Strategic Picture: Lebanon Under Fire (Comprehensive Analyses II)
I'm building on these posts and not repeating, so please consider reading them in sequence.
Winning the War
Defining victory, and the media
How does one measure victory in War? Is it total surrender, or perhaps one measures it in who paid the greatest cost, is it measured in territory or KMs conquered? Perhaps the diplomacy itself after the fighting has entirely ceased determines the victor.. Maybe it involves all of the above, or none but clearly such questions are complex.
If we look at wars, and there are literally well over a hundred a year on this planet (though you would never know) you will find that very few result in total surrender, many do not involve movement of even a single km in fighting forces, many have little to no casualties, and some show terrible – almost unquantifiable by the mind losses in human life. The lesson that we can glean from this is that there is NO 'Fox Around the World in 80 Seconds' answer to such a question, irrespective of which war we choose to discuss. (To be clear, that is not a shot at Fox, but media in general covering this conflict.)
One thing is also clear, I have never before seen anyone venture forth that 'not being totally annihilated from the face of the earth' is a claim for victory; it might be if you are a perennial loser. But where does such a fallacy come from? In this case it came from the media, which was fed from the Arab World (perennial losers) and then it snowballed like these things too often do.
Media carried this, spun this fallacy and like most things in media told often enough; even the most absurd nonsense becomes a form of reality for people seeking a 60 second answer to complex questions. In this fallacy the concept of having someone launch $250 dollars worth of fireworks is a testament to victory! Look, they have fireworks.. Surely they must have won. I see a very different picture, and will try to pull in what was missing in the media to give a more complete strategic picture.
What were the Hezbollah / Iranian objectives?
Hezbollah is a radical Islamic fundamentalist / religious organization, a mechanism for what is at its heart really an ideology. It employs terror, politics, and violence which are the exact same recipes cooked up by the Islamic Revolution. The goal of this ideology is the destruction of Israel, the subjugation of the west, and the establishment or forced return to fundamentalist Islamic life across wide regions of the world, a throwback to the dark ages if we will and the time of the Prophet Mohamed. Hezbollah's objectives are what Hezbollah's objectives have always been, serving its masters, Iran. Hezbollah is a proxy for Iran, as such it had only one main objective here, to divert attention from Iran & the growing pressure that country is facing. As posted in Part I, that effort to sideline the G8 spiraled well out of control, well beyond Iran's goals and negatively at that. (please note when I say Iran, Iran, Iran, I mean the theocracy, not nec. all the Iranians.. but plenty of them)
What were Israel's objectives?
Israel sought the return of its soldiers, the assertion of control of south Lebanon by the Lebanese government, the disarming of Hezbollah (dealing a blow to the border / rocket threat) and a restoration of some of its bled off deterrence.
What was accomplished & What are the results?
Was the attention diverted? Partially, it was. Iran has been playing this diversion & stall tactic for a number of years now with some success. However, in this case the price paid for Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Iran was so extraordinary it makes this possibly the worst return on investment since Enron went bust. While the international community was certainly riveted on the conflict, it was also riveted on the endlessly stated fact (now known to everyone on the planet) that Iran was the source. Iran provided the weapons, Iran was fostering the mayhem, Hezbollah and by immediate association Iran was blamed by nearly every nation on Earth including Saudi Arabia and the Arab World itself, for causing the conflict. One which spiraled so beyond Iran's dreams, and to such an extent they were left in total shock, and I submit that's hardly what they had in mind.
Iran in fact was calling for CEASE FIRE! within one week of the conflict exploding. Everyone is so fixated on the fact that Hezbollah was not annihilated it seems many are overlooking what this conflict is really about, and that is Iran employing its proxy in Lebanon.
It gets worse for Hezbollah itself.. Lebanon sustained massive damage, Hezbollah sustained massive damage, Hezbollah's standing is being portrayed by many as elevated, perhaps within the uneducated simpletons that make up the Muslim world (and for whom fireworks means victory) this sort of absurdity flies high. Perhaps also in the media (which detests Israel with such a passion it can hardly be believed) this is a convenient image to portray as well.
