Meltdown for US/Israeli Strategy


"The announcement raised the prospect of a more protracted Israeli involvement in Lebanon than the political and military leadership previously signaled or publicly sought. Officials have talked about limited raids into Lebanon, but now they seem ready to commit ground forces for at least weeks, if not months.

They said the zone would be much smaller than the strip of southern Lebanon roughly 15 miles deep that Israel occupied for nearly two decades before withdrawing in 2000."  NY Times


It looks like the wheels are coming off the Olmert/Halutz master plan for dealing with Hizballah.  The "Air Power" enthusiasts (including Americans) maintained stoutly at the beginning that "air power" alone would suffice to deal with Hizballah, herding them around, intimidating them, etc. None of that has happened.

Now the Israelis are talking about some trivial belt along the Lebanese side of the border that they are going to occupy to "protect" northern Israel.

From what?  Hizballah rockets and mortar shells will fly across that 2 or 3 kilometer belt.  What is the IDF going to do, wave at this stuff as it passes overhead?

Turkish and Egyptian Muslim troops are going to disarm Hizballah? What a joke?  The governments might attempt to do something like this in event of a cease-fire but the soldiers will be very reluctant to fight fellow Muslims, Shia or not.

Given the fiasco in Rome today, I see no end to the fighting in Lebanon any time soon.

Pat Lang

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28 Responses to Meltdown for US/Israeli Strategy

  1. jonst says:

    You obviously saw the casualties the IDF took today. And Bush’s pitiful, in the true sense of the word, performance yesterday. Did you, or anyone else read Juan Cole’s post on the some of the history of the Al-Dawa Party? And its relevance to Iraq’s present Prime Minster?
    Reality is really about to collide, big time, with illusion. It is, and will be, painful for all of us. When I think of the Bush Admin, and the Dems that supported and continue to support him, I think of Leopold Amery’s words to Chamberlain in the wake of the Norwegian debacle in 1940 “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

  2. MarcLord says:

    Newt and the neo-cons are coming out of the woodwork and accusing Condi of incompetence, apparently for taking over Bush’s foreign policy (sheesh, what will Foggy Bottom do next?):
    I had never imagined Condoleeza Rice would serve as a shield against WWIII, but here we are. There is some comfort in this; being accused of incompetence and “not understanding the Mideast” by neocons is a high compliment, and Condi is perhaps the most tireless, flexible, and sincere liar I’ve ever seen. Not exactly a Talleyrand with the whole diplomacy thing, but she’s, like, the Bruce Lee of lying. Maybe she can lie us all the way out of the “Gumps of August.”

  3. zanzibar says:

    Israel’s going to have to commit substantial ground troops if they have had such a hard time occupying Maroun Ras and now Bint Jbail which are only a few miles from the Israeli border.
    Hizballah resistance

  4. billmon says:

    “Now the Israelis are talking about some trivial belt along the Lebanese side of the border that they are going to occupy to ‘protect’ northern Israel.”
    They’re not even talking about that any more — apparently it’s supposed to be some sort of DMZ, about a mile and a half wide and 50 miles long, with the Israelis on one side, Hizbullah on the other and the “peacekeepers” sandwiched in the middle.
    Yeah, like THAT’S going to work.
    After today’s defeat at Bint Jbail, the Israelis may not even get that. They’ve already dropped the demand for Hizbullah to disarm. They’ve given up on securing the border between Syria and Lebanon (as if that was even possible.) At the rate they’re going, Hizbollah MIGHT let them keep the Galilee.
    This has been a debacle of the first order — much, much worse than what I thought the worst case scenario could be (from an Israeli point of view.) Something is rotten inside the IDF, and it’s going to have major repercussions, both domestically in Israel and diplomatically in the region.

  5. Huguette Deceuninck says:

    An other excellent assessment! Thank you for your blog and all comments it generates! Huguette

  6. robt. willmann says:

    26 July 2006
    Between yesterday and today, I have heard of these three things, and I am wondering if
    any of them are true.
    1. The San Francisco
    Chronicle reported that
    more than a year ago, “a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations,on an off-the-record basis, to
    U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in
    revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.”
    “In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah’s heavier long-range
    missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers,
    and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in
    order to knock out targets discovered during
    reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded.
    There was no plan, according to this scenario, to
    reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.”
    2. The U.S. is helping Israel with the execution
    of the attack against Lebanon, by providing satellite
    imagery, signals intercepts, helping with targeting,
    and possibly even being in “war rooms” assisting
    with the Israeli military action.
    3. On National Public Radio (NPR) this afternoon,
    there was a program I heard just a snippit of in which
    someone said that the president of the U.S. could
    commit the U.S. Marines to a foreign location for up
    to 90 days without Congressional authorization. I don’t know where that authorization comes from, since I have not had the time to look it up. It may be in
    the War Powers Act.
    This Lebanese tragedy was not the result of an Israeli reaction to a couple of soldiers being captured (The Big Lie), but was premeditated with the U.S. probably being in the loop over a year ago.

