Winning: Unlikely Losers in Lebanon


October 16, 2006: Israel ran into the same Victory Disease problems during the Summer of 2006, as they did in the 1973 October War. Back in 1973, the Israelis underestimated the Egyptians, who had gotten their act together after getting rolled over in the 1967 Six Day war. The Israelis recovered and defeated the Egyptians and Syrians in 1973. Because they had some success early in the war, and lasted longer than six days, the Egyptians still consider this a victory.

Same thing in 2006. It all began when Hizbollah noted that Israeli troops sometimes got sloppy, especially when reservists, who did most of the work guarding the Lebanese border, were at the end of their tour. That's how Hizbollah was able to kidnap two Israeli soldiers on July 12th, and kill another twelve, out of a company size force that pursued the kidnappers into Lebanon. Four of those dead were from a tank, that rolled right over a large Hizbollah bomb, placed where it was thought a tank would move. Like the Egyptians in 1973, Hizbollah got sharp, while the Israelis got sloppy.

Israel also screwed up in it's intelligence work over the past six years. Hizbollah had run a deception plan right out of the Russian playbook. Russian military advisors have long been sought after in the Middle East for instruction on how to run effective deception operations. Hizbollah, for example, skillfully pretended to build false bunkers, while carefully hiding the actual ones being built. As a result, Israel only knew about the location of about twenty percent of the 600 weapons bunkers Hizbollah had built in south Lebanon. In the first few days of the war, Israel was able to knock out only about fifty of these bunkers. That's because many of them were very well made, often involving digging tunnels a hundred feet, or more, into hillsides. It appears that these bunkers were loaded up with some 18,000 rockets, most of them the nine foot long, 150 pound, 122mm models. That's only an average of about 30 rockets per bunker, plus a portable launcher. Many of the bunkers were dug under homes and government buildings. That was easy, as this new construction was designed with the weapons bunkers, in the basements, in mind.

Another aspect of the Victory Disease was that the Israeli Air Force had convinced most of the senior generals that victory could be could be won from air air operations alone. This was an attractive conceit, because ground fighting always involves a lot of Israeli casualties. And this time, the ground force casualties could be even higher. That's because most Israeli infantry had been receiving less combat training since 2000, because of the need for infantry reservists to spend so much of their active duty time doing counter-terror missions. Army officers complained about this, and warned that it would mean more Israeli casualties if you had to use the troops for a ground war. Most of the "infantry fighting" taking place against the Palestinians was carried out by elite commando units. There were only a few thousand of these troops, and most were busy with counter-terror work. If Israel wanted to move into Lebanon, it would be with the reservists. To keep the casualties down, the reservists would have to proceed cautiously. That's what they did, and this allowed most Hizbollah gunmen to get away.

In the end, the Israeli had their way. Hizbollah declared victory, but they did so from hiding, and not while standing in their former south Lebanon stronghold. According to Hizbollah's twisted reality, there was no way they could lose. Even if Israel came into south Lebanon, told the UN to take a hike, and cleared everyone out of the area, Hizbollah would still stay they won. As long as someone could get in front of a microphone, camera or Internet connection, saying, convincingly, that they represented Hizbollah, victory could be proclaimed, and those so inclined to such fantasies, would accept it.

Hizbollah, is basically a warlord operation, in the pay (if not always the service) of Iran, that has now seen most of its assets, and a lot of its personnel, destroyed. All Hizbollah has to show for its war is some favorable reviews in the media, and increased hostility from the Christian/Sunn/Druze majority of Lebanon. In the real world, that's retrograde.




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