Monday, August 14, 2006

So, who won?

Ehud Olmert on August 14th, as reported by CNN:
Earlier, Olmert said Israel's key immediate aims were achieved, but added that the conflict "did not start yesterday, nor will it finish in the foreseeable future. It's a long, hard, arduous, complex fight."
Ehud Olmert on July 18th, as reported by the Washington Times:
TEL AVIV -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spelled out Israel's terms for ending its six-day siege of Lebanon yesterday, demanding the return of two kidnapped soldiers, an end to rocket attacks on Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese army to keep Hezbollah away from the common border.
The strategy of the United States on July 20th, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — Although wary of multinational peacekeeping operations, the Bush administration is working with allies to find a way to insert a robust military force and a civilian international presence in Lebanon to strengthen the frail government and break the grip of Hezbollah, U.S. and foreign diplomats say.
No one can claim that Olmert's and Bush's initial war aims have been realized. But, our political leaders try to spin a victory, while the radical Islamists work the streets. Reports on CNN tonight state that Hezbollah will rebuild 15,000 homes in Lebanon.

Here were the goals of Bush/Olmert:

1.) Remove Hezbollah as a military and political force in Lebanon, either with the group's near-distruction or with their disavowal of violence.

2.) The return of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

3.) An end to the Hezbollah rocket threat.

4.) An international force bolstering the Lebanese army in the south of Lebanon.

Some analysis...

Payl Reynolds of the BBC:
If these structures (removal of Hezbollah from south of the Litani River and removal of Israeli forces altogether, extension of Lebanese government authority and army in the south, insertion of major international force), are successful, then Israel might claim a victory of sorts. Hezbollah would not have been crushed but it might have been contained.

But the potential for a prolonged and messy guerrilla war is huge and if that happens, Israel would have lost.
Robert Fisk of the Independent:
But the reality is quite different and will suffer no such self-delusion: the Israeli army, reeling under the Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And it is a war they may well lose.

In all, at least 39 - possibly 43 - Israeli soldiers have been killed in the past day as Hizbollah guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel itself, have fought back against Israel's massive land invasion into Lebanon.
I have not seen these casualty figures in another source. This from the Jerusalem Post:
Nine soldiers were killed Sunday in the final day of fighting before the cease-fire took effect, the army said.
Those nine soldiers may have died so Olmert could claim a victory and keep his job.

The debate in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post:
The prime minister declared that "IDF operations over the past month have hurt the murderous organization [Hizbullah] to a degree that is not yet known to the public. Its weapons, its long-range arsenal and the self-confidence of its fighters and leaders have been harmed." He added that "IDF soldiers won every battle."

Speaking of Hizbullah's leadership, Olmert emphasized that "they fled into hiding" as soon as fighting began.

"Let me be clear," he told the MKs. Hizbullah's leadership "won't be forgiven. We will hunt them down at every time and in every place, and we won't ask permission from anyone" to destroy them.

Responding to criticism over the war's end, Olmert admitted that "we didn't achieve every aim" but counseled "patience. This battle for the justice of Zionism won't end today, and not in the near future. A nation who wishes to defeat fundamentalist extremist terror needs nerves of steel," and "a people who returned to its land after 2,000 years has patience. Therefore," the prime minister assured, "we will win."

Olmert also admitted that "There were mistakes made [in managing the war]," and promised that "We will examine everything that needs examination." But, he said, "We won't sink into blame and guilt. We don't have that luxury. We must assure that next time - and there may be a next time - things will be done better."

Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) told the Knesset plenum that "Unfortunately, there will be another round [in this war] because the government's just demands weren't met" by the cease-fire agreement that went into effect Monday morning.

"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."
Israel may have made a symbol, far more dangerous than a guerilla force of a few thousand fighters.

Al Jazeera: "Palestinians see Nasrallah as new hero"

The Washington Times:
Before the war, or even in its early days, this well-heeled audience would have paid Sheik Nasrallah scant attention. But after weeks of fighting, the leader has won over new supporters, far from his usual power base among Lebanon's poor and rural Shi'ite Muslims.

The development is especially troubling to Christians and Sunni Muslims who believe Hezbollah provoked an unnecessary and devastating war without the support of the government or the people.

Yet even among these communities, which have struggled to escape the political stranglehold of Hezbollah's close ally Syria, there is an undeniable admiration for the militia's monthlong stand against the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Washington Post:
Moreover, Hezbollah's military leadership carefully studied military history, including the Vietnam War, the Lebanese expert said, and set up a training program with help from Iranian intelligence and military officers with years of experience in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The training was matched to weapons that proved effective against Israeli tanks, he added, including the Merkava main battle tank with advanced armor plating.

Wire-guided and laser-guided antitank missiles were the most effective and deadly Hezbollah weapons, according to Israeli military officers and soldiers. A review of Israel Defense Forces records showed that the majority of Israeli combat deaths resulted from missile hits on armored vehicles -- or on buildings where Israeli soldiers set up observation posts or conducted searches.
George W. Bush has presented his analysis, CNN:
"Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis," Bush said during a news conference at the State Department.

"There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon," he said, referring to the U.N. force that will assist the Lebanese army in taking control of the area.

"How can you claim victory when you were a state within a state in southern Lebanon, and now you're going to be replaced by an international force?" he said.
If that state within a state rebuilds houses and maintains its new popular support, there is hell to pay in the future.

A Marine officer in Saturday's Washington Post:
Now, watching the latest news dispatches from Lebanon, I find myself comparing our efforts to introduce a new order in Iraq with Hezbollah's success as an effective practitioner of the art of militarized grass-roots politics. Frankly, it's not a favorable comparison -- for us. Hezbollah's organizational resilience in the face of an all-out conventional assault shows the degree to which it has seamlessly combined the strategic objectives of its sponsors with a localized political and military program.

Using the grass-roots approach, Hezbollah has been able to convert the ignored and dispossessed Shiite underclass of southern Lebanon into a powerful lever in regional politics. It understands that the basic need in any human conflict, whether or not it involves physical violence, is to take care of one's political base before striking out at the opponent.

As many informed observers have pointed out, Hezbollah has engrafted itself to the aims and aspirations of the Lebanese Shiite community so completely that Israel cannot destroy it without also destroying the community, with all the attendant political and moral costs. It is the willingness of women, children and old men to support Hezbollah and its political program at the risk of their lives that gives the organization power far beyond its military means.
Those aforementioned four goals:

1.) Remove Hezbollah as a military and political force in Lebanon, either with the group's near-distruction or with their disavowal of violence.

Early indications are that Hezbollah remains a strong force, at least politically, in Lebanon. Hezbollah's strength is a combintation of military arms and civic works. They state that their arms will not cross the Litani river, but they are unlikely to disarm. Their civic works groups have plenty of houses to rebuild; houses that Israel destroyed.

2.) The return of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Sadly, they have been almost forgotten by Olmert.

3.) An end to the Hezbollah rocket threat.

Hezbollah's rocket threat was never that substantial. It had to be removed, but it could only harm small pockets of civilians. These rockets are unguided and limited in range. They are a valuable terror threat. There are other valuable terror threats that will remain in Hezbollah's arsenal.

4.) An international force bolstering the Lebanese army in the south of Lebanon.

The south of Lebanon will remain a Hezbollah political stronghold. The Lebanese army is a shell. That international force is untested.


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