Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Israelis decided against a wider operation because they are afraid that Syria might get involved. At the same time they are calling up reservists. I doubt the reserves will just sit around the Lebanese border when they do get called up....

They are calling up 3 divisions.

This isn't going to do much to reassure the Syrians.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Israel has just run out of options...

The only reasonable option left is a full-scale invasion of South Lebanon.

If the Israelis do not launch a massive invasion of Lebanon within the next 2 days this will end badly. The conditions being postulated in Rome for a ceasefire to be imposed on Israel are absolutely horrendous for Israel...

Foreign troops will prevent Israeli operations into Lebanon.
Foreign troops will not disarm Hezbollah.
Lebanese troops will not disarm Hezbollah.
Hezbollah will not be disarmed.
Nasrallah will claim victory (justly).
The soldiers might [not] be returned in a prisoner exchange.
Iran will continue to supply weapons to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah will fire missiles at will.
Moderate regimes will be destabilized.

This is a terrible conclusion and makes an absolute joke out of the Israeli objectives when it set out on this operations. If there is a reasonable man among the Israeli leadership he will understand that to agree to a cease-fire now is absolutely insane.

If this operations ends under the Rome ceasefire conditions, it will create the conditions for war with Syria within 2 years. This is both because it undercuts Israeli deterrence in the eyes of the Syrians and because it will make the Israeli government weaker and more prone to aggressive actions.

There has been a failure in communications between Israeli intelligence and the Israeli government. As a result there is a complete disconnect between the objectives outlined by the Israeli government and the means used by the IDF to try to carry them out. This is probably a combination of several factors. The first is the fact that both the Israeli prime minister and defense minister have no serious military background. The second is the fact that the current Chief of Staff of the IDF is an Air Force general. The Air Force has a distorted view of war, in as such as it seriously overestimates the possibility of winning a war against a determined and prepared foe via airstrikes alone.

So, plan A appears to have been to win through airstrikes. I guess if Hezbollah was completely unprepared and had all their katyushas/missiles/positions exposed and unfortified that might be possible. However, Hezbollah had clearly prepared its positions, bunkers and command structures to sustain heavy airstrikes and heavy artillery fire and still remain operational.

Plan B was not ready.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

No massive escalation = little chance for victory.

Since Hezbollah positions are heavily fortified all over south Lebanon there is no chance to take them out from the air. This has been shown over the past 12 days by the fact that the Hezbollah is still capable of sending 80-150 missiles per day into northern Israel despite the attempts of the IAF to knock out the launchers.

The following are the victory conditions for the various parties:
- Unconditional return of captured soldiers
- Forced end to rocket/missile attacks on Israel
- Destruction of Hezbollah military capabilities
- Elimination of Hezbollah leadership
- Recreation of deterrence vis-a-vis the northern border.

- Trade of captured soldiers for prisoners held by Israel.
- Maintenance of capability to keep hitting Israel with rockets.
- Maintenance of organized ability to operate within south Lebanon.
- Keep Hassan Nasrallah alive
- Maintenance of deterrence vis-a-vis Israel.

- Ability to maintain resupply lines to friendly Lebanese parties.
- Prevent any arrangement that doesn't take Syria into account.

Clearly the Israelis have been unable to obtain any of their goals except for the last one. I would assume that some element of deterrence has been established by the massive damage inflicted on Lebanese infrastructure. Whether this will be enough to prevent a future outbreak of violence depends on how much restraint the rest of the Lebanese actors can force upon the Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has proven itself highly effective. It has been hitting Israel with rockets for 12 days. Israeli airstrikes have been unable to stop them. Israeli limited ground attacks have encountered heavy resistance resulting in Israeli military losses. Nasrallah is the visible symbol of Hezbollah's leadership, and he is still appearing every couple of days on Arab TV stations. While he is alive and missiles/rockets are hitting Israel, any and all Israeli damage inflicted on Hezbollah has minimal value.

Syria can talk to both Hezbollah and Iran. It can resupply Hezbollah. It is trying to deter Israel from a full invasion of Lebanon. It will have to be consulted in any agreement.

