Â Â Â Â The world watches right now with pained anticipation as the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah escalates to ever greater heights of violence and intensity. On an almost hourly basis, this conflict crosses some new threshold, and the world wonders whether it has reached the point where its localized fire will explode into a wider conflagration.
Â Â Â Â Ironically, as the world breathlessly watches Israel and Hezbollah along the Lebanese border, painfully few people consider the wider context of that conflict. Too many people want to see that conflict as a localized dispute between neighboring disagreeable parties rather than as the truly global conflict it really represents.
Â Â Â Â The truth is that the current Israeli-Hezbollah conflict is just another shot in the slowly building conflict between the West and the forces of fundamentalist Islam led by Iran. Like the terrorism that led to 9-11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that preceded it, this current conflict is the testing ground of the capability and resolve of the two greater parties to enter into their inevitable fight.
Â Â Â Â This fight is inevitable because the issues that divide the West and fundamentalist Islam are not the kind that can be simply resolved by diplomacy and compromise. Fundamentalist Islam has the stated and unyielding goal of forcing its version of Islam on the entire world by whatever means necessary, and that vision cannot be accomplished without subverting and destroying the ideals that make the West what it is. The West, for its part, ultimately will not voluntarily surrender the ideals of liberty, capitalism, republicanism, federalism, and democracy that set it at odds with fundamentalist Islam. As a result, conflict cannot be avoided because there is simply no room for compromise.
Â Â Â Â When viewed through the previous lens, the nature of the current Israeli-Hezbollah conflict becomes clear. For fundamentalist Islam, the Hezbollah attacks represent the fundamental test of asymmetric warfare waged by guerilla warfare terrorism and intensive media campaigning. If Hezbollah survives this conflict, then the success of this form of conflict will have been proven, and there is no doubt that it will be seen again, the next time in places like Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan.
Â Â Â Â For the West, the current Israeli-Hezbollah conflict is a test of resolve. Does the West have the capacity to face the threat of fundamentalist Islam and deal with it directly and effectively? Will the West allow Israel to destroy Hezbollah, thereby eliminating its threat? Will the West hold Syria and Iran and their fundamentalist allies accountable for their support of Hezbollah? The answers to these questions will set the stage for the rest of the conflict that is yet to come.
Â Â Â Â The truth is that the current Israeli-Hezbollah conflict will get worse from here. If it appears that Hezbollah is about to lose or that a ceasefire is going to be established with terms favorable to Israel, there is little doubt that Syria will enter the fight on Hezbollahâ€™s behalf. If Israel attacks Syria as a result, which it must certainly do to defend itself, then there is a great chance that Iran will enter the conflict on Syriaâ€™s behalf.
Â Â Â Â What the West decides to do as this conflict escalates will determine the course of the rest of the conflict. If the West deals with the conflict and its escalation firmly, resolutely, and completely, fundamentalist Islam cannot win. If it fails to do any of the former, then the West condemns itself to an age-long fight it many not be able to win.