The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Monday, 22 March 2010

Hezbollah's strategic thinking

In this piece, Nicholas Noe analysis the strategic thinking of Hezbollah. After the percieved victory in the July War of 2006, Hezbollah and its secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are confident that the next military confrontation will lead to the destruction of Israel. This confidence brings Nasrallah to say that Hezbollah "craves war but we do not want it".

The proliferation of military technology enables weak states and organisations to challenge states far more powerful than themselves. By investing in anti-air, anti-ship, anti-satellite and cyber-war capabilities, those states and groups seek to restrict the freedom of movement of the superior armed forces. This access denial strategy could restrict the movement of dominant military powers to a point, where the military superiority becomes irrelevant, because the strike capabilities cannot be brought to action. The Chinese call this strategy the "assassin's mace" or shashaojian, where cyber attacks, missile barrages of supersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles and submarines deny potential aggressors access to the Chinese sphere of influence. Iran trains its navy in the swarm tactic, where dozens of small boats overwhelm the defence systems of enemy vessels by their sheer numbers. India just successfully test-fired the world's first super-sonic anti-ship cruise missile. And Hezbollah acquires sophisticated anti-tank and surface-to-surface missiles that challenge any Israeli military superiority.

In times of tight financial budgets, the development of protection-measures to undermine the access denial strategy could prove to be too expensive. In consequence, a superior military could not guarantee power projection capabilities any more. States will have to find other ways than military force alone to protect and enforce national interests. For Hezbollah, the consequence is that it perceives itself as equal to the Israeli armed forces and ready to engage them. And that means that there is no need for Hezbollah to carve in or accept any compromise but fight until their goals are achieved.


  1. Not too sure about the logic of your argumentation considering that Hezbollah is unable to properly muscle into Lebanon's political system and it is a dysfunctional state with a shattared central government and military. If 2006 was a victory for Hezbollah, not too sure was a loss would look like?! If one shakes the hive, they are bound to get stung ... certainly Israel's patience will run out and its self-restraint will vanish then Nasrallah can stand on the pile of dead he sacrificed for his private gain.

  2. As a matter of fact, Hezbollah holds 13 seats in the parliament and has one minister in the government. Hezbollah accepted being in the opposition and formed the March 8 coalition with other oppositional parties. Also, Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri declared in January that an attack on Hezbollah would be considered an attack on Lebanon.

    I agree that Hezbollah cannot muscle into Lebanon's political system, but they are definitively a part of it.

    It's debatable whether the outcome of the 2006 confrontation can be considered a victory. I'll write a post on it later, which will also talk about how a NATO victory in Afghanistan could look like.