Iran and Hezbollah share a unifying objective: the complete elimination of the State of Israel. Both know they are incapable of achieving this goal in the near-term and using conventional means. No direct, prolonged confrontation with Israel and its big ally, the US, could be successful. So they have chosen a long term strategy that would make the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, proud.
The Long-Term Approach
Sun Tzu's The Art of War is an ancient handbook of philosophy and war studied in war colleges and business schools alike. Sun Tzu espouses the long-term approach and frequently favors going around and outsmarting one's enemy rather than relying upon direct confrontation.
"A general that fights a hundred battles and wins a hundred battles in not a great general. The great general is one who finds a way to win without fighting a single battle," Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War.
"What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy; Next best is to disrupt his alliances; The next best is to attack his army. The worst policy is to attack cities. Attack cities only when there is no alternative."
During July, Hezbollah seems to have deviated from the long term strategy. Or maybe they just provoked Israel into a confrontation they didn't predict. Shooting rockets into cities is not going to destroy Israel and it can even cause the wedges built over years to show signs of deterioration as Hezbollah and Iran's allies witness more innocent civilian deaths.
So now Hezbollah, facing an incursion into its territory by a superior conventional force, the army of Israel, plus the staggering impact of theIsraeli Air Force, Hezbollah must fall back, re-group and return to its long-term wedge tactic and its ultimate Sun Tzuian strategy in hopes it can ultimately isolate and destroy its enemy.
In any event, Hezbollah and Iran have shown, over the last few years, that they know how to keep to their Sun Tzu-like script of a long-term effort. They have become adept at getting wedges between allies, but it is unclear to me how they can possibly destroy Israel, especially given the long historic alliance with the US.
For Hezbollah, Survival May be a Win
Previous Israeli occupations of Southern Lebanon did not destroy Hezbollah. If Hezbollah can survive the current Israeli incursion, and reconstitute itself in southern Lebanon without inciting the world to eliminate it entirely, Hezbollah can live to fight another day.
Undoubtedly, if they survive, Hezbollah will return to its long range wedge tactics.
People like me became intensely interested students of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf region and Iran and Iraq in particular. Like many others, I first went to the region in service aboard a U.S. Navy warship before the Iran-Iraq war erupted (1978). But I went back frequently, including before, during, and after the Hostage Crisis (1979), the "Tanker War"(1984-1987), "Desert Shield," "Desert Storm" (1991), and "Iraqi Freedom" (2003 to present). A generation or more of U.S. Naval Officers are familiar with the waters and politics of Iran and Iraq, and now a generation or more of U.S. Army and Marine Corps men and women are learning more than they ever wanted to know about Iran and Hezbollah.