August 11, 2006
Will Israel Bring Out the Hammer and Anvil?By By Michael Lopez-Calderon
Despite calls from many quarters for a deeper Israeli ground offensive into Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet have thus far avoided the risky move.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) do not want a repeat of 1982. They know it is a new day, a new war. The old adage that 'Generals fight yesterday's war' does not apply to the IDF so far. Instead, the IDF has been waging a casualty—averse, politically—correct campaign that consistently comes up short. It is high time the IDF obliges Hezb'allah's desire for suicidal martyrdom.
I argued earlier that the terrorist outfit intended to wage a dual—strategy: one of immobile defense from well—constructed bunkers, forts, tunnels, and mined buildings in the hilltop border towns of Lebanon, and the other a classic guerrilla war of ambush, IEDs, and hit—and—run tactics that requires a massive and rapid Israeli invasion deep into Lebanon, leaving IDF lines of communications over—extended and vulnerable. So far, Israel has avoided an ill—advised headstrong rush into Lebanon but its tentative moves and over—reliance on air power against entrenched Hezb'allah forces have been a major disappointment.
Unfortunately, the new kind of war emerging in Lebanon is one that we have seen glimpses of in Iraq: armored and mechanized, modern high—tech militaries are having problems with well—equipped and—trained, fanatical, insurgent terrorists armed with an array of weaponry that runs the gamut from simple AK—47s to IEDs to advanced anti—tank missiles.
In the case of Hezbollah, I erred in calling it a terrorist—guerrilla outfit. Hezb'allah possesses a professional, light—infantry army division augmented by terrorist—guerrillas and the majority of the Lebanese Shiite population. It is almost without a doubt the single best fighting force in the Muslim world.
Israel and Hezb'allah are playing a deadly game of chess. Hezb'allah's hidden move is not so hidden after all: Hassan Nasrallah has threatened Tel Aviv with powerful, long—range missiles capable of killing scores, even hundreds in a single blow. A salvo could result in an unconscionable death toll by Israeli standards. Such a strike would cross a red line never before traversed as well as alter Israel's strategy in ways unimaginable.
However, this dark speculation has yet to be realized, though its ominous presence can be seen just over the horizon. We must deal with what is occurring now. Since fighting erupted on July 12, Israeli accounts estimate that 300—400 Hezb'allah terrorists have been killed. Recent Israeli commando raids deep into Hezb'allah strongholds have netted more Hezb'allah P.O.W.s while the most recent ground—fighting around the contested Hezbollah towns of Bint Jbeil, Rajmin, Masjara and Ayta al—Shaab brought more success for the IDF. Among the estimated twenty—plus Hezb'allah prisoners are Iranian soldiers.
However, a level of unprecedented fecklessness pervades Israel's leaders. The tentative approach to war with Hezbollah was unthinkable in previous Israeli governments. The Washington Post reports shouting matches, often normal in Israeli politics, erupted during Olmert's emergency war cabinet meeting yesterday:
What is not normal for Israeli political leaders is the degree of indecision. One of Olmert's Cabinet members, Eli Yishai, the Israeli trade minister, abstained from voting for increased offensive operations because he correctly deduced that another thirty days of combat was too short a period and added that:
In other words, he seems to suggest it is high time that Israel goes Roman on Hezb'allah. Short of an elusive satisfactory diplomatic solution augmented by a combat—effective international force that exists only on paper, Israel will have to apply a Carthage—like solution to Hezb'allah in Southern Lebanon unless she wishes to render the estimated 1,000,000 residents of northern Israel permanent subterranean dwellers. And that's only the tip of the iceberg of nightmarish consequences to come for the Jewish State.
Israel now faces an existential enemy in Hezb'allah. No longer is it a so—called 'resistance' organization that was once supposedly 'only' committed to driving Israel out of Lebanon. As Charles Krauthammer wrote about Israel's withdrawal:
Israel complied with all international demands for withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, and this is the reward she receives from Hezb'allah six years later. The dreams of the Peace Now (or is it Peace at any price?) Israelis must be put aside. Israel now must confront an irredeemable foe with brutal realism.
Hezb'allah revealed its game plan within the early days of the now month—long fighting. While Hezb'allah holds on to the hilltop fortresses, it also rains thousands of increasingly lethal rockets on Israeli towns and cities. The terrorists have invested enormous prestige in the hilltop towns overlooking Israel. Bint Jbeil is the most symbolic one, though towns like Aita al—shaab, Labouna, Dbil, Jibbain, Marjayoun, Taibe, and cities like Tyre will be defended with equal tenacity.
But why would Hezbollah do this if it is a guerrilla force? The answer lies in reframing the question:
If Hezbollah is a well—trained and well—armed light—infantry division defending the high ground from fortified positions, why bother fighting like rag—tag guerrillas? This is precisely where most of the experts went wrong up until about a few days ago. They now concede Israel is facing something rarely ever seen in this part of the world: a superb Arab fighting—force capable of resisting the conventional, linear combat tactics of the IDF.
Gerald Steinberg, director of a conflict management program at Bar—Ilan University said in the Washington Post,
Hebrew University political science professor Yaron Ezrahi said,
Martin Van Creveld, Israel's prominent military historian at Hebrew University, believes Israel has failed to break Hezbollah's will to fight and that the war will drag on for a long time. The Washington Post notes that Israeli
Hemmed in by international criticism, Western governing ethos and moral principals, and the morally, legally, and historically unacceptable premise of waging an existential war of annihilation, Israel is faced with a detestable proposition that the United States, or any other country for that matter, would never accept: She is somehow expected to demonstrate passivity or at minimum, proportionality, even while an enemy like Hezbollah, 'a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary' is committed to its extermination.
In order to prove its worthiness to the anti—Semitic hand—wringers of the international community, Israel is expected to take the first blow, for example, an Iranian nuclear strike. But unlike most European nations or the U.S., Russia, China, and much of the Muslim world, Israel cannot absorb a nuclear hit and survive. Thus in demanding that Israe l respond 'proportionately' to her existential enemies, the international community is consigning the Jewish nation to another Holocaust. That is utterly unacceptable.
In the coming days, Israel will need to break out the hammer and anvil against Hezb'allah. A two—pronged IDF offensive up Lebanon's coastline and eastern border, respectively, until it reaches the Litani River will require a force of about 24,000. An additional 20,000 will slog their way northward from southern Lebanon, uprooting Hezb'allah fighters and serving as the anvil to the hammer blow that will occur if the troops that reach the Litani turn south and hit Hezb'allah from behind.
This of course leaves that force's flanks wide open to attack from the Hezb'allah reserves that Nasrallah claims to possess. Word of advice to the IDF: When Nasrallah says he possesses something and holds a trick up his sleeve, believe him.
To protect the Israeli Army's flanks, air power can do the job. Rather than the futile campaign against evasive rocket launchers that can only be taken out by ground troops, the Israeli Air Force would better serve the Army by leveling towns, infrastructure, and hitting all vehicles suspected of transporting Hezb'allah fighters and supplies.
Hezb'allah has chosen to fight in a conventional, defensive manner ala the Japanese at Iwo Jima. It is up to the IDF to respond in kind and fight as the Marines did. Anything less will not only spell a political defeat for Israel, but a military one as well.