Archive for the 'War & Warfare' Category



“Secret War” Against Syria and Iran?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 8 months ago

According to The Washington Note:

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

Adding fuel to the speculation is that U.S. forces today raided an Iranian Consulate in Arbil, Iraq and detained five Iranian staff members. Given that Iran showed little deference to the political sanctity of the US Embassy in Tehran 29 years ago, it would be ironic for Iran to hyperventilate much about the raid.

But what is disconcerting is that some are speculating that Bush has decided to heat up military engagement with Iran and Syria — taking possible action within their borders, not just within Iraq.

Is this so strange?  To begin with, the doctrine of dual containment has been in effect since the Clinton administration.

The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President’s National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman’s National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command’s theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM’s theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States’ vital interest in the region – uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.

Given the state of affairs then and even more so now, it would be irresponsible for the U.S. not to have such doctrine and plans.

But if true, this would follow in line closely with what I suggested in The Broader War: Redefining our Stratety for Iraq.  After calling for an air strike on Syria to remove the propaganda equipment being used by the Iraqi insurgents, I stated:

As a “going forward? strategy, incursions into Syria must be made in order to kill terrorists and deny them safe haven. The border must be absolutely secured with both Syria and Iran, including even incidental traffic. Based on my intelligence source cited above, only after the borders have been secured can we begin to treat Iraq as a nation even roughly amenable to standard COIN doctrine.

The objective is not total war, but rather:

  • intimidation
  • regime destabilization
  • denial of safe haven for insurgents, and ultimately
  • fomenting of regime change

A large scale land war is neither necessary nor even possible.  Given the healthy skepticism by officers concerning the proposed troop “surge,” it is doubtful that such a thing is being planned, and even more doubtful that it could succeed.

But what can succeed is the use of air and naval power, along with incursions by ground forces to accomplish the four points discussed above.  Are there enough infantry to pull this off?

Probably not to any significant extent, at least at the present.  It will require one of two things.  More troops in the pipeline (i.e., an increased in the size of the Army and Marines), or a drastic reduction of the ratio of support to infantry, including those now in Iraq.  I have argued before that this ratio is bloated and needs to be readjusted, but whether it can be done in a timely enough manner to pull off the incursions suggested above, along with dealing with the violence soon to be manifested when we go after the Sadrists, is another issue.

Afghanistan’s Lessons for Iraq: What Strategy?

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

If Afghanistan is the model for contemporary counterinsurgency operations, then the U.S. ought to rethink its strategy.  There is a role for both special operators and regulars in today’s warfare.  Cessation of regular operations too soon is counterproductive.

Bill Roggio is covering the fact that Pakistan has released more than 2500 al-Qaeda and Taliban, most of whom are heading to Waziristan.  Bill also covers the continuing operations in Afghanistan, stating that:

But the Afghan and Coalition efforts may merely be a holding action. Attempts to stabilize the provinces on the Pakistani border has been a difficult task as Taliban and al-Qaeda have used Pakistan’s Baluchistan and North West Frontier Provinces as bases of operations … The fighting in Afghanistan will only intensify.

Vital Perspective is reporting (from Jane’s Defence) that the Army and Marine Corps are putting the finishing touches on a new counter-insurgency manual that is designed to fill a crucial gap in U.S. military doctrine.  Afghanistan has lessons for our struggle in Iraq.  If this manual doesn’t mention and learn from our (at least partially) failed strategy in Afghanistan, then they should go back to the drawing board.

Much has been made about counterinsurgency warfare and the strategy the U.S. uses to attain peace and stability in Iraq.  The Washington Post recently published an article entitled In a Volatile Region of Iraq, U.S. Military Takes Two Paths.  In this article, the Staff Writer compares and contrasts two (allegedly) different approaches to securing peace and stability in the al Anbar province (the problems of which I have written on in my post Will We Lose the Anbar Province?).  I have also discussed the debate over force size and military footprint in my post The Debate Over Diminished Force Projection, which bears on the subject of force size and strategy and how various forces are utilized.

The Washington Post article is similar to those published previously, where the special forces operator is characterized as smart, patient, politically astute, and easily maleable and adaptable in new and challenging situations, while the non-special forces are depicted as dull, stolid, slow to adapt, and hopelessly educated and trained in the age-old military practices and stategy, much of which is too coarse and heavy-handed for the current situation in Iraq.  One is left to conclude that the regulars are knuckle-draggers.  It is an easy article to write — an easy story to tell.

The truth is neither of these depictions, and it is not somewhere in between.  The truth is more complicated.  As I have noted before from the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Urban Resolve program:

In military operations since World War II, United States forces have preferred to bypass major urban areas to avoid the costly combat expected inside cities.

There is a huge difference between bypassing the troops (both regular and irregular such as the Fedayeen) on our advance to Baghdad, leaving the enemy behind, and killing the enemy if he can be identified and located, when he is identified and located.  The special forces might claim that the entire operation should have been a counterinsurgency operation, while the regulars might claim that we stopped conventional operations too soon, and much of the enemy was still intact when we switched over to counterinsurgency strategy.

