Last Autumn I forecast that the successful linear defense of position conducted by Hizbullah (HB) forces in southern Lebanon would lead to a determination on the part of the Shia group to renew the contest with Israel using similar tactics at some future time. (See the transcript or video of my 11 September, 2006 talk at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.)
In the month long war fought between the Israelis and the Shia irregulars, it was clear that HB had successfully stood on the defensive in heavily fortified and inter-connected defensive positions and shelters that made up a defensive "belt" across much of the high ground just north of the armistice line between the two countries. It has been incorrectly reported in the Wikipedia article on me that I consider the guerrillas to have defended in "isolated" positions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The system of defenses were well sited for mutual support and cleverly integrated into the natural terrain and in the built up areas of the mountain villages where the roads ran through the villages. Maximum use was made of Iranian produced and improved versions of old Soviet anti-tank and anti-ship weapons.
This London Times article demonstrates that HB is following a dual approach to its situation in Lebanon:
1- It is using all available pressure to seek a greater share of political power in the Lebanese government. It believes that the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel are working together against HB. In that context it expects to be attacked again in south Lebanon by Israeli forces when the four powers listed above reach the conclusion that HB political power will increase in spite of their best efforts. The four powers correctly reason that Iran’s influence in the Middle East will grow as HB power grows and the four powers are determined to prevent that.
2- In preparation for the renewal of last Summer’s war, HB is building a new line on the high ground just north of the Litani River and OUTSIDE the operating zone of the UNIFIL separation force in place between there and the Israeli border. From those positions it would still be possible to fire with artillery rockets into northern or perhaps central Israel. I estimate that the new line will be even stronger than the old one, will have deeper, and more hardened shelters and will have a considerable anti-air capability in addition to what was encountered by the IDF last year. pl
Ah, there’s nothing quite like an elastic defense in depth. HB’s probably dusting off those old Imperial German Army operational manuals to see how the original pros conducted a tough defense.
Isn’t the other side of this coin the increasing lack of interest in war that exists in the Israeli population?
Sure, the crazies “have the microphone” in the words of our President, but they are a small and getting smaller minority.
I don’t see Israel attacking on the ground in force again. Air strikes? Oh, I would say those brave pilots are always ready to drop a few cluster bombs on civilians. It beats working. But Army grunts going into South Lebanon? I don’t see it happening.
Of course, US Army shleppers could do it for them. Oh, wait. Nope, won’t work. Otherwise engaged.
Nasrallah talks in this posting about what he thinks is the US plan for the ME:
I’d say this is a call to deal with the Shebaa Farms issue once and for all–Syria, Lebanon and Israel have been playing political football with it for years, so force a compromise and have the UN occupy and monitor it as a DMZ.
I am no military strategist but would not the approach to hardened and networked defenses be a significant ground force invasion? I am sure that would probably mean serious casualties. Is the IDF prepared for that? But probably they are counting on inside forces that would divert HA having to fight an advancing IDF as well as Hariri militias on the inside.
What is disconcerting about all these stories are all sides are preparing and girding for major conflict and not descalating. As was reported on SST some time ago the Israel-US-Saudi alliance is funding and arming Sunni militias in Lebanon. Now the corporate media is catching on to it and even alluding that some of these “militias” may have ties to AQ.
It seems the anti-Shia alliance is being armed to “reshape” the Middle East now that the Decider and Darth reshaped it to the benefit of Iran and their Shia allies in Iraq and removed the Taliban another thorn for Iran in Afghanistan. Then our ally in the GWOT Pakistan has been providing sanctuary and possibly funding/arms through ISI to AQ and Taliban forces who are regrouping.
The bottom line to me is that what we have is a more destabilized Middle East, resurgent Jihadists who now have better training and real battle experience and Darth’s new covert strategy that could backfire even worse. Its amazing that Darth with his poor judgment and utter failure in all his national security policy strategies over the past few years is still the captain of the ship. Are there any life rafts??
So does this mean that the Israelis/Americans are going to use nuclear bunker busters on Hizbullah? At this point I am willing to believe my government is capable of almost anything. God help us all.
Last August, Ray Close pointed out that the availability to Hizballah of missiles of increasing range from Iran would render the relevance of the area south of the Litani as a buffer zone questionable. The increasing sophistication and cheapness of guidance technology in all kinds of fields is very evident, so one would expect a steady increase in the accuracy of missiles available to Hizballah. Does this mean that Hizbullah, left unchecked, is going to be able in the relatively near future to acquire a very powerful ‘counter-deterrent’ to Israel; and if so, does that work as a ‘counter-deterrent’ on behalf of Iran, and even in some circumstances to the United States? (If this is so, what likely timescale are we talking about?)
Ray Close also suggested that ‘it was only the absence of a reliable guidance system that prevented massive killing of Israeli civilians by thousands of Katyusha rockets — a technological gap that can and will be filled in a very short time, no doubt’: but presumably here the limitations of range are more important?
If indeed there is the kind of concerted effort Hizbullah believes is underway, involving the US, Israel, and the Saudis, to neutralise its political power (and thus the eventual threat to Israel) does this have any realistic prospects of success? If not, are the Israelis likely to believe that their only prospect of long-term security lies in dealing decisively with Iran before it is too late?
Ray Close ended the piece suggesting that the ‘bombastic and posturing style of “diplomacy”’ pursued by the Bush Administration was going to ‘lead inescapably’ either to ‘War with Iran (with negative consequences beyond anyone’s ability to imagine’ or ‘Another humiliating demonstration of impotence.’
All this does rather have a summer of 1914 feel to it!
Do you think that Hezbollah will have figured out how to keep the medium range rockets operational in the face of Israeli air power? And will they use them if they have ?
