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28 February 2007

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blowback

With HB behind the Litani River and UNIFIL between them and the Israelis, it is difficult to see what other than Israeli aggression would trigger a new war.

It should be remembered that Israeli warplanes enter Lebanese airspace several times each day. Do the weapons under the control of HB now include surface-to-air missiles? Will Israeli pilots get sloppy and fly into positions where they are susceptible to those missiles?

Although the IAF was successful against Syrian air defenses in the Bekka Valley that was as much due to sloppy Syrian operating procedures as to IAF capabilities. It is very unlikely that HB will make the same mistakes.

As for UNIFIL, don't forget that they have modern European surface-to-air missiles and the French have made it clear that they will use them if the Israelis attack UNIFIL with aircraft. The last time I looked, the French also had an aircraft carrier off Lebanon. While this would not be strong enough to withstand a concerted air assault by the Israelis it could provide some cover for UNIFIL and perhaps make Israel think twice about attacking UNIFIL. With France and Italy both members of NATO, any attack on there forces would put America in a difficult position, whether to support their NATO allies or Israel.

If the Israelis do attack Lebanon first, Israeli supporters such as Blair and Merkel will find it far harder to defend Israeli interests.

Additionally, an Israeli attack on UNIFIL would be a political and economic disaster for Israel. Sixty per cent of Israel's exports are to the EU and there would probably be an EU trade embargo in place a few days after any attack. According to a recent survey, 75% of Israelis want Israel to join the EU and any chance of that happening would disappear with an Israeli attack on UNIFIL.

Finally, HB is well aware that the Israelis are looking for any excuse to start another war and I suspect that HB will be very careful to not allow the Israelis a casus belli.

BTW, I had come across the Leavenworth Papers before, particularly the works of David M. Glantz and they impressed me with the quality of the contents and their openness. What depressed me is the apparent failure of the US military to use much of that knowledge.

Cloned Poster

Yes Okinawa are far as HB are concerned, more the Invasion of Granada as far as the IDF are concerned.

W. Patrick Lang

BB

Dave Glantz is a great authority and I am proud to say, another VMI alumnus. pl

W. Patrick Lang

CP

I think that HB "lays it down" a little bit harder than a cuban construction battalion. pl

John Hammer

Blowback:

"With France and Italy both members of NATO, any attack on there forces would put America in a difficult position, whether to support their NATO allies or Israel."

If you are talking about clause 5 of the NATO charter which states that if one member is attacked the other members are obligated to rush to their defense, this only applies when the actual country is attacked. So unless the Israelis are going to hit Paris...

Also, France and Italy will be the ones in a dificult position if they side with our enemy over our ally.

Grimgrin

From the linked article : "What made it possible for the Americans to advance expeditiously against the IJA's ingenious caves was the tank. The tank did not make it easy to move through the densely entrenched fireswept zone, but it made it possible."

This does not bode well for the Israelis. Unless their Trophy system proves capable of neutralizing the threat of Hezbollah missiles.

blowback

After reading the whole paper, there are two conclusions I would add.

The first that the battle would have been different but the outcome probably the same if the defenders had been equipped with shaped-charge weapons such as a Panzerfaust derivative or EFPs. The American casualties would probably have been far higher unless the Americans resorted to siege tactics.

The second is that better fire discipline - no honourable death attacks - from the Japanese would also have made the American's job far harder.

HB have plenty of shaped-charge weapons and EFPs and no history of mass suicide attacks.

For an excellent account of what being on the receiving end of the Japanese efforts on Okinawa try With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge.

arbogast

The story of Okinawa is fascinating. Thanks very much for the reference.

The raw impotence of the last Israeli campaign, on the one hand, and the use of American shleppers in Iraq (so near and yet so far), I think, have pushed the "war spirit" in Israel into the garbage.

Conversely, HB is whistling while they work.

The only remotely viable option is an American-only air strike against Iran. Nothing else works. And that is the thing that the propaganda machine in Washington and Tel Aviv is preparing for.

