Some bitter thoughts about this war now that UNSCR 1701 has been passed, and even if the IDF continues its ground attacks next week:

It’s hard to escape the feeling that Israel has lost this war. Lebanon has also lost this war. Hizbullah seems to have come out ahead, although not exactly a winner. Iran is the outright winner and Syria has a big wide grin on its hideous face.

UNSCR 1701 has now been voted into place by the UN Security Council in a unanimous vote. Although Israel is fighting in Lebanon as I write, and despite the fact that it has sent in larger ground forces today after weeks of dilly dallying, according to all reports, Olmert will press the Cabinet to sign off on this Resolution on Sunday. While the language suggests that Israel must only stop “offensive” operations, as opposed to defensive ones, which leaves some wiggle room for further Israeli actions that will be described as defensive, the overall gist is that the war must end. Immediately.

At the beginning of the war, Nasrallah said about the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers, “No military operation will return them… The prisoners will not be returned except through one way: indirect negotiations and a trade of prisoners.”

At the beginning of this war, Olmert suggested that Israeli victory will be achieved when the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers are returned without negotiations to Israel, when Hizbullah is disarmed and the Lebanese army and government control S. Lebanon, and when the rocket attacks on Israel by Hizbullah stop.

Well:
1. The kidnapped soldiers will not come home because of this war. If they do come home, it will be after negotiations. Although Israel managed to arrest Hizbullah members in this war, presumably to trade for the soldiers in necessary, it is unlikely Hizbullah will agree. Furthermore, if it hasn’t happened yet, Hizbullah will now be able to smuggle the Israelis out of Lebanon to Syria or Iran where they may disappear for years in the same way Ron Arad remains missing.

Clear advantage: Hizbullah

2. Hizbullah disarmed and out of S. Lebanon; Lebanese government in full control of the area and in full compliance with 1559.

This is hard to call.

The Resolution calls for disarming all militias in Lebanon and full compliance with 1559 by Lebanon. The problem is that Lebanon previously refused to comply with 1559 because of Shebaa. Shebaa Farms issue remains unresolved and the UN may come to its previous conclusion again wherein they continue to consider it Syria land under Israeli occupation. Additionally, the Lebanese army is weaker than Hizbullah and even with 15,000 UNIFIL soldiers willing to fight, how are they and the Lebanese going to succeed where Israel has not? Lebanon is not going to accept another civil war, which leaves the choice of Hizbullah disarming and leaving S. Lebanon in the hands of…Hizbullah and their champions, Iran and Syria.

Advantage: Hizbullah

3. The rocket attacks on Israel are supposed to stop and in the past Nasrallah has said that once Israel stops bombing Lebanon, Hizbullah will stop its rocket attacks on Israel. Even the most optimistic Israeli public estimates assume Hizbullah still possesses over 7000 of its rockets and most of these have a range that renders them effective north of the Litani River. As such, they can be launched north of the area which the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL are supposed to take over and still hit Israel. In this instance, however, Israel will be challenged in attacking Hizbullah because the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL will serve as a buffer. In other words, Israel is losing its ability to retaliate and fight back while the Lebanese gain a measure of protection from Israel. Nobody in the world will abide by targeted Israeli attacks on UNIFIL soldiers so this will become a serious problem for the IDF in the future. Additionally, while Hizbullah may launch rockets at Israel from a distance, as a sovereign state, Israel will be attacking another sovereign state every time it responds with an air attack. While this war was justified because the Lebanese government itself had supported the breaches of UNSCR 1559 on the basis of the status on Shebaa and was therefore directly complicit with Hizbullah’s numerous attacks on Israel before and during this war, once they sign off on 1701, they will no longer be complicit with Hizbullah’s actions.

Clear advantage: Hizbullah

Israel’s position in the Middle East has been weakened tremendously. It is now clear that the IDF is not as capable as it was in its previous wars. The jury is still out as to why, but this was a war where it didn’t have to contend with another air force, where its opponent was populated by several thousand active soldiers and many more thousands who were part-timers, and where it had technical superiority. Despite this, they encountered numerous situations where brave Israeli soldiers who were executing professionally, found themselves in harm’s way because intelligence didn’t provide necessary information, because the IAF wasn’t able to soften the targets it truly needed to soften, and because of Hizbullah’s merciless and clever use of civilians as both human shields and propaganda fodder.