In regards to the Times report, I would be wary. The writer, Nick Blanford, has been based in Lebanon for a long time and writes locally for the English language Daily Star; a very pro-Saudi, pro-govt. anti-Hizbollah paper.
In regards to the dual approach, I think the situation is more complex than stated.
Locally, there is a push for a greater share of power. This push is causing a political stalemate and has put the country in limbo. The big fear though for Western powers is not so much they getting increased power but the demanded changes in electoral law. A change from a non-secterian system would most likely deliver them even greater power.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is perplexing many observers with its actions. On the one hand they are saying all the right things and making all the right anti-Iranian noises, and Bandar seems to be the defacto head of the Saudi regional team and his Western leanings are well documented. On the other hand their recent actions do not seem so wedded to the Amercan cause. The Mecca deal between the Palestinians was a major shock and seemed to have rather put Ms Rices’ nose out of joint. And now there are rumours that they are pressuring the Hariri clan to accept the opposition demands and it is only Jumblat and Geagea, the leaders of the Druze and Lebanese Forcees respectively, who oppose the plans, most likely because they, being the most minor members, have the most to lose.
Is there a Bandar strategy and an Abdullah strategy and are they competing or playing both sides of the street?
That the US and Israel are working against Hizbollah is no secret and certainly nothing new. Since the end of the civil war, the US has been happy to let Israel do the dirty work in Lebanon. The worry for most Lebanese, from what I hear, is not so much another Israeli attack on the country but the consequences (intended or not) of the US undertaking its own black hat operations in the country. Hizbollah always expects an attack from the South; It does after all happen on a regular basis.
I really don’t see how Hizbollahs power in Lebanon should confer greater influence for Iran in the wider ME. Yes, Hizbollah was and is incredibly popular, even among Sunnis, and if they were to attain greater power in Lebanon, it is assumed that corruption would all but disappear. However, they cannot rule alone or even in a great majority as a single party; And while their military and intelligence abilities have been proved beyond doubt, there is no reason to believe that they could do or want to run a country.
On the second point, Im not sure if by a “new line” you mean they have moved the line they will defend northwards or are implementing a second line. The front line is the front line not by choice but by the fact that those border villages such as Maroun Al-Ras, Bint Jbeil and so on are where these guys live. Therefore this will always be the front line and the first line of defense. The line North of the Litani was supposed to be where the Hizbollah regulars were to fight the Israelis. From what I understand, the ability of the guys in the villages to hold off the Israeli ground forces was as much of a surprise to the Hizbollah leadership as it was to the Israelis. If there is any fortification going on north of the Litani it is, I propose, based on the fact that the Litani is the Israeli pay-off. Before the US-Israeli plans drawn uplast year to “take out” Hizbollah, the Israelis were content with the status quo; Hizbollah were nothing but an irratant. They posed no “existential” threat and never will, no matter how powerful they get. Therefore any attack on Lebanon would have required some sort of pay-off for the Israelis (keeping in mind that the plans were drawn up before the capture of the 2 soldiers gave them an excuse). That pay off, for a country that is 5-10 years away from not having enough water supply for its population, that is poisoning the current supplies and aquifers at an alarming rate, is the Litani: the only body of water in the ME that begins and ends in the same country. That is also why the Israelis will never give up the Shebaa or the Golan.
One final twist to the whole environment is the recent involvement of the Lebanese army in clashes with the Israelis. It seems that Hizbollah are happy now to allow the Army to do the active defense of the border. It also means that if another Israeli onslaught starts and the Lebanese army is the first to confront it, then Hizbollah and its arms will, once it is involved, be seen as even more legitimate and its support will only increase.
Im not sure about the anti-aircraft capability. I sincerely hope they have managed to bring in some meaningful anti-air stuff. If they manage to minimise or nuetralise the aerial threat Israel will be well and truly humbled.
I progressed in Scheuer’s ‘Through our Enemies’ Eyes’ and I found it interesting he mentioned that Bin Laden’s greatest practical contribution to the Afghan Jihad — funding, organising and training trigger happy Arab volunteers into disciplined formidable fighters aside — was combat engeneering and building fortified positions and underground facilities.
The step to better harden and better camouflage positions in response to superior enemy firepower is natural and sensible. That’s what the German army did during WW-II in Italy’s mountains when the allies approached. That’s what Hezbollah did in last summer’s war.
And it seems Hezbollah took the German fortification rule to heart: ‘effect before protection’, and regard fortifications as a means to an end, not vice versa. Hezbollah was impressive in actually displaying not only discipline but ‘fire discipline’. No spray and pray there.
It seems that is a lesson that eventually has sunk in among Arab quasi-regulars — that harened fighting positions are imperative to deal with the high precision firepower opponents like Israel and the US can bring to bear, and that from such positions you can fight successful and decisive, even be victorious. I think we can expect to see more of that.
There is one banker lesson from the war last summer and it is that the IDF had no obvious plan for the war at all ( unless it was some double-super-secret head-fake ), had done little, if any, contingency preparation, and had no strategy beyond aerial bombing and hoping that it would achieve some kind of result.
At the start of the war Olmert outlined a series of maximalist objectives – none of which were fulfilled, the aerial campaign backfired politically and failed tactically to stem the firing of rockets across the border to the extent that the last 24 hours of the conflict saw the largest Hizbullah barrage of the conflict.
A British defence analyst, Robert Fox, made an interesting observation right at the beginning of the war: that what the Israelis were doing was all tactics and no strategy.
Given the number of Israeli aviation losses – at least 7 that I’m aware of – and the apparent unwillingness to use attack helicopters over South Lebanon, it is likely that Hizbullah had some air defense assets from the get-go.
