Friday, August 18, 2006

A Hezbollah Victory? The Chess Match Continues

Regular readers of my blog know that I fashion myself a student of Middle Eastern politics. I try to look not only at the individual events which unfold in the Middle East, but at the big picture, the broader implications of these events.  

The conflict between Hezbollah and Israel couldn’t have broader implications that may affect every aspect of life in the West. If this battle constitutes a victory by the Islamic world over the West, it could be a very important move in a long-term chess match that the West has not been wining of late.  Only by understanding the end game can we work to avoid a broader conflict between the West and Middle East.

The Goals of Islamic Extremist Leaders

Islamic extremists know that, for the most part, they are behind the West technologically.  If a war would occur, the West holds the military hardware to beat the Middle East time and again, or so the world believes.  But the world also knows that the Islamic nations have the power of both numbers and conviction, a dangerous combination if the massive Islamic population can be mobilized.  

Thus, the key for Islamic leaders is to mobilize this population against the West. This is no easy task. The leaders we are speaking of are extremists, but the populations they are trying to mobilize are, for the most part, more moderate.  Many of these people would prefer peace, and hold dear the same values that are shared by most believers in the Judeo-Christian ethic.  

Many, maybe most, want to avoid strife at all costs. But most of these people feel that Islamic people have been treated as second-class citizens for decades, maybe centuries, and this is the sentiment these leaders are trying to play upon.

Keys to Islamic Extremist Success

To mobilize this massive population, three hurdles must be overcome: first, the leader must raise the indignation of the general Muslim population; second, the Islamic people need to be convinced that the leader has the ability to take on the West; and third, the leader must be able to inflict total destruction of necessary.

The Leaders

At present, a few Muslim extremist leaders are attempting to further the conflict with the conflict with the West, in my opinion, most notably Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Basher al-Assad of Syria, and Osama bin Laden of Al-Qaeda.  There are other leaders in the Middle East who are also furthering this cause, as well as Islamic leaders throughout the world.  

As each goal stated above is, to any extent, accomplished, other Islamic leaders jump on the bandwagon.  This is a dangerous trend, but a trend we have witnessed of late.  The tipping occurs when more moderate regimes, like those in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt jump on the bandwagon as well.

Indignation of the Islamic People, and the Mohammed Cartoons

The first goal, the ability to raise the indignation of the general Islamic population, was proven during the Mohammed Cartoon riots. It has been shown many times over that while the issue is real and personal for many Islamic people, the timing of the riots was, in fact, contrived. I believe these were a test run for inciting a greater controversy down the road, and proof of the ability to mobilize the greater Muslim populations.

This was, in fact, the moving of a pawn to threaten a greater opponent piece.  Perhaps the danger was not so much the threat of the riots themselves, but proving that the greater Western piece was vulnerable to the Islamic pawn. However you look at it, it proved to the Muslim world that the Islamic people could be incited, en masse, against the West.

Military Superiority and South Lebanon

Until now, the second goal, proving the ability to beat the East in armed conflict, has been unobtainable.  In Iraq, the fundamentalist Islamic regime had been somewhat successful against the East, and that has raised Islamic hopes, but they have not successful enough to prove any real military superiority.

That changed with the apparent victory in South Lebanon.  The argument is being made in the media that Israel did win this conflict by pushing Hezbollah back and preventing missile attacks in Haifa, but that argument is weak at best. The US points to the use of the greater weaponry of Iran and Syria while Israel did not get military support from the West, but this falls on deaf ears in the Middle East.

As Hezbollah now moves quickly to rebuild the homes and lives of the South Lebanese people, they are also working to recapture the hearts of the Islamic people, showing they are not just about warfare, but can also be about a better quality of life.  Islam has just taken a major piece from the West, maybe a rook or knight.  And with such a win, confidence grows.


If the Islamic extremist leaders are able to win over some of the more moderate nations, the balance of power in the world will shift rapidly, and this is the big fear. Many thought these countries would rush to defend the innocent Lebanese people caught in the middle of the latest conflict, but these countries stayed put.  The big question is whether they will remain on the sidelines of this growing conflict.

The number of terrorist attempts has escalated of late, as the Islamic extremists try to fortify the view of military superiority over the West.  Iran is close, most experts say, to having a nuclear weapon, which would accomplish the third goal and even further instill confidence in the Islamic regimes.  And the Middle Eastern control of the oil supply has called into question the loyalty of Russia and China to the West.

There are many questions as to what would occur should Islamic extremists claim the role of the third world super-power. Certainly, the days of treating Muslims as second-class citizens may soon be over, and thankfully, regardless of whether Islam claims this role. But to prevent the type of Cold War mentality that dominated the 20th century, the West needs to examine the chess board, and begin predicting moves rather than reacting to them.

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Posted by Scottage at 8:34 AM / | |