Krauthammer and the “Iron Dice.”

"This picture is of the IDF at the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem in 1967)

Lionsgate "The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

It starts by preparing the ground with air power, just as the Persian Gulf War began with a 40-day air campaign. But if all that happens is the air campaign, the result will be failure. Hezbollah will remain in place, Israel will remain under the gun, Lebanon will remain divided and unfree. And this war will start again at a time of Hezbollah and Iran’s choosing.

Just as in Kuwait in 1991, what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah. It would then declare the obvious: that it has no claim to Lebanese territory and is prepared to withdraw and hand south Lebanon over to the Lebanese army (augmented perhaps by an international force), thus finally bringing about what the world has demanded — implementation of Resolution 1559 and restoration of south Lebanon to Lebanese sovereignty."  Krauthammer


The doctor is an honest man who sees more from his wheelchair than the great majority of people.

The "Air Power" fanatics are in "full cry" once again claiming or hoping that fire delivered by air or artillery can deny ground to a determined foe.

This is nonsense and the willingness of the Israeli and American governments to believe that it is other than nonsense is indicative of the corrosive effect of "new thinking," as John Bolton calls it, on the mind.  All of military history, both before and after the creation of the flying machine indicates that "fire" kills but does not determine the "ownership" of ground.

The "Air Power" crowd and the "Revolution in Military Thinking" crowds wish to believe that air weapons and gee-whiz techno-weapons rule the battlefield.  Experience in places like Iraq, Vietnam, etc. never seems to change the mind set that desires to believe this.

This reminds me of the USAF colonel who approached me on this question at the US Army War College.  He was assigned there as an instructor.  He said that he thought I was one of the more "reasonable" Army officers at the college and that he wanted to ask me if it was true as he had discovered to his surprise that Army officers did not think that airplanes changed the whole nature of war.  He said that he had learned that Army officers thought of "Air Power" as the equivalent of trucks and artillery.  He was clearly shocked.

My answer did not comfort.  Krauthammer is right.  Men live on the ground, not in the clouds.

Pat Lang

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16 Responses to Krauthammer and the “Iron Dice.”

  1. wtofd says:

    Reading The Last Valley now. Reminds me of “nous avons la formule.” Didn’t work so well at DBP.

  2. john says:

    Mr. Krauthammer states the obvious. Hizbullah handed Israel an opportunity; the Israelis recognize it and so does the Bush administration (the neocons are still conscious).
    The question that suggests itself is: Will the Israelis have better luck with the Lebanese government of today than they had with the SLA prior to 2000 if they pursue the route that Krauthammer proposes?
    Clearly, kuluh fi yed Allah.

  3. Sheerahkahn says:

    I think it’s a bit premature to be second guessing the military and political goals of Israel and the IDF.
    As for our own arm chair bound, Monday morning Generals crowing about air superiority…even the village idiot has something to say, just let them say their peace, and hope they go back to entertaining themselves with the lint in their navel.

  4. McGee says:

    The trouble with starting a military conflict to solve a political problem (and Hezbollah is now a legitimate political entity for which Israel is largely responsible, much as they might wish it were otherwise) is that it makes the eventual diplomatic solution much more difficult to broker and impossible to sustain. You’re going to wind up with occupation vs. insurgency of one sort or another, whether the occupiers are US, Israeli or UN/third country. And we all know how well that’s worked out historically.
    Let’s hope that someone with diplomatic skills steps in quickly before there’s even more carnage. But given the current cast of characters (not just ours, but Condi & friends certainly deserve a gold star here) it’s kind of like waiting for kids with crayons to paint the Mona Lisa…

  5. zanzibar says:

    The only way the Israeli’s can reduce the Hizballah threat in southern Lebanon is to occupy and create a no-man zone. The IDF recognize that and have stated they intend to do just that right from the beginning of this conflict. They already announced their intention to attack to the people in southern Lebanon and have warned them to “evacuate”.
    However, Hizballah and the Iranians may just want exactly that hoping that Israeli forces will get bogged down in an insurgency and ever larger forces are required. Their calculation is possibly this would basically weigh down the two overwhelmingly superior military powers in the Middle East the US and Israel in “unwinnable” insurgencies while giving Iran more space to consolidate their “Shia Crescent” ambitions.
    Who will be proven to have been more shrewd?

  6. b says:

    “what must follow the air campaign is a land invasion to clear the ground and expel the occupier. Israel must retake south Lebanon and expel Hezbollah.”
    This is just stupit. Hezbollah is not some abstract organization or “thing” but a result of the will of the people on the ground.
    So Krauthammer wants to move (or kill) some 2 million people – all Hezbollah supporters – to “expell the occupier”?
    Hezbollah is not “occupying” South Lebanon, it IS South Lebanon.
    Where should the go and what you expect them to do when they are there?
    To change a rocket design form some 50 miles of reach to 150 miles of reach is (engineering wise) trivial.
    Where is the gain of this insanity.

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There is no gain. As you say, it is stupid, but nevertheless he understands the logic of the game. pl

  8. confusedponderer says:

    I doubt that Israel will succeed in crushing Hezbollah. They’ll have terrible losses, sure, but I can’t imagine them being crushed without Israel resorting to ethnic cleansing.
    Hezbollah is probably Lebanon’s only real military force, and accidentally the only arab armed force to ever defeat Israel. That’s something very remarkable. I find the aspect that Israel’s hitting civilian infrastructure telling. I read it as: We can’t hit Hezbollah’s military targets, because there are none, but we’ll pester everyone around them to make them turn on Hezbollah. I doubt that’ll work.
    I guess William S. Lind put it well in his latest op-ed: “Unfortunately, Israel is to America what Serbia was to Russia in 1914.” He has a point. With a patron giving carte blance there is not exactly a need to be reasonable. Instead, it gives every incentive to be radical.
    I find Bush’s ‘One call from Damascus will stop Hezbollah’ disingenious to say the very least.
    I think that Hezbollah has it’s own will and that, while Iran and Syria yield some leverage, they don’t control them. Syria’s influence in Lebanon IMO was strongly related to them controlling the territory – with pushing Syria out of Lebanon the US have diminished Syrian influence over Hezbollah – and still call them to do something. Sorry folks, but you put it out of their hands.

  9. Paul says:

    Dr. K may be right on the tactics (I wouldn’t know), but he and his fellow travelers are fools on the strategy.

  10. Dr Slop says:

    When I was last in Tyre and Sidon the (few) members of Hezbollah I encountered were all local Lebanese – and they were organising jobs, medicine, gas cylinders and food baskets for the near-destitute unemployed.

  11. zanzibar says:

    Hizballah shows no signs of breaking
    Seems like more escalation is in the cards as soon as the westerners are evacuated. This weekend could be deadly.

  12. zanzibar says:

    IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz warned the security cabinet on Wednesday that Hezbollah wants to drag Israel into a war of attrition in Lebanon, whereas Israel wants “a short and forceful war.”
    War of attrition

  13. Airplanes never captured a hill. Those who think they will are literally luftmenschen.
    Visit the Schapira blog at
    … and tell them Big Mitch sent ya!

  14. MarcLord says:

    Two roads lie in front of Israel. Down one lurks disaster. Down the other is utter catastrophe. Let’s hope it chooses wisely.

  15. JL says:

    Col. Lang, I happened to catch just a few minutes of your appearance on CNN. As always you did an excellent job but next time give us a heads up.

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