My schedule is packed with meetings today, so posting will be light, but this beat out Iranian rocket tests for the lead story in yesterday's Jerusalem Post:
During his research for the article, titled "How the Arabs are preparing for the next war," Sandman asked 24 senior IDF officers to grade the army and Hizbullah in 10 categories, on a scale of 1 to 10. While the IDF enjoys superior technology, the scorecard revealed that the army performed poorly in gathering intelligence on Hizbullah, did not command its troops effectively during the monthlong war and lacked motivation to win. In intelligence, Hizbullah received a 7 and the IDF a 6; in military doctrine and strategy Hizbullah received a 9 and the IDF a 5; In technology, the IDF received a 9 and Hizbullah a 5; in training and organization, Hizbullah received a 8 and the IDF 7, and in tactical command Hizbullah received a 8 and the IDF a 6. The 24 officers also ruled that Hizbullah had greater motivation to win than the IDF. Hizbullah received a score of 8 in the motivation category, while the IDF scored only 4.
During his research for the article, titled "How the Arabs are preparing for the next war," Sandman asked 24 senior IDF officers to grade the army and Hizbullah in 10 categories, on a scale of 1 to 10.
While the IDF enjoys superior technology, the scorecard revealed that the army performed poorly in gathering intelligence on Hizbullah, did not command its troops effectively during the monthlong war and lacked motivation to win.
In intelligence, Hizbullah received a 7 and the IDF a 6; in military doctrine and strategy Hizbullah received a 9 and the IDF a 5; In technology, the IDF received a 9 and Hizbullah a 5; in training and organization, Hizbullah received a 8 and the IDF 7, and in tactical command Hizbullah received a 8 and the IDF a 6.
The 24 officers also ruled that Hizbullah had greater motivation to win than the IDF. Hizbullah received a score of 8 in the motivation category, while the IDF scored only 4.
As you might imagine, I have spent a lot of time in the bars and cafes of Beirut talking with journalists, analysts and other friends about Hizballah and its strategy. It's a new experience doing the same thing here south of the Blue Line. The other day, though, just before Yom Kippur, I sat down with a Jerusalem-based analyst, and though we had some (polite) disagreements about the motivations of Hizballah and its relationship with Iran, we both agreed on one thing: that Hizballah's strategy toward Israel since the latter's 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon has been incoherent.
For an indigenous insurgent group seeking to expel a foreign power from a territory -- think the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Viet Minh in Indochina -- a strategy of exhaustion makes obvious sense. This strategy is more or less the strategy that Hizballah pursued in the 1990s against an occupying Israeli army in southern Lebanon: keep causing Israeli casualties, remind the people of Israel that such casualties will never stop so long as they occupy southern Lebanon, and wait for Israeli popular opinion to turn against the war.
But to this observer, it appears as if Hizballah has maintained this strategy in recent years. And what was appropriate in the 1990s is no longer appropriate today. Hizballah leaders continue to talk of Israeli society as if it is weak and will break at any moment if the right pressure is applied. But breaking Israeli popular will for continuing the occupation of a foreign country is one thing; breaking Israeli will to continue being Israel is another. I think Hizballah leaders have misread the nature of the Israeli state. Continued militancy on the part of Hizballah toward Israel will, I believe, cause serious ruptures within Lebanese society before they ever break the will of the Israeli people or fracture the state. Again, without making a value judgement on either side, it is increasingly difficult to argue that Hizballah's strategy since 2000 makes any sense at all.
It's a little odd being in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. Because cars are banned from the roads, you can literally walk down deserted four-lane arteries in the middle of the day, which is kinda eerie.
For a long time, this blog has steered clear of all things related to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and that policy is likely to continue. Normal, sane human beings just go full retard when anything related to the Holy Land, Right of Return, Jerusalem, Settlements, etc. are mentioned. Some great examples of this can be found in the comments section of this post, which had nothing to even do with Israel or the Palestinians. But I mentioned that I ate some kunafeh with some friends in Nablus and then went to the beach in Herzliya, and this is what happens. What is wrong with you people?
Hahahaha, Lt. Col. W. Thomas Smith, Jr... This guy never fails to amuse me. He's still cranky some journalists in Beirut outed him as a fabulist, ending his gig with the National Review:
According to the FOX segment, Friday, “Hizballah reportedly has operatives in the United States. Two years ago, a Hizballah agent was arrested after infiltrating the FBI and CIA.”
True. Though few Americans are actually aware of this, thanks to a heavily financed counter-media, propaganda, and disinformation campaign aimed at soft-soaping the Lebanon-based, Iranian-Syrian-supported terrorist organization as simply a Lebanese political party with guns; and – as a part of that campaign – discrediting or destroying anyone who might aggressively take Hizballah to task.
