Ou sont les vieux?

Rabindayan My judgement on the strategic course being followed by Israel has been clear.  The airborne raid on Baalbec and the decision to "grasp the nettle" and re-occupy south Lebanon that have passed since I wrote this a couple of days ago indicate that "sobriety" has set in in Israeli policy circles.

Will the new policy yield the desired long term effects?  That depends on the IDF’s ability to decisively defeat Hizbullah (note transliteration) and the sad future faced by the people of South Lebanon.

Pat Lang

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35 Responses to Ou sont les vieux?

  1. johnieb says:

    Col. Lang,
    I just found your site, and will make it a regular stop. I’m sorry the army is losing people like you.
    I’m a Vietnam Vet, an interrogator with the Cav in 1968, mostly in I & III corps AO

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Were you in Phuoc Long? pl

  3. J says:

    i see this whole affair strengthening hizbollah, as it is drawing the entire spectrum of lebanese society into their fight against israel.
    israel made a ‘grave’ calculated error in not first strengthening the lebanese govt. and showing ‘friendship’ toward the lebanese populations (as a whole), alas israel has no allies (albeit bush and his weapons shipments), and hizbollah is emerging smelling like a rose.

  4. Eric says:

    You knowledge of the ME awes me.
    Now I fully understand the history and structure of the Israeli Army(after I reread it twice–slow on the uptake).
    Great piece.
    Doubt the oddsmakers in Vegas or wherever think much of the Israeli chances.
    But the South Lebanese will sure be screwed.

  5. zanzibar says:

    “According to Defense News, Halutz “cited Israel’s sensor-fused network along the northern border as an example of how the nation is achieving ‘full situational awareness through intelligence superiority’. Halutz said Israel’s operational concept of ‘knowing first, understanding first, deciding first and acting first’ allows Israel to choose the time, place and conditions when it will act'”
    It seems the IDF has become very Rumsfeldian. Caught in the techno-geek bubble of “network-centric warfare”.
    What are the prospects that the IDF will be able to “decisively defeat Hizbullah”? The IDF seem to have the time. It looks like they are on their way to create a 6-8 km buffer but at the same time the largest number of rockets were launched into Israel since the border war began.

  6. Mike says:

    Pat, I wonder if this invasion is really a scheme hatched by the U.S. and Israel. Israel’s role is to start the process, and the U.S. will come in to bomb Iran; thereby, destroying the supply of money and arms to Hezbullah, damaging the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, and cowing Syria into submission. Israel would gain a few more years of quiet, and the followers of Bush II would damage an imagined enemy. What do you think? If it makes any sense, can you suggest a schedule for the Iranian attack?

  7. pbrownlee says:

    Could the greatest dupes of the myth of IDF invincibility (and, more than that, high-speed victory) be the Bush Administration?
    And, yet again, where is Plan B?

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There has been so much foolishness, who can tell?
    As for timing I have never been good at predicting that. pat

  9. fasteddiez says:

    In regards to the Gen Halutz comments. They are not Rumsfeldian. This is just Halutz ineptly referring to the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act), This theory, crafted by Colonel John Boyd, USAF (One of the military’s leading thinkers) postulates that you must break into your enemy’s OODA cycle and disrupt it, thereby shattering his plans response time, communications, reactions, etc. He first came up with this in the context of figuring out better ways to teach dogfighting techniques for jet fighter pilots. He was then able to apply it to other facets of warfare.
    He was unapreciated by the Air Force for his troubles. Though Halutz and Rumsfeld have “Zoomie” backgrounds, Our DoD Chairman is too fond of Corporate methodologies and empty PowerPointish Buzz phrases (transformation), which are unconnected from any sound military principles or scholarship, to understand the OODA Loop, or to act on it.

  10. John in LA says:

    In 67 and 73 the Israelis were fighting Armies – with trucks, tanks, planes and etc.
    In the occupied territories and now Lebanon they are fighting armed indigenous irregulars in their own terrain (and, have no doubt, Gaza and West Bank are Arab lands – the Israelis will soon realize this).
    This has got to be difficult, dispiriting work. As the Americans have discovered in Iraq.
    Col. Lang: Isn’t this precisely the structure that the Russians encounter in Central Asia, that the Americans and Israelis encounter further west? Across the Muslim world, European “Armies” are fighting Muslim indigenous irregulars
    Doesn’t this look a hell of a lot like 19th century colonial warfare?
    And don’t the “armies” always lose against the “natives” — unless, as with the US Cavalry and the native Americans, influenza, smallpox and liquor do must of the close combat…

  11. billmon says:

    “And, yet again, where is Plan B?”
    This IS Plan B. Plan A was the air war — “shock and awe.” Plan C is the multinational force. There is no Plan D.

