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17 August 2006


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Frank Durkee

Col. Was this an intelligence failure or a policy failure on Israel's part; and how did the US come to buy into it?
Frank Durkee

Dimitar Vesselinov

Israel/Middle East (defense procurement, defence acquisition, military purchasing)


Col. Lang: Was it "foolishness" or was it meant to send a message? The whole thing has the General Hood and the Battle of Franklin feel about it, i.e., disciplining people through battle. The USA and Israel want to "manage" the Arabs, not engage with them. Hence, these seemingly stupid actions. Until we ask the people of the ME what they want, I don't see how this will ever change.


"After all these years of study of the Arabs and Lebanon"

Is there any evidence that they have studied the Arabs and Lebanon? Haven't all their actions so far smacked of complacency and arrogance?

Will the armed conflict be renewed at some future date?
Most probably, but how and when all depends on so many factors. Bush will have wanted a victory to stay the hand of Hizbollah during an attack on Iran. If an attack on Iran is to happen it would have to be within the next year or so before Bush enters the last year of his presidency when, one presumes, he would not scupper the hopes of a Republican candidate with a potential disaster. However, in order to repeat this attack without even louder international condemnation, and maybe even, heaven forbid, some international action, the Israelis will have to wait quite a while, unless that is Hizbollah execute another attack that embarrases the Israeli govt. to the level that the capture of the 2 soldiers did.

From the speeches being made by the Hariri/Jumblatt camp currently in Lebanon, it seems the strategy is to try and win the hearts and minds of the Lebanese people by appealing to their nationalism and patriotism. As mentioned above though, Lebanon is not and never has been a country in the strict sense of the word. Even as far back as Phoenician times it was a loose confederacy of nation states.

Unfortunately while the US-alligned bloc talks, Hizbollah is already on the ground clearing away unexploded bombs, rubble and even collecting the rubbish.

john in the Boro


How much effect/affect did Olmert's Convergence Plan have on his decision to engage Hezbollah? Or, was it purely a demonstration project for Iran?

W. Patrick Lang


Irony. Very few Israelis know anything about the Arabs. pl


Apologies, should have seen the irony a mile away really.

I blame it on the late nights watching the war via news networks.

The reason I think the people are ME are not asked what they want is that the US and Israel already know the answer and aren't willing to hear it or accept it.

john in the Boro,
I doubt the plan and the attack had much to do with each other. The effect all depends if the Israelis actually believe their own hype that it was disengagement that led to continued attacks and not theior policies of abusing their neighbours.


Pl wrote >>>very few Israelis know anything about the Arabs<<<<

Well, I have hunch on one thing they now know....they better learn a lot more tout friggin suite


So when the IDF returns to Lebanon in the future, what lessons will they have learned, what counter-tactics will they use, and how will they change the organizational structure of their forces?

With all due respect to the light infantry supporters in previous posts, I strongly disagree. Heavy infantry with lots of sapper (or combat engineer) support is a key against fortified tunnels and bunkers. Light infantry has its place on the battlefield, but not on this one.


We are, perhaps, dealing with the legacy of the Sharon and the Dayan myths rather than, say, the reasoning of Abba Eban (of whose like there are always far too few -- and not just in Israel):

"The rhetoric of 1973 is almost inconceivable, with Ariel Sharon saying that we could capture everything from Tunis [to] Iran [and] between Turkey and the Sudan; Dayan saying that, for the next ten years, the issue was not peace, but to draw a new map, because, in the next ten years, there would be neither peace nor war; Itzhak Rabin’s statement in 1973 that Golda had better boundaries than King David and King Solomon had had and that they did not require any mobilization of reserves. So that it is really how opinion passed from sobriety to self-confidence, and from self-confidence to fantasy, reaching a somewhat absurd level in 1973, when you should compare the enormous rhetorical self-confidence with the lack of military preparation...
"For Mrs. Meir, there was something called 'the Arabs' — the adversary, the foe, the architect of our destruction. I felt the position was much more variegated; that there were currents in the Arab world; that, together with those who still hoped to change the Middle Eastern map, there was developing a mood of reluctant fatalism. I wouldn’t call it moderation. I met Arabs who felt that, although Israel was an unfortunate historical reality, it was a historic reality nonetheless; it was not going to be changed. Some elements of this attitude could be found here and there in the press and in writing. Some elements came out even in official statements, such as those of Nasser, who postponed the destruction of Israel to some eschatological date in the future [and talked?] about the Crusades. Whenever an Arab mentioned the Crusades, I took heart. It meant that, for the next hundred years, they thought that we would have to exist, and I thought that, by then, we could let the future look after itself. Once they transferred the image of destroying Israel from the realm of political reality to the realm of messianic hope, I thought there was a way open for accommodation."

