Saturday, July 29, 2006

Who Knows?

There are so many unknowns in the short period of the current Hizbollah crisis that it is difficult to do more than make educated guesses about what Israel is trying to do and what they are accomplishing or failing to accomplish.

Hizbollah is being hurt, I have no doubt. My main question is whether Israel can hurt them badly enough in this round of fighting to do Israel any good. Strategypage writes:

Israel has destroyed most of Hizbollah's economic assets, and is now going after the military ones. There are thousands of bunkers, fortified buildings and tunnel complexes in southern Lebanon that Hizbollah can use to fight from. Israeli troops may have to battle through all of them to cripple Hizbollahs military strength. Israel has done this successfully against the Palestinians for years. This will not be reported very accurately in the media because that would be boring. Israeli tactics are methodical and, well, not very dramatic. The mass media needs excitement, and when they can't find it, they invent it. Think back to the many battles Israel has had with the Palestinians, or the reporting on the American three week march on Baghdad in 2003, and remember what the pundits were saying, compared to what was actually happening. The mass media depends on most people not retaining any memories like that, and being willing to accept breathless, and inaccurate, reports of the current wars.

I've admitted that while I think Israel is too unfocused, my inability to tell what is going on in any detail may mean that I can't see what Israel is focusing on. Strategypage notes this difficulty:

Getting accurate news about the fighting in southern Lebanon is complicated by the fact that Hizbollah, the Lebanese and most of the media are more concerned about producing propaganda and excitement, than in reporting facts.

At best, the press is poor at reporting on the significance of military actions. And since Israel is not known for providing lots of information given their desire to keep the enemy in the dark, the press is worse than usual in this crisis, I'm sure.

Given Israel's military track record, I don't believe they are getting beaten in battle no matter what the media says about unexpectedly fierce Hizbollah resistance. Far more Hizbollah terrorists are dying than Israeli soldiers, I am quite sure. Israel may be fighting on a very narrow front by committing only small ground forces into a narrow area of south Lebanon, but even granting the enemy that huge advantage, I am sure that the Israelis are giving better than they are getting.

I just don't know if Israel's campaign will produce results before they have to call it off because of precision ammo shortages, financial cost, the need to put reservists back into the civilian economy, troop casualties, or pressure from the international community because of unintended Lebanesse casualties (real or imagined). You can call it methodical. Or you can call it too slow. I don't know which it is. I suspect the latter.

Nor do I know if Hizbollah is agreeing to a ceasefire out of desperation to avoid Israeli military attacks or because of pressure from the rest of the Lebanese government. I don't even know if Hizbollah people in Beirut even knows what is happening to their forces in south Lebanon with any accuracy. So I suspect that they are giving in to pressure from other Lebanese. It is possible that they'd be desperate to end the fighting if they actually knew what was going on not far to the south. I don't believe they really know what is going on.

I just don't know at this point. And it is frustrating. But I suspect that Israeli tactical successes have been nullified by Israeli strategic mistakes. I think this round will end without a clear Israeli success and that Israel will be forced to prepare for the next round. With the benefit of this experience, I do think the next round will bring a clear Israeli victory over Hizbollah.