Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Israel Can't Afford to "Lose" Now

Israel is now facing a lot more than censure for "overreacting" to Hezbollah. It's looking down the barrel of an opponent that's more capable than they expected it to be.

As Steven Erlanger of the New York Times reports today, Israelis are not happy. "The criticism is not that the war is going on, but that it is going poorly. The public wants the army to hit Hezbollah harder, so it will not threaten Israel again."

Four weeks into this war, Israel is playing for stakes higher than the immediate threat from Hezbollah. The Lebanese militant group appears to have fought the Israeli Defense Force to a standstill. Much of Hezbollah's "success" may no doubt be thanks to the IDF's desire to minimize further collateral damage--a daunting task given the nature of the battle space. Whatever the case, the perception that Hezbollah is "hanging tough" against the mighty Israelis has been established, and the Jewish state needs to terminate the current conflict in a manner that regains some of its former aura of invincibility.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's political clout may be permanently damaged. Gerald M. Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University says, "There is a strong sense of hesitation, of the lack of military leadership needed in times like this.”

Yuval Steinitz of Israel's Likud party frames the issue in stronger language. “Doubts? That’s an understatement. People are talking of failure. The bombardment of Israeli cities was supposed to be over after 48 hours. The fact that only now the government is ready to even start the real ground campaign is overwhelming.” Steinitz is further concerned that his country's lack of decisive military success has come against Hezbollah, "…which is the size of a Syrian division without any air defense. So what would we do against Syria?”

All this bodes ill for any hopes of peace in the near term. Israel cannot afford to be perceived as having been bailed out by a cease-fire brokered by its American protectors. It must now press for a clear victory in combat and an end state in which it appears to have dictated the terms of peace.

Cable news networks are reporting that the IDF has commenced its "expansion" of offensive operations in Lebanon. Stand by: this isn't likely to end soon, or without considerably more bloodshed.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


  1. Syrian divisions do not train incessantly like Hezbollah. Indeed, Syrian divisions are basically reduced to WWI technology, because their tanks are rusted in place, their jet fighters grounded for lack of spare parts, and while they have access to the same weaponry as HA (they skim a portion off the top as their price for allowing Iran to land them in Damascus), they don't have the same mindset as HA -- they have a traditional 3rd generation warfare mindset.

    The end result is that if Israel decided to invade Syria, Syria's military would crumble as quickly as Saddam's did when we invaded Iraq. The only downside for Israel would be that as Israeli tanks approached Damascus, Syrian missiles loaded with nerve gas would start raining down on all Israeli cities... and Israel would end up having to nuke the buggers in retaliation for the hundreds of thousands of dead Israelis. Bummer. Somehow I doubt Israel is interested in that scenario, no matter how persuasive the neo-cons are...


  2. BT,

    I don't think Israel is interested in that either. That doesn't mean things can't get out of control, but...

  3. All good points, BT. Are you certain the Syrians have chemical warheads? And, (tongue in cheek) are those the chemicals Saddam shipped to Syria before the US invasion?

  4. Well, the Syrians *say* they have chemical warheads. Whether they do or not... (shrug). Syria has had chemical weapons for a couple of decades now, they developed chemical weapons in response to the 1973 war and their helplessness as Israeli tanks approached Damascus. They've never signed any anti-chemical-warfare treaties (just as Israel has never signed any anti-nuke treaties) so it's all quite legal.

    Haretz, in any event, certainly seems to think the Syrians have chemical warheads. Which is probably good enough for Syria's purposes.