The current facts on the ground make it extraordinarily difficult for the Israelis to intervene militarily in South Lebanon absent a Hizbullah offensive. This, I suspect, is the reason behind the second-track of arming Sunni militants as part of the domestic Lebanese opposition to Hizbullah. Hizbullah are quite happy for the Lebanese army to take some of the strain – it’s a no-lose position at present: if the army is incompetent, unwilling or incapable then HA win, if the army stands and fights – with Hizbullah – the resistance becomes further entrenched and “nationalised”.
Mo, your observations on the underlying water issues are spot on! Over the years the Israeli government has successfully cloaked their continued interest in South Lebanon in terms of security. But, for those who have been really paying attention, the bigger issue has always been about water. Jerusalem’s sustained vitality coupled with the Israelis’ continued encroachment of Palestinian land depends at the most basic level on future water access. Thus the attraction of South Lebanon, the Litani River and finally the retention of the Golan.
For a couple months in 1979-80 I was an unarmed military observer assigned to the multinational UN observer group assisting the recently-deployed, larger, and armed UN force in South Lebanon, UNIFIL. One of our priority patrol tasks as we cruised around the hard rock hills within the UN security zone was reporting on suspected or possible Israeli water diversion efforts. When I returned some six years later as the then chief of the same UN observer group in South Lebanon, the important patrol tasks again focused on protecting Lebanon’s water resources. Discussion of what the UN then knew regarding Israel’s water diversion and encroachments remain contentious even today and probably best not tabled here.
An interesting aside was the rather dramatic shift in the population within the UN area of operation largely as a result of the Israeli incursion during the intervening years. Simplistically the security challenge we confronted in 1979-80 was protecting the native Lebanese Shia from the fairly pervasive and certainly better armed Palestinian crowd who’d moved in having been displaced from Jordan during the dark days of September 1970, Black September. By my 1986 return the Palestinians were largely corralled and the restive native Shia were getting ever more militant with the oppressive Israeli occupation. I want to be clear: Israel’s ham-handed conduct in their illegal protracted occupation contributed significantly to the Shia threat now faced.
Watching last summer’s dust-up with the latest Israelis move North was simultaneously remarkable and tragic. I noted how few factors had changed and how many more had simply stayed unmoved. I was mildly impressed (although hardly surprised) with HB’s ability to hand the IDF their kosher backside more than once. One great leveler to IDF superiority remains the inhospitable terrain found almost immediately across the ADL. Fighting success in South Lebanon demands dismounted infantry; the most inimical form of combat for the Israelis population. I did reaffirm my previous conviction that HB has broken the code on success against Israel.
Another outcome of this past summer’s shoot-em-up should have been the definitive debunking of the outside world’s long-held myth of the seeming invincibility of IDF prowess. Israel’s key defense is their air force. Unfortunately what drew world opprobrium was use of their use of that force. The IAF’s core competency of air-to-air superiority will probably never be tested again and bombing housing areas simply is no longer acceptable. The IDF is a good ground force made better by usually fighting an ill-organized group of rock throwing kids in the occupied areas. Up against a better armed more conventional opponent, the IDF is seen as no great shakes. An analogous NATO force, for example the Norwegians, would go through them like corn thru a goose. The IDF should thank God they have Arabs for enemies.
Further my conclusions of living within the Promised Land on three occasions remain constant: specifically that Israel must sustain external enemies for their own purposes. The central theme of Israel’s very existence has always been “the enemy at the gates”. The worst of all outcomes for Tel Aviv would have to respond to the outbreak of general regional peace. Inflation could not longer be rationalized by maintaining a marshal posture. US support in the form of our vital security assistance may well dry up. Public clamor to end conscription would result in spikes of unemployment, and the ingrained glue of being “besieged” which holds the diverse tribe together may quickly melt. No, Israel needs turmoil and regional conflict to breathe.
have another looksee
He identified the Hizbollah defense not as classic guerilla tactics but as a defensive “belt” which he calls the Tabouleh Line. These were linked and fortified defensive positions integrated with the terrain and sited for mutual support. He had previously explored that concept in a paper written during the Cold War. Lang has also applied an analytical criterion to determine who won the conflict:
“A basic lesson of history is that one must win on the battlefield to dictate the peace. A proof of winning on the battlefield has always been possession of that battlefield when the shooting stops. Those who remain on the field are just about always believed to have been victorious. Those who leave the field are believed to be the defeated.”
He believes that Hezbollah is building a new Tabouleh line north of the Litani River on high ground just outside the UNIFIL zone. ”
i think the rockets will still be fired from the old area. they were set off by regular farmers and contract laboreres. Mostly from orange orchards and farms from prepared sites. Not from trucks or houses. thermal blankets were then thrown over the pods to hide the thermal signature, so reported Z. Schiff in Haaretz.
the new seymour hersh article is scary. Cheney-bandar-bolton is throwing in their lot w/ Salafists-Al-Qaida in Lebanon just to recruit muscle against HA. Have they learned nothing from UBL/OBL
Often the best way to attack a prepared defense is to surprise the defenders, breaking into their defenses before they are fully ready to resist.
So the first question for me, if a future conflict should arise, is could Hizbollah concentrate its fighters in the new positions before the area is occupied by Israeli ground forces? It would appear Hizbollah relies heavily on irregulars, many/most must of traveled from their homes and workplaces to the hidden armories in the last conflict before they could be issued heavy equipment and integrated into the defense. In the last conflict, the long air-bombardment gave them plenty of time for this. They may not be given that luxury of time again.
Now if the article is correct, the Lebanese Army and the Multi-nationals end up inadvertenly providing Hizbollah’s new defenses a security screen/buffer zone that will help prevent an Israeli surprise ground attack and also help uncover the main axis of advance of any future ground attack. Now there’s an unexpected consequence.
So my second question would be, should the Israeli Army decide on a surprise ground attack, how would they deal with the “peace-keepers”? You got to figure any deal made to get them to step aside will take time and also will not remain a secret from Hizbollah. Bullying their way through would still take some time and likely produce some very ugly incidents, that could overshadow any military victory.
