Are Hezbollah and Israel on the brink of all-out war?

Are Hezbollah and Israel on the brink of all-out war? June 20, 2024

Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy that controls Lebanon, has attacked northern Israel nearly every day since October 8, when it joined the war in support of Hamas. It has fired more than five thousand rockets, anti-tank missiles, and suicide drones at Israeli border communities. More than twenty people have been killed, more than 150,000 people have been forced from their homes along the border, and damage has been widespread.

The terrorist group ramped up its attacks last week to their most intense level since the war began, then resumed them again Tuesday afternoon. In response, the IDF’s Northern Command announced that it approved operational plans for a war against Hezbollah. For his part, Hezbollah secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel in a televised address, “There will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones” in the event of a broader war.

Why is this intensifying conflict making global headlines?

“The crown jewel in the Iranian empire of terror”

A former IDF spokesman called Hezbollah “the crown jewel in the Iranian empire of terror,” adding that it is “by far the most powerful Iranian proxy equipped with nation-state capabilities and with more firepower than several European militaries have today.” He notes that the group “is far more powerful than Hamas across the board in every military metric.”

I had lunch this week with a dear friend visiting from Israel. He explained that Hezbollah’s latest attacks are especially dangerous since many utilize drones that are able to fly beneath the radar used by Israel’s Iron Dome defense systems. They can evade Israel’s early warning systems and can be guided to civilian targets to inflict the maximum number of casualties and damage.

If Hezbollah launches an all-out war with Israel, the IDF would respond in a way that would devastate Lebanon as well. Why, then would Hezbollah’s leaders want a war that can only harm the people they claim to serve?

Why would the Lebanese people allow them to escalate such a self-defeating conflict?

“The world’s most heavily armed non-state actor”

Hezbollah (meaning “Party of God”) is a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the US and many other countries. Its 1983 manifesto calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and pledges allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader.

Its autocratic leader, Hassan Nasrallah, governs through a seven-member Shura Council and its five subcouncils. Hezbollah manages a vast network of social services that have been instrumental in garnering support for the party. However, in Lebanon’s 2022 elections, it lost its majority in the Lebanese parliament.

Hezbollah also maintains the only military in Lebanon. Thanks largely to Iranian support, it has become what experts consider “the world’s most heavily armed non-state actor.” Crucially, Hezbollah’s army is not subject to the parliament or the people of Lebanon.

As a result, to fulfill its charter by seeking Israel’s destruction, Hezbollah can wage war on Israel whenever and however it chooses, and the Lebanese people have no power to stop or alter its decisions—as devastating as they might be to the nation.

“A politics in which no one is in charge”

I’m reading political scholar Yuval Levin’s illuminating American Covenant: How the Constitution Unified Our Nation—and Could Again. He writes that our Constitution “sets out the fundamental character of the American system as subject to the rule of law.” He explains: “We have tended to understand our freedom as framed by clearly stated limits on what others, including our governments, can do to us or take from us.”

In fact, “the Constitution, understood as law, is above all a set of constraints or structured boundaries on power.”

This is because our Founders were acutely aware of the despotic tendencies of the majority and thus constructed a system of checks and balances that would protect the minority from the majority and the majority from itself. In this sense, according to Levin, “the Constitution establishes a politics in which no one is in charge and, therefore, in some sense, everyone is in charge.”

In this system, unlike Hezbollah’s theocracy, no president or other leader could declare war without accountability to the nation they purportedly serve. We have a direct voice in such monumental decisions through our system of governance.

Here’s the problem: even the best legislative systems cannot produce moral people. According to Levin, to be a free people, we must be a people of “civic virtue.” He writes: “The character of the souls of our citizens and leaders matters immensely and is of great concern to the constitutional system.”

Our “only lasting hope”

Our system of self-governance requires people who can govern themselves. However, fallen humans cannot reverse the Fall. For this, we need the transforming work only God can accomplish in our souls: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

When we submit our lives each day to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), thinking biblically (2 Corinthians 10:5) and praying consistently (1 Thessalonians 5:17), he molds us into the character of Christ (Romans 8:29) and makes us catalysts for moral transformation (Matthew 5:13–16).

Br. Keith Nelson of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston observes:

When the fresh air of the gospel becomes our oxygen, when we become Spirit-breathers, the collective sin of the world, of others and our own, will burn our sensitized lungs like toxic fumes. We will notice injustice everywhere we turn, and though we will do all we are able in response, we will feel powerless against so much of it, and that powerlessness will crucify our hearts.

As a consequence:

“We will know the hope of the Resurrection from the inside, through the mind of Christ. We will touch it with the hands of Christ. God’s power to raise, to heal, and to save will flow through us, because God will be our only lasting hope.”

Will God be your “only lasting hope” today?

Thursday news to know:

Quote for the day:

“Christian hope does not promise successful days to the rich and the strong, but resurrection and life to those who must exist in the shadows of death.” —Jürgen Moltmann

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