But this Arab street that everyone is going bonkos over has never manifested itself in 100 years now as anything more than total nonsense. I say stop worrying about the Arab street because you will never 'win' the Arab Street, the Arab street doesn't even exist. It is a creation by corrupt regional politicians to maintain a stranglehold on power, one that is actively pumped by Arabists in the Western World to secure their own agendas, and it is totally irrelevant and always has been.
Never has any Arab leader ever executed this mythical Pan-Arab myth, you could sacrifice virgins to the 'Arab street' and it would nary change a thing. Yet, we see this fantasy now - that Hezbollah really achieved lofty goals, Hezbollah seen as victorious heroes!? Better yet, because Bashar Assad who is the weakest man in the Middle East BY LEAPS & BOUNDS says so! Forget this nonsense please, because that is exactly what it is.
Lebanon is where the action is, do the Lebanese people beyond the Shia (who were already prepared to martyr themselves for this ideology) actually believe this hero stuff? They most certainly do not. Christians, Druze, and the other main components of Lebanese society beyond these Shia are now possessed I submit by total revulsion for Hezbollah, they are not voting Hezbollah next time out, this is a real joke what the media is selling us. Hezbollah has literally set Lebanon back 15 years, ruined the economy, destroyed half the country's infrastructure. These people (non shia) are not Jihadists, they don't want to cover their women and treat them like barn animals, they don't want to pray to Allah 7 times a day, they don't want war with Israel – They have traditionally been quietly ALLIED with Israel. For 18 years they took up ISRAELI supplied arms to fight a common enemy.
We can see the big story now of the Lebanese Army drinking tea with the Israelis, this is not new. It is merely the narrative being denied reality on our TV screens, the part about 45% of the Lebanese praying that Israel or anyone would eliminate Hezbollah (Iran & Syria) from their political lives. They marched in the hundreds of thousands less than 2 years ago to scream this loudly to the World. They didn't march far enough unfortunately and now we have seen the results, but this does not change the reality. These will never be Hezbollah supporters beyond a sound bite on CNN.
Hezbollah has brought ruin & disaster to Lebanon & the Lebanese people. Those same people are now absorbing the fact that their weakness in the face of this terrorist entity was a massive failure, it nearly (and may yet) cost them their freedom, freedom that itself came in the form of booting out Syria (another Hezbollah patron) after decades of occupation, freedom which cost Lebanon literally hundreds of thousands of lives in their wars this past 30 years. They want modernity, prosperity.. But Hezbollah has brought them PURE disaster. Semi free people often cannot easily speak truth, just as the whole Soviet block desired the same freedom, and we never heard it until the wall came down. The evident hatred for communism and similar oppression was so massive - it brought down one of the World's superpowers, and all the client states surrounding it. We need to wake up a little bit I think..
One should not mistake inability to speak loudly - for Hezbollah support. Lebanon is not the west, people live under very real threat of sectarian violence surrounded by murderous Islamic thugs / terrorists. Hezbollians who have never needed much excuse to slaughter civilians, leaders, politicians or anyone else with abandon that did not support them or Iran & Syria. Even now we will and have seen threats of revenge heard, that weigh heavily on the Lebanese people and their politicians.
Nonetheless, Hezbollah has indeed been weakened militarily in a massive blow, over 500-600 out of approx 2000 core fighters killed. Out of the so called 1000 civilians claimed by Lebanon you can rest assured half if not MORE were Hezbollah fighters as well. Does one believe that in all those strikes near Baalbek, in Tyre, in the Hezbollah HQ in South Beirut, on the Syrian border etc etc - everyone killed was a civilian!?
Are we to be taken for morons? Who was manning these facilities, weapons depots, launching sites, ghosts!? Frankly, just because Emile Lahoud says something, does not make it so. In the Arab World, illusionary massacres & victories are the order of the day. Everything is massacre, the very existence of Israel is called a massacre, a NAKBA (disaster) for the Arab World. It's all BS, and buying into this narrative is not only a mistake, it's downright criminal a travesty of truth.
