August 14, 2006
Another Such VictoryBy J.R. Dunn
You know you're in trouble when Israel lets you down.
One of the few useful methods of judging the results of a war is whether you are better off at the end than at the beginning. (This may sound pretty straightforward, but in fact it's not that simple. A historian — whose name I can't recall — once pointed out that World War II began as an attempt to save Poland from takeover by an aggressive dictatorship. So was the war a success or a failure? Easily answered — if you're a Pole.)
It'll be some time before the chips stop falling, but the outline is clear enough: the Hezb'allah War (or the Second Lebanese War or the First Campaign in the Dissolution of the Zionist Entity) is an unmitigated disaster for Israel, the U.S., and the West at large.
This doesn't mean Hezb'allah has won — though that's how it will be played throughout the Arab world. It means simply that the only rational goal of the war — the destruction of Hezb'allah as a military power — has not been achieved. Hezb'allah still exists, it still has a large fraction of its weaponry, it remains a threat to both the legitimate Lebanese government and Israel. It also has gained the prestige that comes from fighting a powerful enemy to a standstill.
Israel, on the other hand, has not only been stalemated on the battlefield for the first time, but has also suffered a stunning economic blow, with most of her northern cities emptied out and close to a million refugees to care for. The Israelis blew off the propaganda war completely, allowing themselves to be painted worldwide as child—killers while tossing aside their first—ever expression of sympathy from the major Arab states. Their military has been exposed as a clown act, their political system as completely dysfunctional, unable not only to rise to meet a crisis situation but even to recognize it. Their enemy remains, fully—armed, on their northern border, and their security has become the ward of the UN, that notorious New York—based child prostitution and bribery ring.
For the first week to ten days of the war, this appeared to be exactly what the Israelis had in mind. But it never came to pass. Precisely why remains unknown, beyond the fact that Ehud Olmert wanted it that way. The IDF ran into some trouble at the border with mines and fortifications, Hezb'allah having been allowed to work on them for six years undisturbed, but these were little more than a shell and could have easily been pierced by combat engineers. But this was probably no more than a contributing factor.
If asked to speculate, I would point out that the IDF's chief of staff, Dan Halutz, is an ex—air force commander. Air force officers placed in a position to affect the course of a war have a long history of claiming that their boys can do the entire job on their own with no assistance from ground—pounders (e.g., Goering in 1940, the USAF staff in 1965). What happens then is a series of limited strikes that accomplish little, followed by more and larger strikes, and then desperation raids on any conceivable target before the military settles for doing what it should have done in the first place. This narrative fits the war to a tee. Even down to the fact that, when the time came to throw in the ground forces, it was simply too late. (To give credit where it's due, the IAF did succeed in destroying most of Hezb'allah's stock of Iranian Zelzal long—range missiles at the start of the war —— apparently one of the few elements of prewar planning that went as foreseen.)
Time was bought by the major Arab states, who were anxious to see the radical Shi'ites bounced even if it was done by Jewish interlopers, and an all—out campaign by the U.S. to keep the UN from interfering. This offered Israel an unprecedented window of opportunity. But Israel wasted that window by consistently playing to Hezb'allah strengths. Ground troops were dribbled into combat in penny packets, becoming bogged down in fortified villages like Bint Jbeil, which should have been bypassed and reduced at a later time. Even after IDF troops were ignominiously ejected from Bint Jbeil, the IDF failed to move in force, leaving the advantage to Hezb'allah. The mass offensive that should have opened the war occurred only at the last possible moment, and then solely to give a jolt to the UN.
In the meantime, the air campaign had fallen victim to a well—planned Hezb'allah PR operation, complete with an impresario, the notorious 'Green Helmet' (who insists that he's simply a civil defense worker doing his job, presumably with his own personal helicopter to fly him from site to site), an apparent stash of ready corpses, and a cadre of news photographers either too enthusiastic or too frightened to protest at being used as propaganda conduits. (The record, as represented by the immortal Adnan Hajj — who has a great future in any Muslim news service if he can only be trained to use Photoshop — and the 'Passion of the Toys', seems to tilt strongly toward 'enthusiastic'.)
The trap being prepared, the IAF obligingly fell in, bombing targets to little tactical or strategic purpose — a 'Katyusha launcher' can be created with about $20 worth of hardware —— though well aware that the Hezb'allah was placing its assets at points where civilian casualties were inevitable. The result was a quick reversal by previously understanding Arab governments, a universal moan by the easily—flummoxed Western elite, and second thoughts by Israel's allies.
All this time, the Katyushas kept falling on northern Israel in their hundreds and thousands (the total is an astonishing 4,000). Hezb'allah had deliberately modified the warheads for greater terror effects, adding loads of ball bearings and other forms of shrapnel. The missiles effectively cleared out the country's northern tier, with remaining residents spending most of their days in bomb shelters. This created an image of Israeli helplessness that was both spurious and unnecessary — the original Israeli war plan would have solved that problem within a matter of hours. That image will not be forgotten either in Arab countries or Israel itself.
And now we have a cease—fire, one, mirabile dictu, acceptable to both parties. It seems to envision a muscular UN peacekeeping force on the Lebanese border consisting of 15,000 troops. Presumably these will be actual soldiers instead of the whoremasters and entrepreneurs that customarily operate under the UN name (between Hezb'allah and the Israelis, it appears that brothels wouldn't have all that much of a future in the area in any case). But with the U.S. embroiled in Iraq and elsewhere and NATO involved in Afghanistan, it's anybody's guess where they'll come from.