There are those who are complaining that the regulars are not taking an approach that more closely resembles newer and more sophisticated counter-insurgency techniques.  But ironically, no one complains that the Afghanistan campaign was too “regular.”  In fact, it was nothing but irregular and Special Forces operations.  We primarily used the Northern Alliance to drive the Taliban from northern Afghanistan and Kabul, while we relied heavily on three tribal leaders / warlords, at least one of whom could not be trusted, to attempt closure with the enemy at Tora Bora.  The attitude of many of the fighters was in part responsible for the failure to close in on the enemy.  From the perspective of one fighter:

Awol Gul was calm and relaxed as B-52s pummeled a mountain behind him and Al Qaeda sniper fire rang out in the distance. “They’ve been under quite a bit of pressure inside there,” he said. “It is likely that they have made a tactical withdrawal farther south. They have good roads, safe passage, and Mr. bin Laden has plenty of friends.

“We are not interested in killing the Arabs,” Mr. Gul went on to say. “They are our Muslim brothers.”

We lost Osama bin Laden and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Taliban fighters.  When the last cave was taken at Tora Bora:

On Dec. 16, Afghan warlords announced they had advanced into the last of the Tora Bora caves. One young commander fighting with 600 of his own troops alongside Ali and Ghamsharik, Haji Zahir, could not have been less pleased with the final prize. There were only 21 bedraggled Al Qaeda fighters who were taken prisoners. “No one told us to surround Tora Bora,” Mr. Zahir complained. “The only ones left inside for us were the stupid ones, the foolish and the weak.”

Today the Taliban and al Qaeda have control over Waziristan, have recently fought the Pakistani army to a draw, have seen 2500 of their fellow Taliban released, and have managed to inflict enough terror into Afghanistan that 267 schools have been forced to cease operations altogether.  If Afghanistan is the model for special operations, then we ought to rethink how we are conducting these operations.

There is a place for special operations, and certainly there is need always to adapt our techniques to the circumstances.  And with counterterrorist tactics being all the rage now, should I be bold enough to say that it is not the answer to all of our problems?

When we lose thousands of Taliban at Tora Bora, fighters are shooting at Marines and Soldiers in foxholes in Ramadi and U.S. forces will not hunt down and kill the enemy in response (while they also take bets as to when they will be attacked again), and no one in the chain of command can make a decision to kill 190 Taliban at a funeral because of “religious sensibilities,” may I suggest that we need to re-evaluate our strategy?  And to reflexively demur to special operations is easy, but not the answer. 

Iran’s Iraq Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

Deadly and sinister IED technology perfected by Hezbollah with the help of Iran has made its way into Iraq, with the sole purpose, together with the presence of IRGC forces, of the destabilization of Iraq.  Iran sees itself at the center of a new Middle East Caliphate when U.S. troops depart. 

As I have discussed in previous posts, Iran has IRGC troops in Iraq, and has provided IED technology to Iraqi insurgents.  The most recent development in ordnance type and application in Iraq comes in the form of Hizbollah technology.

A multi-charged roadside bomb, developed by Hizbollah in Lebanon, is being used against British and American soldiers by Iraqi insurgents linked to Iran, according to military intelligence sources.

The device consists of an array of up to five armour-piercing “explosively formed projectiles” or EFPs, also known as shaped charges. They are fired at different angles at coalition vehicles, resulting in almost certain death for at least some of the soldiers inside.

The bombs are easier for insurgents to use because, unlike single EFP devices, they do not need to be carefully aimed and so can be planted beside a road within a few seconds. Their killing potential is also enhanced because more than one EFP is likely to hit a single vehicle.

Some have been painted to look like concrete blocks – a modification of a tactic used by Iranian-backed Hizbollah, which hollowed out imitation rocks, bought in Beirut garden centres, to conceal bombs targeting Israeli vehicles.

A senior defence source said: “There are clear signs of Iran’s sinister hand, and through that, Hizbollah, in this development.”

A Pentagon document obtained by The Sunday Telegraph describes the devices as “well manufactured by experienced bomb makers” and “pioneered by Lebanese Hizbollah”. It adds: “The United Kingdom has accused Iran of providing these devices to insurgents in Iraq.”

Triggered when an infra-red beam is broken, the projectiles are capable of penetrating the armour of 60-ton Abrams tanks. Warrior armoured vehicles and Land Rovers, used by British forces in southern Iraq, offer almost no protection against them.

In February, John Negroponte, America’s director of national intelligence, blamed the Iranian government for the spread of such weapons throughout Iraq.

He told a United States Senate committee: “Teheran is responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks in 2005, by providing Shia militants with the capability to build IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices] with explosively formed projectiles, similar to those developed by Iran and Lebanese Hizbollah.”

Coalition forces recently intercepted an infra-red EFP device being transported into Iraq across the Shatt al-Arab waterway from Iran.

Courtesy of the Telegraph, this picture below offers a primer on the devices.

 

But even as deadly as this technology is to U.S. troops, to see this in the aggregate is to fail to grasp the larger Iran strategy for Iraq.  Iran’s strategy is twofold, and it is dangerous to misunderstand their intentions or underestimate their willingness to go forward with their plans.

