TCS Daily – Why Israel Lost

Why latest for TCS Daily, “Why Israel Lost,” argues that the current cease-fire is a defeat for Israel:

Israel has accepted a truce that falls far short of its original war aims, failing to establish control over their border with Lebanon, let alone deliver a crushing blow to Hezbollah. As many of us have argued from the moment Israel launched this campaign, there was no way a modern state, constrained by a Western moral code and the pressures of a democratic society, would achieve these incredibly ambitious goals. Failure to achieve one’s political objectives in a war, by definition, constitutes defeat.

The piece explains why that failure occured.

FILED UNDER: Published Elsewhere, United Nations, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I agree with your TCS column. I’d go a step farther: it’s not just that they couldn’t win by aerial bombardment and shelling. It’s that they couldn’t win period unless they were prepared to fight a much, much larger war than they apparently were prepared to fight.

  2. Patrick McGuire says:

    I haven’t heard the fat lady sing yet! (Is that PC?) Conventional wisdom has it that the Hezbo’s would seek a cease-fire just before they ran out of ammunition. Perhaps the Israelis needed time to regroup and re-evaluate their war strategy too? Then, when the Hezbo’s fail to live up to the cease-fire conditions, Israel will be able to finish up the original mission with less loss of life and treasure while taking the high moral ground of having made the attempt at complying with a cease fire.

  3. Steven Plunk says:

    Isn’t too early to declare victory or defeat? Given that the cease fire is less than 24 hours old how can we say what the fallout will be over the next few weeks and months. Perhaps the Lebanese army will surprise us all and enforce some sort of disarming if Hezbollah.

    There is also the chance that Israel accomplished something close to what it wanted when the war started and remember they didn’t start it as much as Hezbollah started it.

    The damage inflicted upon Hezbollah and it’s supporters has sent a clear message that rocket attacks and kidnappings come with consequences. That may not stop all attacks but I suspect some will not take place now that the leadership knows what retribution will come.

    Don’t expect Hezbollah to admit defeat, the nature of middle east politics will not allow such an admission. Baghdad Bob taught us all about declaring victory over there.

    Israel has the capability to return the battlefield very quickly if need should arise and Hezbollah is much less able to launch attacks of any sort at the present. Absolute destruction may not be a necessary goal to achieve a victory.

    We all talk about how war has changed and part of that change is judging victory and defeat. I would much rather be an Israeli today than a member of Hezbollah living in south Lebanon. Perhaps that is the best measure of the outcome of the past few weeks.

  4. Anderson says:

    But Bush says Israel won … and we challenge our commander-in-chief at our peril … so if we say Israel lost, we obviously want the terrorists to win?

    Is the present GWOT really the time for independent thinking, JJ?

    –No, seriously, good column. I particularly liked this:

    That the terrorists are hiding among civilians is both “unfair” militarily and a violation of the laws of war. It is, however, a reality with which states must cope.

    The R-word, “reality.” It’s amazing to me how supposedly-worth-listening-to people fume about Hezbollah’s use of civilian shields, as if H. were cheating at a game of Monopoly.

  5. Considering that we’re probably only at the end of the first half, if not the first quarter, I think it’s still far too early to definitively declare winners and losers.

    I do not expect the terms of the agreement to be upheld. That’s when Hizbollah finally learns that in the long run there is a price to valuing perception over reality.

  6. Anderson says:

    (Though I see that if JJ’s undermining Bush’s credibility & thus aiding the terrorists, he has a lot of company on the Right.)

    And JJ, when do we get your reading of Sy Hersh’s latest?

  7. Anderson says:

    I do not expect the terms of the agreement to be upheld. That’s when Hizbollah finally learns that in the long run there is a price to valuing perception over reality.

    Right after Bush learns it? LOL!!!!!!!

  8. DC Loser says:

    Seems the US is the one who’s having problems with perceptioin and reality. Even the Israelis know the real score. Olmert may not survive this.

  9. Wayne says:

    “Failure to achieve one’s political objectives in a war, by definition, constitutes defeat.”
    Says who? So in history when a county invaded a territory of another country to take control of it but ends up settling for 75 percent of that territory, they lost right. I would disagree. Gaining territory is one example of a political objective. There are many examples in history where the victor didn’t get 100 percent of what they wanted. It is actually the most common result.

    Hezbo’s objective is the total destruction of Israel. So did they lose too? I would agree with above post that said it is to soon to know who came out on top. However if I had to choose between being an Israeli or Lebanese today I would choose Israeli.

  10. Wayne says:

    If the MSM treated football like they treated wars they do not like, they would say that team A lost because team B scored 10 points even though the score was 52 to 10. Besides team A did not stop every run or pass and Team A did not score on every possession. Team B had some accomplishments so they won and Team A did not have a perfect game so they lost.

  11. dave says:

    I wish that all americans could go to the middle east and see how much they are hated. It never ceases to amaze me how arrogant and narrow minded most of you are. Isreal has been terrorizing lebanon for years and yet your government backs them.And do you know why? Its because they look like you and I,,white….or mostly white…wake up people,,start educating yourselves and look to other sources other then cnn or your government for the truth…..see how they have been able to subvert any foreign government they wish to and blame it on others to start a war…I am Canadian and damn proud to be able to travel the world unmolested .

  12. Wayne says:

    Dave

    I believe the hatred for U.S. is often overstated. I have found thought-out my travels including to the ME that many are friendly towards us. There are always fanatics that have great hate especially since many are taught that. A great many do bash us. However, most of the ones that bash us do so more out of frustration of looking for us to solve the world problems then any real underlying feelings. That is one of the reasons why they do not hold such much discontent for Canadians. When was the last time someone look to Canada to solve a crisis? Plus they do not get saturate with Canadian movies, T.V., products, etc.

  13. McGehee says:

    I wish that all americans could go to the middle east and see how much they are hated.

    Oh, I think we can find that hatred a little closer to home than you seem to think.

  14. McGehee says:

    But Bush says Israel won … and we challenge our commander-in-chief at our peril … so if we say Israel lost, we obviously want the terrorists to win?

    Anderson, seriously.

    Okay, maybe since you can’t “do” snark, maybe you can teach it instead.

  15. John Poleshek says:

    I feel James Joyner should read some history books before making statements about what are the constrains of a modern democratic nation during war.

    It is true most nations in the Mideast hate Americans as they hate Israeli’s but we all know it is a con the real hatred of the people of the Mideast would be better off directed at the people that prevent them from being a free and democratic nation. Does any one in the news know who that is. If Israel was defeated, destroyed and driven into the sea it would not improve the life of even one Arab.No Arab would get the right to vote from Israel,s demise.Lets stop kidding ourselves the hatred is simply a distraction from paying attention how miserable
    the own lives are.

  16. Anderson says:

    I feel James Joyner should read some history books before making statements about what are the constrains of a modern democratic nation during war.

    Right, because I’m sure he’s never done that.

    Got a reading list for us, Mr. Poleshek?