Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
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big hasn't happened in the current round of fighting between
Israel and its terrorist foes. That absence represents a
potentially fatal change in Israeli policy.
For all of
the air-attacks on targets in Lebanon, the Israeli Defense
Force has not sent in ground troops. If IDF tanks don't thrust
across the border in force in the next few days, it will reflect
the greatest crisis of will in Israel's history.
signaling its enemies that it's afraid to risk its soldiers'
lives. And the terrorists read the message clearly. This caution
will only encourage Israel's enemies - just when the seemingly
inevitable advent of Iranian nuclear weapons poses the greatest
threat to Israel since 1948.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books,
as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both
under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist
for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]
squandered the lives of its soldiers. It couldn't afford to.
But in past
crises a sense of necessity prevailed.
The IDF did what it had to do, and did it well for two generations.
Then came the long involvement in Lebanon, "Israel's Vietnam." It
broke something inside the IDF.
Is Israel's spirit of sacrifice dying? If so, it may prove fatal.
Once brilliant in the attack, the IDF has declined into a defensive
mindset that air-strikes can't camouflage. Meanwhile, the ruthlessness
of Israel's enemies has increased horrifically. They would sacrifice
millions of their own people to destroy Israel.
Perhaps the air campaign to date is only meant to prepare the
battlefield for a strike by ground forces. For Israel's sake,
let's hope so. Because Israel's enemies will only be unified
- and never defeated - by attacks from 15,000 feet.
Precision munitions can't turn the tide in struggles of the
soul. And the souls of men are Hezbollah's center of gravity.
appear to have learned nothing from the failure of our "Shock and Awe" air
campaign against Saddam's regime. After all the ludicrous claims
that a sound-and-light
show over Baghdad would drive Saddam to surrender, the war had
to be won the old-fashioned way, with the Army and Marines battling
their way to Baghdad.
If the U.S. Air Force, with all its resources, couldn't break
Saddam's regime, IDF jets won't defeat Hezbollah - an organization
with genuine popular support - by blowing holes in runways in
Beirut and humiliating the Lebanese people. But that's about
all that air power acting alone can do.
One of the many frustrating aspects of Hezbollah is that, while
it's increasingly a potent, disciplined military force, it doesn't
present many conventional military targets. It's maddeningly
difficult to find dispersed clusters of terrorists - and it's
impossible to corner and kill them in significant numbers without
boots on the ground.
Israel is making the
American mistake of betting on technology to defeat primal
beliefs. The result is the opposite of the one
desired: Stand-off attacks only convince religion-fueled terrorists
that we - Americans or Israelis - lack the courage to "face
them like men."
This time, it seems they're right. Israel's refusal to fight
in the spirit of Dayan and Sharon will boost the morale of Hezbollah
fighters, unify their supporters - and serve as a recruiting
tool. In the Muslim world, this round of fighting will count
as a terrorist win.
At present, Hezbollah is embarrassing Israel with its rocket
attacks, while Israel has yet to wound Hezbollah.
For all the capabilities of hi-tech weapons systems, this is
a new age of Cain-and-Abel warfare, of vicious close-in fighting
in villages, apartment blocks and olive groves. No reconnaissance
system can locate enemy warriors hiding in an urban labyrinth
or a shaded village courtyard. The grunts have to do it. As in
the age of Joshua, David and Solomon.
No one wants to pay a price in blood. But postponing the payment
of an unavoidable blood-price in war only raises the ultimate
cost (another lesson of Iraq). Without defeating Hezbollah on
the ground - no matter what it takes - Israel can't win.
Israel faces enormous
challenges and metastasizing threats. Like cancer, those threats
will only grow worse if not treated
aggressively. By trying to establish "psychological leverage" over
the Lebanese government and population with attacks on the country's
civilian infrastructure, Israel played into the hands of its
enemies and came off as a bully in the eyes of the world. Attempts
to wage "war-lite" have a heavy price.
Israel is in a fight for its life, but looks irresolute for
the first time in its history. It appears shockingly weak where
it counts most, in strength of will. And will is one thing Israel's
fanatical enemies do not lack.
If, in the coming days, we do not hear the roar of IDF tanks
pursuing Israel's enemies, we may one day hear a new lament for
the children of Zion. CRO
latest book is New
Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy. His next
book, Never Quit the Fight, is due
out July 10.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post