Don’t be­lieve it when the me­dia say a war is lost

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - DEN­NIS PRAGER

Amer­ica has “lost” the war in Iraq pri­mar­ily be­cause most peo­ple be­lieve it has. And most peo­ple be­lieve it has be­cause the news me­dia have said so.

If this sounds bizarre, con­sider this: Why is it widely be­lieved that Is­rael lost its 2006 war against Hezbol­lah in Le­banon? The an­swer is es­sen­tially the same — peo­ple be­lieve it be­cause the me­dia said so. In fact, there is no ra­tio­nal case for ar­gu­ing that Is­rael lost its war against Hezbol­lah.

I have be­lieved that Is­rael won, or at least that Hezbol­lah lost, since the end of the war in 2006. I was con­vinced of this by Michael Young, the opin­ion ed­i­tor of the Le­banese news­pa­per the Daily Star. In an in­ter­view on my ra­dio talk show, he made the com­pelling case that Hezbol­lah had lost.

I was re­minded of this by a re­cent Thomas Fried­man col­umn. Echo­ing the Beirut ed­i­tor, the New York Times for­eign af­fairs colum­nist de­lin­eated six rea­sons why Hezbol­lah lost that war. In Mr. Fried­man’s words, they are:

1. “Mr. Nas­ral­lah (the head of Hezbol­lah) demon­strated a to­tal fail­ure to an­tic­i­pate Is­rael’s re­sponse to his raid [. . .] Some 1,200 Le­banese died be­cause of this gross er­ror in judg­ment.”

2. “(Hezbol­lah) did griev­ous harm to Le­banon’s frag­ile democ­racy and de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion in the Arab world. All the fears that if you let an Is­lamist party into gov­ern­ment it will not re­spect the rules of the game were ful­filled by Hezbol­lah.”

3. “By launch­ing all th­ese rock­ets pre­ma­turely, with­out strate­gic pur­pose, Hezbol­lah has di­min­ished its ca­pa­bil­ity and Syria’s and Iran’s.”

4. “(Hezbol­lah) has lost its mili- tary in­fra­struc­ture, and can’t at­tack Is­rael now with­out get­ting em­broiled with France and Italy (which have peace­keep­ing troops in south­ern Le­banon) — a huge strate­gic loss for Hezbol­lah.”

5. “Is­rael has em­barked on a broad up­grade of its mil­i­tary (thanks to the lessons learned from its poor per­for­mance). In any fu­ture war Arab armies will meet a much bet­ter trained and equipped Is­raeli force.”

6. “Is­rael’s re­sponse to Hezbol­lah’s at­tack has re­sulted in bil­lions of dol­lars of dam­age to Le­banese homes, fac­to­ries and roads, with Shi­ite ar­eas the worst hit and with zero se­cu­rity ben­e­fit to Le­banon.”

So why does just about ev­ery­one be­lieve that Is­rael “lost” the war in Le­banon? For two pri­mary rea­sons: First, the world de­fines vic­tory of the stronger party — in this case, Is­rael — as ei­ther to­tal vic­tory or as a loss. Is­rael did not de­stroy Hezbol­lah, there­fore it lost. Sec­ond, the world’s news me­dia said Is­rael lost; and the me­dia now de­ter­mine re­al­ity. Some 40 years ago, Mar­shall McLuhan made his prophetic state­ment, “The medium is the mes­sage.” It is truer than ever. Man-made global warm­ing is deemed the great­est threat to mankind’s fu­ture be­cause the me­dia have an­nounced it to be so. Anna Ni­cole Smith’s death was sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the me­dia said it was. Geno­cide in Su­dan is in­signif­i­cant be­cause the me­dia don’t much re­port on it. The Chi­nese dec­i­ma­tion and an­nex­a­tion of Ti­bet is in­signif­i­cant be­cause the me­dia have ig­nored it.

The Is­raeli army and de­fense es­tab­lish­ment made grave er­rors, which have been the fo­cus of a dev­as­tat­ing Is­raeli gov­ern­ment re­port. But those er­rors do not negate the fact that Hezbol­lah lost that war.

Like­wise, Amer­ica is said to have lost the war in Iraq. As with Is­rael, the stronger party — Amer­ica — has not achieved to­tal vic­tory. Since no one has sur­ren­dered and there are still ter­ror­ists and in­sur­gents, Amer­ica is deemed to have lost. And the me­dia — and its ide­o­log­i­cal ally, the Demo­cratic Party — have been an­nounc­ing the Amer­i­can de­feat for years.

One les­son to be learned from th­ese two wars is that vic­tory as we have un­der­stood it in the past may not be pos­si­ble when fight­ing ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tions. There will be never be an equiv­a­lent to the Ja­panese sur­ren­der aboard the USS Mis­souri in 1945. There is no way to com­pletely stop sui­cide ter­ror against “soft” tar­gets or to stop car bombs in pub­lic places. The only to­tal vic­tory over Is­lamic ter­ror­ists will have to come from within the Mus­lim world. There will have to be a the­o­log­i­cal and moral re­vul­sion so great that no Mus­lim would dare risk hell and uni­ver­sal Is­lamic op­pro­brium by tar­get­ing in­no­cents for mur­der. Un­for­tu­nately that day seems quite dis­tant.

In ef­fect, then, Amer­ica will have lost in Iraq when Amer­ica de­cides it has lost. And then it be­comes what is known as a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy.

Den­nis Prager is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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