Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Preliminary Thoughts on Israel/Hezbollah

Others have written about the conflict from the point of view of whose right/whose wrong--blaming Israel, blaiming Hezbollah. I'm not really interested in that debate.

Lost in that back and forth is the fact that Israel is losing militarily. Israel, like the US in Afghanistan/Iraq is fighting the wrong war, the wrong war.

Check out John Robb of Global guerrillas which uses the lens of open-source technoloy and network to analyze terrorism shows why terrorism has become so difficult to defeat.

Here's the main point (IDF=Israeli Defense Force):

Hezbollah's current success against the IDF was both foreseeable and avoidable. The only requirement for this insight was for the IDF to embrace fourth generation warfare. Of course, that didn't happen.In short, if things continue on their current track: Hezbollah's rockets will remain intact as a looming ceasefire locks Israel into a horrible strategic position (which will likely lead to escalation and a wider war in the near term). Longer term, a loss by Israel here will ensure that the tactical and organizational approaches demonstrated by Hezbollah will be copied by states and non-states around the world.

For an overview of the concept of 4GW (4th Generation Warfare) here.

And relevant to Israel's "loss" in Lebanon, it brings up the last time Israel "lost" (or didn't win convincingly as in '67), the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Check out this editorial by the briliant David Ignatius from the WashingtonPost paralleling the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the current Israeli-Hezbollah armed conflict. In the Yom Kippur War Israel, after initial losses, reached a sorta stalemate. The early Arab success allowed the Arabs to sue for peace. [The parallel being Israel's current non-win in Lebanon].

Here's Ignatius:

After the war ended, Egypt and Syria joined in active diplomacy, masterfully orchestrated by Kissinger, who managed to create enough distance between the United States and Israel to allow some negotiating room. Sadat felt confident enough as the "hero of the crossing" to make his famous trip to Jerusalem. Even the terrorist group of the day, the Palestine Liberation Organization, was drawn into a web of secret liaison with the CIA.

The 1973 war marked a historic turning point, in ways that no one could initially have predicted. And it is just possible that the current conflict offers a similar opportunity. The key missing element, so far at least, is a Kissinger-level diplomatic commitment by the United States. Condoleezza Rice came close to a Lebanon peace deal last weekend, but to pull it off, she will need to move more toward Kissinger's stance of honest broker.

To turn the Lebanon disaster of 2006 into an opportunity, each side will have to alter its view of the other. In dealing with the Palestinians and the Lebanese, the Israelis will have to revise their doctrine that their adversaries can be coerced solely by military force. As Gal Luft, a retired Israeli military officer, commented at a conference in Washington last week, the days are long past when Arab fighters would see the advancing Israeli army, discard their boots and flee in terror.

The strategy of Israel's (and America's) enemies today is to lure the military superpower into a protracted conflict. To accept the bait, as the Israelis did in assaulting Lebanon and as America did in Iraq, is to risk stepping into a trap. As Lawrence Wright says in his new book, "The Looming Tower," the master of this approach is Osama bin Laden: "His strategy was to continually attack until the U.S. forces invaded; then the mujahadeen would swarm upon them and bleed them until the entire American empire fell from its wounds."

The Israeli and American resolve in this grim summer of war should be: No more falling into traps. In the age of missiles, there's limited value in a "security fence" or "security buffer." The evidence grows that you can't achieve real security without negotiating with your adversaries, and you can't succeed in such negotiations without offering reasonable concessions.

For the Arabs, the opportunity of 2006 lies in the surprising success of Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah. Their resistance on the battlefield makes them more dangerous adversaries -- but also more plausible negotiating partners. Little in Nasrallah's past suggests that he will use his new stature and confidence to encourage indirect negotiations with Israel, but, as 1973 reminds us, the aftermath of war can produce big surprises. U.S. officials recognize that

Nasrallah is likely to emerge as the strongest political force in Beirut, and they hope he will make strategic choices that will build a stronger and more stable Lebanon.

This war is opening a door: Will the combatants have the good sense to walk through it? Will America have the guile to help them?


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