There is a war going on within Lebanon for control
With the reality of irresponsible destruction dawning within the Lebanese, with the UN passing resolutions (effective or not), and the entire modern world siding against Hezbollah (as opposed to the normally unanimous vilification in totality against Israel.) The concept that this calamitous result somehow has made Hezbollah MORE powerful because they 'claimed' a false victory in speeches is particularly absurd.
The fact that the Lebanese army is deploying for the 1st time in 30+ YEARS to the south signals exactly who came out on top in this round. It was NOT Hezbollah, this image is a fallacy. Nasrallah has been WEAKEND in Lebanon, not strengthened. His Shia supporters would never stop supporting him, Shia in Iran will always extol his 'greatness', the Arab World has never acknowledged defeat no matter how plain for all to see it was. Even when they have lost half the Middle East in wars, seen their senior commanders commit suicide or face firing squads, watched every tank & airplane they ever owned wrecked & smoldering on the battle field, or seen the Star of David just outside their capitols – these were BIG victories for them! That is the Arab World, it will not change and frankly who cares?
There is a new reality in Lebanon now irrespective of whether or not Hezbollah was eliminated from earth. I think you will see this real narrative coming out now, slowly asserting and waging an internal struggle for Lebanon itself. Everything else is nothing more than the same old perennial losers lying to themselves, and an 80 second trip around the world selling it - because explaining this reality would likely take longer than the time allotted before the COMMERCIAL break. Worse yet.. It might mean that the big bad Israelis are not nearly as bad as the Arabs can, & have been to their own. We can't have that because this breaks taboos which are never spoken aloud. Arabs slaughtering Arabs in events that pale to the wars between Israel. Shhh, we are not allowed to talk of these things.. Instead of facing them the answer in the Arab Worlds has always been 'point the finger at Israel'.
There is a disconnect going round in regards to Israel too in my opinion. Many, myself included would have liked to have seen a full on onslaught. If you read Part I you know this never happened, and in reality it was not in the cards for the current Israeli leadership in power.
Whether this was good strategy or bad strategy is a topic for the next post (Part III), but it does not change certain realities that are now very clear, the fact that the objectives for Israel were not MEANT to be met militarily alone. The use of force was employed to enhance the main thrust which was diplomatic from day one. The goal of retrieving the soldiers would not have been met by military means, and no one in Israel was under different illusions. We must see the return of these soldiers, the passing of a resolution with some positive and many negatives not mandating this was a partial defeat that is certain. But what is equally certain is that Hezbollah by diplomatic means was not to be disarmed this week either, who propagated this myth? It's removed from reality totally, as soon as the cease fire went into effect this massive misconception floated out.
The resolution was bad, the dependency on UNIFIL worse, but this does not mean Israel has lost the war by any stretch. There must be some time to absorb, and to allow processes to hopefully progress. I am a warmonger, and even I realize the unfortunate reality of this. Such is how the deck was dealt, it appears this was the goal from the get go in fact. To parlay this into a victory for the enemy shows a phenomenal lack of comprehension of what has really gone on. It takes in my opinion personal disappointment, and projects it outwards without real basis in facts, further it disregards the massive strategic loss for Iran (below) which is in reality at the heart of these events.
The goal of pushing Hezbollah back was indeed met by military means, they suffered tremendous military losses. Their long range missiles destroyed, their medium range missiles nearly totally neutralized (the detail on the short range katyushas is in Part I). The Hezbollah bunker networks & southern villages are surrounded by rubble, many destroyed. Unburied Hezbollah Iranian commandos have been rotting away in the Lebanese sun by the HUNDREDS. IDF soldiers returning speak of the horrible stench of the war from these losses that left Hezbollah defeated on the front line, and totally shell shocked in the rear lines. We saw massive aerial airborne insertions into the heart of Hezbollah, IDF soldiers strolling around for hours at a time filming video, checking hard drives IN BAALBEK yet, and these were only glimpses.. Where was the heroic Hezbollah stand? Nowhere but on Al Jazeera TV.