The ceasefire also creates a number of interesting possibilities: for instance, if Hezb'allah again starts lobbing Katyushas into Northern Israel, does the UN then turn on Hezb'allah, or do the Israelis attack through the UN forces? (The latest word at publication time is that the Israelis claim the right to do exactly this.) Security Council Resolution 1701 appears to represent good thinking all around. (Condi Rice has taken a lot of flack for her role in arranging the cease—fire. But it has to be remembered that Dr. Rice is the U.S. Secretary of State, with American interests her prime concern. When it became apparent that Israel had fumbled the ball, those interests became paramount. She defended them as required.)
The results of this war will be months in coming, and few will be good (e.g., expect to see a lot more katyushas in Iraq. A lot more.) But the most critical development is this: one of the major elements — perhaps the major element — of Israeli foreign policy is the premise that under no circumstances would Israel be dependent on any other nation for its survival. It could scarcely be any other way, the Jews being the sole existing people that the modern world once attempted to destroy. To depend on anyone else would be to invite a repetition of that ordeal. No greater responsibility lies on the shoulders of any Israeli politician than to see that situation maintained.
But now, thanks to Ehud Olmert, it is over. Israel now depends for its security on the United States and the UN. These are frail reeds. The U.S. has always been faithful, but that can no longer be guaranteed, with the Democrats now being taken over by their maniac wing. That's unlikely to be permanent, but may continue for several years... and all it takes is one more Jimmy Carter. As for the UN, they have never given a damn and never will. Apart from incompetence, there's the barely concealed contempt for Israel, bordering on blatant anti—Semitism, plainly evident in Kofi Annan and his people. The organization still believes that Zionism is racism. To depend on its goodwill is to tempt a second Holocaust.
Israel now needs to do three things:
* The first is a purge of the IDF's command cadre. It's impossible to say what has gone wrong with the IDF, but that's just the point. It has gone wrong all the way down the line. Three incidents will suffice: last year the IDF abandoned development of the Northrop THEL system, a laser cannon configured to destroy missiles of the Katyusha class that had performed promisingly in tests. The reasoning was extremely vague. The system was 'too bulky', didn't work well if it was cloudy, and so forth. If purchased at the time, it would have been coming on line right about now. While not quite a Starship Enterprise phaser bank, the THEL is an impressive weapon that would have curtailed the panic generated by Hezb'allah's missiles in much the same way that the RAF encouraged the British people while being unable to fully stop the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1940.
Similarly, the IAF failed to procure a reasonable supply of bunker—buster bombs even though aware that Hezb'allah had six years to fortify and tunnel. Again, this would not have completely solved the problem — some Hebollah tunnels were over 120 feet deep — but it's still a sign of gross unpreparedness, particularly on the part of ex—air force chief Dan Halutz.
Even more troubling are reports that tanks were being ordered into heavily—defended areas of southern Lebanon with no imfantry accompaniment — which is simply asking for them to be blown away. Dealing with enemy anti—tank teams has been a textbook matter since the Normandy breakout in WWII. Infantry assaults the enemy teams, creating a hole for the armor to roar through. If there's any truth is these stories, it reveals incompetence of a criminal degree. Courts martial should follow.
Whether the problem is political in origin, with officers bowing to interfering officials to protect their careers, cronyism, with inept officers promoted because they served with the right individual or unit, or institutional or doctrinal failings, it has to be exposed and corrected. Israel does not have two military failures coming to it. Strictly speaking, it doesn't have one. I'm not certain whether the Knesset holds public hearings on issues such as this, but if it does, they ought to begin within weeks.
* Get rid of Ehud Olmert. The man has proven himself incapable beyond recall. Democracies have a tendency to throw up such types in times of crisis before settling on the right man. It happened in Athens, and it happened in America (look up the careers of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, for example.) Olmert not only failed to understand how to carry out his war, he failed to understand why it was being fought in the first place. According to Israeli sources, Olmert was heard remarking that the purpose of the war was that it would enable Israel to 'remove its settlements from Samaria'. This is as if George Bush had concluded that the point of 9/11 was to give Manhattan back to the Indians. Of course the alternative, the suave (and corrupt) media figure and playboy Benjamin Netanyahu is no prize, but at this point Jojo the Dogfaced boy would be an improvement. This is a case where the parliamentary system adapted by Israel is superior to ours: they can get rid of the useless politician.
* Target Hezb'allah for annihilation by any means necessary. This means every last active combatant. These are not Palestinians who can pose as helpless refugees. They are a terrorist organization and every member is, by definition, a criminal. Their treatment needs to be Biblical, with each member serving as a demonstration that no hand can be raised against Israel without the wrath of Yahweh searching him out from that moment on. Make no mistake: Hezb'allah has humiliated Israel. The country — and the Middle East, and the world at large — will not be safe until that stain is wiped out.
As for us — meaning the rest of the world — we'll be seeing a lot of Sons of Hezb'allah springing up in the near future. Hezb'allah has taken the pennant from Al—Qaeda, and are now the heroes of the pathological sector of Muslim manhood, who will be doing their best to emulate them all across the Muslim world. And of course, Al—Q will have to make some effort to get the pennant back....
The first phase of the War on Terror has now ended. It could have, and should have, gone better, in a number of ways on a number of fronts. As it is, we can only repeat what Grant said to Sherman, as the two of them stood in the rain the evening after the carnage of Shiloh: 'Whip 'em again tomorrow."
J.R. Dunn is a frequent contributor.