The first prong in the Iran strategy involves retaliatory strikes and armed conflict in Iraq proper should the U.S. use military force to secure or destroy nuclear facilities in Iran.  The Washington Post a couple of months ago reported on Iran’s Iraq strategy:

The most likely theater of operations in the initial stages of a U.S.-Iranian conflict, however, would be next door — in Iraq. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iran has methodically built and strengthened its military, political and religious influence in Iraq. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has extensively infiltrated Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior and police force, both mainstays of Shiite power. The hundreds of Iranian mullahs and businessmen who have slipped across the border have a commanding presence in southern Iraq’s commercial and religious sectors.

[ ... ]

Iran’s paramilitary and intelligence buildup in Iraq would put some members of the “coalition of the willing” to shame. Over the past three years, Tehran has deployed to Iraq a large number of the Revolutionary Guard’s Qods Force — a highly professional force specializing in assassinations and bombings — as well as officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security and representatives of Lebanese Hezbollah.

[ ... ]

Iranian personnel have established safe houses throughout southern Iraq. They monitor the movement of coalition forces, tend weapons caches, facilitate cross-border travel of clerics, smuggle munitions into Iraq and recruit individuals as intelligence sources. Presumably, Tehran has recruited networks within U.S. military bases and civilian compounds that could be activated on short notice. Iran is also believed by regional intelligence agencies to have armed and trained as many as 40,000 Iraqis to prevent an unlikely rollback of Shiite control.

In my post Iran Muscles in on Iraq, I said:

With close enough cooperation, enough largesse spread around by Iran, and enough meddling in the affairs of Iraq, the hope apparently is that Iraq would become more like Iran, a place hostile to Western influences and militant against Western values.

Iran is not for a single second interested in stability in Iraq.  Iran is interested in a world Caliphate, and Iraq is less seen as a stumbling block to that end and more and more seen as another pawn to use to that end.

In a remarkably similar assessment, the Strategy Page about the same time reported:

Al Maliki is trying to convince the Iranians to stop supporting (with money, weapons and technical advisors) radical Shia militias in Iraq. The purpose of this support is to prepare these radical Iraqi groups to stage a coup and take over the Iraqi government. Iraq would then be turned into an Islamic republic, like Iran. This kind of takeover worked in Iran because it was done in the middle of a war with Iraq (in the 1980s), a war begun by Saddam Hussein, who thought he could rush in and grab some Iranian oil fields while Iran was distracted by its rebellion against the Iranian monarchy. The Iranian religious radicals have held on to power since, despite only having the support of a minority of the population, by establishing a police state. Most of the cops are Islamic radicals out to impose proper Islamic lifestyles on all Iranians. Democracy is not considered properly Islamic, nor are a lot of things from the West, including movies and accurate news. But the Iraqis, al Maliki is apparently trying to convince the Iranians, are different. While about 30 percent of the Iranian population supports the religious dictatorship, the percentage is lower in Iraq, and the pro-democracy crowd is armed and willing to fight. The Iranians believe that, as soon as the U.S. troops leave, the Iraqi Islamic radical militias can make their move and, in effect, unite Iran and Iraq as a Shia axis for Islamic radicalism that will conquer the world for the Shia brand of Islam.

And this is the second prong of the Iran strategy.  The first prong is proximate and has immediate consequences, i.e., the deaths of U.S. troops and the destabilization of Iraq.  The second prong is more theoretical but just as dangerous.  Iran wants to control the Middle East, and sees itself at the center of a new Caliphate.  Iraq is a pawn in the strategy to begin this process.

The U.S. will not win in Iraq until Iran is driven out entirely.  Furthermore, driving Iran out of Iraq will not address the possibility of a nuclear Iran.

Heat Stroke: the Soldier’s Enemy

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

Haaretz has this:

A 17-year-old boy who died during tryouts for pilot training was apparently killed by heat stroke rather than dehydration, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The commander of the Israel Air Force, Major General Elyezer Shkedy, has ordered an investigation into the death of Itai Sharon of Zichron Ya’akov, who died on Wednesday.

A debriefing revealed that between 6:30 and 8:00 A.M. Wednesday, the group of teens involved in the tryout went on a six-kilometer march carrying weights. The IDF’s chief medical officer, Brigadier General Hezi Levy, said that the heat stress factor did not rule out such activities under army regulations. At 8:30 A.M., the heat stress factor became borderline in terms of the regulations governing strenuous physical activity, so the group was assigned activities that they could do sitting down.

An hour after the march, Sharon’s friends saw him sitting in the sun. When they summoned him into the shade, they noticed that he was confused and apathetic. After they made the commanders aware of Sharon’s condition, he was sent for medical treatment. He was found to have a high fever, given a transfusion and transferred to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, where he lost consciousness and died.

Heat stroke, in which the body is unable to discharge heat built up during strenuous activity, is a known risk in very hot weather. A number of IDF soldiers have died of heat stroke over the years.

In my post “Israel’s Might Army: Plan and Keep the Balance,” I said:

In my post “Israeli Army in Disarray During War,? I cited a news report that:

Israel’s largest paper, Yediot Ahronot, quoted one soldier as saying thirsty troops threw chlorine tablets into filthy water in sheep and cow troughs. Another said his unit took canteens from dead guerrillas.