  7. pbrownlee says:

    “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
    The archaic language (even for a Tory) indicates that Leo Amery was quoting Oliver Cromwell (to the Rump Parliament, April 16 1653) and I have been thinking a fair bit about the Lord Protector over the last few years.
    Two more favorites are:
    “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.” (Letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, August 3 1650)
    “I had rather have a plain, russet-coated Captain, that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a Gentle-man and is nothing else.” (Letter, September 1643 – quoted in Carlyle’s “Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell”)

  8. zanzibar says:

    For Israel: must-win situation
    How big a ground force would they need to commit to “win”? The Israeli’s have superior fire and ground attack forces with tanks and armored vehicles. So is it just a question of time for them to overwhelm Hizballah fighters or a change of strategy? I realize there is a difference between invasion and occupation and that the latter is a game of attrition. But I am curious why they are having such difficulty in these initial battles for ground so close to their border?

  9. ckrantz says:

    That it is a lose-lose situation for Israel. IDF deserves the blame. They seems to have grown complacent and made the fatal error of underestimating the enemy. Another interesting question is why the IDF can’t shut down the teams firing the missiles?
    I thought with todays technology you could pinpoint in seconds a firing postition and hit it with missiles or artillery?

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    These categories do not really fit the situation.
    Before we can talk of attrition the Israelis have to fight their way through the border belt.
    They have had so little success at that so far that I think we have to wait to see how large a force they have to use to get through that before we start talking about attritional warfare. pl

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    That only works if you are quicker at firing back than they are at leaving the area. pl

  12. dan says:

    There was a priceless piece of live reportage by Sky News from Tyre a couple of days ago: they showed real-time live footage of Hizbullah launching rockets from a wooded area outside the town. They timed the counter-battery/airstrike response at 11 minutes – which should tell you everything you need to know.
    A few hours later a Lebanese soldier, acting on orders from Hizbullah, told them not to live-broadcast rocket firings, but to wait a few hours before doing so – this is the Hizbullah version of military reporting restrictions.

  13. Hedley Lamar says:

    So what happens after the Israelis occupy a thin border strip in southern Lebanon?
    Hezbollah dries up and blows away, right?
    No, Hezb goes on fighting, which means Israel goes on fighting. Which means Israel has to push deeper into Lebanon…
    And with Syria now absent from Lebanon, it’s at least conceivable that the upshot could be a complete Israeli occupation of the country.

  14. pbrownlee says:

    “The battle began at 3:30 at night,” he said. “Ten minutes after the first clash, we arrived to help. There was heavy fire from rocket launchers, missiles, rocket-propelled grenades. I provided cover fire for soldiers who tried to reach the wounded, and this went on for hours. Eventually, a missile hit the yard where I was standing. I was thrown back along with the wall which I was hiding behind. In my lifetime I never expected to see bodies and people with bullets in their chest.”
    “In my lifetime”??? Has the IDF become a force that can only really engage an enemy that cannot return — or initiate — fire?
    Or, at least, that the IDF has very seriously underestimated its enemy?
    Shades of the Zulu Wars.

  15. john in Los Angeles says:

    Given it’s superior economy and military, Israel will clearly be able to subdue the south of Lebanon – in time.
    But what good will this military achievement do if the net political effect is to empower the most radical Islamist political segments of Arab society?
    Osama Bin Laden wanted the United States in the Middle East killing Arabs. The IDF should consider if this isn’t precisely what Hizbullah wants as well — the IDF, on television, splattering innocent Arab children.
    In other words, the US and IDF have undertaken dramatic, ill – conceived over-reaction in which only the most racists Jews and Christians could take pleasure.
    Note how many neo-cons take so much pleasure whenever the US and Israel are bombing undefended Arab cities…

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    LAJohn (sounds bad)
    I am not so sure that the IDF will break through HB defenses any time soon. or occupu whatever it is that they are calling it now.
    Battles like Cassino come to mind. pl

