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08 August 2006

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billmon

The Hizbullah army command does not seem concerned at the prospect of 15,000 Lebanese Army troops in their area.

They make good cover.

Mo

No surprise I'm commenting on this!

The Lebanese army, such as it is, is woefully under resourced in every department. Equipment is outdated, spending minimal. Their inability, even if they wished it, to take on Hizbollah is ironically one of the reasons many Lebanese support the existence of Hizbollah in the sense that they are the only buffer between Israel and the 10,000+ deaths inflicted on the country in 82.

Hizbollah is unconcerned because there will not be any confrontation. Even a government manyfold more pro-American than Senioras would not drag the country down that road.

The end game for the Lebanese is relatively straightforward. No country can afford to simply lose the resources, ability, depth of knowledge and bravery of those fighting for Hizbollah today but then no country can afford, no matter how proud they are of the fighters, a slightly loose cannon, threatining the rest of the acheivements of the country as a country cannot advance on battlefield dignity alone. On the other hand, Hizbollah know their independence from the military is one of their strengths simply because they have no real infrastructure to hit. The compromise is making Hizbollah a shadow unit of the army, with an ultra limited chain of command politically, that is allowed to continue in its current form albeit with greater accountability.

I dont know how true this is but I have just heard that the IDF has changed its Northern Commanders. The last time the IDF changed battlefield commanders during the battle was in 1973 when things weren't going too well. Perhaps this is also a sign of an impending one last big push?

Ferdinand

Israel's stated aim is to incapacitate Hizbullah. Is that objective viable? Another group or generation of fighters will always step up--maybe under the same name or a different name. The underlying problems between Israel and its neighbors won't be solved by simply killing all members of a militant group (or groupS). So, one wonders what productive result the entire offensive on Hizbullah/Lebanon might be expected to yield? Won't the main harvest be more (and more bitter) fighting in years ahead?

Both Israeli and US rhetoric seem to suggest this is an effort to clean up, once and for all, a longstanding and intolerable situation. How much is actually being resolved or "fixed"?

b

15,000 folks to carry the ammunition and to cook for the fighters.

Makes some sense to me.

Jon T.

Col. Lang,
Thank you for responding to my question about Colin Powell earlier.
I heard an interview on NPR last week on 'All things considered' with a man who is, I believe, a graduate professor at the Naval College of Advanced Warfare (not sure of institution's name). I could not write his name down and would like to learn more about him as his comments about Hizbollah struck me as particularly astute and worth noting. Do you know who that person is? Jon T.

Montag

In the 1982 Invasion the PLO forces were initially at a disadvantage because they were organized into jumped-up convential "brigades" with heavy weapons, including some old T-34 tanks. These groupings just made good targets for the Air Force. The brigades were further hampered by a stultifying centralized control by Arafat. But once they were broken up into small combat groups under independent command and were no longer encumbered by their heavy weapons, they became really effective as mobile roadblocks ahead of the Israeli columns--which wound up pushing them backwards all the way to Beirut. There is still debate in Israel over how this "mission creep" came about and whether or not the outcome could have been any different.

Ironically, Israeli Reserve soldiers are being issued equipment from the early 80s for this go round--it's deja vu all over again.

julie

Maybe to the extent that Hezbullah becomes a part of a functioning nation state it's behaviors will change?

I do believe that Israel has long term prooblems with the Palestinians because their society is less and less functional. The same for us in Iraq.

But of course hat's being done to Lebanon will increase Israel's problems if this is true.

Overall I'm not sure if Hezbullah has behaved unreasonably within this conflict. Contrary to the general belief the criminal rocket attacks started after the bombing, they kept the 48 hourv truce better than Israel and they have claimed they will stop the rockets if Israel stops the bombing.

This seems reasonable at least in comparison to the claim that Israel has the right to bomb civilian areas minutes or hours after the rocket teams leave.

The Lounsbury

Rather agree with Mo.

It rather strikes me Hezbullah is no longer particularly concerned about the Lebanese army solution because the domestic political dynamic now is so strongly in their favour that they know that its presence only helps them now.