I don’t see any good Israeli options. My guess is they will settle on a proxy war, but you just never know.
“it was only the absence of a reliable guidance system that prevented massive killing of Israeli civilians by thousands of Katyusha rockets — a technological gap that can and will be filled in a very short time, no doubt’”
Not so fast. What they used were essentially unguided, fin and spin stabilized artillery rockets. Such weapons are simple and easy to manufacture, if inaccurate.
A guidance system means adding powered control surfaces with the associated mechanisms as well as electronics capable of getting the missile where it is supposed to go. And while it is possible to build a reasonabley cheap system using a GPS receiver such teqnique is susceptible to the obvious US countermeasure of degrading the GPS signal available in a given area.
The others options rely on scanning the terrain and matching it with memorized maps. Such systems are very complicate and expensive and this is the reason why very few countries have long range missiles with accurate land attack capabilities.
Zounds. Blowback to the NeoKon line.
Times has its ear to the pulsebeat on more than HA.
“A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders ”
Last summer I read here about Lebanon closely, and was really impressed by your postings, and by the quality of the commentary generally.
Lebanon was the first time in my lifetime that I saw good armor and armored infantry thwarted for a significant period of time by irregular light infantry operating from well-prepared positions.
As a naif, I was pretty impressed.
1.How important was this event to serious military thinkers and writers–How important was the “lesson” in the grand scheme of things?
2.And if you have some practical manuals and other types of writings or links that further describe this defensive technique and its limitations/advantages, perhaps post them over at the Athenaeum, if you get a chance.
I’d like to read more. I imagine others might too.
“The system of defenses were well sited for mutual support and cleverly integrated into the natural terrain and in the built up areas of the mountain villages where the roads ran through the villages.”
I’m not doubting the cunning of the engineering but aren’t we talking about essentially village by village defense by Hez reserves? They were skilled,highly motivated in defense of their homes and degraded the IDF down to positional warfare. The use of concealed Katyusha tubes is was remarkable but in the end not much more than a firework display.
I have some doubts that an IDF blitzkrieg will be as easily confused by a low rent maginot line next time. The Israelis will learn from such hard tutoring.
“Also, though Hizballah’s small units displayed a great deal
of mobility within their villages and individual areas
of operations, Hizballah’s decentralized organization
forced them to fight a more or less static defense. There
was no question of units retreating or moving forward
to support another unit because the Israeli Air Force
(IAF) had successfully isolated the villages and fortifications
from which they were fighting.”
I think the right analogy for this defense type is Okinawa in the Shuri Line.
Sure. Israel can break through such defenses, but will they want to pay the price?
Surprise? There will be no surprise and Lebanon is a small country. It does not take long to mobilize on position. pl
Dan, what ever strategy had been developed was ripped up in the first 2 days. Much unreported in the Western media is that the Israeli ground offensive started in the second day. They recieved such a beating that the ground offensive ended on the third day. They then resorted to the air campaign, hoping that by obliterating all access routes and destroying all known bases of operation they could weaken Hizbollah and hopefully turn the Lebanese against them.
Yes, the SAMs they had seemed to put the Israelis off using Helicopters but obviously its the planes that are the problem. It was the damage that the planes were doing to the country that made Hizbollah agree to the ceasefire.
The current facts on the ground do make it difficult for the Israelis. But do not understimate, a. their arrogance and b. their indifference to killing UN soldiers. The only unknown for them would be how much this “beefed up” UNIFIL would be willing to take them on.
In terms of arming their Lebanese opponents, I would say the arming of Geageas Lebanese Forces is by far the greater threat to the country than any Sunni forces.
Your experiences make for a very interesting read. Have you been back in Lebanon since 86? You will find a very different country to the one you saw (some for the better, some for the worse). I agree, Israel needs enemies to continue to rake in the support. But, as long as water is a problem, time is its biggest enemy.
“such teqnique is susceptible to the obvious US countermeasure of degrading the GPS signal available in a given area.”
Would that not also make Israeli hardware also useless? And considering their no1 tool last summer ,the “UM Kamel”, or drone plane, relies on GPS, would they want this countermeasure used?
Ali, the defense was village by village; the lines of communication were not. And defense is only static if you are not pushing your enemy back. The Israelis were pushed back on most occassions and a reliable source told me that on one occasion the Hizbollah fighters had to stop themselves advancing as they realised they were about to enter Israel itself.
Interesting that the examples cited by posters of the construction of static defences in depth are all by the side that ultimately lost.
I think Hezbollah is making a major mistake by relying on fixed fortifications to protect themselves from Israel. They do not appear to have figured out that their success was due to Israeli incompetence on the intelligence front and in carrying out the ground offensive. Unless the IDF is even more incompetent than they seemed last year, the strength of Hezbollah’s fortifications will not be a suprise, and the IDF will have devised methods of dealing with the defenses. Hezbollah is getting awfully close to trying to fight Israel on Israel’s terms. If Israel decides that it must pay the price in casualties to winkle Hezbollah out of its fortifications, the result will be a disasterous, possibly permanent, defeat for Hezbollah.
Who wrote above “bombing housing areas simply is no longer acceptable.”
That’s wishful thinking. The US is bombing housing areas under our putative control in Baghdad right now. (See Juan Cole from this past weekend 2/25/07) Israel has been bombing housing areas in Lebanese territory for 35 years – they’re Palestinians, so they’re “terrorists” and it doesn’t matter to Israel or its ally, America.
In fact, I saw very little real complaint in the USA against the Israelis for bombing housing areas in Lebanon. Lefties complained, yes, but no real complaint in the mainstream media. Certainly not from government.
