Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Lebanon the Morning After
Everyone who's somebody, and a lot of people in the peanut gallery, has a theory about why Israel underperformed in the war against Hezbollah. Partisan activist will blame the world for it's double standards, the Europeans for their anti-semitism, and anyone, and everything except where the blame belongs: Israeli leadership and the Bush administration 'plan' for the Middle East.
New evidence has come to light from Sy Hersh
that the conduct of the war from the Israeli side was a test-run for the Administration's ill-conceived war plans for Ira
In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive....
The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel's retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah's heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.
According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings. "It's not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into," he said, "but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it."
The Middle East expert said that the Administration had several reasons for supporting the Israeli bombing campaign. Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country, much of which is controlled by Hezbollah. He went on, "The White House was more focused on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush wanted both. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the Axis of Evil, and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hezbollah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy."
The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military cooperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force—under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities—began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.
"The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully," the former senior intelligence official said. "Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It's not Congo—it's Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, 'Let's concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.' " The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.
"The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits," a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. "Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."
Even those who continue to support Israel's war against Hezbollah agree that it is failing to achieve one of its main goals—to rally the Lebanese against Hezbollah. "Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it," John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism. "The warfare of today is not mass on mass," he said. "You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focussed on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result."
Read the whole thing, it's very thought provoking.
Though the Bush Administration's reliance and deification of air power, and the subsequent Israeli adoption of that plan, conspired to rob Israel of its victory, some Israeli troops are placing the blame squarely on Olmert government. According to the Telegraph
, many soldiers believe that the government went to war with no clear plan--and a failure to plan is a plan for failure.
Israeli reservists demanded a formal inquiry yesterday into the Lebanon war as returning combatants re-counted stories of shocking military incompetence.
One group spoke of how they were sent to war in the choking summer heat without water. They had to grab canteens from the bodies of Hizbollah fighters. They staged protests in several ways. Some signed a petition; others pitched tents outside government buildings in Jerusalem. But their message was clear.
They charged that Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, and his security advisers provided dithering and incoherent leadership and must be held to account. Many of the protesters simply called for the security elite to resign.
Hundreds of members of the Spearhead Brigade, a reserve unit that fought in south Lebanon during the month-long conflict, signed a petition published in a newspaper that attacked the "cold feet" of their commanders.
"There was one thing we were not and would not be willing to accept," the petition said. "We were unwilling to accept indecisiveness.
"The war's aim, which was not defined clearly, was even changed in the course of the fighting. The indecisiveness manifested itself in inaction, in not carrying out operational plans, and in cancelling all the missions we were given during the fighting.
The prime minister defended himself by blaming earlier governments. "We knew for years that there was a great danger, but for some reason we didn't translate that understanding into action, like we just did," he said. "We knew what Iran was doing, what Syria was doing, in arming Hizbollah. We acted as if we didn't know."
Mr Olmert denounced those demanding a full inquiry into Israel's conduct of the war. "I won't be part of this game of self-flagellation," he said.