Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
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government overruled its generals and refused to expand the
ground war in southern Lebanon. Given the difficulties encountered
and the casualties suffered, the decision is understandable.
In the War
on Terror - combating Hezbollah's definitely part of it - you
have to finish what you start. You can't permit the perception
that the terrorists won. But that's where the current round
of fighting is headed.
Israelis, the town of Bint Jbeil is an embarrassment, an objective
that proved unexpectedly hard to take. But the town's a tactical
issue to the Israeli Defense Force, not a strategic one.
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]
For Hezbollah, it's Stalingrad, where the Red Army stopped
the Germans. And that's how terrorist propagandists will mythologize
Considering only the military facts, the IDF's view is correct.
But the Middle East has little use for facts. Perception is what
counts. To the Arab masses, Hezbollah's resistance appears heroic,
triumphant - and inspiring. We don't have to like it, but it's
So why is defeating Hezbollah such a challenge? Israel smashed
one Arab military coalition after another, from 1948 through
1973. Arabs didn't seem to make good soldiers.
Now we see Arabs fighting tenaciously and effectively. What
The answer's straightforward:
Different cultures fight for different things. Arabs might
jump up and down, wailing, "We
will die for you Saddam!" But, in the clinch, they don't - they
surrender. Conventional Arab armies fight badly because their
conscripts and even the officers feel little loyalty to the states
they serve - and even less to self-anointed national leaders.
But Arabs will fight to the bitter end for their religion,
their families and the land their clan possesses. In southern
Lebanon, Hezbollah exploits all three motivations. The Hezbollah
guerrilla waiting to ambush an Israeli patrol believes he's fighting
for his faith, his family and the earth beneath his feet. He'll
kill anyone and give his own life to win.
We all need to stop
making cartoon figures of such enemies. Hezbollah doesn't have
tanks or jets, but it poses the toughest
military problem Israel's ever faced. And Hezbollah may be the
new model for Middle Eastern "armies."
The IDF's errors played into Hezbollah's hands. Initially relying
on air power, the IDF ignored the basic military principles of
surprise, mass and concentration of effort. Instead of aiming
a shocking, concentrated blow at Hezbollah, the IDF dissipated
its power by striking targets scattered throughout Lebanon -
while failing to strike any of them decisively.
Even now, in the struggle for a handful of border villages,
the IDF continues to commit its forces piecemeal - a lieutenant's
mistake. Adding troops in increments allows the enemy to adjust
to the increasing pressure - instead of being crushed by one
This is also an expensive fight for Israel in another way:
financially. The precision weapons on which the IDF has relied
so heavily - and to so little effect - cost anywhere from hundreds
of thousands of dollars to seven figures per round. Israel has
expended thousands of such weapons in an effort to spare its
Theoretically, that's smart. But we don't live in a theoretical
world. Such weapons are so expensive that arsenals are small.
The United States already has had to replenish Israel's limited
stockpiles - and our own supplies would not support a
long war. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, a relatively easy win,
we were running low on some specialized munitions within three
Precision weapons also rely on precision intelligence. It doesn't
matter how accurate the bomb is if you can't find the
target. And Israel's targeting has been poor. It even appears
that Hezbollah managed to feed the IDF phony intelligence, triggering
attacks on civilian targets and giving the terrorists a series
of media wins.
The precision-weapons cost/benefit trade-offs aren't impressive,
either. Killing a terrorist leader with a million-dollar bomb
is a sound investment, but using hundreds of them to attack cheap,
antiquated rocket launchers gets expensive fast.
Just as the U.S. military learned painful lessons about technology's
limits in Iraq, the IDF is getting an education now: There's
still no replacement for the infantryman; wars can't be won nor
terrorists defeated from the air; and war is ultimately a contest
Those of us who support Israel and wish its people well have
to be alarmed. Jerusalem's talking tough - while backing off
in the face of Hezbollah's resistance. Israel's on-stage in a
starring role right now, and it's too late to call for a re-write.
As a minimum, the IDF has to pull off a hat trick (killing
Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, would be nice) in order
to prevent the perception of a Hezbollah victory - a perception
that would strengthen the forces of terror immeasurably.
If this conflict ends with rockets still falling on Haifa,
Israel's enemies will celebrate Hezbollah as the star of the
Terrorist Broadway (Ayman al-Zawahiri's recent rap videos were
an attempt to edge into Hezbollah's limelight). Israel - and
the civilized world - can't afford that.
Yes, Israel's casualties are painful and, to the IDF, unexpected.
But Hezbollah isn't counting its casualties - it's concentrating
on fighting. In warfare, that's the only approach that works.
Israel and its armed forces are rightfully proud of all they
have achieved in the last six decades. But they shouldn't be
too proud to learn from their enemies: In warfare, strength of
will is the greatest virtue. CRO
latest book is Never
Quit The Fight.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post