RANGER AGAINST WAR: Coffins and Criminals <

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coffins and Criminals

Nuclear arms in the Middle East

Israel is attacking the Iraqis

The Syrians are mad at the Lebanese

And Baghdad does whatever she please

--The Envoy, Warren Zevon

Can one preach at home inequality of races and nations

and advocate abroad good-will towards all men?

--Dorothy Thompson


When the 2006 Hezbollah/Israel annual live fire exercise began, Ranger opined to Lisa (who disagreed) that Hezbollah would treat the two captured (the papers called them "kidnapped") Israeli soldiers as POW's. It seemed self-defeating for that group to do otherwise.

I was dead wrong. Now the bodies have been returned in a prisoner exchange for closure for the country and the families.

"Kantar, who had been serving multiple life terms in Israel for a grisly 1979 attack, wiped away tears as he stood before a crowd in the coastal border town of Naqoura.

"The five later flew to Beirut, where they received an official welcome from the president and were congratulated by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who was last seen in public in January.

"Your return is a new victory and the future with you will only be a shinning march in which we achieve the sovereignty of our land and the freedom of people,'' President Michel Suleiman said in his address. 'I congratulate the resistance (Hezbollah) for this new achievement.' (Lebanese Militant Released in Israeli Prisoner Exchange Swap.)''

And just what is this " new achievement" for which Lebanese President Suleiman praises Hezbollah?

Beyond the story, this episode is instructive of the spectrum of warfare. Hezbollah has progressed beyond terrorism to become a true military force. This is true despite killing Israeli soldiers in violation of the rules of war and the dictates of common humanity. But who can blame them when U.S. policy also violates the Geneva Conventions on a daily basis?

If one doubts this transition one need only look at the photo of murderer Kantar as he arrives to a hero's welcome in Beirut. Hezbollah has reached the status of a military force within a state and beyond the control of that state, or so goes the fiction.

Hezbollah is not a rogue actor but an instrument of state policies which allows them plausible deniability. The group may be acting as the unofficial army of the Lebanese state. If George Bush is so bone-headed that he is considering a military strike on Iran, or he is considering unleashing Israeli forces in a proxy attack, the Hezbollah wild card should be fully considered prior to any ill-advised strikes being launched against Iran.

Hezbollah is a counterforce that is more powerful than any nuclear weapon that could be developed by Iran. The entire Middle East is out of the control of U.S. policy.

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Blogger BadTux said...

The thing about Hizballah is that it is not capable of significant offensive operations. It should more properly be considered a warning of the difficulty of attacking Iran with air and ground forces than as a warning that U.S. and Israeli military might are irrelevant. There is a significant difference between being able to prevent an attacking force from progressing rapidly over prepared ground via a defense in depth using enormous numbers of village militiamen doing pop up, shoot, and scoot operations, and being able to take and hold ground. Hizballah is incapable of taking and holding ground against an organized military force outside of their carefully prepared stronghold in Lebanon.

One thing Hizballah does show is how lightly-armed militia can be used to defeat a modern mechanized army attacking over prepared ground. Given my skepticism below over the notion of civilian militia taking on organized paramilitary or military forces, this is a concept that should be arousing more interest than it apparently is. It appears that, as with Gen. Daniel Morgan and Gen Nathanael Greene, Hizballah has mastered the art of using militia to attrit attackers and cause confusion and eventual defeat. But that only works for defensive wars, in the end, which may be why the U.S. and Israel seem to be taking so little stock of the concept. After all, the IAF struck any target they wished to strike during the Lebanon exercise... surely that is all that is required for victory, right?

- Badtux the Sarcastic Penguin

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 8:01:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Bad Tux,
Your points are solid.The fact that Hisbollah does not YET possess offensive capabilities is not my point- which is that they have moved up in the spectrum of conflict.Whatever name we apply does not change the fact that they can do as you describe.These types of units are only effective IF they are willing to take the casualties and as you say serve their weapons. obviously they can and will do so.
I believe there is linkages between Hiz. and Iraq as well as with Iran.The Hiz. can start a great diversionary front IF the US widens the war. That is my concern.
The ability to strike targets is not the key issue here. It's the ability to translate tactical success into strategic victory.The US is unable to do so in Iraq /Afgh.so i find it hard to argue this as a weakness of Hez. jim

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 8:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, you address something that came to mind recently from the news. Since members of the Bush Administration are urging that Congress declare war (tho' they use words like "conflict") with Al Queda, I had to wonder, doesn't that almost legitimize the group and give it something damned near approaching state-hood? And not to count angels on pins here, but how do you declare war on such a shifting and ephemeral entity?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 10:19:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger BadTux said...

The problem is, what does Hizballah do if the U.S. strikes targets inside Iran? All they can do is fire off rockets. Well, they already did that. It was a dreadful nuisance, but their rockets are horrendously inaccurate and produce little loss of life and with their source of Iranian supply cut off, they'd eventually run out. They cannot launch an invasion. They can only operate on prepared ground, once they leave prepared ground and operate in the open they are sitting ducks. Right now, the only kinds of forces capable of invading another country and occupying it by force are conventional military forces such as the IDF and US Army.

In short, I believe you underestimate the value of the Hizballah card. You are correct that they are considered by the Lebanese people to be the "real" defense forces of Lebanon. But the operative term there is defense. Hizballah receives Iranian support but does not operate under Iranian orders -- they are a native Lebanese movement run by Lebanese -- and while unsuccessful at destroying Hizballah's weapons in 2006, Israel did succeed in convincing Hizballah that attacking Israel would result in serious damage to Lebanon and the Lebanese people. Hizballah cannot be seen as acting as agents of the Iranians and acting against the desires of the Lebanese people or they lose their public support within Lebanon. Given Lebanese politics (which is a blood sport), that would be deadly to them.

Even shorter: I do not believe Hizballah would attack Israel if Israel attacked Iran because domestic Lebanese politics precludes it and Hizballah is a Lebanese, not Iranian, movement.

That said, attacking Iran would be a bone-headed move anyhow. Here is a blood crazed neo-con explaining what it would really take to avoid a Van Riper scenario. We are talking about a massive air campaign that would match Desert Storm's air campaign for intensity with pretty much every available asset of the USAF and USN in play and probably a few dozen U.S. jets down at the end, and the end result is not as certain as this neo-con thinks. Iran has had a long time to harden and disperse its facilities. It is unclear we have the intelligence to ferret out all their facilities before they manage to fire off enough missiles at oil tankers in the Persian Gulf area to cause insurance companies to cancel their coverages under the "acts of war" clause, at which point said tankers skitter off to the nearest port and do not move for the duration -- cutting off oil to our (by then former) allies in Europe, India, and Japan as well as spiking oil prices to $500 per barrel or more. Remember, Saddam's Scuds were dismantled *after* the war despite total air superiority over Iraq during the war and a concerted effort to find and destroy them...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 10:51:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

despite the great press releases about the effectiveness of the patriot batteries, and the yeoman service of the A-10s on busting the semi-trailer mobile units.

it was small teams of special ops guys who found and fixed the positions of those units. sometimes destroying them personally.

hisbullah is viable because they provide services that the government cannot, or will not. since the last incursion they seem to have taken a "don't start none, won't be none." stance with both the lebanese govt, and the israelis. once an opponent has been fixed, the problem of reducing their position can become moot. leave them in their strong points. they will continue to spend money and time to keep improving their defenses. if they are never attacked that is money and resources down the rat hole. left alone, unattacked, they will become distracted by the mundanities of governing and administering.

they will legitamize themselves by accident.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 1:29:00 PM GMT-5  

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