The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Thursday, August 31, 2006

              The Face of Battle
Powerline today links to a riveting video of what combat in Lebanon for the IDF was really like. Israeli journalist Itai Anghel went into Lebanon with one regiment of the Nahal Brigade and recorded the brutal fighting that the IDF had to face against Hizbullah terrorists. The video is about 25 minutes long, but well worth watching. To watch, paste this link into your browser.
|| Nudnik 1:08 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Amnesty International's Redefinitions
Last week Alan Dershowitz took on Human Rights Watch and its looking the other way at Hizbullah's use of human shields. This week he attacks Amnesty International's redefinition of "war crimes" and its accusations against Israel.
For Amnesty, "Israeli war crimes" are synonymous with "any military action whatsoever."

The real problem with Amnesty's paper is that its blanket condemnations do not consider the consequences of its arguments. (It doesn't have to; it would never advance these arguments against any country but Israel.)

Amnesty International's conclusions are not based on sound legal arguments. They're certainly not based on compelling moral arguments. They're simply anti-Israel arguments. Amnesty reached a predetermined conclusion - that Israel committed war crimes - and it is marshalling whatever sound-bites it could to support that conclusion.
|| Nudnik 12:57 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

              The Media and Israel
Throughout the Oslo War (aka Second Intifada) the mainstream media, especially in Europe, was overwhelmingly biased towards the Palestinians. To say that they were biased against Israel in Israel's war against Hizbullah would be an understatement. In this excellent essay, Melanie Phillips details a few of the media's distortions and outright lies and comes up with this conclusion:
But the big answer is that the western media transmit the lies of Hezbollah because they want to believe them. And that'’s because the Big Lie these media tell -— and have themselves been told -— about Israel and its place in history and in the world today has achieved the status of unchallengeable truth. The plain fact is that western journalists were sent to cover the war being waged against Israel from Lebanon as a war being waged by Israel against Lebanon. And that'’s because that'’s how editors think of the Middle East: that the whole ghastly mess is driven by Israel'’s actions, and that therefore it is only Israel's aggression which is the story to be covered. Thus history is inverted, half a century of Jewish victimisation is erased from public consciousness, victims are turned into aggressors and genocidal mass murderers turned into victims, and ignorance and prejudice stalk England’s once staunch and stalwart land.

That's why the fact that hundreds of thousands of refugees from the north of Israel fled to the shelter of strangers in the south; that within one third of Israel, those too poor or old or handicapped or disadvantaged to seek refuge elsewhere were forced to live in shelters for a month in great hardship; that the entire economy of northern Israel was effectively shut down for a month; that thousands of rockets were fired at northern Israel, hundreds every day, many times more than were daily fired at Britain during the Blitz - that'’s why none of this was reported in Britain (where as a result such facts, when now related, are received with open-mouthed astonishment) because journalists were told to ignore it all since that wasn't the story their editors wanted. Israel'’s victimisation simply was not, could not, be the story. The only story was Israel's aggression. But that story is a Big Lie. So a host of lies were transmitted to support it.
|| Nudnik 11:31 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              UNIFIL Past and Future
Throughout its existence, UNIFIL has been a disaster for Israel and not much help to the Lebanese. The only group that it has been good for is Hizbullah. In fact, they have been so good for Hizbullah that during this past war UNIFIL gave them critical intelligence.
UNIFIL--the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a nearly 2,000-man blue-helmet contingent that has been present on the Lebanon-Israel border since 1978--is officially neutral. Yet, throughout the recent war, it posted on its website for all to see precise information about the movements of Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and the nature of their weaponry and materiel, even specifying the placement of IDF safety structures within hours of their construction. New information was sometimes only 30 minutes old when it was posted, and never more than 24 hours old.

Meanwhile, UNIFIL posted not a single item of specific intelligence regarding Hezbollah forces. Statements on the order of Hezbollah "fired rockets in large numbers from various locations" and Hezbollah's rockets "were fired in significantly larger numbers from various locations" are as precise as its coverage of the other side ever got.
Given this past, the question is why did Olmert agree to an expanded UNIFIL force?

Mario Loyola thinks that the UN and Europe have effectively tricked themselves into protecting Israel with the new UNIFIL.
What is a new and very real possibility now is open conflict between Hezbollah and the U.N. force. UNIFIL has in past years been accused of coordinating with Hezbollah, which it might have had to do just as a matter of survival. But the robust UNIFIL, operating with the military freedom of action which France appears to have secured at the urgings of its army, will be in a position to impose facts upon Hezbollah. It will be high profile, and its commanders will want to prove that it is not "a joke", as one Israeli ambassador described the current force. Importantly, it will not have to seek Hezbollah'’s permission to move around. And although U.N. officials have made it clear that the U.N. force will not actively seek to disarm Hezbollah, they will demand that Hezbollah fighters found in the open give over their weapons, and they are prepared to use force to exact obedience.

The enhanced U.N. force will no doubt create many frustrations for Israel, and we should be prepared for the possibility of a hostile encounter between the two at some point. But we should also recognize one important bit of good news in all this: From now on, Hezbollah's activities will be Europe'’s problem, too. And however much the Europeans may oppose us on Iraq, their Angry Muslim problem is starting to dominate both their domestic- and foreign-policy agendas, and one gets the feeling that they are starting to get really sick of it now.
I'm not quite sure that it will work out this way, given Europe's prediliction against taking any military action and the large presence of Muslim forces among the new UNIFIL. But UNIFIL may provide enough of a buffer to enable the Lebanese to eventually do something about Hizbullah themselves.
|| Nudnik 12:32 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Saturday, August 26, 2006

              Would That It Were So
One can only wish that our leaders spoke this way:
(2006-08-26) — Just hours after Iran opened a new plant capable of making plutonium “for peaceful purposes”, U.S. President George Bush assured his Iranian counterpart that any B-2 bombers that appear over Tehran in the near future would also serve peaceful purposes.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cut the ribbon on the new heavy-water nuclear plant Saturday as part of a month-long Iranian tribute to the effectiveness of the United Nations.