On what basis do you make the claim that bombing housing areas is no longer viable because no longer acceptable to the public?
It’s unacceptable to me, of course, but I feel myself in a distinct minority outside of a few very liberal enclaves in the USA.
“The others options rely on scanning the terrain and matching it with memorized maps. Such systems are very complicate and expensive and this is the reason why very few countries have long range missiles with accurate land attack capabilities.”
It might not be long before that all changes. With digital camera’s now dirt cheap, digitised maps easily available and pretty good image processing software now practical on cheap computers it will not be very hard to combine them into a crude terrain guided system. It will be beyond the capabilities of HB. But a smart medium sized state could probably acheieve it.
On top of this inertial guidance systems that in the past were prohibitively expensive are now relatively cheap. The Nintendo Wii has a controller that can sense its motion quite accurately using a chip that costs only a few dollars with a built in inertia sensor.
You would only need a team of a few dozen capable people to turn any one of the above two technologies into a guidance system that would be free of GPS dependence, very accurate and pretty cheap as well. If you could combine them you could get capabilities as good as early generation precision systems which would be plenty considering the relatively short range they will have to operate across.
Marcello points out that the cost-effective method of increasing the precision of Hizballah missiles, GPS, is ‘susceptible to the obvious US countermeasure of degrading the GPS signal available in a given area.’
Mo points out that such degrading might also create problems for the Israelis.
Looking medium term, do either the European Galileo or the Russian Glonass systems provide alternatives to GPS? Are they technically suited for missile guidance? And could it be expected that their political controllers would disable them in time of war?
My curiosity is only partly related to the Lebanon. It seems to me that the question of how far precision-guided missile technology becomes more widely available has major implications in all kinds of areas.
“Would that not also make Israeli hardware also useless? And considering their no1 tool last summer ,the “UM Kamel”, or drone plane, relies on GPS, would they want this countermeasure used?”
It was probably a poor choice of words on my part. Basically the US can make accurate GPS signal unavailable to non authorized users in a given area. US forces and trusted allied militaries would continue to benefit from it. I would guess that civilian receivers in Israel would be negatively affected too but that is a small price to pay.
I don’t underestimate the Israelis. And it is evident that they were completely unprepared for the conflict and working to outdated plans. The initial ground incursion was undertaken by poorly-trained and unprepared reservists who discovered that been sent in blind, as there had been no serious intelligence collection or analysis effort for 6 years, let alone a coherent planning process. There was nothing to prevent the IDF from doing a 5-day punitive air offensive, without a ground incursion, followed by the usual back-channel discussions to resolve the prisoner issue. For some reason they chose not to do this – presumably the political leadership was mis-led by the military, didn’t have the smarts to evaluate the planning they were being shown, and got led down a garden path to a strategic miscalculation that has re-set, for the short to medium term, the boundaries of IDF capabilities.
For the first time that I am aware of, IDF units actually refused to follow orders in a war.
The Israelis may be arrogant and indifferent, but they are not going to risk a conflict with French or other European military contingents currently stationed in Southern Lebanon, who are actually permitted to fire on the IDF under their current ROE’s. This is a substantive change, which makes an Israeli adventurist initiative politically perilous – killing an Irish or Ghanaian UN observer offers no serious consequences; killing French, Spanish, German, Turkish or Italian troops in an aggressive or opportunistic operation is liable to have some very nasty consequences that go far beyond the purely situational.
the common ground is that the mentioned examples were of forces being tactically defensive. It’s also examples where the attacker paid a heavy price. Hezbollah’s limited means don’t allow it to conduct offensive ground action into Israel, except for shelling and the occasional snactch & raid.
With modern and effective commercial construction equipment and quality building material freely available today, just like civil engineering expertise, quality construction of defensive positions is a logical choice for a force in Hezbollah’s situation.
Utilising extensive field fortifications doesn’t mean you fight static. You merely conserve your fighting power and increase your persistence. As said, a field fortification is a means to an end, no end in itself. I think Hezbollah sees it that way. A pillbox is just a better foxhole. In Hezbollah’s case, think of a lot of better foxholes, and not of a Maginot Line.
If you’re looking for a more ‘victorious’ example of the utilisation of field fortifications, think about Russia’s deep and well prepared defensive positions at Kursk – pre-zeroed artillery, minefields, anti-tank assets, obstacles, camouflage etc. It ground down the German assault.
Galileo is coming. Two testbed satellites, GIOVE-A and B, have been launched in early 2006 and reportedly operate satisfactory for a year now. Galileo is coming, despite the usual buereaucratic haggling about who pays.
I still think it’s the missiles and the small-unit tactics, not the fortifications – my “houmous defence”, not Pat’s Tabouleh line. That said, obviously they have their uses, not least as targets for the IAF to waste its ammunition on.
No doubt Hezbollah is reconstituting north of the Litani – it’s interesting that this could be as much evidence for the effectiveness of UNIFIL+ as anything else.
The French command seems to have achieved a qualitative upgrade in UNIFIL’s credibility, specifically by bringing in serious firepower (Leclerc MBTs, artillery, UAVs, and surface-to-air missiles) and demonstrating that they will not be bullied by the Israelis – see the row about overflights, which ended with compromise, but compromise after the French as good as threatened to fire.
the original ground incursion, on day 2, was done by the elite Golani and Chestnut brigades. They were supposed to, by the looks of it, take certain points as cover for those coming in behind them.
You are right; they were let down by intelligence failures; This has had as much to do with Hizbollahs counter-intelligence as it did anything else.
What prevented the Israelis from doing a 5-day punitive air offensive followed by back-door discussions? Well you are making the mistake that this war had the slightest thing to do with the 2 soldiers. This was a pre-planned attack; This was supposed to be Israels contribution to the New Middle East, getting rid of Hizbollah once and for all.
