobody ever mentions on CNN -- birthrate and morale. The Shia, who cluster in the slums of S and E Beirut and in the rural south of Lebanon, have the highest birthrate in Lebanon and have always been the poorest, most death-hungry people around. That's the stuff you make great soldiers from.
And Hezbollah has great soldiers. That's one reason I can't help liking them. They're some of the most underrated soldiers on earth facing what I consider the most overrated military force on earth, the IDF. The Israelis have been coasting on their reputation for a long time, but way back in Gulf War I it was clear they made their record like a Don King fighter, padding their Win column against a bunch of bums. When I saw those pitiful Arab "soldiers" crawling toward US camera crews on their hands and knees to surrender, the first thing that went through my head was, "Whoa, so that's the kind of opponent the Israelis have been showboating against? Well Hell, my high school marching band could've beaten those Arab chickenshits!"
I'm not alone in that conclusion either. One of the top US commanders in GW I called the IDF "a bunch of arrogant pricks who wouldn't last ten minutes on a European battlefield." Well, that bit about a "European battlefield" is another sad case of our NATO obsession, but the point is, the IDF doesn't deserve its rep. It did once, back in 1948 and during Suez, when it was manned by double-tough survivors of the European Jews who were determined to show up the book-nerd stereotype by kicking ass from Haifa to Damascus. Those dudes were truly tough.
A Merkava nose dive
But we're talking demographics again, dude. Passage of time, plus difference in birthrate, means that by now the IDF has a thin, real thin, crust of Ashkenazi brains'n'brawn on top and a bunch of flabby mama's boys under them. See, those whitleather-tough survivors wasted their genes on the whole socialist kibbutz commune experiment, had a kid or two, or none. Their kids are old now. Meanwhile, Israel admitted every loser from Russia or Ukraine or Yemen who could claim a grandpa who liked carp or a grandma who carried the overprotective gene or whatever, anything that could make them look Jewish. Half of them were just lying to get out of their native Hellholes, and none of them were willing to die for Israel the way that kick-ass first generation was. Look at the news pictures up close, or just look at the pictures of that schmuck who got kidnapped in Gaza, Shalit, and you'll see what I mean: the weak and the freeloaders outbred the strong. Hell, that loser's name says it plain enough. What kind of soldier would anybody with the same name as that loudmouth ugly prick Gene Shalit be?
As long as the IDF was beating up on Hamas down in Gaza, it could hide its weakness most of the time. Not all of the time -- pretty sloppy, letting Hamas commandos tunnel right into that base, blast a tank and kidnap poor baby Shalit right while he was thinking up his next capsule review. Still, except for the occasional slip, the IDF was safe in its F-16s and Merkavas, facing Pals with nothing but rifles and old RPGs. It's easy to look tough rolling through refugee camps in the world's most heavily armored tank.
But as you may recall, those tanks got a real different reception when they chased Hezbollah's raiding party back into Lebanon after the Hezzies killed three IDF soldiers and kidnapped another two. The IDF mid-ranking commanders had to act fast because the Gaza command was taking heat for not pursuing Shalit's kidnappers fast enough. So they shouted, "Charge!" and the first Merkava steamed over the border.
Guess how far it got. Ten meters. Ten goddamn meters. Then KABOOM! A Hezbollah mine or shaped charge turned it into a very expensive oven, with four crew killed. Another IDF soldier died trying to rescue them. So within a few minutes the IDF had lost eight men. As far as I know, Hezbollah's losses were zero.
It was a good plot twist: one minute the IDF is stomping around Gaza blasting amateurs, when something taps it on the shoulder, and there's Hezbollah, looking like Godzilla in a headscarf. Pretty funny moment, something almost Abbot & Costello about it.
No army enjoys getting invited to a second front just when it was starting to enjoy itself on the first one. Even the Wehrmacht rank and file was bummed when they heard they were getting shipped from the beaches of the Mediterranean to Russia. And the IDF was no happier when they realized they had to quit using Gaza as a speed bag to spar with an enemy that could kill eight IDF guys in a few seconds.
