Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Guerrillas in The Midst

Israel's goals when they launched their massive bombardment campaign and later their limited ground campaign in southern Lebanon was to force Hizbollah away from the border to reduce the immediate threat of their Katyusha rocket attacks and also more generally to try to destroy their military capability and ability to re-arm via Syria. On all these counts the campaign is a qualified failure. The rockets continue to rain down with seemingly increased abundance and in direct ground fighting with Hizbollah, Israel has had some success but has lost many soldiers.

"What we face is an infantry division with state-of-the-art weaponry -- night-vision gear, advanced rifles, well-equipped -- deployed along our border," said Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, who until last month was director of analysis for Israeli military intelligence. "They have some of the most advanced antitank missiles in the world." (Washington Post, 8/8/06)
This doesn't exactly sound like a terrorist group, it sounds like a well armed and formidable guerrilla army. But why is anyone surprised? Israel felt the increasingly lethal sting of Hizbollah the last time they were in Lebanon as an occupying force for 18 years up until 6 years ago. Why did they think it would go any better this time?

Over the last week, there has been a slow subtle turn in the diplomatic stances of Israel and the United States regarding the Lebanese conflict. Olmert seems to be murmuring a little louder about reaching a cease fire agreement and pushing for a UN occupying force on the Lebanese border and the border with Syria to prevent the flow of arms. It's obvious that Israel realizes that the war has gone from bad to worse and that public opinion in Israel is quickly ebbing as the rockets continue coming despite the ferocious military campaign to stop them. They're calculating the end game.

So if the result of this foolish conflict on the part of Israel and Hizbollah is simply that Hizbollah is moved back and that there is a UN peacekeeping force, what was the whole point? These results could've been accomplished through diplomacy and the UN after the capture of Israel's soldiers or even before. A thousand dead Lebanese and dozens of dead Israelis, all civilians; never have so many been killed so needlessly for so little.

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