Why Hizbollah Does Not Fear The US
(Daled Amos has this piece which I find most useful. It takes what I think is so essential, an historical view of this war. He writes:)
In September, 2004 Norman Podhoretz wrote : World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win. In one section, he recounts a number of terrorist attacks by Hizbollah against the US–without retaliation by the US.
While these took place a little over 20 years ago, the incidents no doubt taught Hamas–and Iran–a lesson they have carried with them to this day.
Podhoretz notes that following the Iranian hostage crisis that haunted Carters term in office:
After 444 days, and just hours after Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981, the hostages were finally released by the Iranians, evidently because they feared that the hawkish new President might actually launch a military strike against them.
Yet if they could have foreseen what was coming under Reagan, they would not have been so fearful.[emphasis added]
The following are the attacks recounted by Podhoretz:
April 1983: Hizbollah sends a suicide bomber who blows up a truck in from of the American embassy in Beirut. 63 employees–including the Middle East CIA director–are killed. 120 are wounded. President Reagan and the US do nothing.
October 1983: Hizbollah sends a suicide bomber to blow up an American barracks at the Beirut airport. 241 US Marines are killed and 81 are wounded. At first Reagan signs off on a plan to retaliate, but then allows Secretary of Defense Weinberger to cancel the plan, lest US relations with the Arab world be damaged. Instead, Reagan pulls the Marines out of Lebanon.
March 1984: William Buckley, CIA station chief in Lebanon is kidnapped by Hizbollah and murdered.
According to Podhoretz:
Buckley was the fourth American to be kidnapped in Beirut, and many more suffered the same fate between 1982 and 1992 (though not all died or were killed in captivity).
Reagan, who swore never to negotiate with terrorists made a deal trading arms in exchange for hostages. According to Podhoretz, 1,500 antitank missiles were sent–some through Israel.
However, though the understanding was that the ayatollahs of Iran would use their influence with Hizbollah to have American hostages released, others were then seized.
The Iranians could now claim to have humiliated two American presidents in hostage cases and to have driven the American military out of Lebanon.
September 1984: The US embassy annex near Beirut is hit by a truck bomb, traced to Hizbollah. At first Reagan allows a retaliation through Lebanese intelligence agents. However, when a similar operation against the cleric thought to be the head of Hizbollah misses it’s target and kills 80 others instead, the plan is called off.
December 1984: In another Hizbollah strike, a Kuwaiti airliner is hijacked and 2 Americans on board, employed by the US Agency for International Development, are murdered. The Iranians storm the plan after it lands and promise to try the hijackers themselves. Instead, the hijackers are allowed to leave the country. Reagan offers $250,000 for information that would lead to the arrest of the hijackers. There are no takers
June 1985: Hizbollah operatives hijack TWA flight 847 and force it to fly to Beirut. The plane is held for 2 weeks, during which time an American naval officer on board is shot and his body is hurled onto the tarmac. Israel releases hundreds of terrorists in exchange for the release of the other passengers.
Both the United States and Israel denied that they were violating their own policy of never bargaining with terrorists, but as with the arms-for-hostages deal, and with equally good reason, no one believed them, and it was almost universally assumed that Israel had acted under pressure from Washington. Later, four of the hijackers were caught but only one wound up being tried and jailed (by Germany, not the United States).
It may be true that this time around Hizbollah underestimated Israel and Olmert. On the other hand, if Israel’s operation into Lebanon is cut short due to external pressure–as seems very likely–it may turn out that Olmert may end up as another trophy on Hizbollah’s belt along with Carter and Reagan.