Did Israel win in Lebanon after all?

Mark Helprin in the Claremont Review of Books argues that Israel won its war with Hezbollah. I post Helprin’s piece mostly for the purpose of presenting a point of view other than the one I have expressed several times. However, I have a few responses.
First, one of Helprin’s points is that past Israeli military efforts did not go as smoothly as is now remembered. He notes that even in 1967 the Israelis encountered stiff resistance in some areas and in 1973 Israel was almost destroyed. But in 1967 the resistance was decisively overcome, and in 1973 Israel was the victim of a sneak invasion. This time, there was no sneak invasion, and Israel was held at bay for an extended period because it didn’t send in a force large enough to sweep through south Lebanon.
Second, Helprin argues that it was unrealistic to expect the Israelis to destroy “an organically rooted terrorist organization” like Hezbollah. But it was not unrealistic to expect the Israelis to kill many more Hezbollah members and destroy much more Hezbollah infrastructure, as it almost surely would have done with a more forceful invasion. Helprin says that Hezbollah has shown only that “it can survive an Israeli campaign of small scale and limited and duration.” But it has also proved that it can send missiles deep into Israel (and presumably deeper and more lethally next time, as its Iranian-provided technology improves) and that Israel lacks the ability to stop these missile attacks. And it has raised questions as to whether Israel, even under bombardment, has the will to launch a campaign that is not small scale and of limited duration.
Helprin does not pretend that the Lebanese army or the international force will disarm Hezbollah. However, he contends that “Hezbollah must also deal with the possibility that these contingents, with the backing and encouragement of a naturally coalescing anti-Iranian front among most Arab states and Lebanon itself (in whose interest taming Hezbollah is paramount) may close down or heavily restrict arms traffic from Syria and the sea. . . .” But Israel must deal with the possibility (which I consider more likely) that this won’t happen.
With Hezbollah still in place, with Israel’s reputation for decisive military action diminished, with no reason to believe that Hezbollah will be disarmed, and with little reason to believe that it will be denied future arms shipments, I’m hard-pressed to see Israel as the victor.
Via Real Clear Politics

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