Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hezbollah’s Iwo Jima Delusion

August 1st, 2006 American Thinker Magazine "Recent dueling essays on The American Thinker have debated whether Israel is following the tactics of British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery at the expense of Gen. George S. Patton’s methods. James Lewis argued that indeed the IDF’s approach was more Monty than Patton whereas Glen Tschirgi countered that Israel would be better advised to choose a lesser Patton over the “full Monty.” Unfortunately, though both writers make impressive arguments, the appropriate analogy is not found in the Europe Theater of Operations during World War II but rather the Pacific. Hezbollah’s predicament comes closer to the Japanese forces at Iwo Jima than the German Army in Normandy and Western Europe. And as such, Israel’s strategy in part calls for trapping the Hezbollah terrorist forces in their entrenched, fortified positions where Israel will cut them off from re-supply and then tear apart piece-by-piece. The formerly Hezbollah-controlled, fortified hilltop Lebanese border town of Maroun al-Ras was the scene of intense fighting between Hezbollah terrorist-guerrillas and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The IDF claims Maroun al-Ras is under its control, though accounts of subduing nearby Bint Jbeil proved premature. Apparently, hundreds of Hezbollah fighters in Bint Jbeil were holed up in fortified bunkers, and have reentered the town via an elaborate series of interconnected tunnels, or hid amongst the few remaining civilians in the initial days of fighting. The pro-Iranian, Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization has turned a number of southern Lebanese hillsides and towns into fortified death-traps. It has spent the better part of the past six years since the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon turning several hilltop towns into an Iwo Jima-like maze of fortified bunkers, spider holes, pill-boxes, sniper dens, fields of anti-tank mines and IEDs, and interconnected tunnels. An Israeli Army commander, Siman Tov said Hezbollah guerrillas in Maroun al-Ras were “fighting from tunnels, some equipped with above-ground cameras. They are armed with … sophisticated weapons … including longer-range antitank missiles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. ‘Here we’re dealing with missiles, a little army.’” Hezbollah’s strategy appears geared for a massive Israeli armor and infantry incursion up to and perhaps beyond the Litani River. Hezbollah was counting on a twofold IDF tactic of digging out the entrenched fighters in a costly war of attrition while also moving rapidly into Lebanon, leaving its lines of communications vulnerable to guerrilla ambushes in the rear. The Israelis thus far have not taken the bait. Hezbollah apparently banked on Israel falling for a “rope-the-dope” strategy. Instead, it is Hezbollah that is trapped, like the Japanese Imperial Army on Iwo Jima, in a delusion of its own making. Although the initial Israeli incursions into Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon have been cautious, painfully slow, and unfortunately costly, a deeper analysis reveals that this is the IDF’s plan unfolding. One observant writer has noted that the Israeli strategy is more Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery and less Gen. George S. Patton. Some inside and outside of Israel question this strategy; critics contend that the IDF risks losing the initiative while simultaneously and unwittingly boosting Hezbollah’s fighting-prowess image in the Arab world. The Washington Post reports “Israeli news outlets, which had largely lined up behind the army’s conduct of the war, have begun to ask why an army that once defeated the armies of several Arab neighbors in six days was finding it so difficult to push one militia off Israel’s border.” Indeed, the first week of the IDF’s limited ground offensive delivered what appeared to be mixed results. A total of five elite commandos were killed when Hezbollah “ambushed the ambushers” in the first two Israeli ground operations. Since then and as of this writing, several Israeli-manufactured Merkava tanks have been heavily damaged, one completely destroyed with the loss of its four-man crew. Two Apache helicopters have collided, killing a pilot and hurting three others. A third, an Apache Longbow, crashed, killing both pilots. Nine Israel soldiers were killed in fighting on Wednesday, July 26, bringing the total to 33 Israeli soldiers killed in the past two weeks. Even more troubling is the fact that Israel has suffered these losses even though it had barely entered Lebanon, its deepest penetration thus far being no more than three miles. The current incursion into, underway as this article goes to press may well produce more casualties. Many fear that Israel’s difficulties in the current fighting signal a sea-change in the IDF’s fortunes. These drawbacks might give credence to Hezbollah’s charge that IDF military supremacy is a myth. The critics and doom-and-gloom pessimists ought to take a deep breath and appreciate the Israeli strategy.It is Hezbollah that has been outsmarted here, though uninformed, mainstream reporting of the initial results obscure this fact. For in banking on a massive Israeli offensive, Hezbollah apparently posted a sizeable force in the Lebanese border towns that are being picked apart one by one by the IDF. Already there are IDF reports of as many as 230 Hezbollah terrorists killed in Maroun al-Ras and Bint Jbeil. The Bint Jbeil meat-grinder, where Hezbollah appeared determined to make an ill-advised last stand, has done its work. The IDF and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) have destroyed an estimated 1,300 Hezbollah missiles that range from the Katyushas to Farj-3s, Farj5s, and Zelzal-2s. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has expended an estimated 2,000 missiles and has little to show for it. Israeli military officials report soldiers have found and destroyed Katyusha rocket launchers, antitank missile launchers and large caches of ammunition. Few launchers are reported available. Like the Japanese at Iwo Jima, Hezbollah has stored enormous quantities of ammunition in the Lebanese border towns, perhaps planning to wage a hit-and-run guerrilla war on Israel’s supply convoys as the IDF repeats the 1982 invasion. But Israel’s been there, done that, and she is not going to make the same mistake twice. “‘This battle against Hezbollah is going to last,’ Avi Dichter, Israel’s public security minister” informed reporters. “‘We’re not in any hurry.’” Over whatever time remains before the conflict is forced to end, the IDF will take apart the Hezbollah terrorist-guerrillas that made the ultimate error of remaining in fixed positions. It is Hezbollah that is stoked in the passions and delusions of over-confidence. If Hezbollah takes comfort from fighting in fixed positions, they need only brush up on Napoleon, who said “the army that remains in its forts is beaten.” Or perhaps read up on how General Kuribayashi Tadamichi’s Japanese force of 21,000 at Iwo Jima was reduced by the United States Marines to just over 120 POWs (an additional 900 wounded were captured). IDF Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, commander of the Galilee Division, summed up Israel’s piecemeal, probing strikes: “When you fight a regular army, it’s different from fighting guerrillas. They are using everything they have extensively. They have been preparing for this for many years, and we are taking action to dismantle all of that. The government has given me plenty of time, and I intend to use it as long as it takes.” Israel’s government called up an additional 30,000 reservists, and is heading into Lebanon right now. Israel will chip away, using her superior firepower, soldiers, and leadership to render Hezbollah a defeated Islamist terrorist group. Quietly, confidently, and assured that they are both fighting for their homeland and backed by more than eighty percent of the Israeli public, the Israeli citizen-soldier will win the day.


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