You can read more about the on-again, off-again relationship Colonel Junior has with the truth here, here, here, and here. But let's take what Colonel Junior says about Hizballah seriously in order to get into a broader question. How big a threat does this organization represent to the United States and its interests?
First off, let's dismiss the idea that some conspiracy is somehow keeping news of Hizballah's capabilities out of the news. When Colonel Junior defended his rather incredible and hilarious claim that 5,000 (!) Hizballah gunmen had staged a show of force in (Christian) East Beirut in 2007, he and his defenders maintained he was only reporting something that was "taboo" and that other journalists were paid not to report. Yet when Hizballah actually did take over neighborhoods in Beirut the next year (in real life, as opposed to in someone's imagination), it was front-page news around the world. (1, 2, 3, etc.) Second, there are, in fact, plenty of journalists in Beirut who do receive regular stipends from parties both within and outside of Lebanon. These parties, however -- and let's see if I can put this delicately -- aren't exactly allies of Hizballah. They, in fact, have agendae in Lebanon quite opposed to Hizballah. Speaking more openly, much of the media in the Arabic-speaking world is backed by Saudi funders. This may come as news to Colonel Junior, but those funders do not exactly share common cause with Iran and Hizballah and have no interest in keeping anti-Hizballah news out of the public discourse.
Moving on, the notion that Hizballah somehow represents an equal or greater threat to the United States and its interests than al-Qaeda is wrong. On the one hand, I agree with Michael Chertoff, Richard Armitage and even Colonel Junior when they argue Hizballah's capabilities exceed those of al-Qaeda. This is almost certainly true. But they have thus far not demonstrated the same intent as al-Qaeda to conduct large-scale expeditionary operations outside the Arabic-speaking world. (The 1992 and 1994 bombings stand out as aberrations. I hope Hizballah is not planning on seeking revenge for Imad Mughniyeh in a similar way, because that would be pretty stupid.)
Having spent a good deal of time in Lebanon and now writing from Jerusalem, I believe Hizballah represents the greatest threat to, primarily, the peoples of Lebanon and then, secondarily, the peoples of Israel. The "culture of resistance" that Hizballah has developed over the past 30 years, I fear, condemns both the Lebanese and the Israelis to a war without end. Studying statements made by Hizballah officials down through the years, it is hard to conclude that Hizballah's raison d'être is anything other than armed conflict with the State of Israel. That should worry Israelis and Lebanese -- including many of Hizballah's supporters in southern Lebanon, who suffered more than anyone in 1993, 1996 and 2006 -- that even if Hizballah's leadership should decide that armed conflict is no longer in the rational interests of the organization or the Shia of Lebanon, it will be awfully difficult to change the organizational culture. All of those young men who signed up with Hizballah in the wake of the 2006 war, for example, did not do so merely to direct traffic in the Dahiyeh. For the Israelis, meanwhile, Hizballah will likely never constitute an existential threat. But they will be a rather annoying and deadly violent non-state actor on its northern border for whom no real military solution exists. You can march north and beat Hizballah around for a few weeks, sure, and you can even level the Dahiyeh. But in doing so, does that merely feed into the narrative Hizballah tries to sell its constituents and other Lebanese? In this light, we're right to pity both the residents of Kiryat Shimona and the residents of Bint Jbeil.
From the perspective of the United States, meanwhile, I think Hizballah does constitute a threat to our interests, though not in the alarmist way it is reported on Fox News. (I know two wonderful people who report from abroad for Fox News, but my colleague Bob Kaplan justly evicerates the channel's ability to explain the world to Americans: "Then there is Fox, with its jingoistic, meatloaf provincialism straight out of an earlier, black-and-white era. Could Fox cover the world as Al Jazeera does, but from a different, American-nationalist perspective? No, because what makes Fox so provincial is its utter lack of interest in the outside world in the first place, except where that world directly and obviously affects American power. What use does Fox have for Niger River rebels or dispossessed Indian farmers?")
The threat posed to U.S. interests, as I see them, is two-fold:
1. Hizballah has been strategically adrift since Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. One of the many mistakes they have made is to take a more regional approach to activities. This includes everything from the train-and-equip missions they ran for Shia militias in Iraq to the similar mission they run for Palestinian groups. Hizballah, in other words, is employing the indirect approach against U.S. interests in the region. They are not conducting attacks themselves, but they have most certainly been helping those who would. I think this is a terrible mistake for Hizballah and is not in the interests of Lebanon or its Shia community, but Hassan Nasrallah doesn't really ask me for advice. If he did, I would have similarly counseled against kidnapping Israeli soldiers and using one's arms against other Lebanese parties as well.
