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23 July 2006


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Great analysis. I totally agree with its main contentions. However, re Israel "occupying the ground" - Syria has declared it will attack if Israel seriously invades, and probably means it. UN/EU etc. too are working above all to prevent this outcome, and I'd say Israel's previous experience as ground-occupier in Lebanon isn't amongst its happier memories?


"The policy that Israel is following is truly a triumph of hope over experience." -PL.

Faith-based policy is what one get's with the neocons. We've seen that here in the US and now in Israel. It seems from reading all the news reports quoting Halutz from the beginning of the Lebanon war that the attack plans are all his as Olmert has delegated those "details" to him. I can speculate he's told Condi that Hizballah will be crying uncle within a week!

"Bottom Line Advice for Israel: Occupy the ground or expect to suffer the effects of failure." -PL

They'll probably be getting to this after the French get shot-up by the Hizbs and are unable to prevent Katyusha's rain into Haifa. By then probably the aftermath of the Lebanese devastation unleashed by the Israeli "air power" military chief should be felt in their domestic politics. I wonder if their old French-inspired constitutional privileges for the Christians and Sunnis will survive and a new census that proves the Shia majority will take place. And then an elected Hizballah led government.

W. Patrick Lang


Whoever you are....

I did not say that the Israelis WILL occupy the ground. pl

Soonmyung Hong

Current Islael leaders(Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz) don't have experience as senior military officer.
I think it is one of reason for your analysis.


Excellent analysis.

Claiming they need a buffer zone doesn't make any sense either because they wouldn't have needed this new invasion into Lebanon to establish it, the zone could have been established within their own boundaries. Although they do have a penchant for using someone else's land other than their own.

When they come to the conclusion that airpower hasn't been sufficient and withdraw whatever troops they have in Lebanon, do you envision the demands they will make that will give them a face-saving appearance? i.e. would they insist an international UN force take up positions where UNIFIL presently is with phantom new mission power?

Something positive could come out of the loss of so many civilian lives if peace talks would be entered into. The long sought after military solution might be abandoned?

Hedley Lamar

Very good backgrounder on Halutz. One thing you could say about those Palmach people whose origins go back to Orde Wingate and the 1930s--not only were their boots on the ground but their thinking was firmly planted on the ground as well.

One quibble concerning Douhet. Certainly his thinking was enthusiastically embraced by the Fascists and I guess he joined the Fascist Party himself at some point. But I don't believe that Fascist ideology--such as it was--really drove his thinking about airpower. Like Mitchell, Bomber Harris & Co., Douhet was more of a technological utopian. Of course that sort of thinking did tend to mesh quite nicely with Fascism in interwar Europe, but that's a a whole other story...


One question here for you Colonel Lang or anyone else.

Since the invention of the airplane has this approach EVER proved successful?

Only thing I can think of is Japan, but as I recall one of the reasons that that worked was because the Japanese did not know that 2 nukes was all we had.

John Howley

Can a man not transcend his institutional origins? Joseph Carroll came from AF intelligence but seemed quite sensible once at DIA.

W. Patrick Lang


Doubtful. There are a few such, but few. This particular disease I have dealt with many times. I should have recognised it sooner.

In his case the actions of the IDF speak to his mindset.

I am what I am, and you are what you are, and he is what he is. pl

John Howley

Let's turn the question around. Why has the IDF chosen a proponent of air power as its CoS instead of a ground guy? Is his selection symptomatic of an institutional or strategic shift?

W. Patrick Lang


My guess would be Israeli politics and a certain amount of influence from the Pentagon. Rumsfeld's Pentagon. Just a guess. pl



Regarding Joseoh Carroll: He actually came from the FBI (he was an agent at Bureau headquarters) and was brought into the Air Force in 1947 when he was temporarily loaned by Hoover to the fledgling service (it had just broken away from the Army as its own entity) to help start start up their investigative branch, the OSI. It was then decided that he would remain to head the new organization and he was commissioned as a brigadier general without any previous military experience, which certainly didn't endear him to the career military officers with whom he worked. When he was later appointed to head the new DIA in the 60's he was really not a career air force officer, with the views and prejudices which that background would have guaranteed - he was really a career intelligence specialist and would not have been expected to evidence any of the symptoms of the disease which Colonel Land describes.


Sorry - Colonel Lang, not Land - Sheesh!


it is an unfortunate feature of the techno-faithful of the neocon ilk that they can't think past applying next-generation tech to defeat the last generation's adversaries.

after years of attention to Urban War, OOTW, Asymmetric War, 3 Block War, etc., we appear to have started from scratch in Iraq. and now, Israel may have forgotten everything they knew that worked.

if only the enemy would conform to our models - what's wrong w/ them?!


Eric; some historians can attribute air power to having been decisive twice. The first was in the early 1920s when the Brits used the new airplanes to humble "Iraqis" who had never seen such contraption. The psychological impact was all out of proportion to any real damage caused, yet it was enough to usher in the colonial era - and we know how that era eventually worked out. The second, argueably, as you wrote was over Japan, which was more a product of the bomb than the delivery means.

Additionally there were times when airpower made tremendous contributions: Chennault's skillful use was likely the key factor that kept China in the war and contributed mightily to Japan getting bogged down, in what was for the allies the economy of force theater. Airpower was essential to the Allies winning the Battle of the Atlantic over the U-boats. A few WWII Pacific Naval battles were largely determined by airpower, i.e., Midway. Airpower was key to demonstrate NATO's will during the Berlin Airlift. Airpower through helicopter air assaults, resupply and command and control made big contributions in Korea in 1952-53: the helicopter was the most requested and critical "weapon system" that commanders' wanted into theater.