You are absolutely right, the Israelis would not risk a fight with the French, Italians etc. The question is if the Israelis were to come through the borders again, would the French, Italians etc. actually put up a fight – most Lebanese believe the answer to be in the negative.
I don’t quite get your point. Is it that you just don’t think hardened positions are better to fight from than unhardened one.
Don’t want them to find you?
Is this an “airpower” thing or a variation on the Maginot Line theme? pl
This for Mo — Hezbollah is largely restricted to man-portable weapons for a number of logistical reasons, thus it is improbable that they will have any better luck attacking high-flying Israeli jets in the future than they had last time. Simple physics. To get up to altitude and maneuver on a high flying jet within a short amount of time requires a very powerful rocket motor and a *lot* of fuel, which in turn requires a physically large missile.
That said, bombing apartment buildings and nurseries does not win wars, and the fact that Israel can bomb bomb bomb away from high altitudes is not going to cause one HA soldier to lay down his arms. Israel’s tactics in the last war clearly showed that even man-portable anti-aircraft devices have a profound impact upon the battlefield. Israel may have been able to drop bombs from altitude with impunity, but there’s only so much that can be accomplished on a tactical level with high-altitude bombing. You can’t bomb what you can’t see or have someone on the ground see for you, and it’s damnably hard for troops trapped on a valley floor to spot hidden emplacements on the valley walls (just ask the French artillery commander at Dien Bien Phu — oh right, you can’t, he’s dead). Without the ability to bring in low-flying aircraft and choppers, you end up with what we saw – troops fighting a war that was not at all what they were anticipating or trained for.
if i was israel i would:
Never again waste time with warning lebanese civilians, I would drop cluster bombs on every HA controlled town WITH the population inside.
Dont waste time being selective with targets, i would level any and all valuable targets. I’d wipe out the water and sewage plants for lebanon, the electric grid including the generating plants, I’d hit the ports, the airports, destroy all connections with syria, I’d start lobing rockets at civilian centers *just as hezbollah did) and at the same time, i’d take out all telecom, radio and tv stations..
that would be the warm up…
Marcello’s point that the GPS can be selectively turned off would presumably also apply to Galileo — and to the Russian system. Would this mean that these are going to be a poor basis for attempting to develop precision guidance systems, for anyone apart from the militaries of the states controlling them?
If this is so, the crucial question would seem to be how far developments in digital technology are going to make possible a ‘crude terrain guided system’ at relatively low cost, as ‘still working it out’ suggests. Also crucial obviously is how easy countermeasures are to devise against missiles so equipped.
still working it out:
If these possibilities exist, the obvious people to be working on them will be the Russians, particularly as it is likely now that they will be planning for contingencies such as a war against a Georgia seeking to reincorporate Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with American support.
Russia faces the problem of how to maintain military capabilities with (relatively speaking) a miniscule economy. And there is obviously the awful warning, from Soviet experience, of the economic and political consequences of high military spending. But is this not the kind of situation which will make weapons designers particularly inventive in creating low-cost exploitations of technology? And does it not also provide strong incentives to export weaponry?
No, it’s just that my theory is that they have adapted the ATGW tactics the NATO armies’ recce screens were to use in Europe in the 1980s. As you know, the deployment of lots and lots of ATGW teams in wheeled vehicles was possibly a bigger factor in NATO’s increased confidence that they could hold up the 3rd Shock than tactical nukes were.
Most accounts of the fighting say a great deal about tanks being hit by ATGWs fired from range by Hezbollah (or Shia Amal, or communist) guys who then vanished, but not so much about house-clearing or assaults on Hezbollah entrenchments. That’s partly , of course, because the Israelis are so tank-oriented.
I think the fortification was more about having a refuge and a place to stash kit, and perhaps to give the IAF something obvious to aim at, rather than a primary defence.
What? What a savage person you are. Where does this ferocity come from? pl
BadTux, Everything you say makes sense. However, there are 2 points.
In regards to the missiles, I am pinning my hopes on a portable-truck mounted Russian aa system I read about last year. I don’t have much details and am no expert but I read that the Chinese had bought the system and redevolped it so that they could manufacture it at 1/10th the price. Hopefully the Chinese will sell it to Iran……
In regards to the effectiveness of high altitude bombing, yes, the damage done to Hizbollah was minimal; But the damage done to the country was enough to force Hizbollah into accepting the ceasefire.
-I would drop cluster bombs on every HA controlled town WITH the population inside:
The joy of cluster bombs is that they hang around long after the population has returned so you can check that off the list.
-Dont waste time being selective with targets, i would level any and all valuable targets.
Which valuable targets are you refering to that weren’t hit? i think you can check that off the list.
-I’d wipe out the water and sewage plants for lebanon
Water and sewage plants? In Lebanon?
– the electric grid including the generating plants:
That was done. So check.
-I’d hit the ports, the airports, destroy all connections with syria:
Sorry were you watching a different war? Im sure the shelling of the ports, airports and roads to Syria was well covered in the West.
-I’d start lobing rockets at civilian centers *just as hezbollah did):
Start? Bar 4 buildings in South Beirut, exactly what other centers were being hit?
-i’d take out all telecom, radio and tv stations..
Oh yes, the tv stations; or more specifically one tv station, Al Manar which Israel tried to take off the air every day- Even destroying a small transmitter atop the lighthouse in Beirut that hadn’t been used since 1953- and failed.
Thats all your points covered and checked. Time for plan B?
Shemaman, you are correct, genocide is always a military option for dealing with a guerilla movement. Not one that is morally acceptable, but “Cædite eos, novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” (kill them all, God will know his own) certainly works as well today as it did when Abbot Amaury supposedly uttered those words about what to do with the populance of Beziers during the Albigensian Crusade.