  12. Jerry Thompson says:

    I just can’t see “decisive defeat” of Hizbullah as being in the realm of the achievable — even if the legends walked again. In fact, one of the asymmetries in this war is in the differences in the requirement for victory — to win, Israel really does have to inflict “defeat” on Hizbullah; all Hizbullah has to do is “not lose.” Whatever capability they may retain makes the conflict a victory for them. And, when you look beyond the military dimension, it seems they have made their political legitimacy unassailable in Lebanon (and perhaps more broadly in the region). If that’s right, they’ve already won this war and whatever the Israelis may do to them militarily becomes irrelevant.

  13. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Ah, mon vieux, you are a cruel man. You don’t think the great Dayan could have handled this? Pat

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    right. No Plan “D.”
    There is only Plan “E” Le Plan d’Enmerdrement.
    Spelling? pl

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    LA John
    “And don’t the “armies” always lose against the “natives” — unless, as with the US Cavalry and the native Americans, influenza, smallpox and liquor do must of the close combat…”
    No. Don’t be nasty. In fact, the US forces defeated the Moros in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in the early 20th century.
    Actually, “natives” were easy to beat everywhere until the “metropoles” gave up the idea of empire. Yes. I include Algeria. pl

  16. BadTux says:

    Another thing that strikes me, looking at the order of battle of the IDF, is just how small the regular army is. In 2004, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated the strength of the ground forces at 125,000 troops, including 40,000 career soldiers and 85,000 conscripts, with an additional 600,000 men and women in the reserves. The reserves are, like our own reserves, undertrained and under-equipped for active combat, with probably 50% of more of them having been granted exemptions from the yearly service and thus out of shape and with training years out of date, and furthermore if Israel calls up many of the reserves, the entire Israeli economy grinds to a halt.
    So figure that, given the defense needs of Israel and the tooth-tail necessities involved in maintaining troops in the field, the Israelis have about 20,000 “regular” soldiers able to actually physically go into Lebanon. These are draftees with recent training and good physical fitness. Then there are the reserves, who, as I mention above, aren’t exactly the fittest or best trained bunch around. Once you look at these realities, you realize that the Israeli ground forces at any time in recent memory are not nearly as fearsome as the IDF’s reputation.
    The most striking thing about Arab performance against the Israelis from 1967 onwards is that those wars have been almost 100% won by air power. The ground forces fought adequately, but unexceptionally, and the Arab ground forces fought as well as the Israeli ground forces for the most part. But air superiority allowed the Israelis to destroy the Arab armor and when you have a 3rd generation blitzkrieg army going against a 2nd generation trench warfare army (what you have left when you take away a traditional army’s armor), well, let’s just say that we don’t know what would have happened if Arab armor had gone against Israeli armor.
    Which brings up the IAF. The IAF’s flight crews and mechanics are professionals who signed up for extended duty — draftees assigned to the IAF are typically assigned to air defense batteries, not to flight training — and it shows. The IAF can maintain a sortie rate that makes the USAF look like slackers. It is clear that most of the IDF’s reputation in the past has been based on the professionalism of the IAF, rather than of the ground forces, and that the reputation of the ground forces has basically been “made” by limited times of total mobilization where all the reserves were called up. But the reserves can only be called up for short periods before they must go home — otherwise the economy comes to a halt — so Israel is in a position in Lebanon that we are in Iraq — plenty of firepower to win tactical encounters, but not enough boots on the ground to staff the army of occupation needed to win the war.

  17. Glen says:

    A couple of questions:
    Why did the IDF leave Lebanon the first time?
    Does the IDF have any options at this point other than long term occupation of a buffer zone?
    What are the short term and long term implications in Iraq?