As the American economy crumbles, we drop bombs on civilians. I don't quite think that's what Thomas Jefferson had in mind.

ali

The comparison is striking and one that would not have occurred to me; in particular:
"On Okinawa both sides knew well in advance where the battle would be. Both knew also that, although one side would have overwhelming firepower and air supremacy, the other side would have exclusive control of the ground for a year before combat. American air supremacy meant that every Japanese position had to be hardened and concealed, because air observation would bring devastating bombardment on any visible target. The Japanese' long foreknowledge of the inevitable attack, coupled with their unlimited labor power, meant that the Japanese could respond to this problem with an elaborate solution: moving everything underground. The Americans, similarly, were hindered by having no access to the ground
...
The terrain here was rolling and hilly and "broken by terraces, steep natural escarpments, and ravines." It was characterized by "lack of pattern, steep slopes, and narrow valleys" and was "filled with twisting ridges and spotted with irregular knolls." Because the terrain was hilly and irregular, it provided innumerable short fields of fire but no long fields of fire. This was ideal for the Japanese whose defense relied on "large numbers of short-range weapons." The tangled, broken ground forced the Americans to fight a thousand small battles hand to hand instead of one large battle at a distance where their preponderant firepower would have given them the advantage"
And conversely were the folk of South Lebanon being modern men excelled the Japanese of more than half a century ago:
"This Japanese failure to provide bazookas and radios was all the more serious because the modest technology and resources needed for both were available. If some of the resources devoted to well-machined field guns, howitzers, and mortars on Okinawa had been devoted instead to some humbler antitank gear, the battlefield might have been transformed. The inadequacy of IJA field equipment must be attributed in the end to doctrinal prejudice. Somehow, the IJA's conceptual approach to combat did not include or anticipate an armored adversary or an environment where a company's only possible link to the larger battlefield was by radio."

Mo

blowback,
In regards to what could trigger a new war, as you say it could only be Israeli aggression, esp. in the current climate in Lebanon. However, it was Israeli aggression that triggered the invasions in 78, 82, 92 and 96, not to mention 06. However, a quick search of much of the media would leave you thinking otherwise:
1978 - Self Defense of the existential threat of a bus bombing in Tel Aviv
1982 - Existential threat of the attempted assasination of the Israeli ambassador in London
1992 - Existential threat of Hizbollah retaliation for the assasination of the then leader.
1996 - Existential threat of Hizbollahs attacks on Israeli soldiers in the occupied "security zone"

In other words once the attack is planned is just a case of waiting for the excuse, no matter how tenuous. Then Blair (or Brown by then), Merkel, Howard et al, would be repeating that justification. And with that justification there will be no sanctions, political or economic.

In regards to the missiles, I would be sure that no matter how sloppy those pilots get, Hizbollah will not waste the element of surprise on a one off.

As for the UN, apart from some so called close calls, which i am deeply skeptical about, I have yet to see any evidence that they are willing to take on the Israelis especially if the Israelis dont actually confront them but go round them.

Anyway, far more importantly, when did the abbreviation for Hizbollah change from HA to HB?

arbogast

The Israeli's have already murdered (I think that's what firing at people who are not firing back is correctly called) Chinese UN troops in South Lebanon.

But I think today it is different. Killing French troops placed in Lebanon by the UN will isolate Israel both externally and internally.

Recall that the third largest Jewish population in the world is in France.

Recall also that 75% of all Jews in France during WWII survived despite the best efforts of the Papon's of the world.

Once again, it is the crazies, the belligerent minority, in the Israeli population that is causing the trouble. But they are losing ground, I believe, not gaining it.

Certainly not gaining enough ground to

a) start another ground war

b) start killing French troops

The Argentina Generals who had had a free ride torturing and murdering civilians (cf. Palestine), became much less popular when they finally faced a seasoned military foe in the form of the British Army.

I don't know if anyone wants to compare HB with the British Army, but we seem to be comparing them with the Japanese Army already.

D.Witt

I personally think that politically, this is a non-starter in Israel--they still have the "Lebanese mud' on their psyche from past incursions, and last summer's fling did nothing to heighten their enthusiasm.

It's one thing to sell a hi-tech, remote-control war, and another to advocate for a 'boots on the ground' invasion, in which the majority of the troops would be 18-year old Israeli kids serving their mandatory military time.

otoh, as was noted earlier, suitable outrage can always be manufactured, which reminds me of last summers': It's interesting to note that the Israelis seem to have lost interest in retrieving their two soldiers from HA--so much for that causus belli...

blowback

John Hammer - two points.

1. My comment referred to Israeli aircraft attacking UNIFIL (for which Israel has history) and NOT France/Italy siding with Hezbollah which is something that would never happen.