Mr. Bush hailed Iran’s “transparent diplomacy” and said, “I called President Ahmadinejad today to congratulate him, and I told him that if he happens to notice one of them Stealth bombers going over his town at about 600 miles per hour, he can be assured that the pilot has only the best intentions in his heart for world peace.”

“There’s nothing like the B-2 when it comes to giving peace a chance,” Mr. Bush added.
|| Nudnik 11:35 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Human Rights Watch
As Israel was battling Hizbullah in Lebanon, and Hizbullah rockets were raining down on Israeli cities, Human Rights Watch - the self-proclaimed arbiter of human rights violations - was condemning Israel. Their complaint was that Israel was committing war crimes by bombing civilian areas. When it was reported that Hizbullah was using these civilian areas to launch rockets and hide their weapons, HRW's response was
Human Rights Watch found no cases in which Hizbullah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack.
As Alan Dershowitz points out, it is unclear what exactly Human Rights Watch was watching. Dershowitz lists multiple eyewitness reports from inside Lebanon that show exactly what Hizbullah was doing.
HOW COULD Human Rights Watch have ignored - or more likely suppressed - this evidence from so many different sources? The only reasonable explanation is that they wanted there to be no evidence of Hizbullah's tactic of hiding behind civilians. So they cooked the books to make it come out that way.

Even after the fighting ended and all the reports of Hizbullah hiding among civilians were published, HRW chief Kenneth Roth essentially repeated the demonstrably false conclusions that "in none of those cases was Hizbullah anywhere around at the time of the attack." So committed is Human Rights Watch to its predetermined conclusions that it refused to let the facts, as reported by objective sources, get in its way.
HRW is the organization that was screaming loudest about a "massacre" in Jenin in 2002, only to quietly say "never mind" when it was shown that no such "massacre" ever occurred. I would say that their credibility is pretty close to zero at this point.
|| Nudnik 12:31 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Katyusha Defense
One of the results of the recent Lebanon War has been the restarting of the debate about a defensive system for short range rockets - Katyushas - and mortars, the primary weapons of Hizbullah.

Such a system had been in development by the US and Israel for approximately the last ten years. The System is called Nautilus Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) and the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL). Both systems had shown themselves to be fairly effective, being able to track, lock on, and shoot down Katyushas - both singly and in salvos - and even artillery shells. Yet, the funding for the systems was withdrawn by the US Army and Israel last year. Now there is renewed interest in the systems and Northrop Grumman says that it can deliver an operational system in 18 months. Given the damage done by Hizbullah's rockets in the past month, this seems like a worthwhile investment.
|| Nudnik 11:33 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, August 25, 2006

              Europe's Learning Experience
In the last few years Europe has come to view the UN (and other international institutions) as the arbiters and solvers of all situations. But as Denis Boyles writes, the past few weeks may finally be giving them some pause as to the usefulness of these institutions.

The events that seem to have upset Europe's assumptions are Iran's response to the nuclear offer, and the cease-fire Resolution in Lebanon. The main lesson with Iran is that

Not even Iranians can be persuaded carrots make a meal and confusing a U.N. resolution with a stick offends the dignity of sticks everywhere.
|| Nudnik 2:47 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Olmert Done
I guess this should not be a surprise, but in the latest poll by Yediot Ahronot, 63% of Israelis think that Olmert should resign. Even more - 74% - think that Peretz should resign. It seems that elections will be held fairly soon, and Kadima will, like almost all new parties, be a one-time event. Bibi has positioned himself very well to be the next Prime Minister. And most likely, the next Defense Minister will be Moshe Ya'alon, the IDF Chief of Staff who was pushed out due to Sharon's Gaza disengagement.
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Thursday, August 24, 2006

              Uzi Landau
Here is an interesting interview with Uzi Landau, a former Member of Knesset and a Minister in the previous government. Unlike many politicians and ex-politicians, he is not afraid to express his views, even if they are not sensitive and politically correct.
|| Nudnik 11:23 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Soviet Legacy
It has been fairly well known that one of the Soviet Union's activities was the organization and financing of terrorism against Israel, especially after the Six Day War. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the former leader of Romania's intelligence service, details the extent of Soviet involvement and its continuing effects.
Today'’s international terrorism was conceived at the Lubyanka, the headquarters of the KGB, in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War in the Middle East. I witnessed its birth in my other life, as a Communist general. Israel humiliated Egypt and Syria, whose bellicose governments were being run by Soviet razvedka (Russian for "foreign intelligence"”) advisers, whereupon the Kremlin decided to arm Israel'’s enemy neighbors, the Palestinians, and draw them into a terrorist war against Israel.

General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, who created Communist Romania's intelligence structure and then rose to head up all of Soviet Russia's foreign intelligence, often lectured me: "In today'’s world, when nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon."”
|| Nudnik 12:58 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

              Nationalism and Jihadism
In the past few weeks there have been a number of articles (one is here, although registration is required) about the transformation of Palestinian nationalism into just another branch of the international jihad. Today, Amir Taheri takes up that argument.
The same is now true of pan-Islamists. They dream of a universal Islamic state, either under Iranian Shiite leadership (as with Hezbollah), or under the leadership of Salafi movements. In their vision, there can be no distinct Palestinian identity, let alone Palestinian nationalism.

