Monday, August 07, 2006

Fighting the Last War...With a Shvitz

Israel is losing World War III
Bradley Burston

There has never before been a war like this.That is why we are losing it.We don't know how to fight it. Not yet, at least.From the start, the whole world has been watching this war, and for good reason: This is the next great battle of World War III. And, as in Iraq, the war is not going well for the West.

There are parallels to the last world war, of course, beyond the newspaper cartoonists' and worldwide Israel-haters' first reflex of calling the Jews Nazis.There is the danger that we are seeing a tipping point, in Iraq as well as in Lebanon, which will embolden radical Islam, and Iran in particular, to extend the battlefield of jihad indefinitely.

At its outset, the Second World War went staggeringly well for the Axis. German and Japanese tacticians were legions ahead of their Allied adversaries. Smarter, more creative, more innovative, more motivated, much more deadly.The blitzkrieg caught all of Europe unawares and, within weeks, reeling. Pearl Harbor, the Twin Towers of its era, struck at an isolationist United States that was profoundly unprepared for war. Allied military defeats followed in series for years, until endurance, faith, and appropriate fighting methods turned the tide.Certainly there are those in Israel and the Jewish world who are perversely pleased by the way things have gone wrong for us. There is the Told You So brigade on the far right, which misses no chance to declare that withdrawal is the cause of this war, and is a mortal error that must never be repeated, no matter what, ever.

There is the supremely self-satisfied Not In My Name battalion on the far left, which suggests in its knee-jerk protests and pride at being called traitors, that Israel may have a right to defend itself, but should never really exercise it.

Why are we losing? It is because, in our haste to confront Hezbollah before Iran went nuclear, we went to war before we had the ways and means to win.Give us the tools, the British said at the outset of WW II, and we'll finish the job. We now know that we went to this war without the tools.After years of Military Intelligence warnings of Hezbollah's missile arsenal and vaguely comforting news items about the mystery-shrouded Nautilus Katyusha-killer, we now know that we knew next to nothing.

We are losing it because our prime minister, defense minister, and army chief, who are new at their jobs and have proven it at every opportunity, made outlandish, grandiose, and boastful claims at the outset of the campaign, speaking of disarming Hezbollah, creating a new order in Lebanon, creating a reality in which the Lebanese people themselves would turn on the terrorists and diminish their influence.Even before we ran aground in the north, the words had a perversely familiar ring. They are the sound track of debacle. They are as dated and as current as a 16 mm version of Apocalypse Now screened in IDF forts in Lebanon in the '80s.We've gone after infrastructure, and in so doing, caused immeasurable suffering to as many as a million Lebanese, a thousand of them dead, thousands of them maimed, hundreds of thousands of them displaced.

And there are still those, and they are many, who argue for More of the Same. Much more. For a start, "Erasing villages where Hezbollah operates." But more of them same is likely to yield only more of the same failure.With thousands of thousands of soldiers already in Lebanon, seven brigades and counting, after 4,600 IAF bombing runs , 150 of them Sunday night alone, 80 to 90 percent of Hezbolah's 2,500 fighters are alive and shooting. They are still capable of firing 200 rockets a day into Israel. We are losing the war, in part, because our actions have only gained sympathy for Hezbollah.

Polls are now showing that nearly 90 percent of Lebanese ? including many who had serious doubts about Hezbollah in the past, now support the organization's war with Israel.The war has so elevated Hezbollah in the eyes of the world, that terrorism authority Prof. Robert A. Pape, writing in The New York Times, could without flinching compare the group to "the multidimensional American civil-rights movement of the 1960s."

Oddly, one of the lessons of the war is that the government, fearing a backlash over the deaths of soldiers, has directed an offensive which has relied on remote control warfare, effectively causing the needless deaths of hundreds of civilians in Lebanon, and, in the process, putting a million Israelis in range of Katyushas and Fajrs.

It's true, this is World War III. And we are losing.Cabinet minister Avi Dichter, head of the Shin Bet for much of the Intifada, suggested Monday that the government is heading for a change in direction in Lebanon, and not a moment too soon. "Curtailing to the point of halting the rockets is the quintessential mission of the IDF. The IDF will need to find the formula to carry out this mission, whether from the air or by other means."The fact that this hasn't happened as yet, doesn't mean that this will not happen." We have to fight smarter. We have to use diplomacy with more skill. But we don't have the option of rolling over and playing righteous. In a world war, you have to choose a side.Our job now is to survive. If the Second World War taught the Jews anything, it is this: History is not, fundamentally, written by its victors. History is written, and made, by its survivors. Hezbollah knows this. All they have to do to declare victory, is to survive. The survival of the Jews is our victory as well. But we're going to have be a whole lot smarter than we have been, to come out of this.

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