Six months ago that might not have been the case.

Certainly Lebanese official and unofficial public commentary now is so strongly trending to pro-Hezbullah terms that it is hard to see any confrontation.

Queer, the American-Israeli position if a virtual gift from heaven to their enemies. The phrase "own goal" was virtually invented for this.

vachon

Re: suggestion #3. And under who's command will this mixed army fight? My guess is Hizbullah would humbly accept the addition of 15k more armed men into it's extended family. I can hear the "Thank you!"s already.

Mo

Ferdinand, we have already heard leaks that the US and British knew of this attack well before the capture of the two soldiers. We already knew that this neo-con administration (I use the phrase neo-con but i think the term is starting to sound too left wing for these guys) adopted a "clean break" policy for its New American century Project, and like you say, rhetoric using phrases like "new middle east" suggests this is all part of a larger plan. The problem with even the best laid plans (and i doubt this one comes close to that description) is that they are quite often scuppered by the part you thing will be the easiest

searp

I guess everyone commenting is convinced of the futility of the Israeli effort, I know I am.

Another issue: it seems to me that Israeli tactics have a lot in common with those of the Serbs in Kosovo. OK, the press on the Serbs was sure a lot worse, but it needed to be so that we could intervene. If we look instead at the results, seems to me the analogy is pretty reasonable.

I am naive, but it strikes me that displacing a quarter of the civilian population of Lebanon and more or less completely destroying the critical infrastructure needed by the civilian population is, well, an atrocity and a war crime.

Hizb also is committing war crimes, but Israel has come a long way on the brutality scale. I would not be surprised at all to see court actions over this.

zanzibar

"I would not be surprised at all to see court actions over this." - searp

Which court? Who would prosecute?

zanzibar

"Six IDF soldiers were wounded, one moderately, when their unit came under anti-tank fire during clashes in Bint Jbail Tuesday evening. Another tank that arrived on the scene was hit by explosives, but there was no word of injuries in that incident."

This is amazing. Bint Jbail was supposedly captured by IDF couple weeks ago according to their own sources. All said and done, HA has proven to be a much more formidable opponent than what Gen. Halutz thought when he launched his plans to "destroy" them four weeks ago.

To this layman it looks like not only a strategic defeat for the IDF as PL has pointed out but also a tactical loss. How does the IDF expect to get to the Litani and control all that HA territory?


blowback

Hezbollah don't give a shit. From The Times of London***.

Just how effective Hezbollah's preparations have been is epitomised by one of its military positions, a mere 400 yards from the Israeli border.

"For four weeks the Israeli army has been throwing everything at that position, by aircraft and artillery. The Hezbollah group operating there is not being resupplied, and it is under constant bombardment. Yet thanks to whatever they have got stored in their underground ammunition bunkers, they are still hurling missiles into northern Israel.

"The Israelis have now managed to work troops to the north and have the position encircled, and yet still they have been able to carry on. They are either going to have to fight to the last, or try to sneak away at night through little valleys.

"It just shows how thoroughly prepared Hezbollah are. They knew that, come the day, the fighting would be down near the border and there would be no point having vast stockpiles of weapons in their secure areas like the Bekaa valley further north and east.

At this rate, I am not surprised the Israelis have just sacked their Northern Command.

From what I have read elsewhere the senior officers in the new Lebanese army are from all faiths, while the junior officers and other ranks are predominantly Shi'ite. I cannot see the Lebanese army forcibly disarming Hezbollah.

***The Times normally demand a subscription of non-UK readers. If anyone wants the full article, email me and I will forward it.

Matthew

Searp: What is needed is a legal process, preferably through Europe, where Israel could be dragged to account. Every act of vandalism in Lebanon need to be identfied, valued, and a judgement levied. Any legal process which involves Americans will utterly whitewash Israel. A sad statement, but look how we behave in the UN.

larry birnbaum

As has been alluded to but perhaps not stated directly in some of the comments above, it wouldn't solve Israel's problem, but it would make it clear that Lebanon is responsible for whatever happens -- most of all, to the Lebanese themselves.

