When asked this afternoon why he thought Islamism had become a force in the Arab world, a Palestinian ex-terrorist(!) whose name I forget told Fox it was because all the wars they’d lost to the Zionists had been fought under the banner of Arab pan-nationalism. Islamism was a response to that. Only by fighting under the banner of Allah, the theory went, could they finally reconquer Palestine.

By that logic, their devotion to God is partly a function of their desire to destroy Israel. Let that sink in for a minute. Also, how much it smacks of “magical” thinking: rather than take a scientific approach to victory, by focusing on military strategy and technological development, they’re essentially trying on different ideological sweaters in hopes of stumbling upon the one that finally “works.”

The irony is that Hezbollah achieved a moral victory precisely because they haven’t neglected the strategic side. The “party of God” knows how to wage guerrilla warfare and, thanks to Iran, they’re well equipped to do so. But that’s not how their victory’s being interpreted across the region. The glory goes to Allah, with the inevitable result that Islamism is on the march:

The widespread view that Hezbollah won has both propelled and been propelled by a wave already washing over the region. Political Islam was widely seen as the antidote to the failures of Arab nationalism, communism, socialism and, most recently, what is seen as the false promise of American-style democracy. It was that wave that helped the banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood win 88 seats in the Egyptian Parliament last December despite the government’s efforts to stop voters from getting to the polls. It was that wave that swept Hamas into power in the Palestinian government in January, shocking Hamas itself…

The lesson learned by many Arabs from the war in Lebanon is that an Islamic movement, in this case Hezbollah, restored dignity and honor to a bruised and battered identity.

Syria’s drawing the obvious military lesson. It sounds like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may reap the political windfall at the polls. I said this a few weeks ago but I’ll say it again now: we desperately need a western army to defeat an Islamist military or paramilitary force, wherever and however and on whatever scale, if only to derail the growing conviction that fundamentalism equals invincibility. That’s an exceedingly bad belief to have taking root while democratic currents are swirling around the region. God only knows how many seats Hezbollah itself will pick up in the next Lebanese parliamentary election. They keep peeling off those hundreds and they might not need to stage a coup; Nasrallah might be elected prime minister straightaway.

This doesn’t help, either. Steyn’s always going on about the importance of strong horse/weak horse logic to the jihadist mindset. Well, you’ve got what appears to be a strong horse right now in Lebanon and a horse in Israel that’s looking weaker by the moment:

Soldiers returning from the war in Lebanon say the army was poorly prepared, slow to rescue injured comrades and suffered from a lack of supplies so dire that soldiers had to drink water from the canteens of dead enemies.

“We fought for nothing. We cleared houses that will be reoccupied (by Lebanese Hizbullah guerrillas) in no time,” said Ilia Marshak, a 22-year-old infantryman who spent a week inside Lebanon.

It’s all downhill from there. Hezbollah isn’t what any rational person would call “strong” vis-a-vis the IDF, but that’s besides the point. Perception is everything, because it’s the perception that’ll embolden groups like Hamas to start sending out new bombers. They’re not going to destroy Israel, but they can and might very well continue to bleed it. And until the Islamists take a beating the way the Nasserites took one in 1967, the Arab rank and file will be content to let them try. Writes Daniel Jonah Goldhagen:

Make no mistake; Israel has been fighting for its life. Unexpectedly. Because it faces a historically new kind of fanatical foe, political Islam, which combines three characteristics: a political-religious ideology calling for the annihilation of its enemies; indifference, even the celebration of its own people’s death (because such martyrs are rewarded with a place in heaven); and virtually unstoppable technology (missiles) and techniques (suicide bombing) of terror. The spectre of unending terror and unending war haunts and threatens to cripple Israel.

The thing is, it’s not necessarily unending. Which is why Caroline Glick wants to take the fight to Islamist HQ right now:

In the not so distant future, we will find ourselves at war with Iran. Today, the choice of whether we fight that war in our own time, and before Iran gets nuclear weapons is in our hands. If we hesitate, if we and the rest of the free world waste precious time with worthless diplomatic wrangling with the ayatollahs, war will come to us, but on the enemy’s terms. And we will have only ourselves to blame.

VDH thinks it’s not too late. It’s late — the “eleventh hour,” he calls it — but not too late:

In an amorphous war of self-induced Western restraint, like the present one, truth and moral clarity are as important as military force. This past month, the world of the fascist jihadist and those who tolerate him was once again on display for civilization to fathom. Even the most timid and prone to appeasement in the West are beginning to see that it is becoming a question of “the Islamists or us.”

In this eleventh hour, that is a sort of progress after all.

Bush says not only is it not late — it’s downright early. “Magical” thinking isn’t unique to Arabs, alas.

Update: Still more evidence that Nasrallah won’t actually need a coup to get everything he wants, and then some.

An internal Lebanese army statement, circulated among forces in the past week, has called for troops to stand “alongside your resistance and your people who astonished the world with its steadfastness and destroyed the prestige of the so-called invincible army after it was defeated”.

The circular has alarmed ministers in the Lebanese cabinet who had been calling for the army to disarm Hizbullah…

One defence analyst who asked not to be named said that, in the south, the army often acted as a subordinate to Hizbullah’s military apparatus. “All intelligence gathered by the army is put at the disposal of Hizbullah but Hizbullah does not offer the same transparency to the army,” he said. “In a sense, military intelligence in the south is operating on Hizbullah’s behalf.”

Another retired general, Amin Hoteit, now a professor at the Lebanese University, said: “The army sees Hizbullah as a group that is defending the country and so assists them as best it can.”

Israeli commandos staged a raid in the Bekaa Valley last night to stop Syria from resupplying Hezbollah in violation of the UN resolution. Lebanon’s defense minister has threatened to halt — not hurry — the army’s deployment as a result. Which, given the stuff I just blockquoted, is actually for the best.

Update: Resupplying Hezbollah constitutes the third violation of paragraph 8 of the resolution on the Lebanese side. I wrote about the other two violations here. The UN is finally on the case — and they’re blaming Israel, of course:

UN envoys have pledged to ask Israel to stop violations of Lebanese territory following an airborne commando operation into eastern Lebanon, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Sallukh said.

“They promised to raise the issue with Israel to ask them to stop the violations,” Sallukh said after a meeting with visiting UN envoys Vijay Nambiar and Terje Roed-Larsen who did not wish to comment Saturday.

“If violations continue, the responsibility will fall on the UN Security Council which will have to ask Israel to stop such aggressions,” he said.

Update: Kofi makes it official: it’s Israel’s fault.