Sunday, August 13, 2006

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

The third stage of the war can be summed up with one word – posturing. With no military objectives secured on the Israeli side and growing discontent with the conduct of the war both domestically and internationally, the only real gains to be achieved by the IDF were on the public relations level. Hundreds of civilians in Lebanon paid the ultimate price for this posturing. The Israelis advanced ground troops and attempted to conduct some highly publicized operations (like the Baalbek hospital raid) while at the same time holding back media reports of their tactical losses on the ground to Hizballah. The three objectives to be met in this stage were to secure a situation on the ground that would strengthen the Israeli hand in the final UN Resolution – they tried to do this by simultaneously agreeing to send in ground troops to Lebanon and saying they ‘liked’ the shape the resolution was taking; to re-affirm the deterrence capabilities of the Israeli’s technologically superior army both to the Arab world and to their domestic audience; and to prove to the domestic audience in Israel that the strategy they had followed from the beginning of the war had scored both military and political losses on Hizballah and the Lebanese as a whole.

When the dust settles, they will probably have failed in all three. Today the Israeli Foreign Minister announced that a special negotiator will be appointed to handle talks on retrieving the captured soldiers and that a prisoner exchange – maybe involving only those prisoners captured by Israel in this conflict and not the original three – would be arranged. The Israeli population, and indeed the whole world will be asking what the point of the entire assault and the loss and disruption of so many lives will have been for. The war in Iraq and this campaign have dealt a fatal blow to the notion of a superior fighting force embodied by superior technology being able to defeat impassioned insurgency fighters and tactics. There can be no doubt of the damage dealt to the IDF after this war is over, all one needs to do is look at two numbers, the number of rockets fired at Israel on a daily basis since the start of the war, and the Israeli and Lebanese civilian-to-military death ratio.

While I’ve concentrated on the Israeli side of the conflict for this post, it is worthy to note that the objectives on the Lebanese (not Hizballah but Lebanese) side of the border have never changed. For the Lebanese government this was an opportunity to move against Hizballah’s monopoly on the security of the country and assert itself as the only true representative of the Lebanese people. As the war progressed this goal was immediately put aside as the government sought to secure the safety of its people – something Hizballah had not taken a day’s worth of planning (compared to the 5 months of planning it took for its abduction mission) to do – and begged the international community for its cooperation and aid. Now as the military campaign winds down this objective has risen again and already there are reports today of disruptions in the cabinet meetings over the handling of Hizballah’s weapons in the aftermath of the war. All we can hope for now is that the posturing on the Israeli side will not cause more significant damage to the country and that the plans to be enacted by the government won’t be hijacked by a populace that is sometimes far too eager to turn on itself and one another.

4 comments:

  1. To Jade,
    Very nice article dude!

    A few of my own thoughts:

    My personal experience from this war:
    I served as a combat soldier in the IDF artillery forces. Although our unit didn’t cross the border into Lebanon in this war, we had our share of fighting. The intense heat, the sun burns, the bad food, the lack of sleep, the physical pain caused by lifting, moving and firing thousands of artillery shells, the constant explosions all day and all night, Katyusha rockets falling 300 feet from us, the fear of death, not seeing the wife and kids for weeks… It was better than what I’ve expected from war (mainly because the guys in my unit are great), but still… war looks much better with a bucket of popcorn in your hands…

    Regarding the start of the war:
    I guess a large operation against HA was planned a long time ago. The kidnapping was just the excuse needed by the IDF. Israel saw HA getting stronger on the other side of the border without being restrained by the Lebanese government. Over the last 6 years, from time to time, HA shot with small fire arms like AK-47 at border patrols and fired Katyusha rockets at Israeli towns, but it was always ‘small enough’ not to justify a serious military operation. At some point everybody here felt like ‘enough is enough’. You can pinch a giant for some time, but eventually he will step on your head. Sure, crushing your scull seems like a very inappropriate response to the last pinch…

    Regarding the goals of the war:
    If I remember correctly the first press meeting generated 3 goals set by Israel. Return the kidnapped soldiers home, stop rocket launches at Israeli cities and disarm HA. The first goal, I hope, will be achieved in a few weeks. The second one was of course achieved. The third goal… well… I guess it’s now up to the Lebanese people. The whole idea was that the military operation will leverage the diplomatic effort.

