The Hydra of mythology was a fearsome multi-headed monster. One of its great strengths was the fact that, if you severed one of its heads, another head (or maybe more than one) would grow in its place. Nevertheless, the Hydra could be defeated. Here’s one version of how Hercules defeated the Hydra:
Heracles journeyed to Lake Lerna in a speedy chariot, and with him he took his nephew and charioteer Iolaus, in search of the dreaded Hydra. When they finally reached the Hydras’ hiding place, Heracles told Iolaus to stay with the horses while he drew the monster from its hole with flaming arrows. This brought out the hideous beast. Heracles courageously attacked the beast, flaying at each head with his sword, (in some versions a scythe) but he soon realized that as one head was severed another grew in its place. Heracles called for help from Iolaus, telling him to bring a flaming torch, and as Heracles cut off the heads one by one from the Hydra, Iolaus cauterized the open wounds with the torch preventing them from growing again. As Heracles fought the writhing monster he was almost stifled by its obnoxious breath, but eventually, with the help of Iolaus, Heracles removed all but one of the Hydras’ heads. The one remaining could not be harmed by any weapon, so, picking up his hefty club Heracles crushed it with one mighty blow, he then tore off the head with his bare hands and quickly buried it deep in the ground, placing a huge boulder on the top. After he had killed the Hydra, Heracles dipped the tips of his arrows into the Hydras’ blood, which was extremely poisonous, making them deadly.
The Hydra story popped into my head today when the mail brought the latest New Yorker. One of the lead stories, by Jon Lee Anderson, is entitled “THE BATTLE FOR LEBANON : Has Israel’s assault weakened Hezbollah—or made it stronger?” Let me state right away that I did not read the story. I found the title intriguing enough, since it repeats a trope that’s been around since America invaded Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. This is the theory emanating from the anti-War people that, by attacking our enemy, we galvanize formerly neutral, peaceable Muslims, who will instantly, unswervingly, and violently ally themselves with the terrorists.
Certainly, the anti-War press and anti-War activists like to tout the stories of these galvanized masses, and blogs like Michelle Malkin’s site or Little Green Footballs demonstrate that these masses love to take to the streets with theatrical threats, mock weapons and lots and lots of flag burning. I do wonder, though, how many of these street theater divas turn into genuine battlefield fighters. I also wonder, when one hears a Lebanese stating that he supports Hezbollah, if he really supports Hezbollah or if Hezbollah has threatened to kill him or his family should he state a different point of view. I wonder precisely the same thing about the terrorists within Iraq. Ordinary Iraqis, regardless of rhetoric, seem rather desperate to return to some semblance of normalcy, while the terrorists rounded up often seem to be Syrian or Iranian imports. (And yes, I know I have no numbers to back me up; I’m just going on the impression I’ve gained from myriad news stories.)
Mostly, though, I wonder about the anti-War side’s logic. History has shown dramatically that, if we don’t do anything against the Hezbollah’s and Taliban’s and Al Qaeda’s and myriad other jihadists, they grow stronger. After all, it was in the face of our complete military passivity that Al Qaeda mounted its 9/11 attack. In Israel, the moment Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas, rather than resting, increased its rocket attacks against Israel. In Europe, a cartoon that may have been tacky but definitely didn’t amount to military muscle flexing sparked worldwide riots. I could go on, but I think you get my point.
In other words, jihadist terrorist groups definitely grow stronger when left alone, and they merely might grow stronger when challenged through conventional warfare. Given this no win situation — they’re always going to grow stronger no matter what we do — why should we worry about the fact that they may also grow stronger when we fight them?
While head-on warfare with jihadists might allow them to gather green new recruits, military incursions against them definitely kill their leadership and seasoned fighters, destroy their weaons, and otherwise neutralize their infrastructure. Maybe I’m missing something but, taking the facts as we know them, and the concerns as the Left expresses them, military action — a la Israel’s initiative against Hezbollah or our fight against Al Qaeda — seem like a no-brainer.