2. Hizballah continues to be the model organization for those violent non-state actors which seek to challenge the United States and its allies. They have provided a blueprint not just for Hamas or militias in Iraq but for "resistance" groups everywhere. So even though U.S. defense analysts probably overstudy the 2006 war, they are right to suspect that in the future, opponents of the United States will try to emulate Hizballah's successes.
You'll note that at no point in this rambling post did I discuss Hizballah activities in West Africa or South America. I hear Hizballah is active in these regions, but a) I do not know enough about them and b) I have not seen much evidence that Hizballah is doing more than what the U.S. government would classify as terror financing as opposed to terror operations. I know, in other words, that Hizballah sends money back from the United States, South America, West Africa and elsewhere. But I have not seen any compelling evidence that they are plotting actual attacks in any of those regions. Maybe I'm wrong, but again, I have not seen any compelling evidence.
Whew. It's been quite a whirlwind journey. After leaving Beirut on Thursday, I spent the weekend in Paris where, among other things, I paid a visit to my friend Etienne de Durand at IFRI and also lunched with another friend, Judah Grunstein (et fils). I am now south of the Blue Line staying with Charles Levinson, an old drinking buddy from Cairo who has gone all respectable of late. I plan to spend about two weeks here writing in coffeeshops, doing some tourism and conducting a few interviews. After spending almost three years in Beirut -- as well as stints in Cairo and Tangier (and, of course, Baghdad and Kuwait City) -- I have, incredibly, only spent seven days of my life in the Hebrew-speaking Middle East. So this next fortnight should be fun, and a great learning experience.
When I wasn't editing dissertation chapters in Paris, meanwhile, I was reading stuff for both fun (like this novel) and for personal enrichment. Like many of you, no doubt, I have been reading this excellent Krepinevich and Watts essay (.pdf) on U.S. strategic (in)comptence and what we are going to do about it. In light of our Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue and the compaint by a few of the readers (far fewer than I first thought, actually) that this blog focuses on operations at the expense of strategy, I was particularly struck by this observation:
The persistent recurrence of these strategy pitfalls argues that deciding in whose hands to place US strategy in the twenty-first century is a critical issue. The fact is, however, that few individuals — regardless of intelligence, education, credentials or experience — possess the necessary cognitive skills and insight to be competent strategists. The insight to see more deeply than one’s opponents into the possibilities and probabilities of a competitive situation is rare. Strategy may be a game anyone can play, but the evidence is strong that very few can play it well.
Krepinevich, of course, is a guy who has written brilliantly about counterinsurgency operations and possesses what many believe to be a first-rate strategic mind. (I myself would settle for either but am not, shall we say, holding my breath.) But he's a rarity. You need people who can excell at tactics, operations, strategy and grand strategy -- and they don't all have to be the same people. So a proven operational genius might not be the best strategist, and a good strategist might not be able to handle modern military operations or day-to-day diplomacy. All of this is to ask the readership a question: who, in your opinion, are some of America's best strategic thinkers? Krepinevich himself? Bacevich? Kagan? Cartwright? Slaughter? Brimley? Put your suggestions in the comments section. I'll be interested in seeing which names you consider. Bonus points go to those names of people who are either not currently in high-level government positions or are not yet well-known among the evil DC commentariat.
I can't speak Hebrew, but I can't wait to see the latest Israeli film to explore the troubled invasion and occupation of Lebanon.
Okay, this is just delicious. Last winter, as you all know, the Bernard Madoff scandal hit Jewish charities particularly hard, including many which give to Israel. In Lebanon, meanwhile, another scandal is brewing concerning a major Shia donor with ties to both Hizballah and Amal. Observers in Beirut and Tel Aviv have been fretting about another war for quite some time now, but honestly, what with the global recession and all these scandals, can either side afford a war right now? (h/t AA)
Update: This was front-page news in the FT today amidst claims it's being hushed up in some of the Arabic-language media.
Yes, Gov. Rick Perry. The situation Israel faces with Gaza is almost exactly like the one between your state and Mexico. Indeed. Just two things different, really: to mirror the situation along the border with Mexico, Israel would have to actually be the ones allowing weapons to cross the borders into Gaza in the same way U.S. weapons make their way south to Mexico. Also, Israel would have to be a land which gained its independence after first importing Tennesseans to defeat the Arab armies. It would also need a professional sports team as s****y as the Cowboys. (Sorry, three things.) Other than that, though, mazel tov on the brilliant analogy.
Instead of dismantling settlements, [Obama] would do better to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program. Otherwise Jerusalem will reassess its special relationship with Washington, and will reconsider its commitment to ensuring the qualitative advantage of the United States. If this situation continues, we may even stop vetoing anti-American decisions in the United Nations Security Council.