Muhammad Khatami, the mullah who was president of the Islamic Republic, has dismissed nationalism as an illegitimate child of the European Enlightenment which led to colonialism, imperialism and world wars. In this view, the idea of a nation-state of Palestine is a Western concoction, alien to Islam. Even the "one state" formula (the fusion of Israel and Palestine) is only an intermediate step. Such a state would eventually be absorbed into the single universal Islamic domain.
Undoubtedly, in the past few years the Palestinians have drawn closer to Islamism and away from nationalism; Hizbullah as well as al Qaeda has infiltrated at least Gaza, if not also the West Bank. More importantly, the election of Hamas shows the route that the Palestinians want to take - religion as opposed to secular nationalism.

However, Taheri's conclusions are completely incorrect.
Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert is wrong in putting Ariel Sharon's policy of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank on hold. For the two-state formula to work, it is imperative for Israel to decide exactly where it wants its frontiers to be drawn. Once it is clear where Israel wants to be, it would be possible to discuss where Palestine could be as a state.
His "solution" ignores the facts on the ground. Israel's two withdrawals (Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005) have not led to peace. In fact, the very opposite has happened. Both groups saw weakness in the Israeli withdrawals, and the lessons that they took away were that through rocket attacks and bombings Israel would be forced to withdraw. The same will happen with a withdrawal from the West Bank. Palestinians have already been smuggling rockets into the West Bank, and preparing to use them. Without an Israeli presence, they would undoubtedly smuggle in longer range rockets from Hizbullah and its sponsors. They would then have the capability to directly attack Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. One of the main lessons of the Lebanon war was that withdrawal doesn't work; and the idea of a Palestinian state has been postponed for another generation.
|| Nudnik 12:33 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, August 21, 2006

Already the reassessments of Israel's performance in the war against Hizbullah is starting. Edward Luttwak, in today's Jerusalem Post, thinks that the results of the war have been misread. In general, his analysis is that the IDF performed much better than what it is being given credit for. His argument is, in essence, that on the tactical level Israel won. This is undoubtedly true; the IDF destroyed a large portion of Hizbullah assets and personnel, while suffering fairly light casualties. Strategypage drew very similar conclusions a few days ago.
While Hizbollah can declare this a victory, because it fought Israel without being destroyed, this is no more a victory than that of any other Arab force that has faced Israeli troops and failed. Arabs have been trying to destroy Israel for over half a century, and Hizbollah is the latest to fail. But Hizbollah did more than fail, it scared most Moslems in the Middle East, because it demonstrated the power and violence of the Shia Arab minority. Sunni Arabs, and most Arabs are Sunnis, are very much afraid of Shia Moslems, mainly because most Iranians are Shia, not Arab, and intent on dominating the region, like Iran has done so many times in the past. Hizbollah's recent outburst made it clear that Iran, which subsidizes and arms Hizbollah, has armed power that reaches the Mediterranean. This scares Sunni Arabs because a Shia minority also continues to rule Syria (where most of the people are Sunni). The Shia majority in Iraq, which have not dominated Iraq for over three centuries, is now back in control.
I would agree with both those assessments, but as I have written previously, Israel has suffered severe damage to its reputation of invinciblity and ability to cause total destruction to an attacking army.
|| Nudnik 3:00 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, August 18, 2006

              The French....Again
The French were one of the countries most strongly pushing for the cease-fire resolution, promising to lead the International force that would come in to south Lebanon and disarm Hizbullah. Well, as most French promises this one wasn't even worth the paper it was written on. The French have now displayed their commitment to the cease-fire and the UNSC Resolution by promising to send 400 soldiers - from an engineering battalion - to lead this joke of a force. Additionally, before sending these "fighters", they also
called for safety guarantees for its soldiers before making further commitments.
The UN Resolution is basically dead. It will have the same effect of disarming Hizbullah or helping the cause of peace as all the other previous Resolutions. And once again, we see how useless the UN and the French really are.
|| Nudnik 2:19 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
It's Friday, so there must be something from Victor Davis Hanson. Even with all the recent setbacks in the Middle East, Hanson sees some Hope Amid Despair.
In an amorphous war of self-induced Western restraint, like the present one, truth and moral clarity are as important as military force. This past month, the world of the fascist jihadist and those who tolerate him was once again on display for civilization to fathom. Even the most timid and prone to appeasement in the West are beginning to see that it is becoming a question of “the Islamists or us.”

In this eleventh hour, that is a sort of progress after all.
|| Nudnik 2:15 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Thursday, August 17, 2006

              The "Nutroots" Losing Again
After Lamont's victory over Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, the "Nutroots" - the left wing websites promoting a "progressive" agenda, were positively gleeful. The media trumpeted his win as a rejection of Bush and the Iraq war, and that this showed that the Democrats would definitely retake Congress. But now it seems that all is not so rosy in "progressive" land.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (news, bio, voting record), a three-term Democrat now running as an independent candidate, leads the man who beat him in last week's primary vote by 12 points in a three-way race, a poll released on Thursday shows.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll, conducted between August 10-14, shows Lieberman leads Democrat Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman with little political experience who has played on anti-war sentiment, by 53 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in November's election.
What actually happened, and what happens in almost every primary, is that the extremist wing of the party controls this initial round. In the general election, though, a party needs a candidate that is much more centrist than what the "base" of the party wants. This is why Lieberman will win, despite the efforts of his party.
|| Nudnik 12:59 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The First Result of the War
As I had written before, Israel's failure to destroy Hizbullah would have serious consequences in how Syria and others around would react. Today there is the first hint of that.
On the heels of what it views as a Hizbullah victory against the Jewish state, Syria is forming its own Hizbullah-like guerilla organization to fight Israel in hopes of "liberating" the Golan Heights, an official from Syrian President Bashar Assad's Ba'ath party told WorldNetDaily yesterday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Syria learned from Hizbullah's military campaign against Israel the past month that "fighting" is more effective than peace negotiations with regard to gaining territory.
It seems that the Arabs are learning fairly quickly from Israel's actions against Hizbullah. At the same time, I am certain that Israel has also learned important lessons from this war. One of them is that airpower alone does not work well against entrenched guerilla positions. My guess is that when there is another confrontation with Hizbullah - or with a similar group - Overwhelming ground forces will once again be put into use.
|| Nudnik 12:46 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

