Monday, August 21, 2006

The new creative destruction


By Mark LeVine

"For all who celebrated creative destruction, the United States was, in the words of neo-conservative philosopher and Bush adviser Michael Ledeen, "an awesome revolutionary force" for whom creative destruction was (and, we can assume, remains) "our middle name".

But in keeping with this philosophy, the Israeli military thought that by destroying thousands of Lebanese lives and buildings it could take out Hezbollah, and in so doing create a new and more favorable regional balance of power. What it didn't count on was that Hezbollah was using the same principle of violence as the instigator of social and political change, only in reverse: each bombed-out building and lifeless baby created another opportunity for Hezbollah to show its patriotism, charity and efficiency.

Now, as Israeli soldiers begin withdrawing from Lebanon in what almost every Lebanese believes is defeat, Hezbollah fighters exchange their Kalashnikovs for hard hats and bulldozers, clearing away the rubble, handing out money, food and furniture to the homeless, and rebuilding the roads and buildings that the war they precipitated destroyed - all with an unlimited supply of funds from Israel's and America's main enemy and ultimate target of the war, Iran.

In short, Hezbollah has been able to eat its cake and have it too: it has stood up to the mighty Israel Defense Forces and either co-opted or cowed its domestic opposition (which collectively had more support than Hezbollah did before the war). Then, before anyone could criticize it for the magnitude of destruction its actions unleashed, it has begun a massive, well-funded rebuilding effort. If only the Bush administration had acted as astutely in Iraq.

What can the US and Israel learn from the past five weeks? Well, they've been pretty creative about destroying things, as a tour of Iraq, Lebanon or Gaza makes clear, and in the process unleashing waves of chaos that they assumed could be managed to their advantage.

But Nasrallah's strategy has shown him to be a true master of both sides of the creative-destruction equation. That is, he understands that creative destruction must create a viable system that gives people a stake in their future if the process is to be completed."

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