In a different thread I laid out why I think Israel’s strategy, or potential strategy, vis-a-vis Hezbollah is an effective one. However, I made an assumption about Israel that has, thus far, not turned out to be true. I assumed that Israel would shape the battlefield with its airpower and long-range capabilities (e.g. artillery, missiles, etc) and then follow up these operations with a well-timed ground offensive. The strategy I believe to be most effective for Israel requires a ground offensive in order to place Hezbollah on the horns of a dilemma. If attacked in the open, on the ground, Hezbollah must fight or face the ridicule of not living up to its rhetoric. If, on the other hand, Israel persists in its air/artillery campaign, Hezbollah is able to portray the Israelis as cowards unwilling to fight face to face. Israel’s limited special forces operations are not fulfilling this vital strategic component.
This is all the more dangerous for Israel because the lifeblood of Hezbollah, like so many other terrorist organizations, is propaganda. As it stands now Israel’s attack on Lebanon has crippled the economy, forced the exodus of thousands of people, and nearly dried up Lebanese liquid assets. In other words, Israel is not popular in Lebanon these days. This plays directly into the hands of Hezbollah. While the average Lebanese citizen may have viewed Hezbollah with indifference or malice before, the Israeli incursion has allowed Hezbollah to assume a place of considerable prominence due to this struggle; it maintains this status because Israel has only bombed it from afar allowing Hezbollah to propagate an image of itself as heroic fighters undimmed by Israeli technology. While the air campaign may cripple Hezbollah’s infrastructure and disorganize its operations, that is only a benefit if it is followed up by the coup de grÃ¢ce, as it were. Failing a ground attack, Hezbollah will emerge all the stronger because it will have weathered the Israeli storm without breaking.
Now, it is entirely possible that Israel is gearing up for just such an ground offensive. Perhaps the air attacks, the artillery barrages, and the commando strikes are designed to paralyze Hezbollah’s communication assets, cut her off logistically, and stymie her intelligence gathering efforts. In this case, Israel may be on the right track, however time, in war especially, is always of the essence. Every hour of delay for this potential ground assault allows Hezbollah to entrench deeper into the hills of southern Lebanon. That mountainous region is rough going for tanks, but perfect for the committed infantrymen, especially one in a prepared defensive posture. If Israel plans on a ground offensive, which is utterly crucial to its success, it cannot wait forever. The nullification of Hezbollah communication nodes and interdiction of her supply lines will mean relatively little if Israel is hindered significantly in those hills. If Hezbollah bloodies Israel, even slightly, the propaganda she will gain from that may easily outweigh any gains Israel takes in territory.
Nonetheless, a ground campaign for Israel is strategically essential. It is still essential if we say that Israel’s plan is just to create a buffer area. Israel will not be able to move Hezbollah out through air strikes alone. Anything less than a significant ground operation aimed at dismantling Hezbollah in southern Lebanon will give Hezbollah the upper hand in future contests.
In the big picture, don’t Al-Qaeda (Sunni) and Hezbollah (Shiites) hate each other more than they do the United States? Is Hezbollah as hard lined against the U.S. as Al-Qaeda?
LordDilly wrote – "I have to laugh when folks talk of "proportionate response" by Israel."
willwaddell wrote – "Nonetheless, a ground campaign for Israel is strategically essential."
You see, "proportionate response" is completely the order of the day. Where a ground offensive is "strategically essential" for Israel to hold the territory that it has been bombing and to further move Hezbollah forces furhter inland, Israel has the 2nd largest airforce in the world…2nd only to ours.
I personally believe that Isarel’s reaction has been too extreme. However, you can’t be married to a former military man like I am and believe that they don’t have the right to "leave no man behind". I know if it was my husband, I’d be up there screaming at someone to bring him home. However, if it was me personally, I’d tell you to let them have me and spare the lives that might be lost trying to bring me home. So, that being said, it’s a catch 22.
HOWEVER, Israel has not yet begun. Right now, they’re playing nice and making a point at playing nice. They can’t go in fully cocked and loaded right now because 3 soldiers lives don’t warrent an "extermination". That’s what it would be too. Total extermination…..and thus, genocide. The people of Israel don’t need that label too. Where they know they have the capability to "pave the Middle East" thay’re not going to do it. Genocide is bad press.
A ground offensive A) deters the Hezbollites from crawling across the border into Israeli territory and carpeting the desert with land mines again but B) it puts an armed presence within the borders of Lebanon as a constant reminder that they haven’t given their soldiers back.
Israel is showing great restraint, whether what they’re doing is right or wrong.
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