2. The North Atlantic Treaty Article 6(1)refers to forces, vessels, or aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea - which might explain why the Germans have only provided warships to surveil Lebanon.

Mo - three qualifications

1. Blair/Brown and Merkel will find it far harder to support Israel following an attack on French/Italian UNIFIL forces. I hope that the EU will not in such circumstances be as supine as the US was after the unprovoked Israeli attack on the USS Liberty.

2. Unprovoked attacks on UNIFIL has become part of the genetic makeup of the IDF these days so if the IDF reinvades Lebanon they just won't be able to stop themselves from taking a pop at UNIFIL.

3. Hezbollah's raison d'etre is the defence of Lebanon from Israeli agression including Israeli incursions into Lebanese airspace (currently running at about five a day). At some point i fear that Hezbollah will feel that they have to justify their existence by confronting such Israeli incursions and they will wait for an IAF plane that is flying low enough for them to hit it with a MANPAD.

arbogast - Olmert is damaged goods as far as the Israeli electorate are concerned and may hope that another war will restore his reputation.

BadTux

MANPADs and ATGMs decidedly change the balance somewhat compared to Okinawa. The U.S. had complete and utter air superiority on Okinawa. The IAF, thanks to man-portable air defense missiles, now only controls high altitudes where man-portable IR missiles can't go (and to answer 'blowback's question, for logistical reasons HA is largely restricted to man-portable weapons, thus no effective defense against high altitude jets). While GPS-guided and laser-designated bombs are quite accurate now from high altitudes, you can't bomb what you can't see, and it's hard to see hidden positions on valley walls when you're down in the valley bowl, as the French found out at Dien Bien Phu. And with guided anti-tank missiles, you cannot use tanks as mobile pillboxes anymore.

And finally, of course the mentality is different. HA has lived side by side with the Israelis for many decades. They know the Israelis don't eat babies (they just bomb them). They aren't going to do stupid things because they think the Israelies are going to turn them into casseroles, they're going to fight their fight then do their best to melt into the countryside to come back to fight another day rather than do something suicidal. And the Israelis can't take 72,000 casualties like the Americans did at Okinawa. Demographically it would be horrific, politically it would be utterly unthinkable.

In short, even against a modern high-tech army HA in Lebanon has significant capability above and beyond what the Japanese at Okinawa possessed. The Japanese had 100,000 troops and inflicted 72,000 casualties. With the village reserves HA probably has twice that, and has significantly better anti-aircraft and especially anti-tank, as well as having had *much* more time to dig in and prepare than the Japanese had at Okinawa. Knowing what we know now, anybody in the IDF proposing to invade Lebanon again (as vs. just bomb bomb bomb away from high altitude) has rocks in their head. Unfortunately, institutional arrogance will likely rear its head again sooner or later. The notion of Arabs fighting smart and fighting hard is one that has a hard time getting through hard heads, though it seems to have gotten through the slightly softer heads of the majority of Israeli civilians.

Leila

Really, there's no reason to use HB for Hizb Ullah

It's two words, Hizb meaning party and Ullah (or Allah to you westerners) meaning God. Every Lebanese I ever heard pronounces it Hizbullah.

HA is a little more correct, if you spell the words Hizb Allah. Again, this spelling doesn't reflect how Lebanese pronounce it. To my American ear, it's Ullah, short U. Yes, the letter in question is Alef, usually transliterated as A, but it really is pronounced in this case like Ultimatum, not Already.

HU anybody?

BTW, I just looked at the oldest known Arabic Gospel, opened to the Book of John in its display case at The Getty, and there on the page was the word Allah, spelled out in Arabic exactly the way it would be in any Koran you ever saw. Christian ARabs, and Jewish Arabs, refer to God in Arabic as Allah. (Ullah?) The Gospel in question is dated circa 840 A.D. and is from the monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai. That's eight-hundred-forty Anno Domini, not eighteen-hundred-forty.

confusedponderer

When the Israelis attack French troops they will pretty sure be facing an enemy with top notch training and modern equipment and who knows how to use it. The French commanders seem determined to not only protect their troops, but also to not be suckered by Israel. Maybe because of bad memories lingering since 1984?