  17. Spooky Pete says:

    Isreal’s position may not be as bleak if its Lebanon campaign, in fact, has external objectives.
    Perhaps stating the obvious I believe Israel is most concerned about Hezbollah’s rockets and any remaining missiles.
    I don’t think the Israelis are so foolish as to expect that airpower could subdue a guerilla force. Neither side is inexperienced.
    A more credible Israeli strategy may be this: if Israel is eliminating (largely by airstrikes) a substantial proportion of the existing rockets this will eventually force Hezbollah to seek further supplies – probably through Syria and perhaps manufactured in Iran.
    So by forcing Iran and Syria to increase their supply efforts Israel can more easily justify future military action against these countries.
    If Isreal can block or slow the resupply efforts this could irritate the Syrians into some sort of “useful offensive act”
    Alternatively if Iran and Syria choose not to resupply Hezbollah this may diminish Hezbollah’s key offensive weapon (something Israelis would welcome).
    This and my largely ignored “the peacekeepers are supposed to fail thesis” is argued at length in my blog
    Pat – I don’t think Israel, with its years of of self-inflicted experience, can get things so wrong as you suggest.

  18. Hannah K. O'Luthon says:

    I come here to learn what experts (Col. Lang in the first instance)
    think on matters where I have no competence at all. Yet I find it hard to believe that after years of war-gaming, infiltration, and subversion of Lebanese Hezbollah forces the Tsahal has produced nothing more than a fiasco. This is not to deny the possibility of miscalculation, but rather to ask if the goal of the Israeli actions may not be to produce a war condition which seems to justify U.S. intervention against Israel’s enemies. Taking out the U.N. observation post would (perhaps) allow greater liberty in creating incidents sufficient to
    push the U.S. (all too willing to be pushed) into war with Syria and/or Iran for their support of the merciless Hezbollah terrorists who rain rockets on the (the Arab section) of Haifa. Colonel Lang will probably invoke Ockham’s razor (in this case the infinite capacity of the powerful to believe in their own invincibility) and reject this
    conjecture as far fetched, but I would ask that we wait until the U.S. elections in November before making a definitive judgment. There may well be a perceived congruence between Israeli strategic aims in the Middle East and Bush administration electoral exigencies.

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I do not need the Razor. All my information from inside Israel indicates that your desire to believe in Israeli competence is misplaced. pl

  20. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You and hannah have seen “Exodus” too many times.
    The IDF is an armed force that suffers from belief in its own press releases.
    You both need a greater experience of the inherent futility and stupidity of mankind acting in political contexts and within the framwork of delusion that is institutional brueaucracy.
    This not a grand strategy. It is just incompetence.
    In other words, stop being gullible! pl

  21. Spooky Pete says:

    I set down what you just said in some detail on my blog a couple of days ago. Come visit (just click “Spooky Pete” below).

  22. BadTux says:

    A couple of things that I have noticed:
    1. Israel has *NOT* committed overwhelming force to this invasion. They appear to have approximately a brigade-strength force operating within the borders of Lebanon. They appear to be using the same tactics that the US uses in Iraq — probe, receive fire, call in air and artillery strikes upon the source of the fire, repeat. Except that Hizbullah is a lot smarter than the Iraqi insurgents, and has proven themselves quite capable of withholding their fire until Israeli probes are contained within an envelopment, then causing serious casualties (proportional to the size of the probe) at quarters too close for calling in air or artillery support.
    These tactics do not appear to be what would be used for a large-scale invasion. They appear more aimed to somehow “bleed” Hizbullah. Sort of the same principle as the “drain the swamp” principle that the U.S. has used so successfully in Iraq, or the successful “attrition” strategy devised by McNamara in Vietnam. (Sarcasm intended).
    2. Chances of military victory over Hizbullah are non-existent. They are classic guerillas. If Israel brings in overwhelming force, they will simply move out of the way and fade into the general population.
    3. So, given that the Israelis are not total idiots, what are they trying to accomplish? I believe they’re trying to accomplish exactly what they’ve said they’re trying to accomplish: “disarm” Hizbullah. In this case, goad Hizbullah to fire off their entire stock of rockets and missiles, then prevent Hizbullah from resupplying via air power and pressure upon neighboring governments. The success of this plan depends on a) the cooperation of Hizbullah (thus far seems to be working, Hizbullah has fired off over a thousand missiles or rockets), and b) the ability of Israel to cut off resupply (*not* known if it’s working, Israel is blowing up everything on the roads that looks big enough to haul a missile, but we all know how effect air power was at preventing the resupply of the Chinese army in Korea, or the resupply of the NVA in South Vietnam). Indeed, given that Hizbullah fired off over a hundred rockets yesterday, either they have a bottomless pit of rockets somewhere in southern Lebanon, or the effort to cut off resupply is an abysmal failure.
    4. Given this, why the extensive attacks upon civilian targets in Lebanon that have nothing to do with resupplying Hizbullah? There’s two possibly complementary reasons why Israel might do this. First, to further goad Hizbullah into itself targetting Israeli cities with their rockets, thus hopefully depleting Hizbullah’s rocket supply. Second, possible domestic political concerns — Olmert was widely considered “not tough enough”, leading to the possibility of losing to Likud. He may believe this is how he “proves” to the Israeli population that he’s “tough enough” to defend them from any threats to Israel.
    In short, I think Israel had a plan — a dumb plan, but a plan — to goad Hizbullah into “disarming” the hard way (i.e. by firing off its entire rocket and missile arsenal) then cutting off Hizbullah’s resupply. The 2km buffer zone then makes a lot more sense, since Hizbullah would then be reduced to AK47’s and RPG’s, neither of which would penetrate a 2km buffer zone. But this plan depends upon a) cutting off Hizbullah’s resupply, and b) accepting an amount of damage to Israeli infrastructure as Hizbullah fires off its entire arsenal. Oops, and c) the ability to actually conquer and occupy that 2km buffer zone. And none of these seem to be going as planned — Hizbullah seems able to smuggle dozens of rockets to the front lines to replace those fired every day against the Israelis without any serious interdiction by the IAF, Israeli cities such as Haifa are getting fired upon by missiles that Hizbullah wasn’t supposed to have, and the Hizbullah guerillas have proven to be far wilier fighters than was expected. Frankly, I don’t see what Israel can do right now. Hizbullah has won. All that’s left is some way to declare “peace with honor”. Hey, they could even do it in Paris!