John in LA

There will never be international legal/political action against Israel because the US has always vetoed any such effort.

The US has enabled Israeli war crimes for 50 years and provided both military and diplomatic cover.

But the Israelis are way over their head this time. It's laughable that the Lebanese "army" would disband Hizbullah or even tell it what to do.

It's even more laughable that extra-regional forces could/would do the job.

When the Shia open up their Eastern front against the US forces, the NeoCon mission is well and truly screwed.

Hillary Clinton has made clear that there will never be a US political leader that says no to Israel.

So we're going to have to learn the old fashioned way: by losing imperialistic wars and losing our control over world energy supplies.

david frost

One thing that to be studied in this, is that it is very easy to replicate a complex command and control structure with off the shelf equipment these days. Long range walkie talkies, 2-way radios, cell phones, and silent text messages and a host of other communication devices are cheap and readily availible and are being using to great effect by Hezbollah. Hezbollah. situational awareness may not be total, but the most impressive to date for a guerilla style force.

I also think that the anti-tank missiles have proven very effective weapons. Heavy armour may have seen it's last days as an effective fighting tool. Unless the other side has armour, I think that they are becoming a liability.

If a state has an airforce, they are easy targets (Desert storm), if armour is engage in a street battle with guerillas, it cannot react fast enough to anti-tank weapons or IED's in tight places where combatants can easily hide. (Lebabnon 2006)

Just food for thought, War is is war. The idea of prosecuting anyone for war crimes is ridiculous. No one has the jurisdiction to do so. All is fair in war. If you don't want atrocities to happen, do not unleash war.

This is why peace and finding ways to maintain it are the greatest endevaors man can engage in and the only way we can evolve to the next level.

JoeC

An interesting report from Debkafile today on IDF Northern Command problems:

Chief of staff appoints his deputy Maj.-Gen Moshe Kaplinsky as personal representative in the IDF’s northern command

Notwithstanding the official denials, this step is a manifestation of dissatisfaction on the part of chief of staff, Lt-Gen Dan Halutz, with the conduct of the war and his lack of confidence in the IDF’s northern command’s ability to carry the campaign forward without on-location supervision.

Questions regarding Maj.-Gen Udi Adam’s competence for this particular campaign were asked at the outset of the war, which erupted on July 12 when Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, killed 8 and loosed its first rocket attack on northern Israel.

Gen. Adam specializes in classical tank warfare. He has never encountered comprehensive warfare in Lebanon’s special conditions against a Hizballah guerrilla force backed by Iranian and Syrian sponsors, trainers and armorers.

In the first month of the conflict, Israeli tanks and their crews have borne the brunt of battle losses, prey to Hizballah’s anti-tank weapons, for which no tactical answer has been found. Neither have Hizballah strongholds been cracked in places such as Bin Jubeil ,where the fighting flares up time and again after Hizballa fighters have been ostensibly cleared out. The IDF’s backbone, the Merkava tanks, are clearly too vulnerable and Hizballah fortifications too difficult to breach.

The chief of staff, although advised in the third week of the war by many senior officers including reserve generals to shake up the northern command to restore its edge and offensive momentum, was reluctant to change horses in mid-war. He rejected advice to take a leaf of army chiefs in other wars and place more experienced and gifted generals alongside the chief of the northern command. He was reminded that the deadly reverses of the 1973 Yom Kippur War were addressed by appointing former chief of staff Haim Barlev to the southern command to oversee Gen. Shmuel Gorodish.

The name that came up most recently was Maj.-Gen (res.) Gabi Ashkenzi, who headed the northern command until last year and knows the Hizballah arena like the palm of his hand. Gen. Halutz brushed these proposed changes aside, fearing the Yom Kippur analogy would prompt questions about the preparedness of the general staff as a whole for the Lebanon war, the appointments he approved in the last year and his repeated assertion that he sees no danger of conventional war in the IDF’s foreseeable future.

This misperception which dominated the consciousness of political and military decision-makers also colored the selection of senior commanders.