  18. pbrownlee says:

    Reacting to events and constantly shrinking the “objectives” do not look like plans to me — unless shooting yourself in the foot is a plan.
    “Shock and awe” has damaged Israel worldwide by revolting civilised opinion.
    Recruiting the new MNF will not exactly be easy.
    And, perhaps the biggy, the IDF’s reputation for invincibility is gone. Shocked and awestruck by their opponents not folding, the IDF seems simply to be reacting to events —
    “The clearest evidence of the national order of priorities is the situation in which the IDF’s fighting units find themselves. It was no secret that the army almost stopped training in large units and complex operations, and became totally immersed in the struggle against the Palestinian uprising. When infantry brigades turn into a police force specializing in breaking down doors and walls in refugee camps, or in pursuit of groups of terrorists in olive orchards, when the criterion for the success of a senior officer is the number of wanted men he has managed to catch rather than his operational talents and ability to command large units — the army deteriorates.
    “I cannot recall that the reserve divisions that were drafted on Yom Kippur in 1973, or the Israelis who returned as individuals from abroad in order to join the fighting, were in need of training and refresher exercises. Nevertheless, the Agranat Commission of inquiry was established to investigate, among other things, the level of the forces’ battle preparedness.
    “The Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War were wars of survival, and through them the IDF was revealed in all its greatness. The present war is the most unsuccessful we have ever had; it is much worse than the first Lebanon War, which at least was properly prepared, and in which, with the exception of gaining control over the Beirut-Damascus highway, the army more or less achieved its goals as determined by then-defense minister Ariel Sharon.
    “It is frightening to think that those who decided to embark on the present war did not even dream of its outcome and its destructive consequences in almost every possible realm, of the political and psychological damage, the serious blow to the government’s credibility, and yes — the killing of children in vain. The cynicism being demonstrated by government spokesmen, official and otherwise, including several military correspondents, in the face of the disaster suffered by the Lebanese, amazes even someone who has long since lost many of his youthful illusions.”

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    They could not take the heat of a continuing trickle of casualties from th security zone. pl

  20. The Agonist says:

    The Road To Diplomacy Is Filled With Dead Bodies

    From tonight’s Nelson Report:
    A friend who watches the situation closely explains:
    …”if the fighting is politically sustainable in Israel, there isn’t any reasonable way for the outside world to stop it from unfolding. And if it isn’t politically sus

  21. zanzibar says:

    I’ve read Boyd’s biography. Fascinating guy. And I realize all this “network-centric warfare” stuff is OODA all dressed up in powerpoint buzzwords which is very Rumsfeldian.
    Some moons ago, I happened to be at a briefing provided by Rumsfeld’s Office of Force Transformation and they were promoting how “sensor-fused networks” will provide “complete situational awareness” and “decision superiority” and why the Pentagon was letting multi-billion dollar contracts for GIG-BE, JTRS and many other acronyms.
    My head was spinning! But my hosts wanted to impress on me the big spending underway and why their company was a good investment.
    Its an irony reading the Halutz comment had the exact buzz words and here the IDF is involved in fighting a third world guerilla militia and has just devastated an entire country with, IMO, dubious results yet. The IDF spends $9-10 billion annually (of which we provide $3 billion). I doubt the Hizbullah militia has a budget greater than $100 million. So much for “NCW”.

  22. zanzibar says:

    What is Le Plan d’Enmerdrement? None of the French-English dictionaries on the web turned up a result. Maybe they are not as sophisticated 🙂

  23. fasteddiez says:

    RE/ Le Plan d’Enmerdrement or le plan E, I think it is spelled d’enmerdement.
    Conversely you can bring out an old francophone idiom for use here. On her next visit to the Middle East, Miss Rice can tell the assorted natives that in case their plans for conquest (Israelis), or salvation (Arabs) fail, they can rely on the “Systeme D”; D being for Demerdez vous!
    Sorry, I don’t know where the furrin accents are hidden on the keyboard or I woulda put em’ in.

  24. jonst says:

    A buffer zone, any buffer zone, will, among other things, accelerate a technological imperative. Hizballah will go after longer range missiles. And they will get them. And the threat will be right back again to what it was before. Hizballah, wounded, bloodied, but still standing, and be perceived as victors. And Israel will have to deal with those perceptions. But Hizballah, perceived as winners, will have its own set of dynamics. Its own consequences. And, these dynamics and consequences, if ‘observed and understood’ can be spun in a way that would be very harmful (but not fatal) for Hizballah Syrian and Iranian interests. To the extent the so-called Crescent grows in power, Israel, (if they can just do SOMETHING POSTIVE in the West Bank and Gaza) will, oddly enough, begin to be seen in a different light by some powers that be in the ME. Powers that may be less than thrilled with Crescent’s expansion. All this is very tricky and would require a lot of skill, touch, and strength. And, as noted, it hinges on the Palestinian issue. Perhaps it’s about time to release Barghouti. Perhaps it is long over due.

