If the print reports and television coverage from the war zone in Lebanon are any indication the Hezbollah terrorists and their backers, Russia, China, Iran, Syria and the Lebanese government, have won a stunning victory over Israel, meaning over Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his cabinet, not the Israeli Defense Forces.
According to virtually all the news reports, the Israelis, using an army of 30,000 infantrymen and commandos, plus artillery, tanks and total air superiority, lost about 150 soldiers and civilians, mostly soldiers, in a staggering and unsuccessful effort to unseat and silence something substantially less than 20,000 terrorists and their supporters.
Believers in the propaganda delivered by the World Terrorist Media are adamant that only a dozen or so Hezbollah terrorists were killed in the past month, but that hundreds of innocent civilians who stayed behind in the war zone out of a stubborn sense of resistance to the Israelis were slaughtered for their recalcitrance.
The terrorists were outfitted with small arms, anti-tank weapons, Russian-made Katyusha rockets, an army of television cameras, and a ready supply of extras to pose next to bombed buildings described as homes of peace-loving victims of Israeli aggression. They also had access to warehouses full of unscathed children's toys, clothing and textbooks in pristine condition to be used as props in reels of photos of the destruction. The terrorists were backed by budding actors who relished the opportunity to parade children's bodies in various positions and conditions before the army of cameras.
Monday morning's news reports showed what were described as thousands of Lebanese streaming back to the southern part of Lebanon, even though fighters from both sides were still in place, some still shooting, which makes one wonder, just where did these civilians come from and how did they get out of the area in the first place if they were never allowed to leave as previous reports had claimed?
For the Israelis to successfully offset the overwhelming anti-Semitic reporting from the WTM, which means virtually any news organization that was on the scene, they would have to root out the Hezbollah terrorists, kill the majority of them, capture and disarm the rest. They also would have to enter, explore and ultimately destroy the vast tunnel and bunker network built by Hezbollah in the six years since Israel pulled out of southern Lebanon at the insistence of the Clinton Administration.
It appears that this has not been done, although we haven't seen any real time news reports from inside the war zone, much to the credit of the Israelis. I say this because it has been made clear repeatedly that the WTM generally has few if any reporters who actually understand military tactics, referring to the normal repositioning of tanks and troops as retreats for instance. The Israeli Defense Force was right to keep reporters away from the actual fighting, but their job is far from finished.
Although a cease fire is in effect, Israel has thousands of troops in the northern sector of the zone, all of whom will have to exit Lebanon through the Hezbollah territory. Herein exists a tremendous opportunity to conduct a fighting withdrawal and clear the area of terrorists as well as their remaining infrastructure in the process.
There are two pieces of world history the IDF should consider as they undertake this effort - Iwo Jima, and Pelilu. The first is the site of a well known battle between US Marines and Japanese forces in WWII; the second is the site of a not very well known battle between US Marines and Japanese forces in WWII. Iwo Jima was the site of the world famous raising of the Stars and Stripes over Mt. Suribachi. There are no such memorials for the battle at Pelilu.
In both battles the Japanese were well entrenched in volcanic caves and steel reinforced concrete bunker complexes connected by tunnel networks that allowed the Japanese to reappear behind the Marines as they advanced over areas previously considered cleared of enemy. In Pelilu the Marine straight-on tactics were disastrous, resulting in the near annihilation of the entire First Marine Regiment before the battle was over and the Japanese were vanquished.
In Iwo Jima, however, the Marines attacked with a 3 to 1 numerical superiority on the ground, and, despite horrendous casualties, altered their tactics to match the Japanese'. It took a month to clear Iwo, with 7,000 Marine casualties compared to more than 20,000 Japanese deaths, nearly the entire garrison since they refused to surrender.
If the IDF takes advantage of the current quiet to rest, resupply, isolate Hezbollah, and prepare to push south, they can pull out a major victory from what at the moment appears to be defeat, at least in the public relations arena. But they would do well to remember Iwo Jima, where napalm and flame throwers were the weapons of choice to root out the Japanese. Napalm is a devastating weapon to use against bunker and tunnel complexes, not only burning all it touches but eliminating all oxygen as well and replacing it with deadly carbon monoxide. If one doesn't get you, the other will.
Much has been said in the WTM over the past two weeks about the Israeli Army and its failure to achieve a complete military victory over Hezbollah. Two things should be considered before the Israelis are written off, however.
First, the civilian government, lacking in truly experienced military leaders at the top echelons, and here I mean those who have actually fought in the trenches, as enlisted men or lower ranking ground officers, bought into the false claim that air power alone can destroy a ground army.
One has only to revisit Pelilu and Iwo Jima and review the enormous pounding both places took from air power combined with naval gunfire and heavy artillery to see the fallacy in this belief. Air power has never been a successful replacement for ground troops, it is always best when used as part of the overall strategy, not as a strategy in itself.
Second, after finally realizing that air power wasn't going to do it Olmert's government then responded in fits and starts, instead of putting a 100 percent ground push straight into Lebanon. Classic land warfare tactics would call for a major landing at the Lahani River, with a major force set to drive south and a smaller force in reserve to face east toward Syria and north toward the remainder of Lebanon to ward off potential counterattacks.
The southern driving force would move the terrorists toward an IDF blocking force waiting to trap them. US Marines call this the Hammer and Anvil. It worked wonders against the North Vietnamese and it would work against Hezbollah also.
One final consideration. The IDF has been taking more than its share of disdain and condemnation from the WTF, which as mentioned before, has very few reporters who understand anything about warfare. The IDF is often referred to as the best military force in the Middle East, and there is no reason to doubt that belief.
But the IDF has not fought a major battle since 1973. This means that the IDF is long on history and short on actual experience. Even its occupation of southern Lebanon is not adequate training for all out warfare.
The number of Israeli casualties in this war is actually quite low considering the intensity of the fighting and the advanced tactics used by Hezbollah. But you can rest assured that now a large majority of the 30,000 ground troops who entered Lebanon are experienced. It doesn't take long to learn the ropes in a combat zone; it is on-the-job training to an exponential degree.
Whatever awaits the Israelis in the coming weeks and months, we can be assured that lessons have been learned from this war. Most pundits doubt the Olmert government will last very long, but the IDF now has a far more experienced force, and in all likelihood will not be so hesitant nor willing to rest on its laurels in the next engagement.
Monday, August 14, 2006