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ICG Risk Blog - [ What do you mean, "Israel lost"? ]

What do you mean, "Israel lost"?


Part 2

Actually the condition in the Levant is worse that 'Israel lost.' The precise statement is 'Israel lost and will lose again in the future despite interim corrective actions.'

I'd not intended to write this note but so many lay readers have asked with some incredulity how I could state that 'Israel lost,' and that includes readers that scan NYT headlines, that I thought that I should let Israeli voices, for the most part, speak to the anger and distress fading to vulnerability and fear that Israelis now evince. I will call that part of the post 'Israel lost today' divided into four sections:
  • The loss of the war
  • Public complaints by both reservist and regular army personnel
  • Forthcoming investigative panel on the loss
  • Cost of the war
Each of the sections predominately cite Haaretz or other Israeli sources, with some Reuters, BBC and other citations, that I leave to the reader to explore.

The problem is that even if Israel corrects these immediate deficiencies, it will lose again in the future. I'll call that part of the post 'Israel loses tomorrow.'

'Israel loses tomorrow'

First looking forward, my forecast for the Jewish state is grim. One of the shortest and bluntest assessments that I think maps Israel's options has been released by William Lind. In the shortest of words, Lind
dissolves Israel's entire history of military success since its foundation, and it is only the few that understand the sea change.

In parallel to Lind's projection, my question is who will be Israel's fourth patron state after the USSR, France and the US when the US at some point, post-Bush43, will look to its own geopolitical needs instead of continuing its three-legged sack race with Tel Aviv?  Israel cannot survive without a patron state, nor can it win a Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) contest against Hezbollah. The Israeli finance ministry puts the cost of the Lebanon war at 23 billion NIS or about 5.3 billion USD - and that was around 13-14 August. It will ultimately be greater.  Damage to Lebanon is running at 3.6 billion USD plus.

I had once thought that China would plump for the patron role, if nothing else to tap Israel's weapons technology that the US has gone to great lengths to block, but things are going too swimmingly for China in almost every sphere to lure them to form an alliance with Israel. (As Israel becomes increasingly desperate, Tel Aviv will either find ways to transfer technology to China or will thumb its nose at the US.)

Proponents of Israel will not like Lind's ideas, and may even find them repellant, but I submit that this is Israel's future trajectory:

The magnitude of the defeat is considerable. Israel appears to have lost at every level—strategic, operational and tactical. Nothing she tried worked. Air power failed, as it always does against an enemy who doesn’t have to maneuver operationally, or even move tactically for the most part. The attempts to blockade Lebanon and thus cut off Hezbollah’s resupply failed; her caches proved ample. Most seriously, the ground assault into Lebanon failed. Israel took little ground and paid heavily in casualties for that. More, she cannot hold what she has taken; if she is not forced to withdraw by diplomacy, Hezbollah will push her out, as it did once before. The alternative is a bleeding ulcer that never heals.

But these failures only begin to measure the magnitude of Israel’s defeat. While Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, is now an Islamic hero, Olmert has become a boiled brisket in the piranha pool that is Israeli politics. The cease-fire in Lebanon will allow camera crews to broadcast the extent of the destruction to the world, with further damage to Israel’s image. Israel’s “wall” strategy for dealing with the Palestinians has been undone; Hamas rockets can fly over a wall as easily as Hezbollah rockets have flown over Israel’s northern border.

Most importantly, an Islamic Fourth Generation entity, Hezbollah, will now point the way throughout the Arab and larger Islamic world to a future in which Israel can be defeated. That will have vast ramifications, and not for Israel alone. Hundreds of millions of Moslems will believe that the same Fourth Generation war that defeated hated Israel can beat equally-hated America, its “coalitions” and its allied Arab and Moslem regimes. Future events seem more likely to confirm that belief than to undermine it.