This is very telling.  I get word from my son in the Marines frequently concerning his training, what he is going through at the time, and how he feels.  It doesn’t bother me that the Israeli army was without food for a while.  I should not go too far with the details of my son’s training (this is considered a ?no-no?).  But it is customary to go several days without sleep or food.  They must be capable of doing this while waging war and making battlefield decisions, since at times they will be doing exactly that while their lives are on the line.

And it may seem strange to lay hold of something as simple as water as a touchstone for the condition of the Israeli army, but I think it makes perfect sense.  An army that is without water is in seriousserious … trouble.  While I am certain that his superiors do an adequate job of training my son concerning the dangers of dehydration and overheating, I regularly (via phone) give my son a “safety brief? concerning these matters.

You must remember the facts concerning water and body heat.  The body can discharge heat in several ways: convection cooling, radiation cooling, conductive cooling and evaporative cooling.  Of these, evaporative cooling is the most significant.  When you sweat, the idea is that the water is then able to evaporate, taking with it the heat necessary to change phases (this is called the latent heat of vaporization).  This change of phase takes with it from the body just under 1000 BTUs/lbm of water, and without it a man on the battlefield is in danger of not only heat exhaustion, but heat stroke and even death.  I regularly lecture my son on ensuring that his “camelback? is full of water, and that he hydrates regularly.

Regarding heat stroke, if the core body temperature increases to around 105 degrees F and stays for any length of time, the proteins in the brain begin to change form, and permanent brain damage occurs.  Of course, exhaustion, fatigue, medical problems and brain damage are not good things on the battlefield.  Finally, in conditions of dehydration, the blood thickens and less of it is sent to the brain.  This causes a loss of mental and cognitive capabilities.  Again, not a good thing on the battlefield.

The lack of basic provisions such as water (the most basic of all) shows that Israel was not — and is not — on a war footing.

The man on the battlefield who doesn’t understand the significance of water, exposure to radiant heat gain, and internal heat generation due to work has been poorly trained.  And the country that sends its boys into harm’s way without the provisions necessary to do the job has done something profoundly immoral.

Marine Corps Equipment & Dollars

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

The Center for American Progress has this study in “Marine Corps Equipment After Iraq:”

The United States has understandably focused on the tremendous human costs of the war in Iraq, yet there are other costs that must be addressed as well. Earlier this year the Center for American Progress and the Lexington Institute compiled a report examining the impact of the war in Iraq on Army equipment. This report does the same for the Marine Corps, the other service that has borne the brunt of the occupation.

Over the past three years the Marine Corps has maintained 40 percent of its ground equipment, 50 percent of its communications equipment, and 20 percent of its aviation assets in Iraq. This equipment is used at as much as nine times its planned rate, abused by a harsh environment, and depleted due to losses in combat. To maintain acceptable readiness levels, the Marines have been taking equipment from non-deployed units and drawing down Maritime Prepositioned stocks, including equipment stored in Europe, thus limiting their ability to respond to contingencies outside of Iraq.

Resetting and recovering the force will be expensive. The cost of restoring the Marines’ ground and aviation equipment to its pre-Iraq level, as of the summer of 2006, will require $12 billion plus an additional $5 billion for each year the Marines remain in Iraq.

Recovery will also not be easy. The Marine Corps, like the Army, must incorporate the lessons of Iraq into its future procurement plans while upgrading its forces. The Marines may prefer expeditionary operations to acting as an occupying force, but urban counter-insurgency and peacekeeping operations will more likely be the rule rather than the exception in the future.

Read all of the report at the link I supplied above, including near term and long term recommendations.  I have a few observations of my own to make.

First observation: I believe that we should more radically re-evaluate our deployments around the globe than even Rumsfeld has advocated.  Our NATO presence should be reduced, our bases in Germany should be cut or closed altogether, and our forces moved to the locales in the world where they need to be in order to engage in this 25-year war on radical Islamic facism that we are just now beginning.  Look folks: the cold war is over, and we need to deal with it immediately and radically, not as if we are slow and stolid and dense.  So it doesn’t bother me too much that we are depleting the equipment that would otherwise be used in Europe, for example.  But I seriously doubt that this comprises a large portion of the deployed equipment or Marines, so this might be a moot point.  Either way, Europe is the last thing that should be on our minds right now.

Second, as you might be able to tell from my posts, there are things that I wish I could tell you about Marine training and indoctrination, but cannot because it would get my son into trouble.  They are very clear that the men are not supposed to speak to those outside the “family” of Marines about what they experience.  I have suggested two books in my earlier post: “Making the Corps” and “Into the Crucible.”  I would also suggest a movie: Full Metal Jacket, a sort of cult classic (my son Daniel recommends it).  Note: Get the movie and watch it, but don’t believe everything you read in the Wikipedia link I gave you just now.  Full Metal Jacket begins to tell you what boot camp is like, but still doesn’t do the job.  It just doesn’t.

I have given you hints with the 20 mile humps with 40 lbm of body armor and 100 lbm backpacks, trying to sleep with artillery shooting, pulling leeches off of each other after waking, going two or more days without eating or sleeping, etc., etc.  But these are still just hints.  How the Marines make emotionally, physically and mentally hard men is a story that has not really been told yet, and will not be told by me.  The secrets of Parris Island are haunting and will remain with the boys who have been there.  As one who has only heard these stories, I cannot tell them with honesty.  I think its one of those things where you had to be there.