Expect Hizbullah’s tunnel system to be replicated in areas close to the Israeli border in every Arab state that abuts Israel. Furthermore, expect this to be the kiss of death for any unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria/West Bank. Gaza was one thing, but the Israelis aren’t going to do the same in the much larger and more dangerous West Bank.

Also, it has now become clear that Israel has three key weak spots. First, an army of missiles and rockets can create severe stress, damage and injury for its population and would be difficult to beat. Even basic unguided rockets like Katyushas have been able to cause severe harm and damage while remaining relatively unhittable by the IAF. Second, anti-tank weapons have been proven effective in fighting Israeli forces. They can be fired from far away, leaving the shooters unexposed, but can target not only tanks and bulldozers, but also Israeli soldiers as they move from house to house as they do in urban warfare in this villages. The third weakness is civilians on the Arab side. While Israel attempts to avoid harming them, this places its troops in greater jeopardy giving the enemy more maneuvering room. Israel is also clearly sensitive to international public opinion and this becomes an effective tool for the opposing army.

With respect to strategic capability, we have yet to see the type of bold, creative strategies employed successfully by Israel in ’48, ’67, ’73 and ’82. Maybe the situation would have been different under Israel’s previous Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, but this is uncertain since Mofaz was his Minister of Defense as well as the preceding Chief of Staff and they both worked under Sharon who was a brilliant tactician and perhaps strategist. It is hard to escape the feeling that two things are going on here and both have to be changed rapidly. The first is that Israel has become so focused on technology and the IAF, that it is missing out on the development of clever, creative tactics that a smaller and poorer army might use. It still believes it is that army, but it is not and must find a way to return there. Second, it is known to all that Halutz was a political appointment suited to Sharon’s objectives. I’m sure he’s a very capable pilot and officer, but he may not be the right person to lead Israel in war. Just as he was appointed due to political considerations, one can assume that many other officers at all ranks also receive promotions on the basis of politics and not always quality of the officer. This has to stop because only the very best officers must stay on and then make it to the senior ranks. I hate to say it but this war showed that the younger officers were quite brave and capable, while the middle level and senior level have been less than capable. The conclusion is that the quality is there but the system prevents the cream from rising to the top.

The US is a staunch ally and friend to Israel. While there may be issues of minor conflict here and there, the US was definitely in Israel’s corner in this fight. This is, in part, why Israel must abide by the cease-fire which the US has co-sponsored at the UN. However, the US must be disappointed in Israel’s performance in this war. Israel didn’t take care of business and the US must have been hoping that Iran and Syria would take a hit here. Instead, Israel is taking the hit, proving to be vulnerable, and perhaps as being less than the stellar strategic asset it has been in the past. For these reasons, Israel MUST immediately run some independent commissions of inquiry that lead to a transformation of the IDF into what it used to be; that enable it to assess how to better fight in these new types of war; have new elections that would bring in leadership that knows how to lead in war and in peace; and keep their heads down to minimize friction while they rebuild these traditional strengths.

The media war was lost for many reasons by Israel. The first was the choice to go to an air war. While it may have been right to do this for a couple of days with specific targets, Israel lost the world’s initial support rapidly once large numbers of civilians and their buildings came under attack. In the meantime, the obvious ground incursion didn’t happen. There was little information forthcoming from Israel as to why it was attacking certain targets and little success in having the kind of control over the message to the media that Hizbullah appeared to have. Hizbullah was unafraid to manipulate the news in numerous ways, and it is partly the shame of many news services such as BBC and Reuters that they played along. However, on the Israeli side, they didn’t seem to understand the transformation of the international community’s view of the conflict until it was well past too late, and even then there was little coordination between the IDF and the people doing the explaining. After Qana, for example, the Israeli spokespeople were unable to explain why that building had been targeted.