Intelligent Lebanese have now seen the handwriting on the wall - and it is written in Arabic, not Hebrew. Lebanese forces now moving into the south below the Litani River will be more of a Hezbollah farm team, cooperating with Hezbollah in achieving its aims, moving goods and armaments to Hezbollah, such is the collective hatred of Israel. There will be no effort to disarm Hezbollah, either by the Lebanese or a subsequent UN buffer force. Israel is already faced with prospective UNIFIL contributors that do not recognize Israel as a state, yet may have no choice but to accept it. As France ducks its 'impossible mission' lead role on-the-ground, preferring to retain the diplomatic high ground, Italy assumes lead of the new mission; Italy has built one of the better expeditionary forces in Europe due, in part, to its many UN deployments but has never led.

Expect this hobbled UN mission (also here) to fail and hostilities to recommence, further digging Israel and the US into a hole. As Israel continues to lose ground, it will likely extend its strike radius to the state that continues local transfer of arms to Hezbollah - Syria. Iran could then follow as Hezbollah's benefactor. If that happens while Bush43 is still in the White House, it is likely that Israel will be urged on rather than restrained. Shortly thereafter, expect oil production in Arabia to be interdicted and put off-line. Expect petrol shipments through the Straights of Hormuz to be halted. This will happen even if Israel goes nuclear as Iran has long prepared to employ mass suicide tactics to overwhelm the defenses of escorting vessels much as Paul Van Riper's Red Team did to the US blue team in the 2002 Millennium Challenge exercise.

Lind forecasts the dissolution of Lebanon, a "vast strengthening of Islamic 4GW elements everywhere," ascending Iran and Syria, descending US (Israel goes without question), a general refusal of current state militaries "to come to grips with Fourth Generation War," and a limited window for salvation:

Israel only has a long-term future if it can reach a mutually acceptable accommodation with its neighbors. So long as those neighbors are states, a policy of pursuing such an accommodation may have some chance of success. But as the rise of Fourth Generation elements such as Hezbollah and Hamas weaken and in time replace those states, the possibility will disappear.

Anthony Cordesman at CSIS does a nice job of summarizing the likely progress against goals in his 17 August version of Preliminary “Lessons” of the Israeli-Hezbollah War.

Syria is key but its ruling Alawite minority sitting atop a largely Sunni population cannot strike a peace treaty with Israel and survive without recovering the Golan Heights for itself and likely some or all other occupied area for its Arab and Palestinian neighbors. Israel will likely not understand that the Golan had merit in terms of 1960s artillery fire directed down from its heights - the military state of art of the region at the time. The past month has shown that Israel can be struck from hundreds of sites far deeper in Lebanon, even Syria. Israel's separation wall has been rendered moot. If Syria got what it wanted, and the House of Saud operated behind the scenes, the resources to Hezbollah could be drawn down while Syria took much of Hezbollah's new found mantle from it as Damascus recovered lands that had evaded previous Arab efforts.

I am not alone in expecting both Israel and the US to fail to grasp the nettle and adjust to the coming realities in the Levant. If the window passes, then it will fall to Hezbollah's gain, but by that time the House of Saud will have found its new partner in Beijing.

'Israel lost today' in four sections

(1) Cost of the war
Cost to Israel:

Israel agrees to put new offensive on hold until weekend
By Karin Laub, AP/Indepenndent (UK)
Published: 10 August 2006

Israeli cabinet OKs defence spending rise due to war
By Steven Scheer, Reuters
13 Aug 2006 13:51:25 GMT

Fog of war dissipates: Finance Ministry puts total damages at NIS 23 billion
By Moti Bassok and Avi Bar-Eli, Haaretz
Mon., August 14, 2006 Av 20, 5766

Treasury shocked by cost of war
By Moti Bassok and Irit Rosenblum, Haaretz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

Lahav: New small businesses in the North face danger
By Haim Bior, Hareetz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

Occupation has a price
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

Cost to Lebanon:

INTERVIEW-War inflicted $3.6 billion damage on Lebanon
By Lin Noueihed, Reuters
18 Aug 2006 11:39:33 GMT

Hizbollah stumps up cash for Lebanese war victims
By Alistair Lyon, Reuters
18 Aug 2006 21:10:21 GMT
(Adds U.N. figures on refugees, arrival in Beirut of envoys)

Lebanon's devastation sightseers
By Martin Asser, BBC News, Beirut
Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK

