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Israel vs. Hezbollah: Again, and Again, and Again
Submitted by Phil Howison on Mon, 2006-08-28 06:13
Lindsay said the following in his otherwise very worthy editorial on Saturday 19 August:
Israel lost. For the first time since its founding in 1948, Israel lost a war started against it by Islamo-Fascist filth. Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers and sent rockets into Israel from Lebanon. Israel fired back, and sent its soldiers in.
To which I responded:
According to Linz I am merely picking nits, while Craig Ceely says I am wrong - the 1982 war was a victory over the PLO, and the withdrawal from Gaza was strategic, so the outcome cannot be judged yet.
I think the question is important enough to be put on a separate thread.
I agree with Linz that Israel's loss against Hezbollah is important, but I suspect we have vvery different ideas about the reason why Israel lost. I also think a knowledge of the history of Israel's conflicts is important when trying to understand the current situation - they say he who forgets history is doomed to repeat it. And Israel's loss against Hezbollah is a replay of skirmishes on the Lebanon border dating as far back as 1969.
Before 1968, the border with Israel was the most peaceful of Israel's borders. In 1968, the PLO and various other non-state armed groups moved in to southern Lebanon, taking advantage of the weakness of the Lebanese state. Israel mounted many small attacks, unsuccessfully attempting to drive the guerrillas out. In 1969, two armoured columns crossed into Lebanon, holding a 45 square mile area for 34 hours, killing no more than 20 guerrillas. Less than 12 hours after the Israeli withdrawal, the rockets began falling again.
In 1978 the PLO launched a bloody attack on Israeli and American travellers on the coastal highway. The Israeli response involved an invasion by more than 7000 troops supported by aerial bombing. More than thirty Israeli soldiers were killed, along with hundreds of locals, while tens of thousands left their homes. After the Israeli withdrawal, a small UN force moved in. Almost no damage had been done to the guerrillas. The PLO treated the operation as a victory, and the rockets kept falling.
The PLO in southern Lebanon only kept getting stronger. In 1982, Israel decided to launch a full-scale invasion. Clashes with Syrian troops were inevitable - the Israelis intended to link up with Christian militias in the north to turn the Lebanese civil war in Israel's favour. Progress was slow, despite there being little resistance at first.
When the clash with Syria came, the Syrian air force was destroyed with an incredible 100:1 kill ratio. But while a high-tech modern force stood no chance against Israel, Lebanese guerrilla forces and militias proved impossible to destroy. In the inevitable war of attrition, the Israelis were outnumbered and defeated - as were the peacekeeping forces of the US and France. The final blow to the operation was the collapse in public support following the Sabra and Shatila massacres. By the time the IDF withdrew from all but a narrow strip of land, they had lost 675 troops at massive economic and political cost. While the PLO had left, they were replaced by a far more dangerous group - Hezbollah.
Hezbollah's unceasing guerrilla and terror attacks resulted in major operations in 1993 and 1996. Both times, despite massive aerial bombing and the use of advanced weapons systems, UAVS, guided missiles and the like, Hezbollah survived, and increased in strength. The rockets never stopped hitting Israel, even when Israel withdrew from the security zone in the south, effectively handing it back to Hezbollah.
Given the failure of every armoured ground incursion and aerial bombing campaign against groups in southern Lebanon, why did Israel expect 2006 to be any different?
Note: Martin van Creveld's excellent book, The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force was an important resource while writing this post. See also The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, by Colonel T.X. Hammes, for a similar perspective on the 1987 and the al-Aqsa intifadas.
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