Friday, July 28, 2006

Israel's War Goals and Strategy - Jul 28

It's good to be back. Was having some technical problems but those appear to be solved now. Got another keeper for you from stratfor about what Israel must do to win the war. In short, it can be summed thusly: Send in the poor bloody infantry! Air strikes alone will not defeat Hezbollah. I don't care how advanced an army is, there is no substitute for a gung-ho infantryman. When the enemy is so well entrenched as Hezbollah, you have little choice. The Israelis understandably want to keep losses to a minimum, but some wars have to be fought face to face. In WW II, the whole purpose of D-Day was to lay the foundations for a ground offensive into Germany. The Gulf War in 1991 had to be finished off by a ground offensive as well. This war is no different. Just substitute the words 'raiding in force' with 'ground offensive' and the same military principles apply today.

Johnny Cash

Geopolitical Diary: Israel's War Goals and Strategy - Jul 28, 2006

Trying to figure out what Israel is doing is becoming a full-time occupation. Israel's war aims are fairly clear: They involve stopping the current rocket attacks and assuring that these attacks will not resume. They involve doing so with a minimum of casualties. They involve not being put in a position of occupying any more hostile territory and conducting counterinsurgency operations. All of these are understandable goals; the problem is whether they are compatible.Ending rocket attacks means pushing Hezbollah back, but given the range of some of Hezbollah's missiles, this means the Israelis would have to push it way back. Indeed, given the distance, Hezbollah would have to be destroyed as a fighting force. And since counterinsurgency operations are out of the question, it has to be destroyed as a fighting force without exposing the Israel Defense Forces to the rigors of occupation. That means, as they used to say, it has to be "destroyed in detail." Hezbollah has positioned itself in this fighting. It should not be regarded as a guerrilla force. Rather, its strategy should be thought of almost in terms of Japan's strategies for defending islands during World War II. Hezbollah fighters are dug into well-designed bunkers that are difficult to destroy from the air or assault from the ground. The bunkers are well stocked and don't need re-supply, at least within the scope of the fighting. Since there is little maneuver, communications are not critical except on the tactical level. Outside of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah defenses are not clearly known; but within southern Lebanon, they are not fighting a guerrilla war, but conventional, positional warfare. And they seem prepared to resist effectively and are mounting tactical counterattacks. It is taking days to reduce a small position.In World War II, on islands in the Pacific, the Americans had no choice but to go in, dig out the Japanese, and suffer massive casualties in doing so. In other areas, the strategy was to flank such defensive positions, move behind them, isolate them and let them "die on the vine," under the theory that at some point the fighters would run out of food and water. Entire cities in France were treated this way.Israel has the ability to use this older warfighting doctrine. It can use combined arms to isolate southern Lebanon. In other words, it can try to convert the war to its advantage, moving from positional to maneuver warfare. But even in so doing, it would not solve the problem of casualties -- and it might create a situation in which withdrawal is difficult and counterinsurgency inevitable.Therefore, the Israelis are engaged in small-scale operations against entrenched positions, while basing their strategic operations on air power. If this works, it will eliminate the rocket threats, destroy Hezbollah, avoid Israeli casualties and avoid occupation and counterinsurgency. It's a hell of a plan, if it works. However, if it doesn't work, Israel will have burned through a lot of diplomatic time and still have the problem it began with.It comes down to two questions. First, is Israeli military intelligence good enough that it really has mapped out Hezbollah's infrastructure to the point that an air campaign can destroy it? Second, if Hezbollah fighters have dug themselves in along the border as efficiently as they did, how well did they fortify critical infrastructure? In other words, does Israel really know what it has to hit, and can it destroy the target set it has? Some things are really hard to blow up, regardless of the munitions used. The alternative to this strategy is a mobile ground operation that isolates pockets of resistance, identifies things to be destroyed and destroys them -- in other words, a raid in force. The Israeli Cabinet chose on Thursday not to do that. They are going with air war. It is understandable why they chose this. But it would seem that Hezbollah may have thought through the options and have created a battle problem Israel can't solve perfectly. The imperfect, available solution remains the ground offensive.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

No comments: