Historian Diana Muir considers the question of crushing a populat religious movement, and concludes that it can be done, if one is willing to be brutal. From the History News Network:
...popular, religious movements have been crushed by military force many times, and in all parts of the world.
The Zanj movement formed in 868 CE in the vast delta where the Tigris meets the Euphrates. [Iraq! — ed.] Zanj autonomy flourished for 15 years under Ali bin Muhammad, who claimed descent from Imam Ali, the Prophet's cousin and son—in—law. He further claimed to be the mahdi (messiah) and to have directly 'received surahs of the Quran.' Tens of thousands followed him under a green and red banner that read, 'God has purchased the souls of the believers and their property, for they have attained to Paradise fighting in the way of God.' The revolt was crushed in a series of battles and massacres where the dead are said to have numbered in the tens of thousands.
She offers other examples and concludes:
If some policy makers and pundits actually believe that it is impossible to crush a popular religious movement, they are wrong. Hezbollah can be crushed as completely as the Cathars were.
Israel should say somehting like the following:
We could crush Hezbollah if we so chose. We could do it with a combination of military actions, arrests, and trials, and through the elimination of Hezbollah schools, Hezbollah television, and the other institutions that promulgate Hezbollah's murderous ideology.
We are making this choice not because we lack the power to destroy Hezbollah, we have that capacity. We are exercising restraint because the Jewish State —at some considerable risk to itself—values human life, even the lives of those who would destroy us. We have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but hope rather that the wicked will turn from their evil ways and live.
Thomas Lifson 7 24 06