Israel Studies, 8:1, Spring 2003 INTERVIEW WITH ABBA EBAN


Shows you what intelligence (in the various meanings of that word), "managed calm" and a good Cambridge degree in Oriental Studies can do.


PL-Yeah, Thomas Friedman once quoted an Israeli man-on-the-street as saying, "Israel needs to take a big stick and beat the Arabs, beat them, beat them--until they stop hating us!" Ironically, DM Peretz (his name is probably Putz now with the Israeli public) campaigned for Palestinian-Israeli votes as a Sephardic Arab-Jew. Once in office he had to make his bones by becoming the Hammer of the Arabs. Thanks, suckers!

On pre-war intelligence, comedian A. Whitney Brown did a hilarious monologue on "Saturday Night Live" many years ago about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which was a disaster by that time. Brown said something like, "Can you imagine the planning session in the Kremlin? One guy probably said, 'Sure, lets go in--whoever heard of Afghans bearing a grudge?'"

Roberta Taussig

A generic comment. I can't remember who pointed me to your blog, but it has become a daily read. I have never had exposure to serious discussion of military strategy and tactics, and the education is exhilarating.


"Hizbollah is already on the ground clearing away unexploded bombs, rubble and even collecting the rubbish." - Mo

As stunned Lebanese returned Tuesday over broken roads to shattered apartments in the south, it increasingly seemed that the beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah.

A major reason — in addition to its hard-won reputation as the only Arab force that fought Israel to a standstill — is that it is already dominating the efforts to rebuild with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran.

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction.

In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for “decent and suitable furniture” and a year’s rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

“Completing the victory,” he said, “can come with reconstruction.”

Will there be a competition between Iran and the Saudis to see who can provide more reconstruction funds and gain the "allegiance" of the Lebanese? How will the Hariri/Jumblatt camp respond to the aftermath politically?


Does there really have to be more violence if they take a cue from the Rolling Stones and give up getting what they want for getting what they need?

Now that Israel has basically lost in achieving their goal of total victory (what they want), can't they figure out what they NEED in their relationship to their neighbors to the north (and northeast and southeast and internal)? Maybe I'm just naive, but it seems to me that what Hizzbollah NEEDS rather than WANTS is something that Israel could live with and something that can be negotiated.

I think it was Moshe Dayan who said if you don't negotiate with your enemies, who are you going to negotiate with?

As far as the Lebanese governments wants/ needs, unfortunately they appear to be the infant in the child seat in the back of the car. They'll have to settle for what's given to them.

Come to think of it, so will the rest of us....

cynic librarian

Rejecting calls--for now--from extremists inside and outside Israel to turn Lebanon into a parking lot, Israel will attempt to create grounds for another invasion, as well as come up with a strategy to further wire the news stream in their favor.

Israel will attempt to goad Hizbullah into action by continuing its provocative intrusions into Lebanese airspace. I also believe that it will attempt to decapitate Hizbullah by either assassinating Nasrallah right away or at least attriting through assassination the Hizbullah command structure. These are actions that they have done in the past and they will probably continue into the future.

Israel will exhibit what I will characterize as the "battering husband" syndrome by attacking Hamas and Palestinian civilians. Although I characterize it this way, and the reason for doing it may correlate with Israel's desire to take out on someone defenseless its anger and frustration for losing round 1 of its war with Hizbullah, attacking Hamas serves other ends as well:

First, Hamas was on the verge of compromise with Abbas, going so far as declaring that it was ready to recognize the right of Israel to exist.

The invasion of Lebanon coincided with Israeli military action in Gaza, where over a hundred civilians were killed. This put a stop to Hamas' efforts toward compromise; but now that the Lebanese invasion has fizzled, Hamas is again on the verge of a compromise.

Israel wants nothing to do with a "democratic" Palestinian government. This would delegitimize its entire argument for refusing to recognize Palestine and would reignite calls for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders.

Second, attacking Gaza provokes Hizbullah at a time that it's being perceived as the great Arab warrior. That is, Israel is trying to see how far Hizbullah's professed victory can go.

Like rubbing a sore, Israel can point to the limited effects of Hizbullah’s victory. This plays on two aspects of Hizbullah’s professed political goals: a) Is it just a Lebanese political party, or 2) is it a pan-Arab political party?

I believe that Israel is counting on Nasrallah to opt for b). If so, then the many reasons that Israel has given for why Hizbullah should be eliminated will be vindicated and Israel can argue once again that Hizbullah is either a proxy for Iran or Syria.

If Nasrallah simply opts for a), then Israel still wins because it can show that the jubilation around the Arab world over Hizbullah’s victory is just a local affair and really represents no grounds for hopes that the Palestinians will gain justice soon.