              Folly and Surprise
Since the beginning of the war with Hizbullah, Ari Shavit has been one of the most vocal critics of the current Israeli government. In this article from a week ago, he places the blame for Israel's current condition not just at the feet of Olmert and Peretz, but of the society that created and elected them.
A simple thing happened: We were drugged by political correctness. The political correctness that has come to dominate Israeli discourse and Israeli awareness in the past generation was totally divorced from the Israeli situation. It did not have the tools to deal with the reality of an existential conflict. It did not have the tools to deal with a reality of an inter-religious and inter-cultural conflict. That is why it focused entirely on the Palestinian issue. It made the baseless assumption that the occupation is the source of evil. It assumed that it is the occupation that is preventing peace and causing unrest and perpetuating the instability.

At the same time, political correctness assumed that Israeli strength is a given. That Israel is insanely strong. Therefore, political correctness disdained any attempt to build and maintain Israeli strength. The defense budget was cut, the values of volunteerism were mocked, the concepts of heroism and fortitude became despicable. Since the Israel Defense Forces was identified as an army of occupation - rather than as an army defending feminists and homo-lesbians from the fanaticism of the Middle East - they had reservations about it, they shook it off and became alienated from it. After all, in the spiritual world of political correctness, power and army have become dirty words.
|| Nudnik 12:37 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

              Hizbullah Refuses
As would be expected Hizbullah has refused to disarm. Instead, they have made a deal with Lebanese PM Siniora that they will keep their arms, but not display them publicly. There is no chance that the Lebanese Army will attempt to disarm Hizbullah by force, since around half the army is Shiite and the military capability of the Lebanese Armed Forces is close to zero. At the same time, Kofi Annan has stated that "dismantling Hizbullah is not the direct mandate of the UN". So if the UN is not going to do it despite passing Resolution 1559 and 1701 - both demanding that Hizbullah be disarmed - and the LAF will not do it, who is left?

An official in Israel's Prime Minister's Office has stated that if Hizbullah refuses to disarm, Israel will restart the war. This seems highly unlikely. Israel would come under intense international condemnation and pressure if it were to restart the war without a direct Hizbullah attack - and at this point Hizbullah would be crazy to do something like that. This threat sounds a lot like the threatened full-scale invasion that kept getting delayed; it is meant purely for political effect - a way to prod the UN to do something. The UN of course will do nothing, no matter how much Tzipi Livni talks to Kofi Annan. It will once again have proven itself to be completely powerless and useless in any matter that requires something more than talk, and dangerous to the security of Israel.

By not allowing the IDF to achieve a decisive military victory, Olmert destroyed the perception of the invincibility of the IDF. From Stratfor:
In the regional equation, there has been an immutable belief: that, at the end of the day, IDF was capable of imposing a unilateral military solution on any Arab force. Israel might have failed to achieve its political goals in its various wars, but it never failed to impose its will on an enemy force. As a result, all neighboring nations and entities understood there were boundaries that could be crossed only if a country was willing to accept a crushing Israeli response. All neighboring countries -- Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, prior to the collapses of central authority -- understood this and shaped their behavior in view of it.
In this conflict, what Hezbollah has achieved is not so much a defeat of Israel as a demonstration that destruction in detail is not an inevitable outcome of challenging Israel. Hezbollah has showed that it is possible to fight to a point that Israel prefers a cease-fire and political settlement to a military victory followed by political accommodation. Israel might not have lost any particular battle, and a careful analysis of the outcome could prove its course to be reasonable. But the loss of the sense -- and historical reality -- of the inevitability of Israeli military victory is a far more profound defeat for Israel, as this clears the way for other regional powers to recalculate risks.
At the same time, he has placed Israel's security needs in the hands of the UN and a weak international force. By his actions, he has reaped neither the benefits of a military victory nor of the negotiated solution for which he waged the military campaign.

So what next? It is almost inevitable that there will be another round. This may not happen right away, and most likely will not be under the direction of the present government. Efraim Inbar suggests that in this next round it should not be just Hizbullah that is targeted, but also Syria.
SUBDUING SYRIA is the key to managing the Lebanese crisis, to rolling back Hizbullah, and to weakening Iran and its radical Islamist influence in the Middle East. In order to attain victory in the next military engagement, Israel should target Damascus.

Syria allows supplies for Hizbullah to pass into Lebanon from its territory and provides the channel for Iran to do likewise. Syria's use of Hizbullah as a means of bleeding Israel has gone unpunished for too long.

That being the case, the strategic address for dealing with Hizbullah and for restoring lost deterrence remains Damascus. Only military pressure on the regime of Bashar Assad can deny Hizbullah military capabilities and signal Israel's readiness and ability to respond tenaciously.
Sooner or later this has to happen, although Israel will have to act carefully. It is not in Israel's - or the US's - interest for Assad to be overthrown. What replaces him could very well be more dangerous than the weak Assad.
|| Nudnik 10:39 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The Best Information is Inside Information
It seems that IDF Chief of Staff has been caught in an "insider trading" scandal. A few hours after the Hizbullah cross-border attack and abduction of 2 soldiers, Gen. Halutz went to the bank to sell his portfolio of stocks.
"It was my portfolio of shares, on which I had lost NIS 25,000," Halutz told Maariv. "It is true that I sold the portfolio on July 12, 2006, but it is impossible to link that to the war. At the time I did not expect or think that there would be a war."
So a few hours after this attack, as the cabinet and military leaders met to discuss possible war, Halutz did not expect a war? Either he is a terrible liar, or he is out of the loop on major military decisions. This is simply another embarrassment in a long line of embarrassments in the conduct of this war.
|| Nudnik 2:59 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              The Aftermath
Nothing new in this Yossi Klein Halevy article, but a well written description of the feeling now in Israel.
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              The European View
Given the European reaction to Israel's war against Hizbullah, here is what their reaction would have been to another instance of Jews defending themselves.
|| Nudnik 10:55 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, August 14, 2006

              Who Won?
President Bush today declared that Hizbullah suffered a defeat in this war. PM Olmert declared that Hizbullah suffered a "harsh blow". And as would be expected Nasrallah claimed a "strategic, historic victory." So who won and what?

