I have been following the rising tensions caused by opposition groups clashing with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon after the results of an investigation that shows that Hezbollah may be implicated in the assassination of the very popular Prime Minister Hariri in 2005. Also, the Hezbollah backed Prime Minister that just won election Hajib Mikati is causing agita among moderate Lebanese who have embraced more western ideals and run from the extremism of the radicals. The scary thing is that intelligence reports indicate that Hezbollah has accoutered themselves in preparation for a massive confrontation with Israel. Medical supply shipments to Lebanon have been carrying arms, says McClatchy.
OK. So lets consider this: Israel didn’t exactly have its ass handed to it. As I wrote over year ago, “Israelis had upwards of 40 tanks knocked out by Russian made Coronet anti-armor rockets” during the 2006 conflict. Hezbollah really really surprised The Tzahal and caused far more damage to their main battle tank, the Merkava, than they expected. In earlier conflicts, entire divisions couldn’t knock out 40 Israel tanks. In addition, we have to remember that the insurgent information and networks among Arab radicals and anti western zealots are quite robust as we can see watching Iraqis and Afghanis inflict casualties on Coalition troops with frequency. I am guessing that these open-source resistance techniques that have been mastered in the hills of Afghanistan would be brought to bear against Israel should conflict arise. In many ways, the hills of Southern Lebanon are not unlike some of the hills in the islands south of Japan. Bestrewn with redoubts and interconnecting tunnels, the Marines and the Army fought a grueling war of attrition in the South Pacific. We took tremendous casualties in a way that Israel knows they could afford simply because they don’t have the manpower.
On the other hand Israel is notorious for cunning. They do not sit on their hands between battles. They look and think and make changes as necessary, and you can never count them out of a fight. Whatever Hezbollah has planned for Israel, I believe Israel will be ready for them. This is not to say that if Hezbollah starts a major conflict with Israel they won’t give as good as they got, it is to say that Israel surely has something planned.
The fighting in the Second Lebanon War was far bloodier than the US “Press” reported. Of course in American media reporting no war will ever trump Caylee Anthony’s Mom’s court trial, or Sandra Bullock’s cuckolding husband or a gas balloon careering through the air allegedly carrying a boy. That said, there are several hard fought battles that no one here knows about and the impression that this was a limited war is specious. The Israeli Navy fired thousands of shells, the Army fired 100,000 shells, the Air Force flew 92,000 sorties, just as examples.
Israel developed a great strategy as far as I am concerned. In warfare, you can vitiate the credibility of a government by striking their army at will. Large armies fighting insurgencies can remove the legitimacy of rebels by making life miserable for everyone. Israel decided to destroy the Lebanese infrastructure, sewers, power grids, highways, coastal docking ports, and the trade of basic goods. That is what they did. The citizens and moderates of Lebanon blamed Hezbollah for the destruction and Hezbollah went to the peace talks. The resulting pressure on Hezbollah by citizen groups and government forced them into a cease-fire. I might also add that the damage done to Hezbollah was significant. They successfully hid their casualties to make it look like they were winning. They weren’t, and consequently they have had a hard time replacing soldiers. They have had to do so with the Radical Arab mercenaries, not unlike those we see who travel from Iraq or Somalia or Chechnya to participate in Jihad.
At the end of the day, Israel won the combat war and Hezbollah won the PR war. This is also in part because Israel is a pariah among much of the international community for ghettoizing the West Bank and Gaza. A Lebanese newspaper columnist noted that Hezbollah was able to “turn the stink of defeat into the smell of victory.” The new Hezbollah backed government will be a bigger problem for the Mideast than the former one. It will alter the relationship between Lebanon and the US and will surely at some point set light to the kindling of generational hatred and clashing paradigms that define the Mideast.
While radicalized Islamic groups have been given a recruitment gift by our ham handed and disastrous invasion of Iraq, there are also prevailing winds starting to head into another direction. The protests in Tunisia, now swelling and spreading to Eqypt, the Green revolution in Iran are all indicators that a new generation of Arab is emerging, willing to take to the streets and die for representative government, to demand that corrupt incestuous leaders give up their power. If Hezbollah starts another war, and Israel starts shelling the already devastated country, then another war could break out inside of Lebanon. Hezbollah thinksthey can win a shooting war with Israel. But if the Lebanese start fighting Hezbollah, then…well…that’s a whole ‘nother story.