At the same time, however, if Hizbullah goes the way of integrating with the political structure of Lebanon, it will then effectively remove the danger that Israel so much fears: a forward front that it must contend with should the US and Israel attack Iran.


do you have any opinion about the comments in the nyt article that the current support of hizbollah by the lebanese will be tempered once the shock wears away and the full impact of the destruction hits them. the opinion (in the daily star) was that hizbollah has a year to get the reconstruction going, and that the destruction was so massive, that it's unlikely there will be any fighting with israel, at least for a few years.

would be interested in your take on that particular view.

W. Patrick Lang


We are serious. That is true. The level of real military knowledge apparent in the comments on this blog impresses me. pl

W. Patrick Lang


I think the time is underestimating the level of hostility to Israel in the country. People are writing me from Beirut expressing deep unhappiness with the Maronite right for their behavior during this crisis. Some of the Maronites were drinking toasts to the IDF in night clubs. This will not be forgotten easily. pl

W. Patrick Lang


I suspect that this was basically a policy failure with the usual Quislings in the military and intelligence being only too eager to suck up to the boss's opinions however mindless. pl

W. Patrick Lang


Most Israelis do not want to know anything about the Arabs, do not want to think about them and live lives utterly separated from them.

There are a small number of specialists in Israeli academia, the military and Mossad who are the repositories for whatever the Israelis know about the Arabs.

Those specialists are usually very good. That's for you, Gadi. pl


you're right, the competition is already fierce for the hearts and minds of the Lebanese. The Saudis are off course supporting the son of their favourite son and trying to buy their way out of the criticism they aired of Hizbollah at the start of the war.I would also expect the US to weigh in with help for the Hariri Bloc (which is never good news for its Arab allies).
Hizbollah is expected for its part to be spending between $150-$250 million on its part.

Im not sure who will win politically, but I guess this is one proxy war the Lebanese can look forward to!

While what both sides WANT is the elimination of the other, what both sides NEED is stop being bothered by the other. Shebaa farms and the prisoners will remove all but one of Hizbollahs reasons to remain armed. The one reason remaining is something the US has blocked on behalf of Israel which is a heavy investment in the Lebanese military so that it can actually stand up for itself against the next Israeli invasion (which lets face it is now due for sometime between 2012 and 2016). They are still trying after all these years to implement Moshe Dayans annexation of the land south of the Litani.

Cynic librarian,
I think thats what Israel may do, but I also think Nasrallah may surprise you with an option c. He could after all come on tv and say to the Arab world this is what your leaders are allowing to happen to the Palestinians, we cannot allow Lebanon to be destroyed again so I urge you to rise up, remove your leaders and protect the Palestinians. If he were to say that on Al Jazeera, all bets are off in the Arab world and some US friendly regimes may be toppled.

Babak Makkinejad

Col. Lang:

Not entirely accurate: Israelis claim that all the swear words in their version of Hebrew comes from Arabic.


re. Israeli knowledge of Arabs, one novelty of this war has been the internet. As an Arab, this it the first time I have been able to access Israeli thought and opinion thanks to the internet, especially their media sites. Now the one thing the Israelis have always done fantastically and the Arab world dosn't have the first clue about is PR. But before this war I had always assumed this PR to be outward, but reading opinions and comments on Israeli sites, ive realised that the PR is also inward. Many Israelis Im amazed to find really do believe the myths put out by the Israeli propaganda machine. They really believe that Hizbollah was rocketing Israeli civilians on a regular basis (UNIFIL reports ive read between 2000 and 2006 mention 4 rocket attacks, 2 of which HA took responsibility for), they really believe HA intends to invade and they really believe that the Arab world opposes them because they are Jewish. I find it remarkable that they are sitting right in the middle of all this and yet are so ignorant of it.

W. Patrick Lang


I concede the point althought I don't speak Hebrew.

Incidentally the usual Israeli division of their Jewish population into Ashkenazim and Sephardim is inaccurate. Sephardim are/were Ladino speaking Jews of Andalusian descent while all the Jews who came from the East abd were not Sephardim are properly Oriental Jews.

Nowadays, of course, this distinction is much blurred by intermariage. As is the tr-partite Jordanian division of their Arab population into Beduin, East Bankers and Palestinians.

Are you familiar with the art of the famous Israeli singer Rita (woman) who is of Persian birth? pl

Duncan Kinder

Question: are Israelis - as are most Christians - generally unaware that, in Islam, Mohammed is by no means the only prophet;. Indeed, Islam also recognizes Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, and virtually all other Old Testament prophets. It seems to me that if the two faiths wanted to get a mutually productive dialogue going, the role of these prophets would form a basis for mutually profitable discussions.

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