Casualties. That's the key here. Every war, every army has a different population base, different demographics, and a different take on casualties. Israel's biggest weakness has always been that it hates to take casualties. You can see that in their famous prisoner exchanges, giving away hundreds of Islamic prisoners to get back one IDF guy, or in one case just the bodies of a couple of dead IDF guys. You can see it in the design of the Merkava -- a brilliant design, one that gives infantry the full protection of MBT armor, but also an indication that this army is terrified its guys might get hurt.
Compare that to the Hezbollah attitude to death, which is basically extreme eagerness. Death? Hell yes, can I have seconds? The sooner the better! I've talked about the Shia and their whole Gimme Martyrdom deal before.
Like I said in that column, killing Shi'ites a few at a time is pointless:
They have a huge death wish, so naturally their holiest places are tombs. That's why Shi'ites make that pilgrimage to Karbala, to visit the tomb of Husain. Shi'ites commemorate Husain getting himself sliced and diced for ten days every year, slashing themselves with knives and bashing themselves with chains to celebrate that glorious defeat. Ayatollah Khomeini, the biggest Shi'ite hero of the 20th century, used to preach "Every day is the anniversary of the battle, and every place is Karbala." The inspirational message was: wherever you are, go get yourself massacred. What are you doing sitting around breathing? Why ain't you out there getting slaughtered, you lazy godless bum?
And these are the people we're picking off one by one, then bragging about body counts. Still wonder why the war's going so badly?
The way Israel is conducting the war right now is the worst of both worlds: it's too bloody and not bloody enough at the same time. Give me a second to explain what I mean by that. At the moment that skinny nasal-voiced jerk Anderson Cooper is saying Israel's killed about 320 Lebanese, vs. 36 Israelis dead. Now actually that's a perfectly standard count for asymmetrical warfare; the technologically superior force usually kills about ten of the guerrillas for every one of its own losses. But in PR terms, this war has been a disaster for Israel, a can't win scenario. Just try this experiment: watch CNN with the sound off for a few minutes. Without that non-stop pro-Israel commentary, you'll see what the whole world outside the US sees: non-stop video feed of terrified Lebanese civvies fleeing in terror, crying on camera, hugging their bloodied-up kids. Then there's a shot of the IDF zooming around in their Merkavas and US-supplied SP 155mms, blasting dry hills or doing dirt donuts on some local's wrecked house. Ask yourself this question:
WHAT'S MISSING FROM THIS PICTURE?
It'll come to you after a minute: you never, ever see an armed Hezbollah fighter. They're there, all right. You better believe it. They've killed at least 20 IDF troops, and they're the real reason, the only reason, the IDF isn't invading all-out: because those Hezbollah apprentice martyrs are dug in, waiting and hoping and praying for the IDF to steam into the kill zones they've been polishing since Israel quit Lebanon in 2000.
But you never see them on TV. You think that's an accident? No, fellas, that's brains is what that is. Nasrullah may look like a fat social studies teacher who needs a shave, but you don't claw your way to the top of a bloody world like that one without brains. The men who run Hezbollah attacked because they finally figured out that they literally cannot lose. The IDF can never expel Hezbollah from South Lebanon, because it's a genuine mass movement, as committed and crazy at the roots as at the top. (As opposed to Arafat's PLO, which they could and did expel from Lebanon because it was topheavy, corrupt and cowardly.) If Israel comes down hard on the Lebanese, another generation learns to hate the Jews down south and dream of bloody revenge. If Israel holds off, then Hezbollah becomes the one victorious Arab/Muslim force in the world, darling of every little nine-year-old Jihadi in Jakarta and Khartoum. If Israel retaliates by blasting every target of value in Lebanon, every TV tower and shopping mall and freeway...well, that's the beauty of the plan: the Shia are the poorest of the poor. They don't own any of that shit anyway. They sit back and laugh watching their neighbors' stuff that they've envied all their lives get blown away -- and it's the Israelis who get the blame.
So call'em crazy if it makes you feel better, but don't call'em stupid. Better yet, get used to calling'em "Sir."