Where am I going with this?  Just this.  American wants the Marines.  American needs the Marines.  Just trust me on this.  So the thought of a funding cut (or even failure to grant a funding increase) is just not on the radar screen.  Note to Congress: Grant the Corps what they requestThey will request less than they actually need.  That’s the way they are.

Third: The saying goes “The Marines go in first, the Army gets all the equipment and gets to clean up.”  I know, I know, the Marines relish austere conditions, hardship, going without, and having less than you need.  And I know, one reason for this is the feeling that if you actually get funded, you might have to compromise your standards and become like … well, someone or something else.  You need to get past this … sort of.

Listen.  You are the President’s own, you do battle when he says so, and sometimes without the approval of much of the American people or Congress, into strange lands and without clear mandates or charges.  You are accustomed to murky goals and hard conditions, and you have to train your people that way.  But … you need to play the politics of funding in order to get the equipment you need to do the job, right up to the point of compromising and becoming politically correct.

This you will not do.  I know.  But more funding is the order of the day.  You deserve a larger portion of the pie, and unless you are willing to step forward and say so, you will continue to go without, to the detriment of your boys and your mission.

Israel’s Mighty Army: Plan and Keep the Balance

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

The Washington Post is reporting what so many news outlets in Israel are reporting (JPost, Haaretz, etc.), regarding the absolute debacle over the last several weeks:

JERUSALEM, Aug. 18 — Sgt. Lior Rahamin’s Israeli reserve unit had not trained in two years. When its members were called up for the Lebanon war, they didn’t have straps for their guns, spare ammunition, flak jackets or more than one good radio. There were other shortages: Twice their operations were canceled because they had no water to take; once they went two days without food.

“Hezbollah didn’t surprise us. We were surprised by the Israel Defense Forces,” said Rahamin, 30, a paratrooper who was wounded fighting in Lebanon in 1997 and who volunteered to go with his unit again. The next time they call, he said, “we will not show up.”

[ ... ]

“If we would have gone in with more foot soldiers, we would have done more,” said Avi Hubara, 40, a schoolteacher and reservist who volunteered to go to Lebanon to fight. “But the politicians were scared to make decisions. It was a failure. We got people killed. There was lots of friendly fire. We did not hurt the capability of the Hezbollah. We did not return the kidnapped soldiers. We did not win.”

[ ... ]

“We were getting ready to board the bus in Lebanon with faces painted for combat, but they called us back,” said Sgt. Yuval Drori, 30, a reservist who works at a software company. “Another time we were at the border, with bullets in the chambers, but they canceled again. The mission changed every 30 minutes. There was a great sense of a big mess.”

“In the last six years, there hadn’t been any preparation” for putting soldiers into combat, said a retired major general, Shaul Givoli, director of the Council for Peace and Security near Tel Aviv. “Even the rations had expired.”

I think that there are some lessons to be learned, but some lessons to reject as well.  In fact, it may be as important to reject the wrong ones as to learn from the right ones.

There is almost an orgy of international praise for Hezbollah’s military capability right now.  I think it is important to get this right.  Hezbollah has a few thousand men, some bunkers, and several thousand rockets.  They don’t even come close to a major military power.  Their having survived the recent conflict should be attributed to the facts that they were deeply dug in and knew how to disappear amongst the population.  They did prove two things though: they are on a war-footing, and they are willing to perish for their beliefs.

In my post “Israeli Army in Disarray During War,” I cited a news report that:

Israel’s largest paper, Yediot Ahronot, quoted one soldier as saying thirsty troops threw chlorine tablets into filthy water in sheep and cow troughs. Another said his unit took canteens from dead guerrillas.

This is very telling.  I get word from my son in the Marines frequently concerning his training, what he is going through at the time, and how he feels.  It doesn’t bother me that the Israeli army was without food for a while.  I should not go too far with the details of my son’s training (this is considered a ”no-no”).  But it is customary to go several days without sleep or food.  They must be capable of doing this while waging war and making battlefield decisions, since at times they will be doing exactly that while their lives are on the line.

And it may seem strange to lay hold of something as simple as water as a touchstone for the condition of the Israeli army, but I think it makes perfect sense.  An army that is without water is in seriousserious … trouble.  While I am certain that his superiors do an adequate job of training my son concerning the dangers of dehydration and overheating, I regularly (via phone) give my son a “safety brief” concerning these matters.

You must remember the facts concerning water and body heat.  The body can discharge heat in several ways: convection cooling, radiation cooling, conductive cooling and evaporative cooling.  Of these, evaporative cooling is the most significant.  When you sweat, the idea is that the water is then able to evaporate, taking with it the heat necessary to change phases (this is called the latent heat of vaporization).  This change of phase takes with it from the body just under 1000 BTUs/lbm of water, and without it a man on the battlefield is in danger of not only heat exhaustion, but heat stroke and even death.  I regularly lecture my son on ensuring that his “camelback” is full of water, and that he hydrates regularly.

Regarding heat stroke, if the core body temperature increases to around 105 degrees F and stays for any length of time, the proteins in the brain begin to change form, and permanent brain damage occurs.  Of course, exhaustion, fatigue, medical problems and brain damage are not good things on the battlefield.  Finally, in conditions of dehydration, the blood thickens and less of it is sent to the brain.  This causes a loss of mental and cognitive capabilities.  Again, not a good thing on the battlefield.

