Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Today's Reading Assignment

Why "Gaza Is Not Lebanon," by Thomas Donnelly and Danielle Pletka of The Weekly Standard.

Both Mr. Donnelly and Ms. Pletka are resident scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, with years of experience in analyzing defense and national security issues. As a result, they don't fall for the easy traps that snare the mainstream media.

Compare their assessment with those reporters who predicted the Israelis would suffer the same problems that brought defeat in Lebanon. Donnelly and Pletka understand that Gaza is a vastly different battlefield than south Lebanon, and Hamas is not in the same league as Hizballah. Consequently, the IDF campaign in Gaza stands a good chance of succeeding, while the Lebanon War was seemingly doomed from the start. As they write:

To begin with, the physical and geographical differences between southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip could hardly be greater. And while Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership were under air attack in the outskirts of Beirut in 2006, the Hamas leadership has far fewer places to hide in Gaza city and elsewhere in Gaza. The initial successes of the Israeli airstrikes were not just a product of much better intelligence about Hamas (though it's probable that Israeli intelligence had done a superior job of exploiting differences amongst Hamas and West Bank leaders to improve its targeting), but also reflect simple facts of proximity and smaller scale. The terrain makes perhaps an even greater difference in ground warfare. The hills of southern Lebanon are not only naturally defensible terrain--each village providing an excellent fortified fighting position--but helped to channel Israeli armored columns. A good percentage of Israeli combat deaths came from a handful of successful ambushes.


Hamas and Hezbollah are also profoundly different beasts. While neither is really the "non-state actor" as popularly understood, Hezbollah is a much more robust and state-like organization, while Hamas is only a notch above its roots as a terrorist group, and has failed to capitalize on its control of quasi-independent Gaza to organize or modernize. And further, while both are Iranian proxies, the duration, depth and strength of Tehran's investments in Hezbollah far exceeds its investments in Hamas. (It's also worth noting that Hamas is a Sunni group, and though sectarianism is an imperfect guide to alliances in the Middle East--as our experience in Iraq should make clear--it does contribute to the fact that Iranian ties with Hezbollah are more organic than with Hamas.) In addition, the Lebanese state's weaknesses make it a free zone in which the Iranian Quds Force has been able to conduct rigorous paramilitary training and rearm its proxies freely. Hamas has operated under a much more watchful Israeli eye. Iranian military assistance and training to Hamas has been effective only in limited areas, and has itself lacked the scope of effort Hezbollah has enjoyed; whereas Hezbollah armed and trained and (with North Korean aid) built infrastructure for many years to fight as it did in 2006.

Read the whole thing; it's far more cogent than similar "analysis" from the AP, AFP, or the Washington Post.

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