There has been much cyber ink spilled about the winners and losers of the recent dust-up between Hezbollah and Israel. One group of bloggers says the Hezbos won, another claims an Israeli victory. But it is only round one in what is going to be a long struggle. Let us not yet ask the fat lady to start warbling.

Hezbollah has spent the last 6 years preparing the ground in southern Lebanon. It built underground tunnels and installations, collected thousands of missiles and launchers and established itself politically and militarily as a force to be reckoned with. It has set up Syrian and Iranian contacts and re-supply lines. The Hezbos have shown the world that nothing gets done in Lebanon without its approval. Its methods to win the hearts and minds of the locals could be delicately described as efficient.

When Hezbollah struck Israel it is perhaps true that its leader Nasrallah completely misjudged how the Israelis would respond. It might also be true that Olmert was a poor war time leader, hesitant and insecure. It might also be true that the IDF was not allowed to fight as it wished to, hamstrung as it was by the political leadership in the Knesset. It might also be true that George Bush at first encouraged Israel to completely destroy Hezbollah, to root out the terror infection root and branch from southern Lebanon. It might also be true that Bush was appalled at the sight of Olmert going wobbly, and so sent Condi out to cobble together the best cease-fire he could get under the auspices of the UN to end the fighting until Israel could elect a more competent war time leadership. It might also be true that Nasrallah actually believes that he and his practiced killers had defeated Israel.

Nothing in the above paragraph is known for sure. All is speculative. The truth of all of it will not be known for some time—maybe a long time. But we do know unquestionably some things. Such as:

Hezbollah lost at least 3000 of its killers. Israel lost 120 soldiers. Israel has maintained the brutal calculus of the ‘western way of war’ kill-ratios, in this case 25 to 1. The US in the Pacific 1942-45 maintained a kill ratio of 22-1. The infrastructure of terror painstakingly built over the past 6 years has been by and large demolished.  Nasrallah can jump up and down upon the rubble of his shattered castles and scream ‘Victory!’  all he wants. Such bombast is in keeping with the ‘Arab way of war’—blood curdling threats, as many civilians killed as possible, hiding behind women and children, bringing in the Western media and parading around a bunch of corpses on camera—but the facts of war are pesky things. Hezbollah has suffered a severe degrading of its combat capacity.

The Hezbos are in no shape to initiate another war. They need arms and money from Iran and its Levantine puppet, Syria. Israel, however, if given the political will could have the Jewish flag over Damascus in one week. And the IDF is still in southern Lebanon.

So those who have been crowing about a Hezbollah victory or obsessing over an Israeli defeat, please calm yourselves. The thing is not over. All opinions about the war in the Pacific right before the battles of Midway and the Coral Sea were also rendered moot right afterward. The US has cards yet to play, as does Iran, Israel, Syria and the Hezbos.

So stay tuned. There is yet much blood to be spilt.

(Update: See this Haaretz editorial concerning some of the issues mentioned above. The game is not over. Far from it, in fact.)

(Update: As usual, Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent assessment.)