Of course, there are political and social repercussions to genocide that might (maybe) dissuade the Israelis from persuing that course. Or perhaps not. After so many decades of painting the inhabitants of surrounding countries as “subhuman” in the popular culture of Israel, it may be that Israelis would simply view the cold-blooded massacre of the population of an entire nation as nothing more than simple hygeine, much the same attitude that the Nazis had towards Jews in the period 1935-1945, or Hausa had towards Igbo when they engaged in genocide to end the Biafran secession in Nigeria. Then they will have truly become what they hated, but… they will have their victory, and that is what counts, correct?
“Marcello’s point that the GPS can be selectively turned off would presumably also apply to Galileo — and to the Russian system.”
My knowledge of these systems is superficial but the last time I read something about it Galileo was not designed to be made selectively unavailable to the same extent of GPS. Still it could be partially done and the US was studying the option of jamming what could not be turned off.
No idea about Glonass and Beidou but one would guess.
“Would this mean that these are going to be a poor basis for attempting to develop precision guidance systems, for anyone apart from the militaries of the states controlling them?”
Yes. That’s probably why nobody is rushing to convert their old Silkworms
into land attack cruise missiles, despite the fact that an accurate guidance system built around GPS is dirty cheap and easy to make.
“If this is so, the crucial question would seem to be how far developments in digital technology are going to make possible a ‘crude terrain guided system’ at relatively low cost, as ‘still working it out’ suggests.”
Accurate land attack cruise missiles were made possible by the development of TERCOM in the 70’s. Basically you have a radar mounted on the missile scanning the terrain and comparing it to radar maps stored in the memory. This requires a radar and assorted equipment mounted on the missile (expensive) and radar maps that had to be generated by scanning the territory with radar mounted on satellites or such (expensive). An optical system, the
Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation is also used for terminal guidance.
But from what I understand it will take quite some time before you will be able to rely on an optical system non assisted by satellites or TERCOM (note an inertial system will be always present in any case).
“Also crucial obviously is how easy countermeasures are to devise against missiles so equipped.”
As I said GPS can be made unavailable. But if a terrain matching system is fitted there are no countermeasures. Except shooting them down. That presents difficulties.
“If these possibilities exist, the obvious people to be working on them will be the Russians, particularly as it is likely now that they will be planning for contingencies such as a war against a Georgia seeking to reincorporate Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with American support.”
The russians have their own cruise missiles and PGMs.But they are not going to waste them in such wars. For Chechenya they brought out even post WW2 85mm guns.
Thanks for your explanations. As regards the Russians, I was not thinking of them wasting expensive systems in politically-motivated interventions. My suspicion is rather that, in squaring the circle between maintaining technological competitiveness and keeping tight control on spending, they are naturally pushed both towards cost-effective solutions and to making money out of exports.
There has already been controversy, has there not, about sales of Russian air defence systems to Iran and Syria. As well as the Strelets anti-aircraft missile, the Russians had been intending to sell the Syrians the Iskander, which is I think precisely the kind of system which can hit ground targets with precision at considerable range which we are talking about. (Although I think it is a GPS system, and so vulnerable in the way you describe.) But Putin stopped the proposed sale back in 2005. Eschewal by Russia of profitable transactions in substantial measure in order to remain in the West’s good books may not last. Contrary to widespread Western mythology, Putin is not a vicious anti-Westerner presiding over a population whose heart lies with the United States, and his successors may be far more concerned to orientate Russian policy eastwards. And the positioning of anti-missile systems close to the Russian border, on the utterly specious pretext that they are directed at Iran, is making matters very much worse.
In an unaccountable oversight, I failed to pick up the suggestion by ‘still working it out’ that the dramatic fall in the cost of inertial guidance systems makes them a potentially viable alternative to terrain guided systems. Is this the case? Presumably these are significantly less accurate than terrain guided systems — how far does this matter in situations such as the Lebanon/Israel one, where flight times are short? Would they be more useful than terrain guided systems in attacking targets over water?
I note that Mo is pinning his hopes on a portable truck-mounted anti-aircraft system which he suggests the Russians sold to the Chinese, who dramatically cut manufacturing costs. Does anyone know what system is being talked about? The Chinese also face the same problems as the Russians of squaring the circle of attempting to keep up with developments in military high technology while keeping military budgets down. In their case, I would imagine a particular priority would be working out how to sink American carrier battle groups, which may again cause them to develop technologies of use to other actual or potential enemies of the United States. They will also, I imagine, be very interested in acquiring the technology which the Russians developed for just this purpose, as this was a key priority for the Soviet navy for decades. One might have thought that keeping Russia and China apart would have been a strategic priority for the United States, among other things in order to avoid a coming together of Russian weapons design expertise and Chinese manufacturing capabilities. But it seems the Bush Administration’s motto is ‘come to the four corners of the world in arms’, and it is far from clear that the positions of the Democrats are really very different.
Relatively off topic, but watching Seymour Hersh on Al Jazeera today; He said, from conversations he has had with friends of Cheney, that the VP is “Convinced to his core” that if Iran gets the bomb they will pass it ti Hezbollah, who will then give it to one of their “numerous” cells in the US to set off.
Please, someone tell me that Cheney is not THIS deluded.
I scavenged together some information from Wiki:
In my understanding, your presicion increases with the number of satellites available. With a decent algorithm using optimum civil signals differential GPS already achieves 10cm range accuracy, enough for automatic landing of aircraft.
Used with degraded signals that should still be enough for metre precision, that means the avaibalility of cheap multiband satellite navigation systems could provide adequate precision even with degraded codes, and superior precision in normal operation. If you could utilise GPS, DGPS, Galileo and GLONASS at the same time you might have up to 10 satellites available for your position determination. That could compensate for the degraded signal.
The well known US GPS has, as far as I could find, an accuracy of around 15m. It is however augmented by a broadcast DGPS service offering the abovementioned accuracy.
