Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Indiscriminate Destruction Forces...or IDF for short: Part I

The Israeli response to Hizballah’s abduction of two IDF soldiers has been a complete mess. It has seen devastating civilian casualties on the Lebanese side coupled with military impotence and high casualties on the Israeli side. Now, after the ratification of a new UNSC Resolution to end the fighting by both sides, the fighting continues and intensifies as the IDF pushes northwards towards what has become the ‘infamous’ Litani river. But why this desperate last push in the first place?

This question is best answered by first outlining the distinction between Israel’s two ruling classes, the political class embodied by the leaders of two of the country’s three major political parties and their respective cabinet positions, and the military class embodied by the senior command of the IDF. It also helps to break conflict down into three stages. The first stage witnessed the immediate escalation of the crisis by the Israelis and resulted in the bombing and destruction of infrastructure across all of Lebanon – including airports and bridges all across the country. The decision to attack in such a way was taken by the IDF and authorized by the Isreali Prime Minister’s office in the immediate aftermath of the abduction. It was based on an overly aggressive contingency plan put in place by the IDF for such an occasion, and whose goals were to bring about a level of destruction in Lebanon that would force a popular upheaval against Hizballah. As always, the Israelis miscalculated. Their initial reaction to the abduction of their two soldiers saw the destruction of any possibility of progress on the state-to-state level. Instead of capitalizing on a bevy of criticism lobbed at Hizballah from a wide array of moderate Arab (and non-Arab) states – including the Lebanese government – the Israelis destroyed any grounds on which they could have built links [to Arabs and Lebanese] and generated sympathy [from Europeans]. The IDF dominated this stage, they wanted to hurt Lebanon for gloating about their withdrawl in 2000, they wanted to humiliate us infront of an increasingly militarized Israeli public now used to seeing them throw their weight around against a fragile and disorganized Palestinian civilian population.

The second stage of the war came too late. It was essentially the result of the Arab reaction to the initial abduction and was characterized, on the Israeli side, by the political class’ reassertion of control over the situation, or an attempt to do so in any case. I think the first to realize the significance of the Arab reaction was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. It was her intervention with Olmert that secured the advancement of a political solution and a delay in the deployment of the ground troops into Lebanon. On the ground and in the air, however, the IDF command structure made it impossible for any advancement on the political field. The level of intensity at which they started the war – and by this time it was a war – made it impossible for a drop in the tempo of the fighting, so that what we were stuck with was a continuation of a failed political strategy dictated by the Israeli military. This stage saw steps being taken towards a draft UN Resolution to help end the fighting and an attempt at salvaging what was left of the initial Arab mood and reaction to Hizballah’s actions. It saw the continuation of Israeli strikes on civilian targets in Lebanon, instep with the momentum of the IDF strategy, and at the same time a holding back of further IDF escalations and military actions on the ground as the Israeli government sought to act in concordance with American wishes and attempting to maintain the door open to further diplomatic activity.

1 comment:

  1. Nine months, 2 resignations, and 1 Winograd Commission later, Robert Fisk trumpets Israel's acknowledgement of our initial analysis:

    Insisting the two captured Israeli soldiers should be released and the militarily powerless Lebanese government should be held responsible for their capture was never going to produce political or military results favourable to Israel... was the Israeli army which ran the military, strategic and political campaign.



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