Finally, a war like Vietnam.
If the cease fire in Lebanon actually goes into effect, Israel will have lost
despite having won every battle, because political dithering prevented decisive
victory. Hezbollah will have won through a propaganda campaign what it could not
obtain on the battlefield.
Hezbollah won by surviving. Israel's reputation for military invincibility is
shattered. The vultures are circling:
"Today Arab and Muslim society is reasonably certain that the defeat of Israel is
possible and that the countdown to the disappearance of the Zionist entity in the
region has begun," Ahmed Barakat, a member of Hezbollah's central council, told a
Hezbollah's victory is more apparent than real. The terror group has suffered major
damage. Iran reportedly is unhappy that Hezbollah expended so many of the rockets
it provided to so little effect.
But apparent victories have a way of becoming real. The Tet Offensive was a
crushing military defeat for the Viet Cong. But our news media reported it as a
communist victory, and in the end that's what it became.
As in Vietnam, the overwhelming failure was in political leadership. Most wars are
fought for limited objectives. But half measures in war always lead to tragedy.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, like Lyndon Johnson before him, didn't know the
The IDF had a plan which would have inflicted upon Hezbollah a defeat so complete
and so sudden no amount of propagandizing could spin it as a victory, but Mr. Olmert
nixed it, wrote Jonathan Ariel in Israeli Insider:
"This plan was supposed to have begun with a surprise air onslaught against
Hezbollah high command in Beirut, before they would have had time to relocate to
their underground bunkers. This was to have been followed immediately by large scale
airborne and seaborne landing operations, in order to get several divisions on the
Litani river line, enabling them to outflank Hezbollah's 'Maginot Line' in southern
Lebanon. This would have surprised Hezbollah, which would have had to come out of
its fortifications and confront the IDF in the open."
Mr. Olmert denied initial air strikes on Beirut (which permitted Hezbollah leader
Hassan Nasrallah and his high command to escape); forbade the landings behind enemy
lines, and sharply limited the initial call up of reserves.
"Instead of outflanking a heavily fortified area with overwhelming forces, (the
IDF) had to attack from the direction most expected, with insufficient forces," Mr.
Ariel wrote. "The result, high casualties and modest achievement."
Some in America and Israel place part of the blame for Israel's defeat on the Bush
administration, which cosponsored the UN Security Council resolution which (may
have) halted the war.
The language of the resolution is more pro-Israel than anything the UN has adopted
in many a decade, but few expect Hezbollah to abide by its terms, or expect the
Lebanese army or the "robust" international force it authorizes to enforce them.
The UN resolution acknowledges a reality created by Mr. Olmert's fecklessness and
indecision. Israel frittered away three precious weeks, and with Mr. Olmert as
prime minister, there was little likelihood more time would produce decisive
Continuation of the war in this desultory fashion could have worse consequences
than its unsatisfactory termination.
At the outset, Israel got an unprecedented (though necessarily quiet) go ahead from
the leaders of Sunni Arab states Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who fear Iran more
than they hate the Jews. But their peoples still hate the Jews more than they fear
Iran. As the war dragged on, support for Hezbollah skyrocketed. If these rulers
didn't shift to strong public opposition to Israel, their own rule could be in
Each day the war continued increased the risk support among Iraq's Shias would drift
from the fragile government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to the Moqtada al
Sadr, whose Mahdi army is as much a creature of Iran as is Hezbollah.
Mr. Bush gave Israel more support than his predecessors ever did. But if Mr. Olmert
is unwilling to wage war effectively, it's understandable why our president chose to
cut his losses.
What could save Israel is overreach by Hezbollah and Iran. One of Mr. Bush's gifts
to Israel is language in the resolution requiring Israel to halt offensive
operations, but demanding Hezbollah cease "all attacks." This means that if
Hezbollah attacks and Israel responds, Hezbollah is in breach, but Israel is not.
Hezbollah has made it clear it will not comply with the requirement that it disarm.
This war has been suspended, not ended. Round two will be bloodier.