The lack of basic provisions such as water (the most basic of all) shows that Israel was not — and is not — on a war footing.

What is not the case is that Hezbollah’s ranks are filled with supermen.  Again, this is not a lesson to be taken from this conflict.  Israel can get itself on a war footing again, but it will require re-arming, re-training, re-tooling the command and control, ensuring that there is a clear line of authority all the way up the ranks, and most of all, preparing mentally for the fact that Israel is at war.  This war will not abate for some time into the foreseeable future.  Israel has a smart army and one of the best and most seasoned air forces in the world.  This standoff is not the end.  It is only the beginning.  I have no doubt that Israel will do what is necessary to win.

But it will not be helpful to learn the wrong lessons.  The wrong lesson is that Hezbollah is a powerful army.  No, it is a band of thugs, several thousand strong, dug into holes in the ground.  The right lesson is that the IDF was unprepared.

Let’s hope that they learn the lesson well.

Just as I finished this post, I read a piece by Douglas Farah concerning the Islamic strategy in Europe.  His final quote is telling, not just for Europe, but for Israel too:

We do not have a plan. They do. History shows that those that plan, anticipate and have a coherent strategy usually win. We are not winning.

If Mark Steyn is correct, it won’t matter for Europe anyway since Europe is self-destructing.

In Iraq there are gains.  The recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict was a standoff and a debacle for Israel.  The war on terror in the U.S. has suffered from courtroom setbacks.  We have failed to stop Iran from regional hegemony, and the Shia world is riding high in their collective defiance of Israel, proposed U.N. sanctions, and the U.S. in Iraq.  The Iraq-Iran borders are leaking, and Iranian influence in Iraq is burdensome.

Faster … please?

Israel & Hezbollah: Fought to a Draw

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

**** UPDATE ****

John Hawkins at RWN has this to say:

I’m still of the opinion that since Hezbollah is flagrantly violating the ceasefire by refusing to disarm or go North and since the international force is starting to fall apart before it gets started (Thank you, France), Israel should start bombing again.

I would add to this by saying that they should never have stopped bombing (nor should they have held in abatement an aggressive land invasion).  I said so from the beginning of this campaign.  Just after posting the original post below, I was watching coverage at FNC on southern Lebanon, and the reporter commented that disarming Hezbollah would be impossible because, in her words, “they have melted into the population and hidden their weapons.”

Of course they have.  Without a land invasion to root this out Israel cannot win.  And without eventually confronting the terror-master Iran (whose surrogate is Hezbollah), neither the U.S. nor Israel will win against terror.  The head of the snake must be cut off.  Our war is with Iran who supports the Shia in Iraq and Hezbollah in Iran.  We just haven’t battled them directly yet.  We are fighting a proxy war thus far.

**** ORIGINAL POST ****

The Strategy Page has this interesting assessment of the Israel – Hezbollah conflict:

August 16, 2006: The success of the ceasefire in Lebanon hinges on a condition that Lebanon and Hizbollah both insist will not happen. Hizbollah is supposed to disarm, but says bluntly that it will not do so. The Lebanese government says it will not force Hizbollah to disarm. So what’s going to happen? It appears that Israel is going to hold the UN responsible for carrying out its peace deal, and disarm Hizbollah. To that end, Israel will withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and leave it to UN peacekeepers to do what they are obliged to do. But here’s the catch, not enough nations are stepping forward to supply the initial 3,500 UN forces, much less the eventual 15,000 UN force. However, it is likely that, eventually, enough nations will supply troops. But many of those contingents may not be willing to fight Hizbollah. Israel says it will not completely withdraw from Lebanon until the UN force is in place.The Israeli strategy appears to be to allow the UN deal to self-destruct. If the UN peacekeepers can disarm Hizbollah, fine. If not, Israeli ground troops will come back in and clear everyone out of southern Lebanon. At that point, it will be obvious that no one else is willing, or able, to deal with the outlaw “state-within-a-state” that Hizbollah represents. Hizbollah will still exist after being thrown out of southern Lebanon, and it will be up to the majority of Lebanese, and the rest of the Arab world, to deal with Hizbollah and radical Shias.

Hizbollah suffered a defeat. Their rocket attacks on Israel, while appearing spectacular (nearly 4,000 rockets launched), were unimpressive (39 Israelis killed, half of them Arabs). On the ground, Hizbollah lost nearly 600 of its own personnel, and billions of dollars worth of assets and weapons. Israeli losses were far less. 

 

Well, I don’t completely buy it.  My post just below indicates my position on Iran: they are the clear winner, but I didn’t assess Hezbollah.

Israel did not win, but it would appear to me that Hezbollah didn’t either.  The problem for Israel is that Israel is still at risk of war with Iran by proxy.

As to this notion that the U.N. plan will fall apart, perhaps it will.  But I don’t think that this will be something that will be announced from the rooftops.  The failure will be invisible to the world, because Hezbollah will be re-armed by night and by trickery and by deceipt.

Eventually, terrorism will befall the “peace-keeping” troops in southern Lebanon, but by then it will be too late.  Hezbollah will be back up to strength and ready to wage war again will Israel.

