Sunday, July 30, 2006

Israel, Lebanon, and the Rest

Israel's operational strategy is baffling to me and quite disappointing. This is shaping up as Al Gore vs. George Bush in their 1st 2000 debate, where the favorite was supposed to have wiped the floor with the underdog yet merely by surviving, the underdog wins (no disrespect intended to George Bush or Al Gore). The fact that Israel is not winning handily yet claims to be only using "5% of its power" indicates diffidence and indecisiveness that may well turn out to be fatal.
Aerial bombardment serves battlefield preparation and political objectives - it is not an end in itself. The US took 4 weeks to bomb Iraq in 1991; one would think 2 weeks for Israel to accomplish the similar aerial outcomes in 2006 in a much smaller theater. From the way Israel is acting, it would seem that it is hoping for an outcome like the capitulation of Belgrade at the hands of American airpower; but such an outcome, rare to begin with, is fantasy when it comes to Hezbullah fanatics. I realize an invasion of Lebanon would bring back bad memories (much as a US peacekeeping force in Lebanon does for Americans), but that seems more and more necessary. What bothers me in this whole thing is where is Israel's Ariel Sharon in 2006; not the fallen prime minister, but the bold and daring commander who brought the PLO to its knees in 1982 and the Egyptian Third Army to its knees in 1973. Israel has behaved as if it could change a war of attrition it was destined to lose into a favorable war of attrition using airpower; but Israel's strengths are not attrition from the air- they are speed, maneuverability, and panache. Cutting the Bekaa Valley off from the Syrian border with a mechanized strike force and South Lebanon off from the north with an amphibious landing would be 2 ways of changing the discouraging dynamics of the current situation.

Israel's PR management has also been atrocious. Rumsfeld's ingenious embedment of the press in 2003 spared a lot of bad press; something similar might be a good idea for the Israelis. The message sent by aerial bombardment is beating of the whole population into submission, whether or not that is the intent. I wonder if the focus was more on retrieval of the 2 soldiers and assassination of Nasrallah, that would have been more effective by humiliating Hezbullah more.

And of course, there is the issue of fighting to win. Right now, it does not seem the Israelis are doing that. It seems they are fighting to get an international force in. When a problem seems insoluble, sometimes it works to expand the problem. Blowing up Hezbullah headquarters and some Syrian military targets might not be such a bad idea. What's the worst thing that can happen? Iran gets involved? Might as well bring into the open what is already clandestine. From this friend of Israel's perspective, it seems that what cannot be endured must be ended - showing a little flamboyance in warmaking might restore Israeli deterrence and end this crisis faster and better than the current grind.


At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think in the final analysis, israel won that one. press opinion notwithstanding.


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