  25. Spooky Pete says:

    Your suggestion certainly follows what I expected… That in order for peacekeepers to be deployed in southern Lebanon (to take over from the Israelis) it needs to be under conditions desirable to the Israelis.
    Such future Peacekeepers are expected to fail under Hezbollah’s obviously resilient tactics.
    All part of the Israeli plan.

  26. Francis Egan says:

    Dear Col. Lang:
    BATTLE OF ALGIERS, what a film and as you note when the metropole tires of empire the end is near. I suppose France after WWII had great plans but no stomach for the effort. It seems to me that was one of the messages of that film so trenchent even today 40 years later. It’s available on DVD and really held up well.
    All the best,
    Francis Egan

  27. Semanticleo says:

    “That depends on the IDF’s ability to decisively defeat Hizbullah”
    Could be the IDF has the same objective as Hezbollah;
    “Not to lose…”.
    Pushing back and administering a bloody nose is like a dose of epsom salts to the constipated.
    That may be a valuable lesson for the West from
    a country nearly six decades into the WoT.
    Stalemate and attrition may be the best we can hope for.

  28. Pan says:

    The Israelis have been preparing the public for their “victory” if you’ve been keeping with the IDF and Olmert’s pronouncements in the MSM and Haaretz. They’ll declare Hizbullah is crushed and then pack up and leave with their tails between their legs.

  29. The French phrase is emmerdement. For those who don’t follow, it’s from emmerder, to be a damned pain.

  30. ked says:

    I too have spent time inside DODs many Halls of Nifty Tech & Cute Acronyms. On a basic level it is astounding how we are able to confuse tools with jobs. Works great if you are a LSI with a giant contract.

  31. zanzibar says:

    “The command structure of Hezbollah — show me one,” said Timor Goksul, a longtime adviser to the United Nations peacekeepers in south Lebanon and now a university professor here. “They don’t work that way. There are three regional commands that have full autonomy, and under them districts and then cells in villages, with a maximum of 20 men. “They know their job,” he said. “Their uniforms, their weapons are in a cave somewhere. They do their jobs and then they’re home watching television.”
    Mr. Olmert said the Israeli attacks had isolated Hezbollah from the rest of the Lebanese population by inflicting widespread damage for which its radical tactics would be blamed. There was initial criticism by many Lebanese, but this appears to have subsided because of the havoc caused by the Israeli attacks. In an event that would have been unthinkable a few months ago, in this country where politics is locked into religious lines, the Maronite Catholic patriarch — the spiritual leader of the most pro-Western populace — convened a meeting this week of religious leaders of other communities, Shiite and Sunni Muslims and several varieties of Christians, resulting in a statement of solidarity and photographs in Wednesday’s newspapers. Their joint statement, condemning the Israeli “aggression,” hailed “the resistance, mainly led by Hezbollah, which represents one of the sections of society.”
    NY Times
    This does not sound good for the “new” Middle East.

  32. pbrownlee says:

    Won’t the Hizbullah “crushed” comments be a bit tricky if there are still things falling out of the sky in Israel and the unbearable “trickle of casualties” continues among Israeli civilians?
    Did you see a rather stunned-looking Ohlmert listing those countries whose forces would be accaptable to Israel in the MNF? Perhaps his “we should be ready for pain, tears and blood” remarks did not win the plaudits he expected — so we may at least be spared further inept Churchill knock-offs.
    And Netanyahu is complaining that the “rest of the world” unfairly expects higher standards of conduct from Israel than any other country. If so, the “rest of the world” must frequently be bitterly disappointed.

  33. Huguette says:

    Re/ Plan “E” d’Emmerdement (right spelling). Système “D” démerdez-vous, for the accent (Alt) 232 & (Alt) 233, work with Word, don’t know if it works in Web.

  34. Montag says:

    The IDF has been coasting for years, beginning with the War of Attrition along the Suez Canal in 1969-70, which ended in a stalemate, but with the Egyptians ahead on points. In the Operation Litani incursion into Lebanon in 1978, Moshe Dayan had kittens because the caution had set in to the point where they simply pushed the PLO ahead of them, and then retreated. This was Operation Lebanese Quagmire of 1982 in microcosm, which Dayan fortunately didn’t live to witness. One option that Israel should consider is Von Rundstedt’s famous suggestion to governments in a hopeless military situation, “Make peace, you fools!”

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