The German Navy is part of the naval task force at Lebanon's coast. There was an incident last year when Israel shot at a chopper carrrying a German Admiral, because the German Navy 'did not coordinate (t)his plan with Israel before taking off'. One would think a UN mandate is enough. It was IMO an Israeli demonstration that this is *their* playing field, pretty much showing the UN forces 'the finger'.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,2215929,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

There was a similar incident with Israeli jets and a German Navy intelligence ship, the Oste. The Israeli jets breaking the soundbarrier, accidentally over Beirut, are also demonstrations of force.

Israel will have, under a Bush administration, DC's full backing in pretty much whatever they do, and there will be massive pressure on Paris or anyone else to give them a pass. So Israel will enjoy the US 'instant veto' at the UN. That is the political dimension.

Germany might well yield after an 'accident' and cut its losses. With the French I'm not so sure. They are not afraid of using military force when their national credibility is at stake. In the meanwhile, the Israelis will do whatever they feel they need to do, and won't be restrained by anything but DC.

W. Patrick Lang

All

OK. Leila rules. Its HA here until Gabriel blows his horn. pl

Mo

Blowback, we in Lebanon saw the ferocity of Israels attacks in 82, 96 and last year and watched the world not only not do anything but actively encourage them. Any attack on UN troops will be deemed an accident/blamed on HA firing from those positions (see Qana 96 and every other attack on the UN) which the leaders of the Western world will happily accept; I disagree with Abrogast that this will cause any isolation for Israel and agree with confusedponderer that with DC backing they will get away with it.

Currently there does seem to be a game going on. The Israelis locking on to German helicopters and the French locking on to Israeli planes; the question is whether this is the 2 sides playing bluffing games or is it a side show to convince the Lebanese that UNIFIL isn't there to just protect Israel. But until they are able to stop one overflight, I know which I think it is.

In reference to Hizbolllah using any kind of missile against the Israelis, yes I see your point. They are very much in the habit of keeping their cards very close to their chests in order to keep an element of surprise but I agree, shooting down an Israeli jet may score them so many political points, that it may just be worth it;

DL

Ali,

A great archival discovery from the Library at Leavenworth. Thanks!

Questions:

1.What weapons system or innovation caused the greatest tank, personnel carrier destruction in Lebanon?

2. Which of the RPG series has the greatest armor penetrative power? Or what does HA use in that role?

3. And if I am informed that Gabriel graduated from VMI also, I think I shall become ill.

Marcello

"Which of the RPG series has the greatest armor penetrative power? Or what does HA use in that role?"

The RPG-27, RPG-29 and some RPG-7 round I can't remember now are rated as being able to pierce 750mm of RHA. The Hez however probably only have iranian Sagheh available in quantity. Around 440mm of RHA IIRC.

confusedponderer

Mo,
IMO the German government at got suckered into making concessions to an ever uncompromising Bush driven by the conservative desire to 'improve relations' with DC. Thus the German activity at the EU3 on Iran. Makes Germany feel good, and gives an 'international stamp' and endorsement of the 'Iranian nuclear threat'. Improve relations with Bush means giving. And then there still is the looming ambition for a permanent seat in the UN security council. Forget it, the Bushies don't honour such deals.

I'm all for good relations with the US, on a fair basis. But I wonder if they're aware of the consequences in this context. It comes at a price, at the expense of German interests. We want stability in the Middle East, no more crusades. Nothing could be further away from the Bush crew's plans.

Worse, that endorsement is gold in the bank for the Bushies. It gives them their fall-back option for a casus belli: "Negotiations failed; everyone - the EU3, the French, the Germans - agree that there is a threat; the UN is blocked in paralysis; them Iranians are meddling all over the place -- we had no choice but to act now! That's why, since 5.45 AM this morning, we're firing back!"

blowback

Is this going to be the casus belli for the next Lebanese war:

Western intelligence agencies are worried by a growing concentration of terror operatives associated with the global jihad movement in Lebanon.
Recent intelligence indicates that hundreds of Sunni Muslim terrorists from various Arab countries are currently residing around Tyre, mainly in a Palestinian refugee camp near the city. Some of the terrorists are apparently from Sudan and Yemen.
Both Western and Israeli intelligence agencies fear that the jihadists' growing presence in southern Lebanon will lead to more attacks against Israel and a renewed escalation along the northern border. The United Nations forces deployed along the border following last summer's war with Hezbollah are also considered potential targets.
.......
There is considerable tension between the global jihad groups in Lebanon and Hezbollah - not only because Hezbollah is Shi'ite rather than Sunni, but also because they have been involved in turf wars.

