Introduction: Situation on the Ground
I’ve been abstaining from commenting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict since so many other bloggers and analysts are providing better coverage. But, the analysis from StratFor is very fitting (from "Special Report: The Ground Offensive" 08/01/06):
As we have said before, the strategy looks more like the way the Japanese defended Pacific islands against the U.S. Marines during World War II than anything else. Hezbollah fighters are defending in depth from interlocking strong points…They are forcing the Israelis to close with the strong points and take them in close combat.
If it can fight a battle of annihilation yet delay and hurt the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Hezbollah might well force a political settlement. If not, it can still gain a political victory by being the first Arab force to force Israel into high attrition combat.
Time and casualties could turn a military success into a political defeat for Israel. Moreover, if the outcome of the attack is that Israel is forced to occupy Lebanese territory for an extended period of time, then the cost of counterinsurgency operations mount. Israel’s strategy is clear. Move in fast, deal a catastrophic blow to Hezbollah, withdraw leaving the Lebanese army or a European peacekeeping force in its place. Hezbollah has drawn Israel in. It expects a catastrophic blow but its intention is to impose tremendous costs on Israel and then create a situation in which peacekeeping forces will not deploy, forcing Israel into a counterinsurgency.
Unfortunately, the Israel-Hezbollah conflict may be a casebook example of the superior political and (to a lesser extant) military power of non-state actors against nation-state states. In the coming days and weeks, we may see a Hezbollah victory – be it political and, maybe, militarily, as noted by Daniel Sensing at Winds of Change.
Israel may still be able to inflict great military damage to Hezbollah, but in the end – unless Israel effectively destroys Hezbollah or neuters it – Hezbollah will win the real victory, the political victory.
Let’s remember that Hezbollah’s advantages include:
- Decentralized Network Strucure = Resilience Against Attrition
– Provides for non-linear approach to warfare (unlike Western approach)No Logistical Tail (as opposed to convention high-tech army like Israel’s)
- Cheaper, Open Source Procurement of Weapons
- No sense of "Casuality Aversion" like Western Militaries
– Allows Hezbollah to bleed Israel to political victory, despite severe losses on both sides
- Seen as a charity, education and community institution, not just an instrument of war (e.g. IDF)
- Not Bound to "Geneva Conventions" norms of wars that Nation-States are:
– Media tends to be harsher on violations by nation-states than non-state actors
– Soliders in Civilians clothing = More Difficult to Detect, Prove to Media as Enemy
– Place assets (missiles, artillery etc) in civilian heavy areas but not take the blame when civilian deaths occur (e.g. Israel bombing Hebollah artillery and accidentally killing civilians in apartment nearby)
For more in-depth and strategic view, see John Robb at Global Guerrillas’ "The Secrets of Hezbollah’s Success".