However, Tuesday, August 8, when Halutz saw the northern command was incapable of finishing the Bin Jubeil battle, he decided to send Gen. Kaplinsky, 49, into the breach. As former OC Central Command, Kaplinsky’s forte is the disposition of ground forces. He is a former commander of the Golani infantry brigade.

Kaplinsky needs to pull off the feat the late Moshe Dayan managed in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War – to pick up in short order the Israeli army’s once-acclaimed capabilities as a limber, versatile, fast-moving, innovative force that is crowned with success. After a campaign which has dragged on for too long with too much loss of life and too few successes, Israel thirsts for a breakthrough to victory.

H.G.

Is there any word on where groups like Hezbollah are in acquiring advanced anti-aircraft missiles like the Stinger (or clones)? It seems to me Israel's (and our) primary (maybe only?) remaining advantage over these mutating militia groups is air power. If they had a serious counter-measure we would be in even more serious trouble than we already are: it might be the end-game. To this point Hezbollah have successfully used an anti-ship missile and apparently also anti-tank missiles. How far off can AA missiles be?

John Howley

The Neocons (Cheney-Rumsfeld) will never stop fighting even if they are losing. They will simply expand the front. Iran is next.
Rami Khouri writes in the Daily Star:
"The problem is that a cease-fire and political resolutions on this front solve only one of our five wars around here. The other four are: the internal battles to come inside Lebanon to define the country's future character and orientation; the continued antagonism between Israel and regional players like the Palestinians, Syria, Iran and probably a majority of Arab public opinion; the struggle for legitimacy and leadership between established Arab regimes and powerful non-state actors like Hizbullah and Hamas; and, the global tug of war over the soul of the Middle East, symbolized by the tensions between the camp led by the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom, and that led by Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas."
Re-focus on the shootin' wars in his neighborhood. It's quite a list:
1. Hizb-IDF.
2. Hamas-IDF.
3. NATO-Taliban.
4. AG, Sunni resistance, Mookie & Co, Iranisn operators vs. US in Iraq.
5. U.S. spec ops in Iran.
6. KPP vs. Turkish military.
I'm sure I've left someone out. My apologies.

searp

In my war crime comment I was thinking of one of those jurisdictions in Europe used to harrass Augusto Pinochet. As I recall, Sharon came in for some legal harrassment also.

I didn't mean to touch off a long thread on the topic, it just seemed to me that along with the discussion of failed tactics and failed strategy some mention of the horrendous, and unjustified, toll on noncombatants was appropriate.

At this point, I guess we can tote up some of the losses:

(1) Lebanon: destroyed and cast into the arms of Hezbollah.
(2) Israel: remaining prestige and moral authority gone. Just another blundering society mistaking military conflict for security policy.
(3) US: see (2).

Isn't this the type of stupidity that started WWI?

W. Patrick Lang

David frost

I don't accept the idea of war so total that it leads to true chaos.

I doubt if you would be "up" for killing prisoners or civilians deliberately and neither am I.

The alleged murder of a girl and her family at Mahmoudiya is a case in point. Would you call this a crime or a "boys night out?"

pl

Mo

H.G., I have read reports from US MIlitary sources about Iran trying to get or has got AA missiles to HA. HA's obsession with surprises though means that just becasue they haven't used them doesnt mean they haven't got them. Got to admit, I didn't realise until this war how much HA's "Surprise Strategy" got under the skins of the IDF.


Searp,
Dont be so sure about Lebanon being cast into the arms of Hizbollah. The none Shia groupings will support it now and respect it later but you can be sure that most (esp. the Christians and the Druze) will still be very wary of it.

McGee

searp -

Ditto re stupidity and WWI. One of the most cogent explanations I read regarding the real root cause of the "war to end all wars" was that Bismarck had masterfully put together a German Empire that unfortunately required a Bismarck to run it. I think it was A.J.P. Taylor who first wrote this, but it might've been Erich Eyck or Alan Bullock.

We're probably in a very similar boat right now, and most definitely without a Bismarck to steer us. Makes one wonder if it's time to man the life-boats yet? ...and where the hell are the life-boats hidden, anyway??

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