  23. fasteddiez says:

    To fellow commenters,
    To all those who vouch for the IDF’s martial reputation being sufficient to carry the day, I profer caution. The victories of 67 and 73, 82 are long past. The veterans of those campaigns now gone. The 73 affair was a close thing. The IDF had no answer for the arab armies’ new anti-air weapons, nor the AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missile which “Ronsoned” many a tank. President Nixon had to denude American units in Europe of armor to help Israel. Insuficient intel failed the usually industrious Israelis to prepare.
    Now, we have IDF soldiers (infantrymen no less), proclaiming that they never expected to see comrades shot in the chest?????
    Another said that Hizbullah was afraid to take them on in a fair fight, instead relying on ambushes????
    Where do they get such men?
    To have young conscripts mouthe such inanities must confirm that at no time in their journey from free living, feckless, IPod receptacling youth had they had an NCO read them the Riot Act of Infantry combat. Preferably by being grabbed by the stacking swivel, for added emphasis.
    A country with such a history, living in an ever worsening, radicalizing neighborhood, and with the numbers working against you, needs “killers” in the tip of their spear. If you can’t get 100% of the people in a platoon to want contact, get as many as you can in positions of leadership (pour encourager les plus timides).
    It is mind-boggling to me that the IDF has degraded this far in combat leadership (seemingly at most levels).
    It is no wonder that Col Lang has judged their meager penetrations in the border regions to be a bad sign. With all the Sephardic Jews in Israel, there should have been no shortage of HUMINT personnel in the Bint Jbail area, reporting on the size and disposition of Hizbullah personnel and fortifications.
    I don’t mean to be judgmental solely on the reporting of second hand sources of information (Web, Blogs), but a seasoned outfit like the IDF should be able to take a town the size of Bint Jbail (after proper Recon) with a Tank-Infantry team (Hue like and Fallujah II like).
    I hope other bloggers can provide more up to date Intel. I know the Haaretz daily, and its readership have been critical of the goings on. I guess they should know.
    Respectfully submitted,

  24. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Respectfully accepted, brother.
    The soldier I saw on TV today whimpering that he had never expected to see an enemy face to face should have a boot up his ass instead of sympathy. pl

  25. fasteddiez says:

    In between posts I watched the news, where they filmed a unit just back in Israel proper from the front (I guess staying one click inside Lebanon is too traumatic for the lads). As the camera panned the sitting troops, their faces reflected the look you see on dogs that have been beaten most of their lives.

  26. ckrantz says:

    I didn’t see the reports on the soldiers reaction but they sound really strange when you consider that it was a unit of the Golani brigade that was responsible for taking Bint Jbail. The Golani is supposed to be the most veteran IDF brigade. Ariel sharon even commanded it once! And how often do battalion commanders get killed in combat unless something goes really wrong?

  27. ckrantz says:

    By the way Haaretz describes the unit in this article.

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