Israel is following Monty, not Patton

While General George S. Patton was winning public laurels for fast armored strikes against German forces in WWII, Field Marshall Montgomery ran a parallel British army that made haste slowly. Patton is often considered the most brilliant US Army commander of the time, but Monty had his reasons. Today, the Israelis may be using a Monty strategy, because it makes more sense.

One difference between Patton and Montgomery is obvious: Patton was an American, backed with the limitless resources of the US homeland. The United States came into the war in 1942, while the Brits had barely managed to save their army at Dunkirk, retreating from continental Europe.  Throughout the war Britain was in desperate straits militarily and economically. Moreover the British armed forces had fought for two generations, barely surviving World War I. The British Empire was clearly breaking apart. They could not afford high—risk gambles.

Forget more sophisticated arguments. Doing high—risk armored thrusts made sense for Patton (though Eisenhower kept him on a short leash). It never made any sense for Monty. Nobody at Whitehall was going to thank him for winning a battle and losing his army.

Israel is in a Montgomery position today. For sixty years, they have been fighting ever new ranks of deadly enemies. Israel is not a culture that celebrates death in battle. Yet they have won, time and again, by being smarter and tougher than the opposition, finding weak spots in enemy tactics and strategy, and only then hitting with local superiority until the enemy finally broke and fled. That is why they are now safe from attack from Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon. But they are not safe from Iran, which has never been bloodied in battle with  Israel.

Today the IDF is facing an Iranian proxy guerrila army that is very well trained, supplied, and dug in. They are clever enough, and ruthless, and bloodthirsty.  They know how to play the media for maximum propaganda advantage.

Iran's martyrdom cult is the first one faced by Western armed forces since Imperial Japan. For Khomeiniacs, dying in battle is celebrated as a path to Paradise, while on the Hamas side, the family sometimes performs a joyful wedding when their shahid succeeds in suicide—murder against Jews.

Meanwhile, the international media are tilting the playing field so that mere survival for Hezbollah will be counted as a victory for the suiciders, and a major defeat for Israel.

Israelis are therefore in the position of sane soldiers fighting crazies on a tilted playing field. But unlike the heroic US Marines against the Japanese at Iwo Jima, this is not a one—time battle with a lot of resources on the side of sanity and civilization. It is an ongoing generational war of attrition, in which the sheer capacity to sustain morale counts as much as anything else.

So a Field—Marshall Montgomery strategy makes a lot of sense. Never give the enemy the initiative, even tactically. Bring all your strengths to bear, and none of the enemy's. Don't treat this as a football game; it's better to survive and fight again than to look good to the media.

What we are seeing today looks like constant probing. Every other day we hear that yes, the IDF will attack on the ground, in strength, or no, they won't. The IDF command may not know yet. There is a lot of tactical fighting going on, with special ops (five of whom just lost their lives), a lot of probing behind enemy lines, massive artillery and air strikes, and attempts to drive away civilians, so Hezbollah won't have children to hide behind and turn into involuntary martyrs. A lot more is going on behind the scenes than we will ever know.

The international Left is therefore trying to rush the endgame, with slanted horror stories. In some cases even friendly commentators are insisting that the IDF has to fight this battle in their way. But if the Israels are smart and self—confident they will take their time. They are unbelievably lucky to have George Bush in the White House and Condi Rice at State, with a real and sympathetic understanding of the Israeli position. They are playing for time and giving sustained diplomatic support. That's the only thing the civilized world can do right now.

Wildlife biologists in Africa have discovered that most lion hunts don't succeed against herds of wildebeest. The reason is simple. It's better for a lion pack to go hungry than for one hunting lion to be injured. Fighting animals cannot afford injuries, because that is tantamount to dying. Therefore they calculate weaknesses and strike only when ready. This is not a flashy George Patton strategy, but a hunter's survival game.

History has thrust a lot of unwanted wars on Israel, and they'd better be good at both winning and surviving. This will not be their last battle, and Phyrric victories are not victories at all.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.

