On the 32nd day of the war, Hizbullah is still standing and fighting. That by itself is a stunning feat: a small guerilla organization, with a few thousand fighters, is standing up to one of the strongest armies in the world and has not been broken after a month of "pulverizing." Since 1948, the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan have repeatedly been beaten in wars that were much shorter.So who is responsible?
As I have already said: if a light-weight boxer is fighting a heavy-weight champion and is still standing in the 12th round, the victory is his – whatever the count of points says.
In the test of results – the only one that counts in war – the strategic and tactical command of Hizbullah is decidedly better than that of our own army. All along, our army's strategy has been primitive, brutal and unsophisticated.
The main guilt for the failure belongs with General Dan Halutz. I say "guilt" and not merely "responsibility," which comes with the job.But General Dan Halutz was not alone.
He is living proof of the fact that an inflated ego and a brutal attitude are not enough to create a competent Chief-of-Staff. The opposite may be true.
Halutz started this war with the bluster of an Air-Force officer. He believed that it was possible to crush Hizbullah by aerial bombardment, supplemented by artillery shelling from land and sea. He believed that if he destroyed the towns, neighborhoods, roads and ports of Lebanon, the Lebanese people would rise and compel their government to remove Hizbullah. For a week he killed and devastated, until it became clear to everybody that this method achieves the opposite – strengthens Hizbullah, weakens its opponents within Lebanon and throughout the Arab world and destroys the world-wide sympathy Israel enjoyed at the beginning of the war.
When he reached this point, Halutz did not know what to do next. For three weeks he sent his soldiers into Lebanon on senseless and hopeless missions, gaining nothing. Even in the battles that were fought in villages right on the border, no significant victories were achieved. After the fourth week, when he was requested to submit a plan to the government, it was unbelievably primitive.
If the "enemy" had been a regular army, it would have been a bad plan. Just pushing the enemy back is hardly a strategy at all. But when the other side is a guerilla force, this is simply foolish. It may cause the death of many soldiers, for no practical result.
This war casts a dark shadow on the whole upper echelon of our army. I assume that there are some talented officers, but the general picture is of a senior officers corps that is mediocre or worse, grey and unoriginal. Almost all the many officers that have appeared on TV are unimpressive, uninspiring professionals, experts on covering their behinds, repeating empty clichés like parrots.So what happened to the army?
The ex-generals, who have been crowding out everybody else in the TV and radio studios, have also mostly surprised us with their mediocrity, limited intelligence and general ignorance. One gets the impression that they have not read books on military history, and fill the void with empty phrases.
More than once it has been said in this column that an army that has been acting for many years as a colonial police force against the Palestinian population – "terrorists," women and children – and spending its time running after stone-throwing boys, cannot remain an efficient army. The test of results confirms this.Intelligence failures added to the defeat.
As after every failure of our military, the intelligence community is quick to cover its ass. Their chiefs declare that they knew everything, that they provided the troops with full and accurate information, that they are not to blame if the army did not act on it.Mr Avnery then gets down to his criticism of the neocon ideology as it applies to Israel but it applies equally to all of the US actions in the Middle East.
That does not sound reasonable. Judging from the reactions of the commanders in the field, they clearly were completely unaware of the defense system built by Hizbullah in South Lebanon. The complex infrastructure of hidden bunkers, stocked with modern equipment and stockpiles of food and weapons was a complete surprise for the army. It was not ready for these bunkers, including those built two or three kilometers from the border. They are reminiscent of the tunnels in Vietnam.
The intelligence community has also been corrupted by the long occupation of the Palestinian territories. They have got used to relying on the thousands of collaborators that have been recruited in the course of 39 years by torture, bribery and extortion (junkies needing drugs, someone begging to be allowed to visit his dying mother, someone desiring a chunk from the cake of corruption, etc.). Clearly, no collaborators were found among the Hizbullah, and without them intelligence is blind.
It is also clear that Intelligence, and the army in general, was not ready for the deadly efficiency of Hizbullah's anti-tank weapons. Hard to believe, but according to official figures, more than 20 tanks were hit.
The main lesson of the war, beyond all military analysis, lies in the five words we inscribed on our banner from the very first day: "There is no military solution!"As you can see the Israelis, with the encouragement from the White House and the neocon lunatics at The National Review, made all of the mistakes the US has already made in the Middle East and the world.
Even a strong army cannot defeat a guerilla organization, because the guerilla is a political phenomenon. Perhaps the opposite is true: the stronger the army, the better equipped with advanced technology, the smaller are its chances of winning such a confrontation. Our conflict – in the North, the Center and the South – is a political conflict, and can only be resolved by political means. The army is the instrument worst suited for that.
What is true in the North is also true in the South. The army will not defeat the Palestinians, because such a victory is altogether impossible. For the good of the army, it must be extricated from the quagmire.
How many disasters?
I'm going to move some excellent observations from Dan up from the comments:
I agree Israel's commanders have shown mediocrity in the recent struggle against Hezbollah by believing the application of airpower could cause not only the destruction of their enemy, but motivate the people of Lebanon to rise up against them.Thanks Dan
That idea originates in a book titled The Command of the Air, published in 1921, written by Italian general Giulio Douhet in which he asserted that bombing alone would win future wars. And bombing would cause the civil populations who were the victims to rise up against their own governments and demand peace.
It didn't work when the German Zappelins bombed London in the Great War, it didn't work in WW II, it didn't work in Korea, it didn't work when we bombed North Vietnam, and it didn't work in Iraq. Yet people like Gen. Halutz continue to swear by its effectiveness.
One trend is clear, Israel is no longer winning decisively against her enemies, and her enemies are no longer decisively losing.
New thinking, new attitudes, and new politics are called for, yet under the influence of the Bush administration, and tempting Israeli militarists with carte blanche, they may not be possible.