Cessation of “Hostilities”

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that Ehud Olmert told the members of the Knesset that the:

“… UN Security Council Resolution 1701 “will change fundamentally our strategic situation on the northern border.”

Good grief.  Let me be as clear about this as I can.  UN Security Council resolution 1701 will change nothing as regards the strategic position on the northern border except to give Hezbollah a reprieve to re-arm and re-group.  Benjamin Netanyahu was on point with his retort:

“The [kidnapped] soldiers weren’t returned home, the Hizbullah was not disarmed … Right now, we are [merely] in an interim period between wars,” Netanyahu warned. “And there is no one who will prevent our enemies from rearmed and preparing for the next round.” 

I am growing weary of the silly language being used to describe the state of affairs.  The phrase “cessation of hostilities” is used to denote stopping combat with the enemy, and “crisis” is used to denote the war.  Israel is at war with its enemies.  This is not a “crisis” in which there are “hostilities.”

I was listening to a news commantator who was discussing the “cessation of hostilities,” which is [according to this commentator] “what we all want to see.”

Where did this person get the notion that we all want to see the cessation of hostilities?  I don’t.  I have called for the absolute destruction of Hezbollah, the assassination of Nasrallah, and attack of Hezbollah by the U.S. Marines.

Given the following circumstances:

  • An enemy that has sworn the genocide of your race.
  • Stopping the war gives Hezbollah a chance to re-arm and re-group.
  • Stopping the war gives Hezbollah an opportunity to claim victory and hence become stronger in Lebanon.

 … the question then logically follows.  Can anyone give me a single good reason for a “cessation of hostilities?”

Oh, and in the shocker of the day, Hezbollah told the Lebanese army to pound sand.  The Australian is reporting (hat tip Michelle Malkin’s web site – Karol Sheinin):

Is was supposed to be the day the maligned Lebanese army took control of the country’s borders and policed the UN ceasefire.

Instead, the military commanders were left humiliated and troops stranded as Hezbollah told them not to disarm its fighters.

The first infantry units were preparing to head south when Hezbollah showed who controls the area by announcing it would not surrender its weapons.

General Michel Sleiman, commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army, and his lieutenants had been invited to join cabinet meetings to finalise plans to deploy the 15,000-strong force south of the Litani River.

But they were lectured by Hezbollah’s two ministers in the coalition Government on what the army could and could not do.

And so continues the “cessation” of “hostilities” brokered by the UN under the rubric of a “ceasefire.”

Israel has Missed a Once-in-Nation’s-Lifetime Opportunity

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

Every once in a while, an opportunity comes along that seems like it is made just especially for the present conditions.  It isn’t very often that an intractable problem presents itself, and yet the solution to that intractable problem just as readily presents itself, if only you have the courage take it.

Israel has had just this kind of opportunity with Hezbollah starting the recent conflict, Syria and Iran staying out of the war, and Lebanon powerless to do anything about any of it (including not just Israel but Hezbollah as well).  This had left Israel completey unshackled to destroy Hezbollah.

It should have been expected that the U.S. diplomatic machinations would have attempted appeasment of the world powers.  Condi went it to reform the State Department, and herself was co-opted by the “lifers” at the department who see themselves as neutral brokers between U.S. policy and the rest of the world, rather than an arm of the U.S. government and ultimately, therefore, servants of the people.

So armed with this knowledge, i.e., a once-in-a-nation’s-lifetime opportunity combined with a U.S. State Department that will aim to appease regardless of the circumstances, Israel could have utilized this chance to destroy its enemy — at least, the proxy of its enemy.  The Counterterrorism Blog notes that:

“If Israel takes 40 kilometers [into the southern belly of Lebanon] and sits, Hezbollah and its allies will take the rest of the country and eliminate the Cedars Revolution [the Lebanese Democracy movement]. That is a certainty. Then the two camps will clash in a wider war in few more months.”

Haaretz is reporting that Olmert will ask the Security Council to appove the U.N. resolution (until then, the offensive will continue, although one is forced to ask ‘why’?).  The same Haaretz is reporting that Lebanon is opposed to a more robust UNIFIL force in Lebanon.  It is politics as usual, and Hezbollah (and ultimately Iran) is the winner.

Once again, one if forced to ask why Israel would continue with the offensive at all if the final plan included anything but the destruction of Hezbollah?

It is a bizzare world when a cessation of hostilities is the ultimate aim of war rather than victory over the enemy.

I am forced to conclude that unless Israel (beginning with the electorate who put the current leadership in charge) undergoes a significant paradigm shift in its understanding of the enemy who has vowed to destroy it, it will not long survive.

Similarly, unless the U.S. electorate begins to understand the war and its implications, and until we can get the State Department to help the U.S. in the war rather than broker peace, the U.S. might just not long survive.

Final note: We are away on vacation and blogging is light.  Will return to more serious blogging next week.

**** UPDATE ****

Michele Malkin calls this a defeat.  Raise the white flag of surrender and the yellow flag of Hezbollah.  At the Captain’s Journal we have been saying this for weeks.  Hezbollah will be stronger, and Israel weaker for it all.  The war will not abate, and the forces of darkness are victorious, at least for the moment.

