Eight Israeli soldiers dead in Bint Jbail against a background of 40 enemies killed is a victory, especially in urban combat. It is not the tragedy the newspapers paint. If Israel wants to kill guerillas, she has to pay the price. With Hezbollah entrenched in 200 Lebanese villages, the Israeli death toll may exceed that of the 1973 war.

The issue is, do we need urban combat? Various armies in the recent history dealing with guerilla movements had to clear villages. The Germans terrorized the Russians into hostility against the partisans. The approach proved highly successful: several reserve battalions cornered the 300,000-strong guerilla army. The Germans burned villages and shot hostages on the slightest suspicion of supporting the partisans. Though the measures seemed cruel, the actual death toll among civilians was very moderate by wartime standards. It takes cruelty, not scale, to terrorize people. Saddam similarly crushed the Kurd insurgency.

The Russians employed somewhat milder tactics in Chechnya. They also destroyed villages, sometimes along with the population, but called it military operations. That approach created less fear among the population, and the war dragged for years, even though the Russians asphyxiated the Chechens financially.

Widespread, pointless death causes fear. Military actions rarely seed panic because the population sees them as unique. In order to terrorize, everyone must be threatened. People should not think themselves immune. Burning villages achieves that effect, while bombing does not.

The Israeli army need not engage in urban fighting. There are not enough Israelis around to provide cannon fodder for that. Rather, the army must march people several kilometers out of a village, then treat the place with short-lived chemical weapons for several hours. After that, Lebanese Christian auxiliaries can search for weapons caches and, if they find any, burn the village. That would save the lives of many Israeli soldiers. It is imperative to understand, however, that short of mass killings in several villages that host Hezbollah, Israel will not win this war.

The Jews killed many in Dir Yassin but not in Bint Jbail, and the results were different. Dir Yassin won Israel the War of Independence. Bint Jbail won Hezbollah its reputation.

In Bint Jabil, everyone knew of the Hezbollah trap set for Israeli soldiers. Every villager there at the time of the fighting is guilty. Israel had every reason to annihilate the village in an air assault with vacuum and incendiary bombs. That would give an example to other villages that host Hezbullah. Cruel measures finish wars faster and, on the balance, save lives.

Without a lasting terrorizing effect, clearing Lebanese villages of Hezbollah is pointless. The guerillas will move in again after the Israeli army moves out. Another option is to swap populations: resettle Lebanese Christians along the Israeli border andmove the Muslims closer to Syria.

Beware of strengthening the Lebanese army. The weapons will go to Hezbollah. Radicals will easily convince the Lebanese army’s Muslim majority to help fight the Israelis. Hezbollah may be disarmed, but the Lebanese army will become Hezbollah. Foreign help for the Lebanese army will build informal ties between the EU and the Lebanese military. Strengthening one enemy against another is faulty strategy. Israel should not expect anyone to do her job in Lebanon.