There were 5 main players involved in this war - Israel, Hizbullah, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran - and it's important to see what each has won and lost over the course of the last month. While most pundits see simply an Israeli defeat and a Hizbullah victory, the situation - as is often the case - is a bit more complex. So here's my attempt to sort out the results.

Israel's stated war aims - at least its initial war aims - were the return of the two kidnapped soldiers, the destruction of Hizbullah as a fighting force, and the removal of the rocket threat to its northern cities. Judged by these aims, Israel failed since it was not able to achieve any of them. As I have written before, this failure was due entirely to the tactics of the political echelon and not the IDF. Olmert and Peretz decided that they would talk of military goals, but attempt to achieve those goals diplomatically. It is the first time in Israel's history that it went to war in order for a cease-fire to be imposed. Previously, the IDF would attempt to accomplish as much as possible before the imposition of a ceasefire by the "international community". Had the initial cease-fire agreement between the US and France been approved, instead of the one actually approved, Israel could have claimed that it achieved its ends diplomatically. However, UNSC Resolution 1701 leaves the matter of Hizbullah disarmament and the return of the IDF soldiers very vague.

Israel's main loss is in the area of deterrence. Again, I will quote Stratfor's analysis:
The first strategy was the air campaign. The second strategy was a complex warfighting/diplomacy strategy designed to achieve Israel's ends without having to systematically destroy Hezbollah. The end result of this strategy -- if it is carried out to its logical conclusion -- is that Hezbollah will have fought and survived, and that in fighting, it will have shaped Israeli political decisions. In other words, we will have moved from a world in which Israel's military force trumps all other considerations to a world in which Israeli military power is circumscribed by Arab power.

It seems clear that Israel could have crushed Hezbollah if it was willing to spend the lives. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's view seems to have been the rational one -- that the rockets Hezbollah has been firing at Israel were creating fewer casualties by far than a war would. On that cost-benefit analysis, Olmert not only was correct, but followed the reasoning of Ariel Sharon. Sharon's strategy focused on building barriers between Israel and Arabs in order to avoid the costs and casualties involved in counterinsurgency operations. Olmert has extended that logic to southern Lebanon, seeking a low-cost solution to the Hezbollah threat.

In so doing, Olmert, intentionally or not, has shifted the basic architecture of Israel's strategic policy. He has avoided an extravagant cost in lives, but in so doing, has undermined the military certainty that was the foundation of Israeli national security. Hezbollah was able to start a war and has survived it defensively. In due course, an Arab force will be able to start an offensive war and win it. There is no inherent reason that an Arab army cannot defeat an Israeli army. Whether there is a cease-fire or not, the psychological foundation of Israeli power has been breached.
This is a major change in the Middle East, the results of which will have long-lasting repercussions vis-a-vis the entire balance of power. Already Syria is saying that the chances of peace with Israel are low, and that they will "liberate the Golan", and Hamas will attempt to adopt Hizbullah tactics.

Overall, Israel has lost much and gained little. One can only hope that the political establishment and the IDF will learn lessons from this war that they will be able to apply to the next round. They have been very good at doing this in the past.

Hizbullah's main achievement has been its survival. In being able to hold off the IDF for a month, they have emerged as the best Arab army, and the only one not to have been fully defeated by Israel. This has added to their prestige in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world. In enhancing their reputation, they have also effected a stealth coup d'etat in Lebanon. They are now the power, and the Lebanese government must go to them for all decisions. While this may have been the case previously, it was behind the scenes. Now it is fully out in the open.

However, Hizbullah has paid a very high price for this "victory". They have lost most of their long-range missiles and launchers - taken out by Israel in the first day of the war - and they have suffered somewhere around 500 dead. For a fighting force of 3000-5000, this is a tremendous loss. Additionally, their network of bunkers and tunnels has been exposed, and their fighting tactics revealed. Armies that win wars - or think they win wars - are less likely to learn lessons, and if fighting resumes, they will be at a significant disadvantage. Hubris has its costs.

Overall, Hizbullah has achieved much in this war but at the same time has suffered serious losses. They have been somewhat degraded as a fighting force, but politically have made major gains.

Lebanon is the clear loser in this war. Their infrastructure has been damaged to the tune of $2-$4 billion, and for a country with a total GDP of around $20 billion, it will take quite a while for them to recover. More importantly, their government has been exposed as completely powerless and is now run by Hizbullah. PM Siniora's life is now clearly in danger, and the gains of the Cedar Revolution seem to be no more than memories. Unless the UN force moving in can actually control Hizbullah, and this is highly unlikely, they will have to wait for Israel to fully and completely destroy Hizbullah in the next war if they hope to regain their country.

Assad is thrilled that he didn't get dragged into this war. If he had, he would most likely no longer be the ruler of Syria. Syria's gain is that they did not get punished for their support and supply of Hizbullah. This will undoubtedly lead them to the conclusion that they can continue their support not just of Hizbullah, but of Hamas and of insurgents in Iraq.