Blown out of all proportion
Some prefer to take limited isolated events and make them into some grand opera, a single helicopter was downed out of the hundreds of chopper missions, a single advanced Iranian missile caught a cruiser off guard, it sailed home under its own power and that is all I will say about that. Iranian drones got as far as Israel and no further, blown out of the sky. Not a single jet was hit, tanks were taken out by armor piercing weapons, yes.. this is indeed troubling, but this is the reality of giving terrorists advanced Russian weapons and Iranian revolutionary guard training, it will need to be addressed in Moscow & Tehran, but to claim this as a military victory for Hezbollah seems out there indeed. Most especially with Israel in less than 48 hours taking up major points and surrounding Hezbollah entirely within their mini South Lebanon state south of the Litani. If this is victory for Hezbollah what on earth is defeat? They launched rockets, that's what they did. And you know what? The first thing Israel said on the eve of the war was 'we need to expect the rockets..' Tactically, strategically, militarily.. Hezbollah got reamed.
On top of it all, all this was happening WHILE Hezbollah requested a cease fire, is that not a form of surrender? Did Israel request a cease fire, not that I know of. Israel was indeed pressured into one and its politicians bowed. But could Israel not have pressed home and utterly defeated the Hezbollah, surely it could have if the will was there. This was not in the cards. But it also must be said, did we seek the genocidal murder of every Shia in Lebanon? A million Hezbollah supporters dead!? Of course not, but many outside without an understanding don't seem to realize that you cannot destroy Hezbollah which is an ideology, and fail to comprehend that this is what would be required to wipe out Hezbollah. The Jewish people do not behave in such manner, despite the numerous efforts made to carry this out on us in history. That is also a reality.
Nasrallah himself lay hidden in the Iranian embassy in Beirut. To strike him would mean declaring war on Iran and this was not on Israel's agenda at this time.. Full blown assault or not, mistakes that were made or not. Hassan is a dead man, he knows it, Iran knows it, all the Shia know it too. It is only a matter of time, and why should Israel not carry this out when it is best for Israel to do so, on Israel's most favorable terms? Should these things be done with rashness leading to possibly damaging failures - simply in order to placate a hungry public? I think not. It's not even Israel's public that misunderstands these things.. There is a gross disservice to Israel by some of its greatest supporters who mean well when they air these complaints. We must all wait until Israel chooses to act, and we need to simply can it and absorb that reality a bit.
The choice was clearly made right or wrong by the Israeli politicians to effectuate this through the Lebanese themselves. Will it work, it is far TOO EARLY to pass judgment. In the mean time Hezbollah says no, but we have seen Hezbollah clearly saying MANY MANY things, how many of them have turned out to be truthful? The Diplomacy was not as strong as it should have been; the stand by the West was watered (so what's new? We have the Europeans and their dreamers to contend with.) Perhaps implementation will come, perhaps partially, perhaps not at all. But the Lebanese army IS rolling for the first time in 30 years.. Hezbollah will not be re-armed so quickly, and process with all its failures or achievements is underway. Is it flawed? Surely it is, would have it been better for Israel to assault fully? Surely it may have been, but is the planet breaking up? No, it isn't. Did Hezbollah just walk away victorious? Not even in Nasrallah's own wet dreams..
We cannot deny that the UN, the World, even the United States wanted the Lebanese nascent democracy to remain, and this task of securing Lebanon as a whole is theirs now to achieve. Israel bowed to this pressure right or wrong. If it does not work, perhaps a fuller victory will be needed, this time the tanks and government offices in Lebanon will be fair game. They are on notice and the UN, the World has deemed them responsible for tackling their borders, their terrorists. Failure to do so will bring consequences, Israel will know how to deliver those consequences, as Israel will learn from the positive & the negatives, while Israel's enemies however are learning challenged.
On the sensitive topic of Israeli losses, about 110 soldiers killed. Tragically a quarter of them died in three isolated incidents. 12 killed in a random katyusha strike within Israel itself, 10 more in a building collapse by a Hezbollah anti tank missile, and 5 crew members in the single downed helicopter. That downing also tragically took the life of a brave young IDF female soldier, serving deep within Lebanon.. Invading Lebanon in Israel's defense we should say, as that is for 48 hours, and for 4 weeks the reality, not the other way around no matter how large or small the assault. This seems a bit forgotten. These soldiers, all of them gave their lives for their country, with the faith that their military & political leadership would carry home the ultimate victory, one which was designed as diplomatic it seems from the outset. We will see.. But we must also cherish and honor their sacrifice with the opportunity they have given it all for, whether we agree with the strategy or not, right or wrong.
