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Comments by YACCS
Monday, July 24, 2006

Wow, they can fight

Billmon has the following and more:

Big Muddy

Twelve days in, and even Ralph Peters thinks the Israelis are losing:

Israel is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that's a painful thing to write. But it's true. And the situation's worsening each day.

Now Ralph is the guy who spent a few days back in March riding around the safer parts of Baghdad (when such places still existed) and then came back and told his fellow true believers that the war in Iraq was as good as won. So if he now says the Israelis are losing, I would ordinarily expect the IDF to be accepting Hizbollah's unconditional surrender some time tomorrow morning.

But it's clear from many other sources that things aren't going so well with Operation Midwife:

  • The Israeli Army -- which dashed across the Sinai in two days in 1967, and surrounded an entire Egyptian army in 1973, has spent the past three days trying to secure Maroun al-Ras, a village about 500 meters inside Lebanon.
  • Securing that modest objective (and it may not be secure even yet) has cost the Israelis at least 20 soldiers KIA.
  • The number of rockets falling on northern Israel has been reduced only minimally, if at all, and Israeli civilians are still dying, despite 11 days of bombing and round-the-clock Israeli air cover over southern Lebanon.
  • U.S. military sources say that IDF claims to have destroyed a significant percentage of Hizbollah's missiles are significantly "overstated."
  • Jane's Weekly reports that Hizbollah has emulated the Viet Cong and honeycombed the border area with underground tunnels and command posts that are virtually impervious to artillery fire and the Israeli Air Force's existing stock of bombs. (It looks like those "precision" munitions the Pentagon is rushing to the front may be bunker busters.)

At least so far, it appears the Israelis have set extremely limited objectives for their ground forces. (This is one of Peters' big gripes.) According to the Washington Post, the goal of the current operation is to secure four villages and a strip of territory six miles wide and 2.5 miles deep along the border. The significance of those villages and that particular piece of land is not stated. Nor is it explained how clearing them, and only them, will prevent Hizbollah from continuing to rain rockets on Israeli towns and cities -- much less force the organization to disarm.

No doubt the answers to those questions are somewhere in the war plan, which the Israelis are said to have been working on for the past six years. Unfortunately, Hizbollah's fighters haven't had a chance to read the plan, and so they aren't following it:

"They're not fighting like we thought they would," one soldier said. "They're fighting harder. They're good on their own ground."

One soldier said the guerrillas wore olive green army uniforms "to confuse us" because Israelis wear the same. Others said Hezbollah hid underground in reinforced bunkers until they thought it safe to come out and attack. The Israelis prefer to stay away from those bunkers, the soldiers said, instead calling in coordinates so forces massed behind the border can hit them with guided missiles.

The IDF high command, meanwhile, is starting to sound pretty, well, defensive about its big offensive push, with the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz (an air force man through and through) complaining that he needs more time, dammit, to show what all his cool toys can do:

Halutz admitted the IDF would not be able to "bring the rocket fire to a complete stop. There will always be some terrorist to fire a missile. But I believe we'll be able to push them north and reduce the accuracy of their fire."

As one unnamed Israeli officer put it, somewhat plaintively: “I believe in air power. I believe in our ability to destroy Hezbollah without going into Lebanon again the way we did in 1982." This, of course, is the same promise Air Force generals have been making to their bosses since World War I, but which none of them have ever been able to keep. There's a first time for everything, I suppose, but it doesn't look like the second Lebanon War is going to be it.


The historical reality of air power is that it doesn't work to eliminate armies.

Wow, olive green uniforms are confusing. They hide in bunkers.

Uh, folks, this ain't the PLO. They paid attention and now fight like they did. Israel bet they could undo the Hezbollah and they can't.


The one weakness of Arab armies was not their fighting ability, but the politics which dominated their armies. Remove the politics and the theorizing, and they can fight. Hezbollah promotes on merit and the best men get commands. Which means they are not the same as the Arab armies Israel blew away. They will fight to the death if they have to and the IDF can't.

posted by Steve @ 4:35:00 AM

4:35:00 AM

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