Like Syria, Iran was not punished - as of yet - for their support of Hizbullah. Their status, as the backers of the premiere Arab army, has certainly been enhanced. And they have received valuable information on the performance of their weapons systems. But the outcome for them is a lot more mixed. Undoubtedly they are unhappy with Hizbullah losing so much of the hardware that they provided - estimates of the dollar value of the losses are around $2 billion. Much more importantly, they have lost a major deterrent. Hizbullah's rockets and missiles were supposed to be the deterrent threat to Israel and the US in the event of an attack on Iran's nuclear program. This deterrent is now gone for the Iranians, both physically in the destroyed Zelzal missiles, as well as strategically. It will be difficult for Iran to smuggle more of the Zelzals to Hizbullah; they are very large systems requiring a truck to launch, and everyone is now watching what they are doing. Their support for Hizbullah will be another in the long list of US grievances against them.

I think that this war is far from over. Just tonight there was a report of Hizbullah firing 10 Katyusha rockets. All of them landed inside Lebanon, so Israel is not responding. If Hizbullah is seen to violate the cease-fire, Israel will be able to finish them off. It is what the US, Lebanon, Israel, and most countries of the Middle East are secretly hoping for.
|| Nudnik 8:36 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, August 11, 2006

              Interview With Brig. General Kuperwasser
A very interesting interview with Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, the former head of the research division of the IDF Military Intelligence.
|| Nudnik 4:16 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
Apparently, the US and France have reached a compromise on the ceasefire resolution and the UN Security Council will take up the matter at 3pm Eastern Time, with a possible vote this afternoon. The Resolution seems to be pretty much the same as I wrote about last night. It will be up to Israel to decide what to do, since most likely Hizbullah will (at least at first) abide by the ceasefire - they have achieved their strategic goals.

Ari Shavit is absolutely right that if Olmert accepts this ceasefire he should resign immediately.
Ehud Olmert may decide to accept the French proposal for a cease-fire and unconditional surrender to Hezbollah. That is his privilege. Olmert is a prime minister whom journalists invented, journalists protected, and whose rule journalists preserved. Now the journalists are saying run away. That's legitimate. Unwise, but legitimate.

However, one thing should be clear: If Olmert runs away now from the war he initiated, he will not be able to remain prime minister for even one more day. Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeat and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say - oops, I made a mistake. That was not the intention. Pass me a cigar, please.
|| Nudnik 2:37 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              On Again
The Israeli Cabinet has given the green light for the IDF to advance to the Litani. The reason given is that not enough diplomatic progress has been made. At the same time, they have decided that if progress is made, then the IDF will once again been stopped.

Napoleon once said "If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna". PM Olmert and co. should have been reminded of this maxim before beginning this war. Unfortunately, Israel at this point does not have the leadership to be able to take a decision and carry it through to its necessary conclusion. Uri Dan writes about this leadership vacuum and concludes:
I have this to say to the government: If you do not bomb Hizbullah to kingdom come now, you will have lost the right to blame the allies of World War II for not bombing Auschwitz.
|| Nudnik 12:55 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Five Minutes to Midnight
At The Corner on National Review Online, Michael Ledeen posts a piece written by Robert Tracinski from The Intellectual Activist (subscription required). It is about the inevitability of war with Iran. It's somewhat long, but well worth reading. Here's one part of it:
It is, indeed, "five minutes to midnight"—not just for Israel, but for the West. The time is very short now before we will have to confront Iran. The only question is how long we let events spin out of our control, and how badly we let the enemy hit us before we begin fighting back.

We can't avoid this war, because Iran won't let us avoid it. That is the real analogy to the 1930s. Hitler came to power espousing the goal of German world domination, openly promising to conquer neighboring nations through military force and to persecute and murder Europe's Jews. He predicted that the free nations of the world would be too weak—too morally weak—to stand up to him, and European and American leaders spent the 1930s reinforcing that impression. So Hitler kept advancing—the militarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the Spanish bombing campaign in 1937, the annexation of Austria and the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, the invasion of Poland in 1939—until the West finally, belated decided there was no alternative but war.

That is what is playing out today. Iran's theocracy has chosen, as the nation's new president, a religious fanatic who believes in the impending, apocalyptic triumph of Islam over the infidels. He openly proclaims his desire to create an Iranian-led Axis that will unite the Middle East in the battle against America, and he proclaims his desire to "wipe Israel off the map," telling an audience of Muslim leaders that "the main solution" to the conflict in Lebanon is "the elimination of the Zionist regime." (Perhaps this would be better translated as Ahmadinejad's "final solution" to the problem of Israel.)

Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad regards the free nations of the world as fading "sunset" powers, too morally weak to resist his legions of Muslim fanatics. And when we hesitate to kill Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, when we pressure Israel to rein in its attacks on Hezbollah, when we pander to the anti-Jewish bigotry of the "Muslim street"—we reinforce his impression of our weakness.
|| Nudnik 11:46 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A new ceasefire resolution is being discussed at the UN. It seems that there is a good chance that this resolution will be voted on tomorrow and will pass. If approved, this ceasefire will prove to be disastrous to Israel as well as to Us interests.

As now proposed, the ceasefire would have Israeli forces withdraw gradually as the Lebanese army reinforced by UN peacekeepers - mostly French troops - take control of south Lebanon. Hizbullah would have to move north of the Litani River. The resolution does not demand the disarming of Hizbullah, as Resolution 1559 demanded, and it does not demand the return of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Lebanon and Hizbullah would be stupid not to accept this ceasefire. The IDF is rightly upset about this ceasefire. It is a complete defeat, both strategically and tactically, for Israel. As Stratfor pointed out this morning, Israel had just seized the strategically important village of Marjayoun, from where they could move west to the Litani River, north to the Bekaa, or both. Such an operation would envelop Hizbullah in the south, and destroy its base in the Bekaa Valley. It seems that this operation will now be cancelled, and Hizbullah will have decisively won.