Glonass sure has a civil and military standard, the latter, of course, being more accurate. Russia, with indian money plans to have 24 satellites operational by 2010. We’ll see. Accuracy at peak performance was 57-70m horiz/ 70m vert.
Galileo will provide higher accuracy as the encrypted ‘commercial service’ (prec. ~1m) for paying customers, and an ‘open service’ (~4m horiz/ 8m vert) standard signal. There also will be an encrypted ‘public regulated service’ similar to the US military GPS.
As for Beidou, I know nothing about it.
Interesting is the EU-US Joint Agreement on Galileo from June 2004. Both sides agreed to switch to a range of frequencies known as “Binary Offset Carrier 1.1,” which will allow both EU and US forces to block each other’s signals in the battlefield without disabling the entire system. The European Union also agreed to address the “mutual concerns related to the protection of allied and U.S. national security capabilities.”
As for inertial navigation, it’s getting cheaper but the signal needs updating – that was why the Tomahawk used Tercom, to have waypoints in intervals before INS inaccuracy led the missile off course. Modern INS are cheaper and more precise though, but the principle remains the same. A cruise missile, to be truly accurate, will need a hybrid navigation/ targeting system.
The longer you want to fly, the less atrractive reliance on INS alone becomes. The cheapest variant atm are fibre-optic inertial systems, iirc pioneered in Germany, and used in missile systems. But however ‘cheap’ – that’s a relative term, and it’s still high tech.
If you load up a Cessna with 150kg of fertilizer-explosives and fly it into a mall, that may well be all cruise missile a terrorist really needs. If the mall’s large, and the aircraft has an autopilot it could be crashed with an accuracy of +/-20 metres. No problem if the target is large enough …
Hersh is pretty honest about the fact that when he is engaged in public speaking he likes to lob grenades without too much concern about where they land.
The precision of his written work (and his ability to independently verify information from his sources) is another matter and the two should not be conflated or confused.
You will notice that a Pentagon spokesman called his work “mischevious.” Not to put too much weight in a throw away quote, but there are definitely those who see Hersh’s work as well serving their public intimidation campaign.
In truth, it cuts both ways, much like the current whispering campaign in the British press, but I am just saying that Hersh on tv is Hersh at play.
Thanks. The possibility that he was spinning the truth is, strangely, a relief.
Don’t know if you read his last piece in the New Yorker, which I found disappointing for a number of reasons, but al-Manar is reporting that the article was to be published in January and that some 50 percent was “censored.” I have no idea what that means, and the good folks at al-Manar probably have no idea either, but I would like to see what Hersh thought fit to print, even if it is as dubious and factually-challenged as some of the material that made the cut.
“they are naturally pushed both towards cost-effective solutions and to making money out of exports.”
As I said in those sort of wars they are quite happy to use relatively obsolete weapons. Why bother with PGMs, even if designed to be cheaper than usual, when you have huge stocks of conventional rounds which you do not have to pay for ?
“the Russians had been intending to sell the Syrians the Iskander, which is I think precisely the kind of system which can hit ground targets with precision at considerable range which we are talking about. (Although I think it is a GPS system, and so vulnerable in the way you describe.)”
It might use Glonass if available. More likely an high end inertial system coupled with a warhead fitted with terminal guidance. It is a short range ballistic missile, therefore it will probably have a short flight time.
This leaves little time for the inertial system to build up its error margin and what little is still present can be corrected by the sensors in the warhead in the terminal phase. Note however that ballistic missiles with terminal guidance are considered pretty high tech.
“the dramatic fall in the cost of inertial guidance systems makes them a potentially viable alternative to terrain guided systems. Is this the case? Presumably these are significantly less accurate than terrain guided systems — how far does this matter in situations such as the Lebanon/Israel one, where flight times are short? Would they be more useful than terrain guided systems in attacking targets over water?”
With inertial system the key factor is flight time. On short ranges you might manage to do without mid course updates but I suspect that at a minimum you will still need a terminal guidance. Really we are speaking about a series of variables:
1)High tech vs off the shelf;
2)Long range vs short range;
3)Present time vs the future;
Different combinations of the above variables require different considerations.
Normal terrain guided systems are completely useless over water. INS + GPS is used instead (of course if you are shooting at ships you use a radar guided warhead). I heard rumors about using the local magnetic values as an external reference as well but I do not know.
“They will also, I imagine, be very interested in acquiring the technology which the Russians developed for just this purpose, as this was a key priority for the Soviet navy for decades. One might have thought that keeping Russia and China apart would have been a strategic priority for the United States, among other things in order to avoid a coming together of Russian weapons design expertise and Chinese manufacturing capabilities.”
They have purchased submarines, missiles and aircrafts, as well as manufacturing licenses. They are also fiddling with their own designs. While there are cheaper ways to sink a carrier other than Midway style carrier vs carrier engagements it still isn’t cheap. Capable submarines, missiles etc. aren’t sold for a peeny, even if made in China.
“If these possibilities exist, the obvious people to be working on them will be the Russians”
The Russians are the obvious source for the missiles/hardware, but I am not sure their software skills are up to what is required. The killer combo would be Russian hardware and Indian information technology. I remember reading reports of the Russians being very impressed with what the Indians did with the electronics of the SU-30MKI.
Or what could really change the game completely would be if the Russians developed missiles with plug and play guidance systems and sensors. Anyone who bought them could then develop their own guidance computers, software and choose whichever sensors they wanted without having to waste any time and money on hardware at all. That would allow the development of new low cost guidance technology to be done really quite easily, and by anyone, even countries with almost no aerospace expertise.
David Habakkuk – the Russian SAM is the S300 PMU I believe. I also believe the US have acquired some samples but the Russian then updated it.