While General George S. Patton was winning public laurels for fast armored strikes against German forces in WWII, Field Marshall Montgomery ran a parallel British army that made haste slowly. Patton is often considered the most brilliant US Army commander of the time, but Monty had his reasons. Today, the Israelis may be using a Monty strategy, because it makes more sense.

One difference between Patton and Montgomery is obvious: Patton was an American, backed with the limitless resources of the US homeland. The United States came into the war in 1942, while the Brits had barely managed to save their army at Dunkirk, retreating from continental Europe.  Throughout the war Britain was in desperate straits militarily and economically. Moreover the British armed forces had fought for two generations, barely surviving World War I. The British Empire was clearly breaking apart. They could not afford high—risk gambles.

Forget more sophisticated arguments. Doing high—risk armored thrusts made sense for Patton (though Eisenhower kept him on a short leash). It never made any sense for Monty. Nobody at Whitehall was going to thank him for winning a battle and losing his army.

Israel is in a Montgomery position today. For sixty years, they have been fighting ever new ranks of deadly enemies. Israel is not a culture that celebrates death in battle. Yet they have won, time and again, by being smarter and tougher than the opposition, finding weak spots in enemy tactics and strategy, and only then hitting with local superiority until the enemy finally broke and fled. That is why they are now safe from attack from Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon. But they are not safe from Iran, which has never been bloodied in battle with  Israel.

Today the IDF is facing an Iranian proxy guerrila army that is very well trained, supplied, and dug in. They are clever enough, and ruthless, and bloodthirsty.  They know how to play the media for maximum propaganda advantage.

Iran's martyrdom cult is the first one faced by Western armed forces since Imperial Japan. For Khomeiniacs, dying in battle is celebrated as a path to Paradise, while on the Hamas side, the family sometimes performs a joyful wedding when their shahid succeeds in suicide—murder against Jews.

Meanwhile, the international media are tilting the playing field so that mere survival for Hezbollah will be counted as a victory for the suiciders, and a major defeat for Israel.

Israelis are therefore in the position of sane soldiers fighting crazies on a tilted playing field. But unlike the heroic US Marines against the Japanese at Iwo Jima, this is not a one—time battle with a lot of resources on the side of sanity and civilization. It is an ongoing generational war of attrition, in which the sheer capacity to sustain morale counts as much as anything else.

So a Field—Marshall Montgomery strategy makes a lot of sense. Never give the enemy the initiative, even tactically. Bring all your strengths to bear, and none of the enemy's. Don't treat this as a football game; it's better to survive and fight again than to look good to the media.

What we are seeing today looks like constant probing. Every other day we hear that yes, the IDF will attack on the ground, in strength, or no, they won't. The IDF command may not know yet. There is a lot of tactical fighting going on, with special ops (five of whom just lost their lives), a lot of probing behind enemy lines, massive artillery and air strikes, and attempts to drive away civilians, so Hezbollah won't have children to hide behind and turn into involuntary martyrs. A lot more is going on behind the scenes than we will ever know.

The international Left is therefore trying to rush the endgame, with slanted horror stories. In some cases even friendly commentators are insisting that the IDF has to fight this battle in their way. But if the Israels are smart and self—confident they will take their time. They are unbelievably lucky to have George Bush in the White House and Condi Rice at State, with a real and sympathetic understanding of the Israeli position. They are playing for time and giving sustained diplomatic support. That's the only thing the civilized world can do right now.

Wildlife biologists in Africa have discovered that most lion hunts don't succeed against herds of wildebeest. The reason is simple. It's better for a lion pack to go hungry than for one hunting lion to be injured. Fighting animals cannot afford injuries, because that is tantamount to dying. Therefore they calculate weaknesses and strike only when ready. This is not a flashy George Patton strategy, but a hunter's survival game.

History has thrust a lot of unwanted wars on Israel, and they'd better be good at both winning and surviving. This will not be their last battle, and Phyrric victories are not victories at all.

James Lewis is a frequent contributor.