It should also be clear what the result of the peacekeepers in South Lebanon will be. Hizbullah will not be disarmed. No matter what kind of arms embargo is placed on Hizbullah, they will rearm with weapons from Syria and Iran. At some point in the not too distant future Hizbullah will once again launch missiles at Israeli cities, and because of the presence of the peacekeeper Israel will be unable to respond. In effect, the peacekeepers will be the protectors of Hizbullah. Any hope that Lebanon would become a normal, stable country is gone. It will have been, in effect, taken over by Hizbullah. Israel's deterrence will have been tremendously eroded, and to regain it they will need to do something truly dramatic - taking out Iran's nuclear program is one such possibility, though this would undoubtedly lead to a much more serious war.

Prime Minister Olmert, Defence Minister Peretz, and IDF Chief of Staff Halutz are the people most responsible for this utter failure. Their passivity and hesitation has made this defeat possible. It should have been clear to them that the US could only protect Israel from the "international community" for so long. It is one of the reasons why IDF doctrine has always been based on a short war with overwhelming firepower. It should also have been clear to them that once they embarked on this war, they had to win. And while Olmert spoke often and passionately about winning, he did nothing to make it happen.

The only hope, at this point, is that Hizbullah and Lebanon behave like their Arab brethren before them and pass up this ceasefire in favor of believing their own bluster. Otherwise, the region and the world will have become a much more dangerous place.
|| Nudnik 10:47 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Bellum Interruptus
It seems that the US is putting pressure on Olmert to delay the promised offensive.
The troops were already rolling late Wednesday when they were ordered to halt. It appears heavy US pressure delayed the offensive to allow diplomacy to run its course. A senior minister said Wednesday that Israel might delay the expansion for 2-3 days for that purpose.
This was inevitable given how long it has taken Israel to actually start moving. It's pretty clear that the diplomacy is unlikely to produce any result good for Israel, but Olmert seems more than happy to delay. He is undoubtedly Israel's most incompetent PM to date.

On the other hand, there do seem to be some positive results that have been achieved by the IDF already. Ken Timmerman lists a number of them. I think he is being overly optimistic on the achievements.
|| Nudnik 11:17 AM || Permalink || (0) comments
              Missiles Fired at Tel Aviv?
Yoni the Blogger relays information that Hizbullah today fired 3 missiles that were aimed at Tel Aviv. None of the missiles made it, but they were of a different type than previously fired missiles.
|| Nudnik 11:09 AM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

              State Of The War
Israel's security cabinet today approved the expansion of ground operations in Lebanon, although it seems that this does not mean that the IDF is cleared to go in right away. The plan, as reported, is to drive to the Litani River - about 20 miles to the North - and then clear Hizbullah out of South Lebanon. According to the Jerusalem Post, there are about 40,000 IDF troops waiting on the border to advance. If implemented, this is the ground campaign that should have been waged from the very beginning.

Such an invasion would be classic IDF fighting doctrine, as opposed to what has been going on for the last 3 plus weeks. The idea would be a fast move up to the Litani, surrounding but bypassing Hizbullah strongholds to get to the enemy rear. This could be accomplished in a week, according to one IDF general. After that, it would take 4-6 weeks to clear out the Hizbullah strongholds and remove, or at least reduce, the Katyusha threat. The clearing out operations will be difficult and exact fairly high casualties on the IDF (estimates are between 100 and 200 dead). Stratfor's (subscription required) analysis:
Hezbollah presents both the complexities of fourth-generation warfare that the United States faces in Iraq and the intractability of a deeply entrenched enemy. In the course of engaging positions as well-camouflaged and heavily fortified as Hezbollah's, there are stages of the engagement where an attacker must absorb casualties while inflicting zero casualties on the defender. The purpose of defensive fortifications is to force the attacker into these positions for the longest amount of time to maximize attackers' vulnerability to the defender's established and covered fields of fire. There are also shoulder constraints, restricting the number of attacking troops that can effectively mass inside of these defensive constraints. Thus, a successful assault is not always a matter of how many troops or how many casualties an attacker is willing to take, but rather a function of the tactics used. Hezbollah has so far seemed able to deal effectively with smaller incursions by the IDF composed of an infantry escort for a platoon of three or four tanks.
It seems to me that this is exactly the reason that Israel is hesitating in enacting this plan. More than simply an operational plan, Israel is trying to pressure the "international community" to come up with a viable diplomatic solution so that it will not have to carry out such an invasion. This is a losing proposition. It's doubtful that the UN will come up with a Resolution acceptable to Israel, and waiting another few days while continuing to bomb will only bring more comments like this from the US (comments from European and Arab countries are not really important at this point).

By waging the war as Israel has waged it for the last 3 weeks - that is to say poorly - Israel has put itself in a horrible position. At this point, it is hard to see what kind of outcome will not allow Hizbullah to claim victory and to enhance its reputation and prestige - as well as control of Lebanon. Hizbullah has been able to withstand the aerial bombardment as well as the assaults of the IDF - assaults that have up to now been reminiscent of the poorly planned IDF armor charges against the Egyptians in the first few days of the Yom Kippur War. Israel has thus been forced into the position of not being able to lose, no matter what the casualties are. Outside of this they need to accomplish something dramatic like killing Nasrallah or freeing the two kidnapped soldiers, neither of which seems likely at this point.