Ultimately, Israel walked into a trap that Iran and Hizbullah were not even prepared to launch. They were still in the planning stages, it seems, but this war worked out beautifully for both. Iran has been able to avoid bad news about its nuclear program, and even deflect diplomatic machinations by having the G8 summit focus on Israel and Hizbullah. Iran has also proven that the tactics, training and arms provided to Hizbullah were effective against Israel to the degree required. Maybe Israel wasn’t destroyed, but the damage is significant. Hizbullah has also been able to walk away from this with a swagger and Nasrallah will keep mocking Israel until the day an Israeli missile lands in his lap.

Israel will need to conduct some deep soul searching about its political class and its upper military class. Israel will need to make some significant changes and be unafraid to make them. Israel will need now to heal the wound of a war that hasn’t gone right while repairing the North, rebuilding tourism and industry, healing the economy and repairing the budget. It will have to restock its army and rethink decisions like buying F-16s at $60 million but not providing Trophy anti-tank systems to its tanks because of budgetary constraints. Israel will need to revisit anti-rocket technologies which it abandoned due to cost of development. Finally, Israel will need to seriously evaluate whether there is any way of solving the conflict with the Palestinians. Unilateral withdrawal will not be on the table any time soon, so what else is there?

I have to believe that Olmert and Peretz’s careers are effectively over, at least as leaders of their parties but perhaps even as politicians. Halutz will also likely not remain in place for long, but he will not be blamed for this war as they will be. Ultimately, it was their choice to go to war and their choice to fight it as they did. They will seek to deflect blame on to the IDF, and the IDF will seek to lay blame at their feet. In truth, all are to blame and every family that has lost a family member either as a soldier or as a victim to a Hizbullah attack will know the war was just and the loss caused by Hizbullah and their champions, Iran and Syria. But these families will also wonder why this war was fought in the way it was and whether it could have been fought differently and with a different set of outcomes.

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themiddle

25 Comments

  • This is how the independent thinkers in the uk see the situation. The sympathies for the underdogs are firmly rooted in the massive disparity in strength. It is as if watching a playground fight between a strong athletic 17 year old and a weak asthmatic 12 year old – the humanistic will try to stop the carnage, then they support the weaker party when the bully refuses to hear reason.

    It is only a matter of time before Israel suffers the same fate South Africa did in the 80s.

  • Sobering reading, Middle. Shrewd point re (3), that H will receive as much if not more insulation than Israel from a UN force.

    The morning papers in Boston quote Pentagon sources as surprised and disappointed at the IDF’s performance in the war. Which had to do with Israel’s political class.

    You were right in previous posts about the stakes here. Too bad that Israel didn’t wage the kind of war those stakes required. (So Olmert is just now committing substantial ground forces– at the 58th minute of the 11th hour?)

    Let’s hope diplomacy secures the results the war didn’t. In particular– I hope the international community is fully alert now to the bellicosity and mendacity of the Iranian regime.

  • Good morning,from my home in michigan U.S.A.. I pray for the peace of Jerusalm . The war loss to Hezbolla saddens me.The lack of will of your leader shames your nation.Appeasement the food of chamberlands ilk is’nt what preditors eat.
    One or the other will be destroyed.Who will it be?Hezbolla or Israel? 1-0 so far.

  • Just so you guys know, many of us in the US are blaming Olmert and not the Israeli people. We feel that you, and the IDF, were robbed in this and many of us are upset with our own president for trying to broker a deal that ultimately hurt Israel.

  • Joel, we’ll see if the deal hurts Israel. Only time will tell. The international peacekeeping force was Olmert’s idea, not Bush’s. And speaking of the president– he bought Israel 35 days to advance twenty miles and clean out H. Let’s not hang this on Bush.

    There’s every reason to think that Olmert welcomes a deal (if not exactly along the lines the UNSC passed). He himself apparently concluded that the conflict had to be brought to an end, with at least a face-saving result for Israel.

  • Olmert proves his critics correct in being a spineless, shameless, sellout! Empty promises from another empty suit. Where are our kidnapped soldiers?????? A modicum of faith was restored for a split second, with his initial reaction. I learned my lesson, and it reaffirms what I knew all along. Israel’s leadership is meaningless only our faith and prayer to G-D will carry us to victory, who is in power over there is irrelavant!

