Hezbollah's Relentless Rage

The only reason Israel has been able to survive in the Middle East, and even to flourish there, is because its enemies’ armies are incompetent. When asked how and why Israelis win every battle, the celebrated general Moshe Dayan said it’s because they fight Arabs. “We’re a feuding people, not a warring people,” Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi said to me once in Beirut. “We haven’t been good at war for hundreds of years.” If Arabs could fight as effectively as, say, the Russians, Israel would have ceased to exist long ago. Most likely it would have died before its first birthday. Syrian and Egyptian armies tried three times to destroy the Jewish state, and the Jordanian army tried twice. Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization have spent decades harassing Israel with terrorist, guerrilla, and low-level rocket attacks, but they’ve never come close to threatening the country’s existence.

Hezbollah—Lebanon’s Syrian- and Iranian-sponsored Party of God—is different. Hezbollah is the most formidable non-state army in the world and by far the deadliest and most effective fighting force ever fielded against Israel. And it’s just as sworn to Israel’s destruction as the would-be conquerors of the past. Nicholas Blanford’s gripping new book, Warriors of God, explains in peerless detail how Hezbollah grew into such a major force.

It began as a shadowy, ragtag terrorist-guerrilla group during the crucible of Lebanon’s civil war. After Israel’s withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah transformed itself into a wholly original hybrid of guerrilla army and conventional army. The Party of God’s partisans didn’t even have their own name in the early years. They made themselves famous with hostage-taking and airplane hijackings, but their most potent innovation—which transformed the face of the region—was the suicide bomber.

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