Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
Register here for access to the Post's Online Edition.
No one knows
exactly how or when the war in Lebanon will end. U.N. resolutions
could interrupt hostilities - or the guns still may be blazing
a month from now.
outcome's already apparent, though: No clear winner, a practical
stalemate - and both sides declaring victory.
A day spent
listening to Israeli generals, active and retired, was just
plain discouraging. Most were in denial, convinced that they're
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]
They're right - if you only count war's physical effects. The
Israeli Defense Forces have wounded Hezbollah deeply. But not
one of those generals grasped the importance of the media war
- which Hezbollah has mastered.
30,000 more reservists called up and IDF forces pushing toward
River, the Israelis aren't turning tactical
wins into strategic effects. In the combat zone, they've "taken
the sea, but not the islands." Controlling much of the countryside,
they've hesitated over rooting Hezbollah fighters out of their
town and village strongholds. Fear casualties, lose wars.
In the air,
the IDF has flown over 10,000 sorties, dropping more than 13,000
and launching over 2,000 air-to-ground
missiles. Yet the terrorists keep firing "junk" rockets
- they're shadow targets airpower can't hunt.
a brave military's strategic blindness, a retired major general
dismissively that "a missile strike
on Tel Aviv wouldn't matter, because it wouldn't do any serious
That's nuts. If one Hezbollah missile reached Tel Aviv and knocked
over a trash can, it would be perceived as an electrifying triumph
by the Muslim masses in the Middle East.
isn't that the Israeli generals are "fighting
the last war." The problem is that they haven't been fighting
seriously - as if Israel's future depends on it. The stakes are
huge, and they've been fighting small. Now they'll have to hit
very hard to make up for lost time.
A lone general
put the situation bluntly: "Hezbollah prepared
for exactly the war we're fighting."
Now let's look at who's winning from the Hezbollah's perspective
- something senior IDF intelligence officers seem unable to do.
Here's the terrorists' take on what they've achieved:
* They've won a huge propaganda victory among the Muslim masses
by standing up to Israel - and surviving (Sunni Arab leaders
are terrified, but Mo' down on the block is thrilled by Hezbollah's
* They've endured a monthlong Israeli offensive - and they still
hold most of their fortress towns near the border.
* Despite the IDF's technological advantages, the terrorists
are still raining their crude rockets down on Israeli territory.
* They've forced the evacuation of northern Israel's civilian
population and driven still more Israelis into bomb shelters
- for Arabs, it's grimly satisfying to turn Israelis into refugees.
* The Israeli army's tactical caution during the first four
weeks of war convinced Hezbollah that the IDF fears its fighters.
* Hezbollah even managed to hit an IDF vessel at sea - another
For the bad guys, all that adds up to a win.
The practical outcome of this conflict remains obscure. There
are plenty of moving parts. And, ultimately, the Lebanese will
make the decisions that determine the long-range results.
Weakened militarily, Hezbollah could nonetheless be perceived
as the moral victor in the region - attracting support and encouraging
Syria and Iran to cause more trouble. Or, if its charismatic
leader, Hassan Nasrallah, were killed, the movement could deteriorate.
Israel's security could be strengthened - or the decades-long
bloody muddle could drag on.
But let's stand way back: Picture a minority people in the Middle
East. They're outnumbered and outgunned, but willing to fight
to the death for their dream. Once, that was Israel.
Now, in the Muslim narrative, it describes Hezbollah.
Facts hardly matter in the Middle East (for Arabs, especially,
facts are too terrible to contemplate). Beliefs trump all else.
And tens of millions of Arabs and Persians already believe that
Hezbollah's the victor.
Israel has got to learn to see the world through the eyes of
its enemies. CRO
latest book is Never
Quit The Fight.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post