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Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New York Post. Register here for access to the Post's Online Edition.



PETERS Hezbollah 3, Israel 0 
by Ralph Peters [author, novelist] 8/18/06

Israel's rep for toughness in tatters. Hezbollah triumphant. Iran cockier than ever. Syria untouched. Lebanon's government crippled. An orgy of anti-Semitism in the global media. Anti-Americanism exploding among Iraqi Shi'as inspired by Hezbollah.

Thanks, Prime Minister Olmert. Great job, guy.

The debacle in Lebanon wasn't even a war. It was only round one of a war. And Israel's back in its corner, dazed and punch-drunk.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Ralph 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]

Israel got in a gut jab, but Hezbollah landed three ferocious haymakers:

* Despite the physical damage the Israeli Defense Forces inflicted, Hezbollah's terror-troops were still standing (and firing rockets) when the bell rang.

* At the strategic level, Hezbollah's masterful manipulation of the seduce-me-please media convinced the region's Shi'a and Sunni spectators alike that Hassan Nasrallah is the new Great Arab Hope. He's got a powerful Persian cheering section, too.

* While Israel couldn't plan or execute a winning campaign, it also failed to think beyond the inevitable cease-fire. But Hezbollah did. The terrorists had mapped out precisely what they had to do the moment the shooting stopped: Hand out Iranian money, promise they'll rebuild what Israel destroyed - and simply refuse to honor the terms of the U.N. resolution.

Israel couldn't wait to throw in the towel and start pulling out troops. Then Hezbollah's fighters emerged from the rubble of towns Israeli leaders lacked the courage to conquer - and the number of terror-soldiers who survived shocked the Israelis.

Politicians and generals everywhere, repeat after me: "Air power alone can't win wars; you can't defeat terror on the cheap with technology; and (in the timeless words of Nathan Bedford Forrest) War means fighting, and fighting means killing."

The U.N. resolution called for Hezbollah to disarm - a fantasy only a diplomat could believe. As soon as the refugees began flowing southward and packing the battlefield, Nasrallah told the international community to take a hike. He knows that U.N. peacekeepers won't try to disarm his forces - if they ever show up - and the Lebanese military not only won't try, but couldn't do it.

The world's response? The French (who talked so boldly) took a cold swig of Vichy water: Now they say they won't send in their peacekeepers until Hezbollah is completely disarmed - which isn't going to happen. And Lebanese leaders stated openly that not only wouldn't the Lebanese army attempt to take away the terrorists' weapons, it wouldn't even confiscate caches it stumbled on.

Sucker-punched (well, don't fight with your eyes closed), Israel's complaining to the ref. While staring around in bewilderment.

Want more good news? After finally calling our enemies by the accurate name of "Islamo-fascists," President Bush backtracked so fast the White House lawn was smoking. Then he declared that Israel had won.

That's about as credible as insisting the Titanic docked safe and sound.

And that ain't all, folks. If you're an Israel supporter - as I proudly admit to being - get ready for some tough love: Not only did Israel's abysmally incompetent government start a war impulsively and prosecute it half-heartedly, the country's military leadership failed, too. Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, who was going to destroy Hezbollah from the skies, reportedly put his main effort on the eve of war into selling off his stock holdings before his bombs could weigh down the market. Now that's insider trading!

But that was just one jerk-general dishonoring his uniform. The serious news is that the IDF's reserve forces were a shambles when they mobilized. Information from an inside source reveals that, when the reserves' warehouses and depots were opened, key stocks were missing - stolen.

What was gone? Fuel, weapons, ammunition, food, spare parts - all that a modern military needs to go to war. And I doubt it ended up in Iceland.

The IDF has great combat leaders and brave soldiers. But Hezbollah's boys proved tougher - and we can't pretty it up. The terrorists were willing - even eager - to die for their cause. Israeli leaders dreaded friendly casualties. And IDF troops - except in elite units - lacked the will to close with the enemy and defeat him at close quarters.

Israel tried to fight humanely. Hezbollah was out to win at any cost. The result was inevitable.

On the ground in southern Lebanon, the IDF was able to muster a ten-to-one advantage around contested villages. But its leaders lacked the guts to do what needed to be done. And Hezbollah's frontline fighters survived.

You can't win if you won't fight.

The IDF needs pervasive reform. Still structured to defeat the conventional militaries of Syria and Egypt, it faced an enemy tailored specifically to take on the IDF. Historical reputation isn't enough - the IDF must rebuild itself to take on post-modern threats. As one senior American general put it, "The IDF's been living on fumes since 1967."

Hezbollah cleared the air.

All this is heartbreaking. I wish it were otherwise. I wish I could back up our president's surreal claim that Israel won. I wish Israel had won. I wish it had the leadership the Israeli people deserve.

And that's what's tragic: Israel's politicians turned out to be even more profoundly out of touch with their people than the pols in Washington. Israelis were willing to fight. They wanted to win. The rank and file of the IDF would have done what needed to be done. And their leaders failed them.

There will be consequences. Iran's convinced it's on a winning course. Syria got away with murder (literally). And Hezbollah will come back more determined than ever.

Oh, I almost forgot those two IDF soldiers whose kidnapping triggered all this. But I can be forgiven, since Israel's leaders forgot about them long before I did: The U.N. resolution Olmert welcomed makes no binding and immediate demand for their return.

And the world is going to let Iran build nuclear weapons.

Get ready for Round Two. CRO

Ralph Peters' latest book is Never Quit The Fight.

This piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post

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