Iran has very little going for it as far as nations go. It is a marginalized country in the West, Persian in a sea of Arab nations, power hungry yet impotent to exert that power.. Do we think Iran wants nukes because it is powerful? Quite the opposite. Does Iran emerge as the foremost supporter of terror because its ideology and might is great and winning? Quite the opposite. Iran's biggest strategic arm is Hezbollah, and the thousands upon thousands of rockets Hezbollah maintained. This sea of rockets was a major deterrent, I say was because those days are now gone.
Strikes against Iran have always been tempered in some way by this sea of rockets, the fear being mass retaliation on Israel and the obvious unknown this would entail.. It seems many have simply blindly overlooked this fact which is at the heart of this conflict. Iran is yelling victory, but the reality is a loss of such monumental proportions it DRASTICALLY alters the balance of power in the region.
Iran has spent billions training and arming Hezbollah, estimates now as high as several hundred million a month from the previous thought 1 to 200 million a year. Iran has invested over a decade in this rocket arsenal slowly arming its proxy with Syrian help, placed MANY of its eggs so to speak in this basket, and NEVER in a million years did they expect or want what happened this past 30 days. Their proxy was soundly routed in Lebanon, their arsenal of deterrent was lobbed into Israel with very minimal effectiveness.
A major ace in the Iranian hand has been played, the bluff called and Israel is still standing, not only is it standing, but people are Kayaking in the Rivers of Israel's North today as if nothing happened. Sure there was serious damage, there was loss of life, there was economic shutdown, but there were 4000 rockets strikes, and there was a war. Now we see the results, the TRUE strength in the region. Even when Israel was led by bumbling fools, the Iranian bumbling fools couldn't make a sustainable dent with their NUMBER ONE card, which is now quite played. If you play cards you know exactly what I mean, because it means you're generally screwed. Do you know what is telling for me? How Iran is NOW this week threatening Israel with its BIG missiles. Indeed, it just lost the detering ability to threaten with 10,000 little ones.
This wasn't pleasant obviously, there was trauma, there are children, there are mothers, but will these rockets strategically determine policy in the region as they have the last number of years? probably not and Iran is furious. The stronger Iran yells victory, the more it means they LOST. That is what Iran is all about.
The Iranian nuclear drive has been dealt a serious blow here from my perspective, as a strategic arm has been severed. Not only was the diversion attempt an overall failure in the grand scheme of things, but it was a costly one at that. Billions down the drain, years of defenses & arms wasted, not a single strategic goal resulted, worse.. A huge deterrent shielding Iran from the West fizzled, but hard. Hezbollah is Iran, this is what the conflict flared over, and the media is reporting how happy the Iranians are.. It seems a bit OUTRAGEOUS!
If the West can stand strong now, get its act finally together in these crucial few months coming - a swift kick directly to the Iranian nut sack is more than possible. That area is already now quite sore.. We should be mindful there are powerful players who DO NO want to see this happen, you can make educated guesses I'm sure as to whom exactly they might be.
But it is interesting to watch if you are getting my drift.. Everybody's actions now, each one tells a much deeper tale than what appears on the surface. This proxy war is as much a proxy war for a nuclear Iran, and the resulting actions we see in response, may be a telling gauge indeed for the who, what, and where, of every respective nation's stand on this issue. It is a real shame Israel didn't deliver the death blow to Hezbollah.. But make no mistake, they are crumpled over in pain over what has gone on, from Lebanon, to Syria, right into Iran.
Victory – Who Won the War?
On the Military Front
Israel without question took the upper hand
The facts speak for themselves, even without the full assault Hezbollah clocks were cleaned, they were defeated soundly. By many of the measuring factors stated in the opening of this post this is clear, they wanted to fight no more, they lost territory, they took tremendous casualties.. One needs to dig hard indeed to find even glimmers of success for Hezbollah in these matters.
They squandered full control of their mini state, squandered the bulk of their weapons that took over ten years to build up, squandered the bulk of their core fighting men trained in Iran not easily replaced, squandered their measly good will in Lebanon, all with literally zero gain.
