Target Hezballah

Ralph Peters:

YESTERDAY, Israel's government overruled its generals and refused to expand the ground war in southern Lebanon. Given the difficulties encountered and the casualties suffered, the decision is understandable. And wrong.

In the War on Terror - combating Hezbollah's definitely part of it - you have to finish what you start. You can't permit the perception that the terrorists won. But that's where the current round of fighting is headed.

For the Israelis, the town of Bint Jbeil is an embarrassment, an objective that proved unexpectedly hard to take. But the town's a tactical issue to the Israeli Defense Force, not a strategic one.

For Hezbollah, it's Stalingrad, where the Red Army stopped the Germans. And that's how terrorist propagandists will mythologize it.

Considering only the military facts, the IDF's view is correct. But the Middle East has little use for facts. Perception is what counts. To the Arab masses, Hezbollah's resistance appears heroic, triumphant - and inspiring. We don't have to like it, but it's true.

So why is defeating Hezbollah such a challenge? Israel smashed one Arab military coalition after another, from 1948 through 1973. Arabs didn't seem to make good soldiers.

Now we see Arabs fighting tenaciously and effectively. What happened?

The answer's straightforward: Different cultures fight for different things. Arabs might jump up and down, wailing, "We will die for you Saddam!" But, in the clinch, they don't - they surrender. Conventional Arab armies fight badly because their conscripts and even the officers feel little loyalty to the states they serve - and even less to self-anointed national leaders.

But Arabs will fight to the bitter end for their religion, their families and the land their clan possesses. In southern Lebanon, Hezbollah exploits all three motivations. The Hezbollah guerrilla waiting to ambush an Israeli patrol believes he's fighting for his faith, his family and the earth beneath his feet. He'll kill anyone and give his own life to win.

We all need to stop making cartoon figures of such enemies. Hezbollah doesn't have tanks or jets, but it poses the toughest military problem Israel's ever faced. And Hezbollah may be the new model for Middle Eastern "armies."

The IDF's errors played into Hezbollah's hands. Initially relying on air power, the IDF ignored the basic military principles of surprise, mass and concentration of effort. Instead of aiming a shocking, concentrated blow at Hezbollah, the IDF dissipated its power by striking targets scattered throughout Lebanon - while failing to strike any of them decisively.

Even now, in the struggle for a handful of border villages, the IDF continues to commit its forces piecemeal - a lieutenant's mistake. Adding troops in increments allows the enemy to adjust to the increasing pressure - instead of being crushed by one mighty blow.

...

Think Fallujah. That is how you deal with an enemy like Hezballah. What Peters is pointing out is the fallacy of the graduated response. A graduated response is like a tailor who makes his coat too short and is constantly having to add material just to stay even. It begins to look like a torture chamber where pain is added rather than a swif military operation. That is one reason why Arabs aare starting to side with the despotic death cult.

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