Pentagon Evaluating The Lessons Of Israel’s Defeat In The Lebanon

Marchers in London in July 2006 condemn the Israeli bombing of Lebanon
Marchers in London in July 2006 condemn the Israeli bombing of Lebanon

the repercussions of the Second Lebanon War – in which the Israeli occupation army suffered a severe blow by the Lebanese resistance fighters and from the steadfastness of the Lebanese people who supported the resistance against Israeli aggression in July 2006 – are still the subject of heated debates inside the Zionist entity, as well as the US.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that the Second Lebanon War has also become the subject of an increasingly heated debate inside the Pentagon, which could alter how the US military fights in the future.

According to the report, the US army has dispatched as many as a dozen teams over the past three years to interview Israeli officers who fought against Hezbollah, with the goal of learning from the war’s failures, which was perceived by the Pentagon as ‘a disaster’ for the Israeli military.

Soon after the fighting ended, the report said, some US military officers ‘began to warn that the short, bloody and relatively conventional battle foreshadowed how future enemies of the United States might fight.’

According to the US press, the Army and Marine Corps have sponsored a series of multi-million dollar war games to test how US forces might fare against a similar foe.

‘I’ve organised five major games in the last two years, and all of them have focused on Hezbollah,’ said Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico.

The reason that the 34-day war is drawing such fevered attention is that it highlights a rift among military leaders: Some want to change the US military so that it is better prepared for wars like the ones it is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, while others worry that such a shift would leave the United States vulnerable to a more conventional foe, like Hezbollah.

According to the report, US military experts were stunned by the destruction that Hezbollah forces, using sophisticated anti-tank guided missiles, were able to wreak on Israeli armoured columns.

Unlike the guerrilla forces in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, who employ mostly hit-and-run tactics, the Hezbollah fighters held their ground against the Israeli occupation forces in battles that stretched as long as 12 hours.

They were able to eavesdrop on Israeli communications and even struck an Israeli ship with a cruise missile.

‘From 2000 to 2006 Hezbollah embraced a new doctrine, transforming itself from a predominantly guerrilla force into a quasi-conventional fighting force,’ a study by the Army’s Combat Studies Institute concluded last year.

Another Pentagon report warned that the Hezbollah forces were ‘extremely well trained, especially in the uses of anti-tank weapons and rockets’ and added: ‘They well understood the vulnerabilities of Israeli armour.’

Many top Army officials, the report said, refer to the short battle almost as a morality play that illustrates the price of focusing too much on counter-insurgency wars at the expense of conventional combat.

These officers note that, before the Lebanon war, Israeli forces had been heavily involved in occupation duty in the Palestinian territories.

‘The real takeaway is that you have to find the time to train for major combat operations, even if you are fighting counter-insurgency wars,’ said one senior military analyst who studied the Second Lebanon War for the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth.

Currently, the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have prevented Army units from conducting such training.

The Pentagon polemic is not only related to strategy and policy making, but also to money.

According to the report, army generals have also latched on to the Lebanon war to build support for multi-billion dollar weapons programmes that are largely irrelevant to low-intensity wars such as those fought in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan.  

A 30-page internal Army briefing, prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior Pentagon officials, recently sought to highlight how the $159 billion Future Combat Systems, a network of ground vehicles and sensors, could have been used to dispatch Hezbollah’s forces quickly and with few American casualties.

The report argues that the system could also have prevented many casualties among the Israeli army soldiers had it been used in 2006.

‘Hezbollah relies on low visibility and prepared defences,’ one slide in the briefing reads. ‘FCS counters with sensors and robotics to manoeuver out of contact.’

According to the report, Defense Secretary Robert M Gates is expected to stake out a firm position in this debate when he announces the 2010 defence budget.

That document is expected to cut or sharply curtail weapons systems designed for conventional wars, and to bolster intelligence and surveillance programmes designed to help track down shadowy insurgents.

The changes reflect the growing prominence of the military’s counter-insurgency camp in the Pentagon – the most prominent member of which is Gen David H Petraeus, head of the US Central Command. President Barack Obama has largely backed this group. 

Senior officials like Petraeus say that the threat posed by Hezbollah is being inflated by officers who are determined to return the army to a more familiar past, built around preparing for conventional warfare.

The battle between the two camps will eventually be resolved in the budget discussions.

l John Bolton, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, said on Monday that the North Korean missile launch is an unambiguous win for North Korea, warning that the negative repercussions will extend far beyond Northeast Asia.

In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Bolton noted that Iran has carefully scrutinised the Obama administration’s every action.

He emphasised that Tehran’s only conclusion can be: It is past time to ratchet up the pressure on this new crowd in Washington.

‘Not only is Iran’s back now covered by its friends Russia, China and others on the UN Security Council, but it sees an American president so ready to bend his knee for public favour in Europe that the mullahs’ wish-list for US concessions will grow by the minute,’ Bolton said.

The US diplomat stressed that Israel must also be carefully considering how the US watched North Korea ‘rip through the international community’.

According to Bolton, the most important lesson the new government, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, should draw is: ‘if Israel isn’t prepared to protect itself, including using military force, against Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, it certainly shouldn’t be holding its breath for Mr Obama to do anything’.

He concluded by noting that Russia and China must also be relishing this outcome.

‘They will have faced down Mr Obama in his first real crisis, having provided Security Council cover for a criminal regime, and emerged unscathed.

‘They will conclude that achieving their large agendas with the new administration can’t be too hard.

That conclusion may be unfair to the new American president; but it will surely colour how Moscow and Beijing structure their policies and their diplomacy until proven otherwise. That alone is bad news for Washington and its allies.’