  • well this is prettu much the opinion of everyone on every pro Israeli site. Olmert must hang by the balls. Thanks to him Israel now has sustained its first clear defeat in its history. Never have I felt so bad in the last six years about the situation.

  • Alexbmn, the only problem with your comment is it assume that Olmert possesses the balls by which to hang.

    Tom, I do agree that this should not be hung on Bush. If anything, I am very well pleased that he did not push for the cease-fire in the beginnin, allowing Israel time to develop everything. At the same time, I feel we should not have supported a cease-fire and instead supported a stronger stance on Israel’s right to defend themselves by all means.

  • Muffti agrees largely with the MIddle and seconds alexbmn’s cheers-ing of a very lucid, well thought out and downright chilling post.

    Muffti should say, however, that he doesn’t think things are quite as dire as the Middle puts it. While the non-return of the soldiers is indeed a downright embarassment, and should never have been even intimated as a goal of war never mind a condition of victory, Muffti thinks its fair to say that everyone realized that was probably an unrealistic goal.

    As for the 15000 UNIFIL troops, Muffti can’t help but think that an expanded zone is at least a partial victory for the Israelis. Hizbollah was able to infiltrate Israel and nab 2 soldiers because they had such free access to the border. While we didn’t get the soldiers back, the probability of new ones being taken is great reduced. Major Israeli cities are for now much safer than they were until recently. And a massive failure of the UNIFIL troops to prevent local attacks and rocket firing on Israel will give Israel the pretext it needs to re-attack, this time hopefully wiser from the experience of the last 3 weeks.

    There is another advantage, though its a kind of horrible one, not mentioned above. It may not be a new advantage, but the Israeli’s showed just how much a country that allows a militant group like H to act as freely as H did will indeed pay a large price. Lebanon’s infrastrucutre seems to be alll but completely fucked. Civilians have been injured and killed in large numbers (whether ultimately we put the moral responsibility of Israel, H or some mix, the clear proximate cause of their deaths and injuries are obvious). This will hopefully give some incentive for countries that abut Israel to NOT let such tunnelling, military build up and the rest happen. We shouldn’t undersell this point, Muffti thinks: it was bought through tragedy and innocent death and hopefully will prevent such deaths in the future.

    Finally, Muffti isn’t sure how much sense it makes to compare this particular war with the others. This was clearly different in character than ’73 or ’56. All armies that plan to take on well trained, motivated military groups are going to have to rethink war-fare and get used to a new sort of enemy who, when you think about it, isn’t really that new. Countries are going to have to learn to accept that small gains against guerilla groups are legitimate victories in a long struggle of which each ‘war’ is really just a battle.

    Anyhow, Muffti thinks that this was is a loss only because its objectives were too unrealistic. In any case, its not really over and the fat lady hasn’t sung.

  • I agree with muffti, this was a war unlike the others that Israel fought in the past. We shouldn’t be surprised that Olmert and his people got their noses a little bloodied.

    What I am surprised by is the absolutely stunningly obvious bias of the news media in reporting this war.

    I hope Israel’s government is realiing that it is the underdog in this fight (as usual) and that everyone is rooting for it to fall over and die.

    What causes this kind of sillyness in the world?

  • It’s not often you see, from Left to Right, papers unanimously agreeing that Israel was in the right for attacking Hezbollah, and then posting similar editorials 3 weeks later that Israel is about to face one of it’s ugliest defeats, with huge repercussions, since her inception. Perhaps that’s the only miracle we’ll be witnessing in this mess. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

  • Even some friends of mine who did not share my love of Sharon (the great strategist, not merely great tactician) concede they miss him here.

