August 21, 2006
Israel's Sour VictoryBy By Michael Lopez-Calderon
The recent cessation of hostilities in the Israel—Hezb'allah '34—day war' has military experts, media personnel, and politicians scrambling for conclusive analyzes. The early diagnoses lean toward a Hezb'allah victory, with analysts divided over the type of victory, i.e., a political versus a military one. Few if any are willing to credit Israel with a victory and among the harshest critics are some of Israel's most ardent defenders.
The parade of pessimism has been impressive. Former House Speaker and possible Republican dark—horse Presidential candidate in 2008, Newt Gingrich, called the recent war's disappointing outcome a defeat not only for Israel but the entire West. Ralph Peters scored it 'Hezbollah 3, Israel 0' in a recent column. Ben Shapiro writing for Town Hall, criticized Israel's failure to crush Hezb'allah and its belated acceptance of United Nations' Resolution 1701 'Israel's Biggest Mistake.' He wrote that Israel
A symposium at Front Page Magazine titled 'Deadly Errors' left little doubt that Israel suffered a defeat.
The pessimism emerged in Israel as well. Calls for investigations into the conduct of the war are increasing daily. Israeli reservist Ron Ben—Yishai accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his left—of—center cabinet of undercutting the IDF. Dean Godson of Policy Exchange predicts that criticism of Israel's political class will reach a fever—pitch and with good reason:
The other side of the coin
In a reversal of the old adage, there is good reason to rain on this parade of pessimism. For starters, the U.N.—brokered ceasefire places that organization, the Lebanese government, and Hezb'allah in the world's spotlight. The onus for a successful outcome falls on them.
Israel now has a unique opportunity to seize the public relations initiative that was lost within the first days of combat. If the ceasefire fails, it will be a failure of the U.N. and Kofi Annan, the Lebanese government, and ultimately Hezb'allah. The French already have revealed their cowardly, contemptuous hypocrisy by dramatically reducing their troop commitment to the U.N. forces. David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post asserted that it is Hezb'allah that stands to lose should the ceasefire collapse:
Charles Krauthammer has recently moved to a slightly more upbeat assessment, stressing that the current ceasefire puts the onus of responsibility on the U.N. and Lebanese government, both which have a unique opportunity given the damage Israel inflicted on Hezb'allah:
Nadav Morag, a former director at the Israeli National Security Council and now professor of political science at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, argues that on balance, Israel won:
Post battlefield assessments find Hezb'allah in particularly bad shape. At least half of its frontline fighters were either killed or wounded. According to the AP:
In addition, the Israeli Air Force and ground forces destroyed some 2,000 Hezb'allah rockets while another 4,000 were expended hitting Israel. It is important that we do not overstate the Hezb'allah rocket arsenal and its performance. Overall, it was an abysmal failure.
For starters, Hezb'allah used up 6,000 rockets and managed to kill 39 Israeli civilians (including about 10 Israeli—Arabs) and 12 Israeli reservists in a lucky hit. That is a ratio of 118 rockets per Israeli killed. At that rate, the entire Hezb'allah rocket arsenal of 16,000 would have killed only 135 Israelis, not exactly the numbers required to defeat a resilient nation like Israel. The rockets' impact therefore is largely psychological.
True, Hezb'allah's Russian—made anti—tank missiles killed 50 of the 118 Israeli soldiers that lost their lives in the fighting. But IDF tactics left much to be desired; armor was sent in advance of infantry, a textbook error that a child with rudimentary knowledge of combined arms' tactics would spot in a New York minute.
Hezb'allah's occasional successes were mostly a result of poor tactics imposed on the IDF by Israel's casualty—sensitive government. For example, an Israeli tank crew member noted,
No one should denigrate the performance of the Israeli soldier, however. A blog in the Jerusalem Post by a lone soldier offers some of the most harrowing accounts of combat this side of Erich Marie Remarque.
There is little doubt that Israel's political leaders half—assed this war, to quote Fox News military analyst, Col. David Hunt. Perhaps the left—of—center Olmert government was not prepared to wage a war of brutal outcomes over a kidnapping incident. If so, it should have settled for a prisoner exchange and been done with it.
Hezb'allah' tipped its hand early, clearing fighting a war of fixed positions, at least along the Lebanese border. The IDF should have responded with overwhelming, concentrated infantry—led attacks followed by armor in support against the hilltop, border town areas. It did no such thing, instead choosing to attack in a piecemeal, limited fashion with vulnerable tanks in the lead. At least the IDF avoided the siren calls for a Blitzkrieg to the Litani River and beyond.
There will be no dramatic photos of IDF flag—raisings in Bint Jbeil or elsewhere, ala the U.S. Marines on Mt. Suribachi. However, the overly—celebratory Hezb'allah terrorists and their supporters should be forewarned that there is no more dangerous military force than one that can regroup, lick its wounds, and reflect upon it mistakes or reasons for suffering a setback.
In the halcyon days after Germany's defeat in World War I, France made little effort to improve her military despite initial advances in armor and possession of Western Europe's largest army. Her neighbor across the Rhine however did, and the results were seen and heard in June 1940 on the Champs—Elys�es.
Michael Lopez—Calderon's home page is here.