Overall, this war has been incompetently managed by Olmert, Peretz, Halutz and OC Northern Command General Adam. The best that Israel can hope for now is a tactical victory where it kills a large number of Hizbullah fighters and destroys Hizbullah's infrastructure in south Lebanon. But at this point, a strategic victory over Hizbullah seems out of reach. The seeds of the next regional Middle East war have been sown.
|| Nudnik 9:55 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

              August 22nd
When Iran said that it would respond to the US nuclear offer on August 22nd, many analysts were puzzled as to why he chose precisely that date. Now it is becoming more clear. Bernard Lewis, in today's Wall Street Journal op/ed page (subscription required) explains the importance of that date.
This year, Aug. 22 corresponds, in the Islamic calendar, to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to "the farthest mosque," usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1). This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind.
If it isn't clear yet, it should be becoming clearer that we are not dealing with a rational leader. Mutual Assured Destruction, the threat of total annihilation of all that was enough to keep the US and Soviet Union from going to war, will not work against madmen intent on bringing on the end of days. Until we acknowledge who we are up against - who our enemy is and what they are capable of - we will never be able to confront them.
|| Nudnik 10:49 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              French Perfidy...Again!
The French have done it again. The US spent days negotiating with France a ceasefire resolution to bring to the UN. The US compromised on the French desire for 2 resolutions instead of one. The US compromised on the French desire for the sequence of events - first a ceasefire then an international force. And now after all this, the French are backing out. According to CNN and FoxNews, France has stated that they are not happy with the resolution and reneging on the agreements with the US. They are once again puckering up their lips to the Arab asses and supporting all the Arab demands, especially for an Israeli withdrawal. Why should the US ever negotiate with them again? What a worthless country.

One of these days, their displays of weakness towards the Arabs will come back to haunt them. Despite all their ass-kissing of the Arabs (or maybe because of it) there will be a terrorist attack in a French city, and that will be the first time I will applaud the Arabs for their action. Eurabia indeed!
|| Nudnik 10:33 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Monday, August 07, 2006

              Just War
In the past few weeks, with Israel's war with Hizbullah, the concept of Just War has once again come to the forefront. Just War Theory says that a war is justified if it is waged based on a number of conditions. These are usually divided into jus ad bello (when it is justified to go to war) and jus in bello (how a war is waged). Most rational commentators agree that Israel's campaign against Hizbullah meets the first condition - Israel was justified in waging war on Hizbullah. On the second issue - of how Israel is waging the war - there is much more disagreement.

But what if this concept is itself outdated or simply doesn't work in the era of fourth-generation warfare. David Warren suggests that this is indeed the case. That by waging moral war, we do not save civilians, but actually endanger more of them.
By openly stating that we will, under no circumstances, attack targets where civilians are present, we "“hand the foe a blueprint of our acts, incite him to step over our carefully drawn line, encourage his vice and incur our own defeat."” (I am quoting a priest who has considered the broader implications of the Catholic just war doctrine.)

Even "just war"” acknowledges that, as in medicine, real mercy can sometimes require ruthlessness. We have forgotten this in the West. If we want to save civilians, over the longer run, we must resolve to call the enemy’s bluff. Show him by our actions that hiding behind baby carriages will not save him. For the enemy will only stop using “human shields” when they cease to serve his purposes.
|| Nudnik 8:49 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
              One Lebanese Who Gets It
The New Republic has posted an extraordinary article by a journalist living in Beirut.
Lebanon a victim? What a joke!

Before the Israeli attack, Lebanon no longer existed, it was no more than a hologram. In Beirut, innocent citizens like me were forbidden access to certain areas of their own capital. But our police, our army, and our judges were also excluded. That was the case, for example, of Hezbollah's and the Syrians' command zone in the Haret Hreik quarter (in red on the satellite map). A square measuring a kilometer wide, a capital within the capital, permanently guarded by a Horla army, possessing its own institutions, its schools, its crèches, its tribunals, its radio, its television and, above all ... its government. A "government" that, alone decided, in the place of the figureheads of the Lebanese government--in which Hezbollah also had its ministers!--to attack a neighboring state, with which we had no substantial or grounded quarrel, and to plunge the United States into a bloody conflict. And if attacking a sovereign nation on its territory, assassinating eight of its soldiers, kidnapping two others and, simultaneously, launching missiles on nine of its towns does not constitute a casus belli, the latter juridical principle will seriously need revising.
Behe clearly sees that the people responsible for this war are the powerless and gutless members of Lebanon's government, who allowed Hizbullah to hijack the country. I am sure that many Lebanese think the same way but can not or are afraid to publicly say what Behe says.

But more than just this war being Lebanon's fault, it is the fault of the "international community". As they have done numerous times, they passed resolutions and then failed to enforce them. Had Resolution 1559 actually been implemented and Hizbullah disarmed, there would have been no war. Had the Taif accords been actually implemented, Hizbullah would never have acquired 15,000 rockets and missiles. But as always, the diplomats in Turtle Bay can will the ends but never the means of achieving those ends. And by that, they have made themselves worse than useless; they have become abettors and appeasers of the fascists of our age.
|| Nudnik 2:42 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Friday, August 04, 2006

              Mughniyah Wounded?
According to Geostrategy-Direct(registration required), Imad Mughniyah, the Hizbullah mastermind terrorist who was responsible for the attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1982, as well as numerous Israeli and Jewish targets has been seriously wounded.
Mughniyah, the foreign liaison and intelligence chief for Hizbullah, attended a Hizbullah meeting of commanders on July 19 when Israeli fighter-jets struck their headquarters in southern Beirut. Western intelligence sources said part of the command bunker collapsed, killing or wounding most of the dozen people inside.
If this is actually true, it would be a big blow to Hizbullah's terrorist operations. Mughniyah was also in charge of delivering weapons to the Palestinians, including organizing the Karine-A weapons shipment. Israel is also saying that more than 40 high-ranking Hizbullah commanders have been killed, though they haven't identified exactly who.
|| Nudnik 2:19 PM || Permalink || (0) comments

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

              I'm Back
Its been almost a year since I blogged last. And now it feels like its time to start up again; the Nudnikette has been urging me to blog instead of bother her with my rants. So here we go again. I apologize in advance for my initial rustiness, but hopefully I will get back into it quickly enough.
|| Nudnik 12:02 PM || Permalink || (0) comments
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