Mona Charen

When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the Knesset and claimed victory against Hezbollah, some members of the body audibly scoffed, reports Israel's tentative military campaign, Olmert asserted, "changed the strategic balance in the region." Well, he's right about that part.

By failing to crush Hezbollah, as 90 percent of the Israeli public, the U.S. government, the French and even the Saudis hoped they would do, Israel has sustained the most damaging defeat of its history -- and this defeat has hurt the United States as well. An Israeli columnist, calling himself an "optimist," notes that contrary to Hassan Nasrallah's prediction that Israel would "'collapse like a spider web,' it didn't collapse." Those are not words to chill the hearts of Hamas and Hezbollah.

In a better world, the tactics of Hezbollah -- crossing an international boundary in an unprovoked act of ruthless aggression; kidnapping soldiers; using civilians as human shields; deliberately targeting Israeli civilians -- would have provoked universal revulsion. Every death of an innocent Lebanese would have been laid at the feet of Hezbollah. But in the world we actually inhabit, the European Union, Muslims throughout the world and many on the left in the United States condemned Israel instead. This war brought us not embedded journalists but embedded terrorists, woven into the fabric of civilian society -- missiles hidden in mosques, launchers within laundries.

Hezbollah, with a large assist from the Reuters news agency, boldly and blatantly falsified photographs and other news from Lebanon -- strategically posing human beings (dead and alive), stuffed animals and weeping women for world media consumption (see Thanks to alert bloggers like those at, we have come to recognize the ubiquity of figures like "Green Helmet Guy" posing as a Lebanese rescue worker when he almost certainly works for the terrorists -- the Leni Riefenstahl of Hezbollah.

One part of the world that proved particularly vulnerable to this manipulation was Israel itself. It fought this war with one eye on the camera. And though utterly unskilled in such tactics itself (where were the pictures of suffering Israelis?), the Israeli government worried excessively about the public relations price it was paying to defend itself. But by failing to finish the war, Israel did itself far more damage than any public relations hit could do. It emboldened the enemy -- and Israel's enemy in this war is our enemy, too.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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