    Regarding the Litani river goal:
    I think this was just some bullshit goal set for the IDF (and Israeli public) so it would appear like some military goal has been achieved and a ceasefire can be declared. Everyone with a map can see that a Katyusha rocket with a range of 30-40 kilometres and beyond can be launched north of the river and still hit Israeli cities.

    Regarding Lebanese civilian casualties:
    When you are hitting civilians, all you do is score more negative points in the public eyes. We all saw the pictures. We were all shocked. We all felt sorry. No one in Israel went to the street celebrating like it’s done on Palestinian cities. I have been serving as a combat soldier in the IDF since 1993 and have fought in the current war, Lebanon, the west bank, the Gaza strip, and almost every Palestinian city in Israel. From my personal experience, the IDF never, I repeat, NEVER aims at innocent civilians and does its best to avoid hitting them. I can even say that many times it increases the risk to its own soldiers. Of course there can always be mistakes, but that’s all they are. Mistakes.

    Regarding Israeli civilian casualties:
    I’m sure that if you saw pictures of Israeli civilians and children hit by Katyusha rockets (or Palestinians suicide bombing) you would be shocked as all of us were from the Qana pictures. Although this could be used as a great propaganda, in Israel (as in other western countries) it is not done. It is called respect for the dead, and it is considered here more important than scoring points in the UN.

    Regarding the future:
    In the near future Israel will have to solve some issues with the Palestinians, Syria and Iran. Please handle HA. Thanks in advance.

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  2. Hi there John,

    Glad you enjoyed the post.

    OK I don't want to spend too much time on the goals but I have to say a couple of things.

    If the prisoners are returned through a prisoner exchange, then the military operation would have failed in that respect because that option was on the table from day one. All the death and destruction Lebanon and Israel had to endure would have been in vain.

    The ceasefire stopped the rockets not the IDF or the Israeli gov't. So they didn't accomplish that - and their operations on the ground didn't help them accomplish that through a ceasefire...again it was on the table from day one.

    I think I tried to point out in my posts that the military operation might have hindered efforts at disarming hizballah instead of helping them so I'll stick with that.

    What has been accomplished is the deployment of 30,000 troops to southern Lebanon (15,000 Lebanese, 15,000 international) and that is an important one. I don't think the deployment would have been so massive if the military campaign hadn't been conducted but I don't know how much worth it it will be...time will tell.

    I'm glad to hear that you've had experiences with the IDF that you and your countrymen can be proud of. I, and the Isreali people, know with certainty, however, that there have been cases in which they've shot at civilians or used excessive force. Didn't you guys have the prosecution of that soldier who shot an american or a brit in the head? Something like that? I can't remember his name but I think you know who I'm talking about. Anyway thats an example...there are other ones. I could put up resources and links detailing these actions if you like...let me know.

    Ok I think thats it. About the pictures of dead kids. Yeah its disturbing to see but I think that resulted from what was perceived as a historical bias in the media...people felt that their story wasn't being told so they had to resort to more graphic means.

    Either way its really very sad and unfortunate when children die and when innocent people in general die.

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  3. Hi dude,

    If Israel did not respond by force to the kidnapping because 'swapping people was on the table from day one', what would stop HA (or any other group) from doing that in the future?

    No one in Israel thought the Katyusha rockets can be physically stopped without a full scale ground invasion 40 km into Lebanon which nobody wanted. Still the war went on. The pressure grew. A ceasefire was declared. Katyusha rockets attacks stopped and I don’t think HA will fire them any time soon. I consider this a success.

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  4. You're right in pointing out that there had to be a military response in order to maintain the IDF's deterence capabilities (i.e. stopping HA or any other group from doing it again).

    Now as you know there is a whole lot of debate going on about whether THAT was a success.

    To tell you the truth, in a country as rich as Lebanon the people lost quite a bit (we'll get it back pretty soon though) due to this ridiculous, useless war. So in Lebanon the deterence element with respect to HA launching operations across the border was re-enforced after years of decay. People in Lebanon would react very negatively to another HA operation.

    The question you have to ask yourselves is, does the threat of an IDF invasion hold the same weight as before this war?

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