Thursday, July 27, 2006

Israel’s lose-lose

I have looked at this over and over and tried to understand how the war Israel is waging in Lebanon now can possibly solve any of its problems or serve its interests. In every scenario Israel is playing with a loosing hand. In fact at this point in the conflict it is attempting damage control to minimize what the leaders of Israel have already accepted to be irreversible losses.

Let’s analyze the different options and strategic actions Israel has.

  • A Continued Air Assault

Should the Israelis choose this route they will be incapable of solving their objective of limiting Hezbollah. In fact this aerial bombing campaign has only proven capable of destroying civilian infrastructure and lives while the Katyushas landing in Israel continue to strike and even rise in number. Certainly neither Israel nor Lebanon benefit from a continuance of the status quo over a prolonged period. With thousands of Katyushas suspected in Hezbollah’s possession this could potentially drag out for months.

  • A Land Invasion

Israel is currently trying this and learning very harshly that the price they will pay for this strategy is too high. With Israeli soldiers publicly recounting stories of “Hell on Earth” at Bint Jbeil in Lebanon it doesn’t seem likely that the Israeli Military will be able to carry out a prolong limited incursion either. While Hezbollah did not anticipate this scale of Israeli response Israel equally did not anticipate Hezbollah’s ability to reach deep into Israel. This new reality, proven as Hezbollah rockets continue to land in Haifa, Nazareth and Afula, has changed the dynamic of military balance and has forced Israel to recalculate its entire northern strategy. At this point they seem very confused. These long range rockets mean that Israel would have to invade and secure a Hezbollah-free region in Lebanon over 10-miles past the Litany River to insure that rockets will be out of range. Already in its limited campaign into Bint Jbeil Israel has learned that Southern Lebanon has changed drastically in the 6 years since they withdrew. Hezbollah’s hold on the area has only grown and they seem to be inviting a land invasion- this is a signal for any military general to be wary of.

  • A Cease-Fire

The best opportunity Israel has to stop Hezbollah’s rocket attacks is to negotiate a cease-fire. At this point in time it seems like the only reasonable option Israel has to obtain their military objective. While a cease-fire will not immediately return their captured soldiers it will at least allow for the conditions where such a release can be possible. The political leaders in Israel will have to decide what they value more- their reputations or the lives of the captured soldiers, currently both are in jeopardy.

Israel is playing a dangerous game and is engaging in a type of war they simply can not win. The leadership in Israel has realized this and has also realized the devastating blow this will have to the legitimacy of their government which has proven incapable of protecting their citizens. The strategy for Israel, which is supported by the United States, seems to be damage control. The United States has agreed to allow Israel to put them in a better position before a cease-fire. These are the “proper conditions” Madame Secretary Rice really refers to when talking about the framework of a cease-fire. However things for Israel seems to be getting worse and more insulting as this conflict is prolonged. There are still some outstanding questions: How long the Israeli leadership is going to wait before they admit that they too made a miscalculation in engaging Hezbollah? How patient will the US be before it tells Israel to cut its losses and run? How many more innocents will die?

It is important to understand that Hezbollah is by no means stronger than Israel in military capability but only strong enough to put a vulnerable Israeli state in a position of indecision and inevitable loss. In return, Israel finds no other response but to attack innocents while it attempts to reassess its blunder.


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