Israel Winning War of Attrition?

Ed Morrissey posts on a report from the IDF that Hezbollah is running out of rockets. The money ‘graph of the story:

Once the unit exhausts the missiles currently in its possession, it will, MI believes, have difficulty acquiring more, since most of the roads and supply routes have been destroyed by the IDF. Several Syrian and Iranian attempts to send supplies to Hizbullah have been thwarted by the IDF.

Morrissey is thrilled by this news:

This shows why asymmetrical warfare cannot beat a true military response. Terrorists thrive on the reluctance of Western nations to actually respond militarily to their attacks. Tactics and strategy that force responses in civilian areas usually lead to law-enforcement tactics in order for nations to avoid the kind of televised images we have seen from Lebanon. In that kind of low-level approach, however, the terrorists can resupply at will and continue with intermittent attacks — and know that they will get away with them.

Hezbollah got surprised by Israel’s military response and by the lack of support they received in the Arab world as a result. IDF operations have forced Hezbollah to fire many more rockets into Israel, trying desperately to hold Israeli cities hostage in order to put an end to the IDF invasion of southern Lebanon and the bombing of the infrastructure. They have fired thousands of missiles and rockets into Israel in less than two weeks, a number that might have taken them five years to reach in the normal asymmetrical mode.

I would note that Israel tried had dozens of “true military responses” over the last several decades without managing to destroy Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO,the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and others. I would note, too, that the reason Hezbollah is running low on rockets–presuming they are in fact running low on rockets and this is not just wishful thinking on the part of Israeli intelligence–is because they have been expended on Israel’s cities. While rope-a-dope worked for Muhammad Ali against George Foreman, it is not necessarily an ideal strategy for counter-terrorism.

Ralph Peters thinks the Israelis are losing:

ISRAEL is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that’s a painful thing to write. But it’s true. And the situation’s worsening each day. A U.S. government official put it to me this way: “Israel’s got the clock, but Hezbollah’s got the time.” The sands of the hourglass favor the terrorists – every day they hold out and drop more rockets on Israel, Hezbollah scores a propaganda win. All Hezbollah has to do to achieve victory is not to lose completely. But for Israel to emerge the acknowledged winner, it has to shatter Hezbollah. Yet Israeli miscalculations have left Hezbollah alive and kicking.

Peters wrote that in a column published Saturday. Since then, Israel has in fact undertaken a ground invasion of Lebanon, which Peters thinks they should have done on Day 1. Still, most of the reasons he thought Israel was losing still obtain. Further, Rowan Scarborough reports that, “Israel is overstating the damage its air war has inflicted on the Hezbollah militia, which hides its weapons in tunnels and civilian neighborhoods throughout Lebanon, Bush administration and intelligence officials said [Friday].” Billmon points to numerous other indicators that things are going far from swimmingly for the IDF.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. billmon says:

    Captain Queeq is relying on the Jerusalem Post, which is about like relying on al Jazeerah for an objective, fact-filled analysis of how well the USA is doing in Iraq. (Actually it’s worse, since al Jazeerah says America is losing in Iraq and America is, in fact, losing in Iraq.)

  2. DC Loser says:

    I noticed the IDF lost another helicopter today, supposedly running into an electrical line. I dunno, but I do wonder how many are being shot at by Hezbollah MANPADS as they try to provide close support fire for their ground units.

  3. Bithead says:

    The take-away from Peters, though, is this;
    To win, Israel has to wipe out Hezbolah utterly.
    To win, Hezbolah, on the other hand, only has to not lose….

    Hezbolah is like any other terrorist org; they have no hope of winning any war, given Israel’s vastly superior forces. Such is the situation with any terrorist org; they end up fighting a war of attrition. Just because the group is beaten on the battlefield, however, doesn’t mean they’ve been defeated utterly. They simpley figure they’ve lost the battle, and regroup to fight another day.

  4. Anderson says:

    Good post, & thanks esp. for linking the great Billmon analysis. Given our comments in the Tom Peters thread on civilian v. military bungling, Billmon’s update is pertinent:

    It appears that Operation Midwife was the product of a coup de main by the IDF — against its own government. From Ha’aretz:

    In the history of the relationship between the political and military leaderships of Israel, the government has never made such a significant decision so quickly, operating in crisis mode just a few hours after the kidnapping of the soldiers. Under these circumstances, the military contingency plan was the main plan presented to the ministers, if not the only one. As absurd as it may sound, the government decision to embark on the Lebanon War I in 1982 was the result of a longer and more orderly decision-making process.

    Gospel truth or early finger-pointing, it’s interesting either way.

  5. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    To my fellow posters, let us count the wars Israel has lost. Oh, none. The Jerusalem Post is probably more accurate the the NY Times in its reporting. Kind of like Hebrew National Hot Dogs, they are held to a higher standard. If you think because in a war, Israel has lost a little equipment they are losing, you know little about history. Israel has the military power to envelope Lebanon, and conquer and occupy Syria. With 200 nuclear warheads, Israel is capable of destroying all population centers in the Arab world, if they chose to do so.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    Reducing Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is meaningless: as far as Hezbollah is concerned the arsenal has zero cost–plenty more where they came from. In days, weeks, or months they’ll be fully supplied again.

    Read the actual military analysts. Both American and Israeli analysts have suggested that the results from Israel’s air campaign are not good news for Israel.

  7. DC Loser says:

    The Ha’aretz story on the downed apache is changing. Now the IDF isn’t sure if it was shot down or not. Things are definitely not going according to plan.

  8. billmon says:

    “Israel has the military power to envelope Lebanon, and conquer and occupy Syria. With 200 nuclear warheads, Israel is capable of destroying all population centers in the Arab world, if they chose to do so.”

    I knew some Germans that used to talk like that . . .