Israel's public was not broken as claimed by the hero Nasrallah, in fact quite the opposite. The unity & resolve stunned even the most ardent Zionists who knew we could stand strong.. But this? This was literally second temple style in the face of the Romans. Pure & utter refusal to budge even an inch for over a month! I must say I am filled with pride by the resilience of the People of Israel in the face of these terrorists. It's no small matter. Contrast this to the plaintive non stop whine from Lebanon for a moment..
Israel's leaders will have explaining to do on the whole. A fuller more brutal assault may have disarmed Hezbollah with diplomacy only certifying things, as opposed to the weaker diplomatic position now. But this is a victory because it did deny Hezbollah pretty much any sliver of success, though it is not complete by Israel's measure. Perhaps another nation would be more than satisfied & joyous with such results, Israel is not every other nation.
On the Diplomatic Front
Partial defeat for Israel:
They got a resolution, but not as strong as needed, with big concessions. We must be mindful that normally Israel gains little of anything in UN resolutions frankly, but still a much more substantial victory was left on the table here, with political weakness in spades. Time will be a factor and a better judge in these matters, as diplomacy does not produce instant results like an Airborne Assault would.. Nonetheless it is hard to be overjoyed with the results of Olmert, Amir, & Livni. They are yakking it up now, but if I were them I'd be spending every waking hour trying to milk out every syllable in this resolution, as Israel will not be kind to them in my opinion for sacrificing a solid victory in the diplomatic sphere, not too mention a more complete overwhelming one on the battlefield. There will be little if any international force and it will have no power sadly, but we all knew it.
The big positive is the realization and now second resolution insisting the Lebanese government assert control. Lebanese forces will take the South of Lebanon, and the quasi military Islamo state will have been badly thwacked. One cannot remove the Shia populace from the area, this is Hezbollah supporting territory that is a fact, but it will no longer be solely Hezbollah territory which is no small matter one must say if it pans out, that the Lebanese can assert some control.
If Israel had stayed stronger diplomatically MUCH more in the victory department would have been achieved. Olmert, Peretz & Livni are seemingly living that left of center Euro dream these days, when they wake up the reality may be somewhat starker. Their fate in my opinion rests on the Lebanese government in the next few months, not exactly what you might call an 'optimal situation' and one that may not even grant sanctuary if Israel's public deems it necessary to act first.
Partial victory Lebanon:
The Siniora government despite its weakness had full backing of the US, full backing of Europe and did pretty well all things considered. It should be said that there were failures of extraordinary weakness, and failure to seize Lebanon fully now will mean this government's full demise despite any resolutions or diplomatic gains. I am hopeful the sight of Lebanese units with Lebanese flags jolts something in the Lebanese consciousness and they can throw off the shackels of Iran & Syria, put Hezbollah in its place within Lebanon. There are many Shia in the country, they cannot be simply ignored, but they cannot also run their own Islamo fascist country within either. Time again must be allotted, I put little credence in either Siniora, or Hezbollah's statements – neither have much credibility frankly. We will see what develops..
Partial victory the UN & Europe:
The UN managed (I don't even know how any more this is allowed to continue) to pull again - another swift move off on the backs of all of us. This weakness cannot continue, a partial victory for the despots in the UN is a loss for all of us, this place is an embarrassment to mankind it is becoming worse than a bad joke already. These useless corrupt pieces of total refuse have screwed us again.
I'm horribly disappointed in the State dept. Even Bush does not seem to have full control of this portion of the US government, it continues to be the weak link. These Iranian issues are no longer laughing matters, maybe they were saving the ammo for the next round in the Iranian conflict.. I hope so.
The 3rd part of this terribly long series (sorry!) will look at Israeli internals. Politics, the Military and the possible mistakes made by both.. Israel in my mind despite the diplomatic failure and unwilligness to push on is still ahead overall by far in this battle as far as I am concerned. What will change, and why for the next round should be as important as what went down in the 1st in my opinion. The battle for battlefield supremacy is a hot topic of discusion in Israel now - The struggle between Blue and Green, Air & Ground in part three.