As it stands now Hezbollah has fought Israel to a standstill. The following possible steps for Israel are ALL problematic.
1) Invasion of south Lebanon and recreation of security border zone.
- The optimistic idea behind this is that once this zone is created some agreement can be reached relatively quickly with the Lebanese government, the Syrians, the Europeans and the US to hand the border zone over to the Lebanese government and an international force. First there will be heavy casualties from fighting in the rugged terrain of Lebanon against the Hezbollah. This is also problematic because once Israel invades South Lebanon it is in a bind. It needs desperately to obtain an agreement so that it can leave and declare victory. In this situation the Syrians and Iranians are in no way interested in a fast agreement. The Hezbollah, Syrians, Iranians would once again try to inflict damage on the occupying Israeli forces and to deny the chance for any arrangement. Over time Hezbollah gets more support from within Lebanon and the refugee/humanitarian situation that is created in Lebanon by an Israeli invasion works consistently against Israel. Israel is denied victory.

2) No ground invasion of Lebanon. Provocations (airstrikes inside Syria) against Syria in order to threaten escalation and signal readiness to attack Syria.
- If the Syrians don't back down this is a war. Who knows if the Iranians do anything stupid. In any case, provocation towards Syria will increase international pressure on Israel to cease the fighting. If the Syrians do back down there is a chance that Hezbollah will stop shooting missiles and that some sort of agreement can be reached to put in a temporary international force in south Lebanon. Once things quiet down the Syrians will again destabilize Lebanon by funding/supplying Hezbollah or a different proxy that will threaten northern Israel and force the international force out or into inaction.

3) Refuse ceasefire and continue limited ground operations in order
to try to weaken Hezbollah.
- This increases pressure in the short-term on Israel to sign a ceasefire and seems unlikely to be able to force an end to all Hezbollah rocket fire at Israel. In the longer-term the continuation of low-intensity fighting with no chance for escalation on the north border can decrease the international pressure on Syria/Hezbollah for an agreement, while at the same time maintaining a situation of uncertainty/constant threat on the northern 1/3 of Israel.

4) Agree to a ceasefire and start negotiating. The ceasefire will function as a bandaid. The urgency for an agreement will decrease significantly, which means that international pressure for such an agreement will quickly dissipate. The ability of Israel to restart military operations in Lebanon will be limited. Effectively this is a return to status quo ante.

5) Invasion of Lebanon with no intention of creating a security zone. Take Lebanon up to the Litani, clearing Hezbollah and destroying its infrastructure within the area. This must be followed by an immediate unilateral withdrawal back into Israel, while using special forces and airstrikes to disrupt Hezbollah's ability to reestablish its positions in south Lebanon. This weakens Hezbollah, provokes Syria and eliminates most of the rocket/missile threat from northern Israel. The military steps allow the declaration of victory. The political result creates the conditions for at least a temporary agreement. However, there are risks involved here. First Hezbollah might fire long-range missiles from north of the Litani, which might suck Israeli forces into fighting north of the Litani. Second the Syrians might join the fight in Lebanon. Third the Lebanese army might join the fight against Israel. Fourth this might result in many Israeli casualties during fighting against the Hezbollah. Despite these problems this might be the most reasonable option.

These are all bad, its just a question of picking the best of the worst options. I am sure there are other options, but I don't see them.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Double meanings.

A couple of months ago I saw a book at B&N which I thought was interesting. I am now sorry that I didn't buy it. So, apparently, you are not allowed to give somebody a negative recommendation. You can get sued for doing so. So for this reason there are special techniques for getting around this problem. The book I saw was written to explain how to give a recommendation to a person you do not wish to recommend. This involves double meanings and there were hundreds of beautiful phrases in there.

I found a few phrases online from a similar vein:

"In my opinion, you will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you."
"I most enthusiastically recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever"
"I am pleased to say that this candidate is a former colleague of mine"
"I can assure you that no person would be better for the job"
"I would urge you to waste no time in making this candidate an offer of employment"
"All in all, I cannot say enough good things about this candidate or recommend him too highly"
"The candidate was responsible for immeasurable contributions to our organization."

So anyway, the situation in Gaza is going down the drain. Hamas and Israel need to agree to a cease-fire, a la the understanding reached between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon following the Grapes of Wrath operation. That seems rather unlikely while Hamas is holding an Israeli soldier captive. Whats even more surprising to me is that the Israelis do not know where he is being kept. Its unlikely that the PRC, being a ragtag clan-based outfit, would be capable of keeping a secret this long. This suggests that the operation was planned and carried out entirely by Hamas. If the captured soldier winds up dead Hamas leaders will start dying.