Israel Invades Lebanon
Israel has invaded Lebanon in retalliation for Hezbollah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers.
Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed up to seven Israelis in violence on either side of the Lebanese border on Wednesday, further inflaming Middle East tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hizbollah attacks as an “act of war” by Lebanon and promised a “very painful and far-reaching” response. Two Lebanese civilians were killed and five people wounded in retaliatory Israeli air strikes after Hizbollah announced it had captured the Israelis. Israeli ground forces crossed into Lebanon to search for the captured soldiers, Israeli Army Radio said. Hizbollah and the Lebanese authorities said there was no large-scale incursion.
Israeli troops have not struck deep into Lebanon since they withdrew from a southern border strip in 2000 after waging an 18-year war of attrition with Hizbollah’s Shi’ite fighters.
As in Gaza, Israel is giving the terrorists exactly what they want: War.
From an Israeli perspective, these actions are certainly understandable. At some point, Arab governments have to assume responsibility for terrorist groups operating within their borders. This is even more true in both Lebanan and Palestine, where the distinction between the governments and the terrorists is ephemeral.
One wonders, however, what the Israeli exit strategy is here. Total annihilation of Hezbollah and Hamas is impossible without genocide, given how organic they seem to be. Does Israel plan to annex and permanently occupy these territories? They’ve tried that without solving the terrorist problem. They also can’t go the route that the U.S. has gone in Iraq: The current governments are, in both cases, the result of the democratic process.
Israel has lived in a more-or-less permanent state of war since 1948. That does not look to change any time soon.
UPDATE: Steven Taylor has a similar take on the situation: “While there may well be a great deal of visceral satisfaction on the part of the Israelis as a result of these military actions, it is wholly unclear what the overall strategic goals are.” To the extent wars are fought for political ends, as Clausewitz taught us, that’s problematic.
UPDATE (Greg Tinti): ESCALATION: The JPost is reporting that the IDF is calling up reservists while Haaretz reports that senior IDF officials are willing to “regress” Lebanese civilian infrastructure by 20 to 50 years if the Lebanese government doesn’t intervene on behalf of the abducted soldiers. Here’s more from that analysis:
This is the most complex crisis Israel has faced since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, when Israel successfully curbed Hezbollah’s bid to spark a confrontation on the northern border in response to the IDF occupation of West Bank cities.
The winning formula for resolving the crisis consisted of military actions combined with diplomatic pressure.
In some respects, however, the situation now is even more complicated than in 2002, because terror groups are holding three soldiers captive: Gilad Shalit in the Gaza Strip, and two other soldiers who were captured Wednesday morning on the northern border.
The attack on Israel’s northern border was an impressive military achievement for Hezbollah and a ringing failure for the IDF. Despite Israel’s intelligence analyses and despite wide operational deployment, Hezbollah has succeeded in carrying out what it has been threatening to do for more than two years – and it couldn’t have happened at a more sensitive time.
Israel has until now responded with restraint by bombarding bridges in central Lebanon and attacking Hezbollah positions along the border. But considering the nature of the military high command’s current evaluation of the situation, it is clear that the IDF is interested in inflicting a much sharper blow on Lebanon.
Senior officers in the IDF say that the Lebanese government is responsible for the soldiers’ abduction. According to the officers, if the kidnapped soldiers are not returned alive and well, the Lebanese civilian infrastructures will regress 20, or even 50 years.
Lebanon has invested considerable resources in the rehabilitation of its civilian infrastructures from the damage sustained during its civil war in the 1970s and the years of war with Israel throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
If Israel is having difficulty in deterring Hamas in Gaza, and certainly if it is unable to bring the crisis to a conclusion, indeed Hezbollah is a much more sophisticated and experienced rival than its Palestinian counterpart.
It is safe to assume that Hezbollah planned the abduction months in advance, and that the Shi’ite organization has made every effort to conceal the location where the kidnapped soldiers are being held.
From another perspective, however, the opening of a new front somewhat eases Israel’s dilemma. It now seems that the government may be able to stop acting like it is walking on eggshells, as it has thus far.
There is every indication that Israel is on its way to a wide escalation of its military operations, both in the north and in the Gaza Strip.
More updates courtesy of Allah Pundit over at Hot Air.