Friday, September 01, 2006

Hezbollah Learning the Wrong Lessons

So much has been written in the blogosphere about the most recent clash in Lebanon that whatever I say almost certainly has been said before and probably much better. In any case, being a blogger, I can't help but write one more post about it.

Hezbollah and their allies have learned entirely the wrong lesson from the war.

In a strategic sense, Hezbollah has lost big time. This war was just about the worst thing that could have happened to them. The Wall Street Journal has an article today by Peter Waldman listing some of the disasters that befell Israeli reservists during the war. (Warning: the article is probably subscriber-only.) Here are some of the key parts for me.

Eyewitness accounts by Israel's citizen-soldiers of critical supply shortages, leadership failures and disarray on the battlefield help explain how an estimated 1,500 guerrillas could face down the most powerful military in the Middle East, and survive.

"Some people in Israel didn't grasp to what extent Hezbollah had become a real military -- a full-time, fully trained, fully equipped fighting force," (Brig. Gen. Mike Herzog) says.
The Israeli army was ill-prepared for combat while Hezbollah was at the height of their power. Clearly, Israel needed a wake-up call. They got one, not in the form of massive destruction, but in the form of a bloody nose.

Israel lost 117 soldiers during the war. If you're going to attack your enemy when you are at your strongest and they are at their weakest, you've got to do better than that. The key result of the conflict is not that Israel left Hezbollah alive to fight another day, it's that Hezbollah left Israel alive.

While Hezbollah rearms with modest improvements, if any, Israel will now go through dramatic soul-searching and significant changes. While Hezbollah goes through it's replenishment cycle, the IDF will re-examine equipment, tactics and doctrine and emerge with a force and strategy tailor-made to combat Hezbollah.

If you read the US Navy's Sea Power 21 strategy document and compare it to it's predecessors from, say, the 1980's (a My Eyes Glazed Over task if ever there was one), you'll see how a sophisticated military evolves to match its threats. The US military has changed from matching Soviet tanks in the Fulda Gap to the force described in Kaplan's Imperial Grunts. It's a parallel to what will happen with the IDF. Hezbollah can expect no such evolution, only a marginal improvement.

If you sucker punch Jackie Chan and he doesn't go down, that's not the time to start your end zone dance. That's the time you start working out a peace agreement and commit yourself to never do that again.

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