The Hidden Army: Hezbollah Teaches the World How to Fight
Hezbollah and Israel have been at war for some time. In an effort to stop Hezbollah’s guerrilla fighters from communicating, Israel has in the past jammed the cell phone towers in the Hezbollah-controlled areas in southern Lebanon. Eager to make sure that didn’t happen again, Hezbollah has covertly built out a fiber-optic network throughout the areas it controls.
He then goes on to note that the last crisis between Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah was over the government trying to shut down that fiber-optic network. Hezbollah regarded that as an act of war:
(Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah) said the government’s decision to shut down Hezbollah’s fiber-optic communications network was tantamount to a declaration of war. For the (central) government, the network represented an intolerable example of Hezbollah’s efforts to set up an Iranian- and Syrian-backed state within Lebanon. Hezbollah justifies the network, which carried its communications during a 2006 war with Israel, as a vital security asset.
The interesting thing is that during the 2006 war, Hezbollah won the information war. Their communications remained secure, but Israeli soldiers carrying cell phones made calls which Hezbollah tracked. Even if they couldn’t listen in, being able to triangulate where some Israeli soldier is making a call from gives some very interesting, and useful, information.
Americans, Israelis and the West in general are used to assuming they’ll win the surveillance, electronic and information war. But Hezbollah defeated or drew Israel in all three. A network of tunnels, pre-prepared camouflage positions for missile launchers and the use of civilian clothes when troops were traveling made aerial surveillance and satellites virtually useless. The Israelis were never able to shut down the majority of Hezbollah’s missile launchers, any more than they’ve been able to find those of the Palestinians.
Hezbollah’s army is a secret one. It’s like an old fashioned spy agency.
It doesn’t exist.
If you’re enrolled in it, you don’t tell anyone. The war was rife with stories of soldiers being killed, and their families finding out for the first time that they were even in Hezbollah’s army. This, of course, is to make it impossible to use assassination, mostly aerial assassination, to take out key leaders.
Hezbollah is an almost perfect Darwinian organization. Israel uses informants and assassination? Great – we’ll keep even our membership secret. Israel uses air power? We’ll dig tunnels and set up aeriel blinds for our missile launchers. Israel doesn’t like taking heavy infantry casualties – fine then, we’ll set up overlapping bunkers which simply cannot be cleared without taking losses.
Hezbollah has created the new model army, and a new model state. Call it the Hidden Army. An army that blends in with the population, that moves only when it cannot be seen, that sets up in the expectation of surveillance. An army that knows all the high tech games, and spent the time to figure out how to nullify them. It sounds like a guerilla army, and it is, but it’s also much more: it’s an army capable of engaging in strategic warfare and an army capable of engaging in full on attrition defense warfare against Israeli main battle forces. It’s hard to overstate how impressive this is.
It’s an unrecognized State with a hidden army. Oh, the UN says there’s a Lebanese government with authority over Hezbollah. But everyone knows that the real government in southern Lebanon is Hezbollah. They pick up the garbage, they give out the pensions, heck, they have their own phone network. Crazy. When the Lebanese “government” picks a fight with Hezbollah, Hezbollah wins.
We are going to see many more of these unrecognized governments, with their hidden armies. Why? Because they work, and they work very well, both at providing government services to a population, and at frustrating much larger, more powerful and expensive conventional armies. As official governments fail, less recognized ones will pick up the pieces. And they will look to Lebanon to see how to do it, survive, and even win.
(Kicking this one to the front again – Feb 25, 2013 – originally reposted in 2009.)
(Another reprint. This one got some hostile reaction from people who missed the point. Hezbollah might be the most interesting and successful neo-state in the world. Anyone who isn’t studying it is a fool. )