Bottom line: airpower makes larger contributions than most Army officers admit (afterall they haven't received enemy incoming since 1952); but airpower is rarely as decisive as Douhet, zoomie and Naval air disciples ascribe. Of the services the Marines generally have the most realistic appreciation of the contributions and limitations of airpower.


IMO the Israeli use of air power is an act of collective punishment. To me it resembles Wehrmacht anti-partisan operations like rounding up arbitrary civilians and shooting them in retaliation for acts of terror, in order to pressure the population to stop supporting the partisans. In Israel it looks somewhat different atm because it happens from the air.
The Israeli flyers carry the same message: 'Blame the terrorists for your dead'. The same tactic with other means.

If I'm not very much mistaken, collective punishment became illegal after 1945. If the Israeli goal is to depopulate southern Lebanon to deny Hezbollah support there, then it's about ethnic cleansing, too.

At this point, we're talking war crimes.

That doesn't mean the Arabs are nice guys. Hezbollah shelling Israeli villages also commits war crimes by intentionally targeting civilians. Not the point. It's just that I strongly think that we must not fall into the trap of non-equivalence and end up in neo-con land, where Israel is always justified, no matter what they do, while Arabs never are, no matter what they do. That'll lead nowhere.

W. Patrick Lang


"airpower makes larger contributions than most Army officers admit (afterall they haven't received enemy incoming since 1952"

I don't know what wars you fought in but they must not have been the same as mine. pl



No they weren't the same wars, but a soldier goes where he's sent. The subpoint being that airpower contributes more than trucks and artillery - afterall the US Army organizes its two strategic divisions around airpower and named them to reflect airpower. Yet its rarely, if ever, decisive.

Thankfully our soldiers have not received levels of aerial incoming that we dish out. Like the adage that a small war isn't if one is in the middle of it, one who received an errant, rare enemy air delivered incoming may not think it small or rare. Oh, one conflict in which airpower made a big contribution to fighting an insurgency occurred in Algeria. De Gaulle ordered the airforce to replace the jets in theater with older propellor airplanes so the pilots could actually see the enemy by flying lower and slower. It worked well; but since it happened so late in the conflict political events and strategic errs pre-de Gaulle, doomed the French attempt to hang on to the colony.

Airpower will be near useless in the Lebanon campaign. The participants and their populations are not primitive people who would be shocked into submission. Rather here airpower will likely have the unintended affect to further embolden resistance and the political will to increase support to Hezbollah. The observations that the Israeli campaign is hope and faith-based are on target.

W. Patrick Lang


I never said that air power was insignificant. There are, of course, other forms of "incoming." pl


Might another exception to the rule that "strategic" air power is never decisive be the Kosovo campaign?
After all, Milosevic did eventually cave without a ground invasion.

Of course, NATO spent weeks playing cat-and-mouse with the Serb Army inside Kosovo before finally giving up and taking the war to downtown Belgrade. And that only worked because Milosevic actually worried that the people and the Army might turn on his regime if the destruction continued.

Hizbollah doesn't seem to give a damn about what happens to the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon, so it looks like the first, failed part of the Kosovo campaign is probably most relevant here.

W. Patrick Lang


Milosevich "caved in" under convincing threat of a ground invasion." pl

W. Patrick Lang


I remember hearin a retired USAF general namd "Mohmeyer" (phonetic) claim in 1973 that the allied invasion of Europe ("Overlord") had been foolish because the Germans were going to surrender in a few months anyway under the pressure of US and British strategic bombardment.

The pretty well sums up the idea.

Any idiot knows that air power is useful. the question is whether or not it is decisive. pl


Excellent exchanges over air power. After the Great War, air power seemed to be one answer to the stalemate of trench warfare. Of course, tanks and mechanized infantry were another. Air power provides strategic and tactical depth to the battle space and is a vital component of total war. Fortunately, the US has not been in a total war since WWII, Israel has.

Not so long ago air power advocates contemplated the end of air power because of advanced air defense systems. The US worked hard to recover air power, perhaps more correctly air superiority, and, as evidenced since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon during the 1980s, was successful. Thus, it is understandable that Israel would use this weapon just as the US uses it to good effect. However, as pl and others assert, air power does not replace ground forces when the objective exceeds punishment. As an aside, the US-Israeli wedding of military doctrine was consummated years ago.

The IAF has prepared the battle space in southern Lebanon, demonstrated the ability to interdict all of the lines of communication (reality check for Syria). The IAF has encouraged the civilian population of southern Lebanon to leave. IDF engineers apparently have been busy clearing the Hizbullah’s mines from the border region. And, the IDF made an initial movement to contact in Maroun al-Ras seemingly to assess Hizbullah’s capabilities as well as to occupy the ground. Today’s Ha’aretz reports that the IDF figures it has seven to ten days before a cease fire. The IDF called up Civil Affairs reservists for areas under military control (an indicator of Israeli intent). Meanwhile, the powers that be are working on an international force to fill the void when the IDF withdraws from southern Lebanon.

Israel looks determined to clean Hizbullah military assets out of southern Lebanon with ground forces and then turn it over to international forces. The IDF is conducting a deliberate and well-planned operation. Like pl, I doubt that an international force will either disarm or even slow down the inevitable return of Hizbullah to southern Lebanon. Israel is buying time once again.

W. Patrick Lang


The whole strategic conception is wrong.

HB are not a bunch of sheep and can not be herded like the civilian population. Israel does not have the stomach for heavy losses that would be necessary to clear and maintain as clear the zone necessary.

There will be no international force. No country will sign up to do Israel's dirty work for them and fight there for an indefinite time to maintain a HB clear zone.

The Israelis have screwed themselves. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

I suggest that there has been no winners in these events; just loosers and actors that essentially came out even.

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