After all of this, I do not see how Ehud Olmert can stay in office.  It seems to me that Parliament should have a vote of no-confidence in his leadership.  Olmert’s poll numbers are decreasing; Hezbollah is airing under the banner “We won; we have defeated the invincible army!”; and opinion and analysis pieces are hinting that Israel is not such an important strategic ally if in fact they cannot defeat Hezbollah.

All around a bad, bad deal for Israel.  Nothing gained, everything lost.

Israel vs. Hezbollah: Outrunning “Just War Theory”

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 1 month ago

This from Arutz Sheva:

Brig.-Gen. Noam Feig, head of naval shipyards, said the Naval Commando 13′s operation in Tyre targeted senior Hizbullah operatives responsible for the launch of long-range rockets, similar to those fired at Hadera on Friday. “The goal of the operation was a commando raid against [those] senior Hizbullah operatives,” he said. “Among other things, they were involved in launching rockets at Hadera Friday. The operation brought closure to all other operations.”

Feig stressed that the heroic operation was deemed necessary to combat the threat of long-term rocket launches into Israel, while minimizing the possibility of Lebanese civilian casualties. “The force, under the command of a Commando 13 commander, was made up of three separate forces. Hizbullah’s pattern of operations, hiding in apartments, endangers the lives of Lebanese civilians and necessitates selective and accurate capabilities,” Feig stated.

[ ... ]

“The two soldiers were treated in the field by a medical unit under the command of the unit’s doctor,” explained Feig, “and an operation was performed in the field. The force evacuated under fire to the coast, where a helicopter waited, as planned, to transport them back to Israel at 5 a.m. All in all – fighting and presence in the field – one hour and 45 minutes.”

Remember the Zarqawi bombing run and how U.S. forces found him?  Video here.  The U.S. used a standoff weapon (JDAM).  The U.S. used standoff weapons in order to protect the lives of U.S. troops.  Remember also that a child died in the attack on Zarqawi.

I want to make a several brief observations and then follow up with a view towards rethinking just war theory.

  1. The U.S. did not repudiate the actions involved in killing Zarqawi because an innocent was killed.
  2. The U.S. military leadership chose by their tactics to side with the protection of U.S. troops rather than the protection of possible innocents.
  3. The Israeli military leadership chose to side with the protection of possible innocents in the vicnity of the enemy.
  4. Yet Israel is challenged every day in the media for the killing of innocents in the vicinity of the enemy.

I prefer to think within the paradigm of “good wars” rather than “just war.”  We need to relinquish this quaint but highly outdated notion of wars as soldiers lining up opposed to each other on a field of battle where innocents are either looking on or completely absent from the vicinity.  Certainly this idea prevailed — for good reason — throughout the First and Second Worlds Wars, the Korean War and even to some degree the war in Vietnam (as well as the first Gulf War).  Today there is such an absence of moral underpinnings in war that the innocent is scattered amongst the warrior.  The warrior puts himself in the vicinity of non-combatants by choice in order to cause collateral damage, thus playing to political sensibilities as we see in the media the continual drumbeat of this country or that country “intentionally targeting civilians.”

When “warriors” do this, they are no longer protecting anyone, and are thus not worthy to be called or considered warriors.  They are terrorists.  The scene now becomes a hazy chaos of terrorists rather than warriors, combatants mixed with non-combatants, murky situations where non-combatants are actively aiding the combatants, and impossible stipulations such as the prevention of all civilian deaths — juxtaposed with the moral duty of a country to protect the safety of its citizens.  Stated simply, the paradigm of soldiers lining up in a field of battle (where a just war may be ascertained based on simple questions like “who is the aggressor?” or “what fixed boundary was violated by some outsider?”) is a paradigm whose time has come and gone.

In the case of the U.S. leadership choosing to use a JDAM to take out Zarqawi rather than bring additional risk to the lives of U.S. troops, I would not have had it any other way.  If keeping a child among the enemy stops your armies from fighting because they might kill the child, it is the enemy who is at fault rather than your armies, and it is a tactic that will cause you to lose the war.  To fail to war against aggressors because of potential collateral damage would be to fail your own people and thus to bring them additional risk and perhaps worse.

It is a matter of keeping in front of you the reason we are at war and who warrants the protection of U.S. troops.  What is most important?  The protection of U.S. citizens or the protection of potential non-combatants?  Remember that this is a salient question for our troops at war right now.  It goes to every part of their existence, from targeting munitions to “room-clearing” and “stacks.”  If a fire team has to delineate between friend or foe upon entering a room, the fire team will likely die due to the time delay and opportunity for the enemy to engage our troops.  This is no theoretical matter to our troops.  Those who want to protect against the possibility of the deaths of any non-combatants must take this into consideration.  Not only would such a policy mean many more U.S. deaths, it would probably mean the end of combat capability and the loss of the war.  No army can fight a war under these conditions.

In the case of Israel, it seems to me that they went above and beyond the call of duty to protect innocents.  It is further than the U.S. went when we killed Zarqawi, and it is further than I would have gone had I been in charge.

As it is, a battlefield operation had to be performed on an Israeli soldier because Israel was concerned collateral damage.  Tell that to the mother of the IDF soldier who had the operation and ask her about priorities.


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