Why It’s Different This Time
HEZBOLLAH AND THE IDF….OK, genuine question here. Hawkish commentators have been filling the airwaves and printwaves with declarations that the war in Lebanon can’t end until Israel destroys Hezbollah once and for all. But putting aside for now the question of whether that’s good policy — a world without Hezbollah sure seems like a good idea — what makes anyone think Israel can accomplish this? The IDF spent nearly two decades in Lebanon until Ehud Barak withdrew in 2000, and presumably was doing its very best during that time to destroy Hezbollah. But they weren’t able to do it. So what’s changed since then to make us think that the IDF can do it now?
Good question, or that is what I thought. Now I’m not an expert in foreign affairs, the Middle East, terrorism, etc. But, Daniel Drezner has posted something from Stratfor that looks interesting,
The Israeli strategy appears to be designed to do two things. First, the Israelis are trying to prevent any supplies from entering Lebanon, including reinforcements. That is why they are attacking all coastal maritime facilities. Second, they are degrading the roads in Lebanon. That will keep reinforcements from reaching Hezbollah fighters engaged in the south. As important, it will prevent the withdrawal and redeployment of heavy equipment deployed by Hezbollah in the south, particularly their rockets, missiles and launchers. The Israelis are preparing the battlefield to prevent a Hezbollah retreat or maneuver.
Hezbollah’s strategy has been imposed on it. It seems committed to standing and fighting. The rate of fire they are maintaining into Israel is clearly based on an expectation that Israel will be attacking. The rocketry guarantees the Israelis will attack. Hezbollah has been reported to have anti-tank and anti-air weapons. The Israelis will use airmobile tactics to surround and isolate Hezbollah concentrations, but in the end, they will have to go in, engage and defeat Hezbollah tactically. Hezbollah obviously knows this, but there is no sign of disintegration on its part. At the very least, Hezbollah is projecting an appetite for combat. Sources in Beirut, who have been reliable to this point, say Hezbollah has weapons that have not yet been seen, such as anti-aircraft missiles, and that these will be used shortly. Whatever the truth of this, Hezbollah does not seem to think its situation is hopeless.
It seems that Hezbollah is going to stand and fight, and Israel is also trying to cut Hezbollah off from possible retreat. I don’t know if this was what Israel did when it previously occupied Southern Lebannon, but this at least sounds like it has the potential to seriously damage Hezbollah (provided that Hezbollah isn’t up to the task of taking on the IDF). However, later we get this,
The problem is this: While Syria does not want to get hit and will not make overt moves, so long as the Syrians cannot guarantee supplies will not reach Hezbollah or that Hezbollah won’t be given sanctuary in Syria, Israel cannot complete its mission of shattering Hezbollah and withdrawing. They could be drawn into an Iraq-like situation that they absolutely don’t want. Israel is torn. On the one hand, it wants to crush Hezbollah, and that requires total isolation. On the other hand, it does not want the Syrian regime to fall. What comes after would be much worse from Israel’s point of view.
This is the inherent problem built into Israel’s strategy, and what gives Hezbollah some hope. If Israel does not attack Syria, Hezbollah could well survive Israel’s attack by moving across the border. No matter how many roads are destroyed, Israel won’t be able to prevent major Hezbollah formations moving across the border. If they do attack Syria and crush al Assad’s government, Hezbollah could come out of this stronger than ever.
Basically, this idea of destroying Hezbollah seems doomed to failure since it seems unlikely that Israel will be able to fully cut of Hezbollah from retreating back into Syria. And if Israel attack Syria, what would prevent Hezbollah from letting the Syrian forces take the brunt of the fighting leaving Hezbollah in a strong position in Syria? As I noted, I have no expertise in this area and can’t say if this analysis from Stratfor is accurate, but it sounds like solid analysis and reasoning.