Surveying the damage in the south
By Martin Asser, BBC News, Nabatiyeh, south Lebanon
Last Updated: Saturday, 19 August 2006, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK

(2) Public complaints by both reservist and regular army personnel

TEXT: Protest petition by IDF reservists back from the war
By Haaretz Service
Last update - 17:58 21/08/2006

Reservists rally in Jerusalem as protests over war snowball
By Haaretz Staff and Agencies
Last update - 21:55 21/08/2006

Preliminary report finds failures in preparing home front for war
By Gideon Alon, Haaretz
Last update - 21:51 21/08/2006

Rose Garden turns into protest grounds
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

Bereaved families join reservists in demand for probe
By Nir Hasson, Haaretz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

(3) Forthcoming investigative panel on the loss

Mounting criticism at Peretz's decision to name war probe panel
By Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Yossi Verter, Haaretz
Last update - 15:54 17/08/2006

Lipkin-Shahak to head panel appointed to probe war in north
By Amos Harel, Haaretz
Last update - 21:05 16/08/2006

AG eyeing alternatives to probe
By Yuval Yoaz, Gideon Alon and Aluf Benn, Haaretz
Mon., August 21, 2006 Av 27, 5766

Peretz-appointed panel suspends investigation into conduct of war
By Amos Harel, Yuval Yoaz, Gideon Alon and Aluf Benn, Haaretz, and Haaretz Service
Last update - 21:22 21/08/2006              

Defense panel frozen as state probe looms
By Amos Harel, Gideon Alon and Moti Bassok, Haaretz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

A note to the inquiry commission
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

(4) The loss of the war

Israel is losing World War III
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz
Last update - 14:30 07/08/2006              

Israel fights under shadow of Iraq
By Jonathan Marcus, BBC
Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK

52 percent of Israelis: IDF failed
Ynet News
08.14.06, 19:42

Oldest IDF casualty felt second tour in Lebanon 'would end badly'
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz
Thu., August 17, 2006 Av 23, 5766

Class war in the IDF
By Staff Sgt. (res.) Ori Berzak, Haaretz
Sun., August 20, 2006 Av 26, 5766

Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz
Last update - 15:19 21/08/2006
OVERLOOK the title. What Burston is talking about is that by making them a demonic cardboard character that Israel can neither engage nor overcome.

This is no way to make a deal
By Danny Rubinstein, Haaretz
Mon., August 21, 2006 Av 27, 5766

Olmert: No talks with Syria if it continues to back terror groups
By Haaretz Service and Agencies
Last update - 18:19 21/08/2006

No confidence in the commander
By Haaretz Editorial, Haaretz
Mon., August 21, 2006 Av 27, 5766

Outgoing infantry chief says military 'guilty of arrogance'
By Amos Harel, Haaretz
Last update - 10:50 21/08/2006

For IDF, depth of public fury is beginning to sink in
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz
Mon., August 21, 2006 Av 27, 5766

'Why did these soldiers die?'
By Amos Harel and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz
Tue., August 22, 2006 Av 28, 5766

ANALYSIS: Policing in Gaza has blunted IDF fighting abilities
By Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz
Last update - 02:56 22/08/2006

General sources:

MAP - UNIFIL Deployment as of July 2006
UNIFIL - United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
Map No. 4144 Rev. 15E UNITED NATIONS
July 2006 (Colour)

By William S. Lind
On War #179
Defense and the National Interest
August 17, 2006

Washington’s interests in Israel’s war.


New Yorker
Issue of 2006-08-21
Posted 2006-08-14

Italians take lead role in UN force
Richard Owen and Richard Beeston
AP/The Australian
August 21, 2006

Trying to Avoid the Perils of Peacekeeping

New York Times
August 20, 2006

Preliminary “Lessons” of the Israeli-Hezbollah War

Anthony H. Cordesman
Working Draft for Outside Comment,
Revised: August 17, 2006

Israel alarm at UN force members
BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK

Text: UN Lebanon resolution
BBC News
Last Updated: Saturday, 12 August 2006, 01:33 GMT 02:33 UK

Bush’s Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father
New York Times
August 2, 2006

Gordon Housworth

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