Thoughts on the latest Middle East war
Back in the peaceful days of the 1990's, I remember thinking that future wars would be much clearer and easier to follow, with all the modern conveniences of news reporting, the Internet, etc. But clearly that is not so: war is just as confusing now as it has ever been.
The thing about war as a part of the international-relations chess game is that it always changes the stakes dramatically. It's actually in the interest of the great powers to NOT have a war, in case they lose. Besides, wars are expensive. It's better to avoid conflict and merely rattle the sabres, using the political capital gained in the last successful war at the diplomatic table. On the other hand, if you're a small, generally insignificant country or organization, a successful war is the way to make everyone else sit up and take notice of you. It's just playground politics writ large: nobody pays attention to the scrawny kid until he manages to beat someone, especially one of the big kids.
Nevertheless, wars have to happen every once in awhile, usually because someone overplays their cards, and someone else calls their bluff. Israel has called Hizbollah's bluff. The major powers will either back Israel or do nothing: the United States has no liking for Hizbollah and wants to end the terror chain of Iran to Syria to Hizbollah, while the EU and Russia (who, by virtue of not having won a war in a while, are becoming less and less "major") also know that Hizbollah is ultimately a creature of Iran and would quietly like to see Israel put an end to Hizbollah.
I think Iran and Syria have miscalculated (someone always does when a war starts). They didn't expect Israel to respond this aggressively, and they probably didn't expect the West to back Israel (not denouncing Israel counts as "backing" for Europe). I think Israel will destroy Hizbollah while Lebanon tries to stay out of the way as much as possible. Syria will bluster but really can't do much. The wild card is Iran, which likewise isn't as strong as it wants everyone to think. But Iran has done a great deal of bragging, and it stands to lose a lot of face if (when) Israel wins. This could easily cause Iran to do something stupid, although exactly what is not clear.
I don't see this widening into a wider conflict, however. Right now it only involves Israel and Hizbollah, and Lebanon. It could spread to Syria and if does, Iran might feel forced to get involved. But I don't think any of the other Arab states will support either Syria or Iran, mostly because they don't want to, although they might say they do. They all know they can't beat Israel, even together, and besides, there's a great deal of American military power in the region right now.
So I expect that Israel will destroy Hizbollah and then leave southern Lebanon to the Lebanese Army (with whom the Israelis get along with pretty well). Syria will bluster but not actually do anything. Iran, though...who knows what Iran will do? Whether the war remains limited depends mostly on Iran's next move.