Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Friend of Israel Criticizes the Air War

Here are some thoughts on Israel's war against Lebanon from a staunch supporter of Israel.

ISRAEL is losing this war. For a lifelong Israel supporter, that's a painful thing to write. But it's true. And the situation's worsening each day.

A U.S. government official put it to me this way: "Israel's got the clock, but Hezbollah's got the time." The sands of the hourglass favor the terrorists - every day they hold out and drop more rockets on Israel, Hezbollah scores a propaganda win.

All Hezbollah has to do to achieve victory is not to lose completely. But for Israel to emerge the acknowledged winner, it has to shatter Hezbollah. Yet Israeli miscalculations have left Hezbollah alive and kicking.

Israel has to pull itself together now, to send in ground troops in sufficient numbers, with fierce resolve to do what must be done: Root out Hezbollah fighters and kill them. This means Israel will suffer painful casualties - more today than if the Israeli Defense Force had gone in full blast at this fight's beginning.
Israel tried to make war halfway, and only made a mess. Let's review where the situation stands:

* By trying to spare Israeli lives through the use of airpower and long-range artillery fire instead of ground troops, the IDF played into Hezbollah's hands. The terrorists could claim that Israel feared them. Meanwhile, Israeli targeting proved shockingly sloppy, failing to ravage Hezbollah, while hitting civilians - to the international media's delight.

* The IDF is readying a reinforced brigade of armor and 3,000 to 5,000 troops for a "limited incursion" into southern Lebanon. Won't work. Not enough troops. And Hezbollah's had time to get locked and loaded. This is going to be messy -- any half-hearted Israeli effort will fall short.

* Famed for its penetration, Israeli intelligence failed this time. It didn't detect the new weapons Iran and Syria had provided to Hezbollah, from anti-ship missiles to longer-range rockets. And, after years of spying, it couldn't find Hezbollah.

This should set off global alarm bells: If Hezbollah can hide rockets, Iran can hide nukes.

* The media sided heavily with Hezbollah (surprise, surprise). Rocket attacks on Israel were reported clinically, but IDF strikes on Lebanon have been milked for every last drop of emotion. We hear about broken glass in Haifa -- and bleeding babies in Beirut.

* Washington rejoiced when several Arab governments criticized Hezbollah for its actions. But the Arab street, Shia and Sunni, has coalesced behind Hezbollah. Saudi and Egyptian government statements are worth about as much as a greeting card from Marie Antoinette on New Year's Day, 1789.

* Syria and Iran are getting a free ride. Hezbollah fights and dies, Damascus and Tehran collect the dividends.

* Israel looks irresolute and incapable -- encouraging its enemies.

I do not share Ralph Peters' belief that a ground war would solve Israel's problems or bring it security and peace. It certainly didn't work that way when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. In fact, Hezbollah was one unwelcome consequence of that war. But staunch Israel supporters should recognize more than anyone how counterproductive the current air war is to Israel's best interests. It's good that Ralph Peters is one of those who do.

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