Thursday, July 27, 2006

Insufficient Force?

Despite its brutality, war is--at least for some western nations--a delicate balancing act. Use of excessive force often brings international condemnation, potentially under-cutting support, both at home and abroad. On the other hand, insufficient force may please the politicians and diplomats, but it can cause severe headaches on the battlefield.

We beginning to hear that sort of claim in Israeli military circles. Some soldiers returning from the hard fighting in Lebanon have accused their leaders of committing insufficient military power to the battle. They have complained that Israeli airpower has been used sparingly, and the IDF should have leveled any buildings used by Hizballah fighters--after civilians had been warned to leave the battle area.

Are the Israelis being over-cautious in their operations against the terrorists? At this point, it's probably too early to tell, and a few background points are in order. First, it's quite common for soliders returning from the battlefield to complain about tactics they perceive as poor, or problems in military planning. Seeing your friends die in combat tends to have that effect. Talk to a U.S. veteran of Kasserine Pass, Anzio, or Tarawa, and you'll hear justifiable complaints about ineffective planning and incompetent leadership that resulted in unnecessary casualties. No military has a shortage of commanders who develop bad plans, or wither under fire. That may not be the case in south Lebanon, but Israeli soldiers are expressing frustrations that are common in combat.

Secondly, the Israeli military has always allowed a degree of candor in the ranks that some Americans would view as undisciplined or even insubordinate. In that regard, many IDF units maintain an atomsphere akin to U.S. special forces teams, where members of all ranks are encourage to speak their minds, in order to improve overall performance. That tendency is reinforced by Israel's heavy reliance on reserves. As citizen soldiers, Israeli troops are less concerned about the demands of career, or achieving their next promotion, making them less timid about sharing their frustrations.

It's also worth noting that Hizballah is not exactly the terrorist "C" team. At least one U.S. military analyst has described them as "some of the finest light infantry in the world." I'm not sure I concur with that gushing assessment, but the typical Hizballah fighter is better trained than his Palestinian counterpart in Gaza, or Al Qaida terrorists in Iraq. Hizballah's battle "skills" are further enhanced by other factors, including fighting on familiar terrain, years of battlespace preparation (including extensive construction of fortifications) and the indiscriminate use of civilians (and protected facilities) as shields for their operations. Describing the battlefields of southern Lebanon as complex would be an understatement.

Finally, it's sometimes difficult in the heat of battle to see the bigger picture, and understand how the fight for tactical objectives serves wider operational and strategic purposes. If you're an Israeli paratrooper, caught in a Hizballah ambush, your over-arching concern is your short-term survival, and that of your comrades. Beyond that, you begin to worry about immediate tactical objectives, with less regard for how the current firefight is part of a larger plan to prepare the battlefield for follow-on engagements, using more Israeli units. Before more IDF brigades can be committed to the battle, its necessary to clear entry corridors and eliminate terrorist strong-holds--the very type of fighting that is going on right now. The struggle for a particular village--or even a few blocks within a village--is actually a prelude to a larger campaign, assuming that Israel actually decides to expand its offensive. Earlier today, the Israeli government officially decided against that action, while approving the call-up of more than 30,000 additional soldiers. If I were Hizballah, I wouldn't pin my hopes on Israel sustaining this apparent level of restraint.

As we've noted previously, the IDF will eventually carry the day. The only questions are how long it will take, the price Israel is willing to pay, and the political willingness to see the mission through.


Huan said...

if they commit too much force, Hezbollah will melt away to avoid confrontation, and death.
there is an advantage to slogging it out

cynical joe said...

two weeks into the conflict and NOW they call up reserves? It seems to me either they're making it up as they go or they've underestimated the resistance of Hizbollah. Israel has to be able to claim some kind of victory out of this incursion, and the rocket attacks have to be stopped; but I think its obvious now that some kind of Hizbollah presence is going to survive and dominate a now radicalized Lebanon.

3dc said...

Look up Peretz's bio and description in Wikipedia.
He's a full blown TRANZI right in the same ballpark as Dean.
Just the sort of person you don't want running your defense department.
Israel is ill served by him.

Joe Buzz said...

Meanwhile in Gaza....

UN marked rescue van/troop carrier

ht israellycool

crosspatch said...

While there might be some truth to the notion that Hezbollah might simply run away if attacked with a larger force, there is also the advantage that fighters on the move are easier to kill than troops hunkered down in tunnels.

The current problem seems to be that Hezbollah is still preventing a good number of people from fleeing the area. Now there are calls for a 72-hour ceasefire. The only way I would agree to such a thing is for evacuation only. No supplies of any sort should be brought into the areas that have been told to evacuate.

At this point the Israeli cabinet seems to be twiddling its thumbs. They have in the past 48 hours allowed any momentum they might have had to dissipate. The cabinet must have the military people beside themselves in frustration.

d_Brit said...

The current Israeli government is NOT serious about fight Islamists.

Bush and Blair are now jointly calling for International peacekeepers (sound familiar?) to occupy Southern Lebanon.

All the Olmert government is hoping to accomplish is the half-way measure of creating a 'buffer' between Israel and Hezbollah.

It's just another 'hollow' Israeli 'victory'.

One that in the larger scheme, means as little as all the other 'measures' Israel has taken in the past.

To loosely quote Patton," men, the idea is NOT for you to die for your country, the idea is to make the other son-of-a-bitch die for his country."

Papa Ray said...

The one thing I can tell you is that from the war stories I have heard, clearing bunkers and tunnels is one tough operation, and time consuming. Sappers, covered by bulldozers and infantry seems the way to do it, dropping bombs is a waste of time and money.

As far as what the Israel gov. is going to do, I have no better idea than anyone. But if they continue the way they are, they had better be ready to say no if a cease fire is offered if they are not "finished".

The finished part is up in the air, I know, they may be putting out dis-information or they may just be looking for a way out.

Who Knows? Most likely they don't even know.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Boghie said...

I am starting to think Israel didn't have a strategic plan.

They had a plan to spasm north, show the flag, and be forced to abdicate the field as a result of 'world opinion'.

Have they spent any time watching Bush and Blair? Did they expect Bush to hurry Rice to the Middle East in a Clintonesque gab fest?

I think so.

That is a sad thing...

Mike H. said...

Olmert = Johnson redux.

He and Peretz need to get out of it. Forget the cabinet generated constraints and let the military do it.

Oldcrow said...

I am really hoping what we are seeing is recons in force. The call up of 30,000 reserves sortof points that way. If we start seeing much larger force manuevers in the coming weeks and taking and holding objectives then that will tell us what the plan is if not well then the cynics will be proven right and the ME will get even uglier with Nasrallah and Syria and Iran being able to claim victory.

cynical joe said...

I think maybe Israel needs to start building DEFENSIVE fortifications along the Israel/Lebanon border. The next invasion might be from North to South.