  • This war had as much to do with perceptions as with strategy. Remember Carter’s ill-fated attempt to free the Iranian embassy hostages? What was he trying to prove, except to his critics that he had the guts to use military force and not just rely on negotiations. Olmert, Peretz and Peres have much more to prove – to the world and Israeli voters – that a coalition govt. who’s three most powerful members are a moderate and two liberals, can preach land-for-peace from a position of strength. These calls for Olmert to be hung by the balls – how many of you armchair politicians are really able and willing to navigate the waters of Israeli/Arab/International politics? This govt. is the first since Rabin to acknowledge the complexities of it’s mission. They believe there is a place between Barak and Netanyahu that is the right course. Maybe the most thoughtful govt. since Meir. No one forgets Sharm Al Sheik and how Barak and Clinton got screwed (which Dan Gillerman eloquently discussed on the Charlie Rose show); and no one forgets the hubris of Sharon’s early 80’s Lebanon fisaco. This govt. had a goal to prove that Netanyahu is not the answer to Barak. That pulling out of Gaza and embracing Abbas will have long-term benefits for Israel’s future security. And when it came down to the inevitable test – I mean, who didn’t expect Iran and Syria to come after this Israeli govt. – maybe Olmert’s lack of experience got the better of him. Yes, hisbollah has to be destroyed. But I will stand by the fact that fighting a war is not just about military victories. You simply can not ignore the weapon of perception – it’s damn powerful and if you are on the moral high ground, the best weapon you can have. Bush’s Iraq war rationale makes Olmert seems more like FDR after Pearl Harbor. But when you have to survive in a slimy world where no one plays by the rules except you, you may have to, as distasteful as it may be, get a little Machiavellian. For now, in the coming wake of this battle, maybe it’s proved Olmert has a little more to learn. But don’t give up on him yet.

  • Folks, This is the relative effectiveness of good asymmetric warfare. The US’s efforts during the 1st Gulf War could not stop Saddam’s Scuds, even if their launchers were much larger, and their flight time much longer. Our AF simply could not shut these down, remember? Our anti-missile technology also proved to be almost as worthless. Why should be expect the IAF to be doing so much better with essentially short mobile artillery? The flight time is under a minute, and it takes just about that to ‘shoot & scoot’. Who the hell can stop that? That’s what makes them effective Terror weapons. The numbers will tell the tale. The rockets certainly destroyed plenty of property and disrupted business. I think so far they’ve killed about 35 people outright, possibly a bit less. That’s like 10 kills per 1000 missiles. That’s not a very good ratio. They might be getting better, this is why the IDF went now. If Israel can Structure the peace & the arrangements on the ground, they might be getting a better deal than we realize.

    Other thoughts:

    1.) Despite thousands of total sorties & 100’s of bombs dropped, and no doubt thousands of arty rounds thrown, a grand total of about 800 or so Lebanese civilians were killed over the course of a month of warfare. You know what they call that in modern military terms? A damn near miracle, that’s what. Despite all the propaganda, the KIA here, as far as the civilians are concerned would be a light duty day almost any place in Africa with an ongoing conflict. We get to feel the more immediate drama due to the constant TV propaganda factor. That needs to be corrected above all. The ‘atrocities’ were so damn minimal they had to keep running the same tapes for much of the hype factor.

    2.) Tunnels might be effective tactic for a guerilla Army, they really can not be well utilized by modern mechanized state armies. They’ve got to maneuver to attack or defend, you can not effectively do this from tunnels. See Maginot Line.

    3.) Again, all the numbers have yet to be added up. The IDF did not charge ahead precisely due to their thoughts on the anti-tank weapons & mines & traps laid in by Hez. They do need better strategies here, perhaps their own ‘smart minefields’, but these are now being outlawed, even as they are being developed by the US. But certainly better strategies are needed, but this is nothing even the best of the best in the world have mastered at all. The world can not be remade with study commissions, nor over night.

    I think there’s a good possibility that Hez lost perhaps 1/4 to 1/3 of their active front line fighters, perhaps 150-200 KIA or seriously wounded. That may take years to figure out. In the mean time, people in Lebanon have got to figure now, ‘Should we hit Israel, they might destroy us inside of a few weeks, and not suffer much in doing so’. That’s a very powerful deterrent guys, and some days it does not get much better than that.

    Other slogans of deterrence:

    ‘Geez we’re back where we were right after the Civil War, and this time not after a decade & a half, but just about a month after PO’ing the Israelis. Is this a good idea going forward? Do we have to have these provocateurs lying around able to do this monstrous idiocy on a whim of a cleric and unilaterally?’