Until its war with Israel last summer, Hezbollah was considered the sole power in southern Lebanon. It demanded that all other organizations obtain permission from it before carrying out any attacks on Israel. Shortly before his death, Zarqawi lambasted Hezbollah for this and accused its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, of "collaborating with Israel," because at that time - prior to its July kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers - Hezbollah was vetoing attacks by other groups.

Osama bin Laden has always complained that al-Qaeda could not attack Israel, his principal target after the US, because it did not have access to Israel's borders. Now Israel's allies in Lebanon and its new friend in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, are allowing al-Qaeda access to Israel's borders. If the neo-cons think they are helping Israel by using Sunni jihadists to attack Hezbollah, then the neo-cons, other than Douglas Feith***, really are idiots.

And who is supporting these Sunni jihadists?

The Bush Administration has publicly pledged the Siniora government a billion dollars in aid since last summer. A donors’ conference in Paris, in January, which the U.S. helped organize, yielded pledges of almost eight billion more, including a promise of more than a billion from the Saudis. The American pledge includes more than two hundred million dollars in military aid, and forty million dollars for internal security.

The United States has also given clandestine support to the Siniora government, according to the former senior intelligence official and the U.S. government consultant. “We are in a program to enhance the Sunni capability to resist Shiite influence, and we’re spreading the money around as much as we can,” the former senior intelligence official said. The problem was that such money “always gets in more pockets than you think it will,” he said. “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences. We don’t have the ability to determine and get pay vouchers signed by the people we like and avoid the people we don’t like. It’s a very high-risk venture.”

American, European, and Arab officials I spoke to told me that the Siniora government and its allies had allowed some aid to end up in the hands of emerging Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. These groups, though small, are seen as a buffer to Hezbollah; at the same time, their ideological ties are with Al Qaeda.

In a hundred years from now, I wonder if historians will look back and suggest that supporting the Mujahadeen against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan was one the greatest American foreign policy disasters ever.

*** "Doug Feith is the f****** stupidest guy on the face of the earth" -
General Tommy Franks
"Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man." - Col. Larry Wilkerson

confusedponderer

IMO Sunni jihadi types don't neccessarily mean a threat to Israel. I heard another explanation about the sunni jihadi types flowing into Lebanon from Seymor Hersh, who in an audio interview confirmed that, and suggested they were part of the joint US-Saudi effort to counter Hezbollah internally.

Sounds much like Elliot Abrams preferences for the Palestinians - civil war is preferable to giving HA equal or proportional participation in the political process, and it would weaken HA so they could be defeated by Israel later.

That would mean that to counter the threat of a Shia crescend the US, at least indirectly, have struck an alliance with Al Quaeda. It would also mean that the Saudi government has struck a deal with them internally, and send them to Iraq to kill Shias and to Lebanon to counter HA - or basically anywhere as long as it is far away, and where they preferrably die.

If that all is true, it will IMO blow up in their face.

Marcello

"This Japanese failure to provide bazookas and radios was all the more serious because the modest technology and resources needed for both were available. If some of the resources devoted to well-machined field guns, howitzers, and mortars on Okinawa had been devoted instead to some humbler antitank gear, the battlefield might have been transformed. The inadequacy of IJA field equipment must be attributed in the end to doctrinal prejudice. Somehow, the IJA's conceptual approach to combat did not include or anticipate an armored adversary or an environment where a company's only possible link to the larger battlefield was by radio."


A bazooka may look like a simple weapon but it is actually somewhat more difficult to develop than it might be expected due to various issues (backblast etc.).
Note that the soviet stuck to antitank rifles even when they became nearly ineffective, the british used a spring loaded contraption and the germans used recoilless panzerfaust, until they aquired bazookas to copy.
Anybody else, to the extent they had indigenous antitank weapons at all, used antitank rifles.
Radios were definitively not that cheap in the 40's. The availability of batteries for portable radios was a critically bottleneck for non US or US supplied forces.

blowback

confusedponderer - after seeing the recent photographs of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah holding hands in Riyadh recently I am not so sure there will be a Sunni/Shiite conflict in Lebanon in the near future. It is beginning to look to me like the Iranians and Saudis may have been gaming the US and Israel.

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