    I think a good case can be made that nothing really moves until Res. 1559 is fulfilled, fully disarming these dangerous non state actors & private guerrilla armies. Why are they allowed here and no place else?

    Me I also think the Shebba Farms issue is BS. I’d say play for some of the Litani River. See if they want to ‘trade’ that. Fundamentally a terror state within a state is dysfunctional and can not be expected to ‘work’ or respected as a state. It’s not existed for any length of time without war anyplace at anytime. That’s the bottom line issue here. Think of it. We could not live in a US with terror groups in Mexico able to lob missiles at will into CA & TX. We’d come to own the rest of the country if that happened. But I doubt if we’d ever be able to shut down the launch of these quick firing terror weapons.

    So get a grip guys. No one’s lost just yet, but I still think Hez is more than slightly worse off. All it takes for real deterrence to take hold is more than enough people being dissuaded from attacking for fear of the retaliation. I think this is happening. Cheers & Good Luck, ‘VJ’

    [That’s not my real email, but Esther does have it].

  • You are too bitter. Most of your analysis is correct but you place too much emphasis on the failures. I understand how depressing it is.

    Israel will learn more from this battle than it ever learnt from its victories. The world wide Jihad will change the west’s attitudes in the next few years as we grow weary of the continuous onslaught. Israel will renew itself and won’t make the same mistakes next time.

    This is only one battle in a long war. Do not lose heart.

  • Christopher, I think what causes this silliness in the world is the instinctive drive to see one side as an underdog. Somehow, maybe through weaker fighting power or manipulative media tactics, Hezbollah looks like the underdog . . .
    As a non-Jew, I can only say that from this perspective we see a ton of building damage in Beirut, which has hurt Israel (for now) yet it doesn’t seem like Israel lost . . . it seems like they showed the Hezzies that they wouldn’t take their ****. Perhaps regardless of what the media may show, in the long run the world knows that Hezbollah is a danger to its safety; Israel is not.

  • The rational world should know that Israel is a peace-loving democracy. Say, is it immoral or unethical to pray that ol’ Hassan gets a malignant brain tumor? Not that I do…er…ever…but…it would be nice.

  • Well, don’t be hatin’ but Israel doesn’t look peace-loving right now . . . but we can understand why they did what they did. Hezbollah, well, they are just insane tyrants . . . Freddy Kruegers, really, to the world at large.

  • Here in the US, a consequence of the war is a shift in liberal/left US opinion away from the State of Israel. According to an LA Times survey (summarized in the leader in last week’s Weekly Standard magazine), a plurality of Democrats believe the US is too close to Israel and needs to take a more evenhanded stance between Arabs and Israelis:

    “Last week, in a national poll, the Los Angeles Times asked the following (tendentious) question: “As you may know, Israel has responded to rocket attacks from the Lebanese group Hezbollah by bombing Beirut and other cities in Lebanon. Do you think Israel’s actions are justified or not justified?” And these were the results: In all, 43 percent of respondents found Israel’s actions “justified, not excessively harsh”; 16 percent “justified, but excessively harsh”; and 28 percent “unjustified.” What was the party breakdown? Among Republicans: 64 percent justified, 11 percent justified but too harsh, and 17 percent unjustified. Among Democrats: 29 percent justified, 20 percent justified but too harsh, and 36 percent unjustified.

    “The Times also asked which of the following statements comes closer to your view: ‘The United States should continue to align itself with Israel,’ or ‘The United States should adopt a more neutral posture.’ Republicans: 64 percent say align with Israel, 29 percent want a more neutral posture; Democrats: 39 percent say align with Israel, 54 percent want a more neutral posture. So even with a centrist Israeli government that is responding to a direct attack and not defending settlements in the territories, Democrats have adopted a “European” attitude toward Israel.”

    Hardly an argument against the war, of course, and a lamentably predictable development. The Juan Cole/Howard Dean wing of the party marches on.

    Are US Jews heeding these developments?

  • This US Jew is heeding that development and pointing it out when I can. Then again, what can one expect when the media doesn’t even bother to show the destruction in Israel and when the cease fire resolution only speaks of assistance in rebuilding Lebanon but ignores reconstruction of Israel’s north altogether?

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