Michael Totten

Obama Imitates Olmert

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has one of the lowest approval ratings in his country’s history thanks to his disastrous prosecution of the July 2006 war in Lebanon against Hezbollah.
Nevertheless, and contrary to Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s delusional and arrogant boasts, Hezbollah didn’t win. I toured South Lebanon and the suburbs south of Beirut — Hezbollah’s two major strongholds — after the war. The magnitude of the destruction was stunning. It looked like World War II blew through the place. (Click “here”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001367.html and “here”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/001359.html to see photos.) Nasrallah survived and replenished his arsensal stocks, but, “as Israeli military historian Michael Oren put it”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2006/08/inside-hezbollahs-free-fire-zo.php, “If he has enough victories like this one, he’s dead.”
Israel didn’t win, either. None of Israel’s objectives in Lebanon were accomplished.
The best that can be said of that war is that it was a strategic draw with losses on both sides. Hezbollah absorbed the brunt of the damage.
It should be obvious why Israel didn’t prevail to observers of modern assymetrical warfare and counterinsurgency. Olmert’s plan, such as it was, was doomed to fail from Day One. It may not have been obvious then, but it certainly should be by now.
American General David Petraeus proved counterinsurgency in Arabic countries can work. His surge of troops in Iraq is about a change of tactics more than an increase in numbers, and his tactics so far have surpassed all expectations. The “light footprint” model used during former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s tenure may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but American soldiers and Marines had no chance of defeating insurgents from behind barbed wire garrisons. Only now that the troops have left the relative safety and comfort of their bases and intimately integrated themselves into the Iraqi population are they able to isolate and track down the killers. They do so with help from the locals. They acquired that help because they slowly forged trusting relationships and alliances, and because they protect the civilians from violence.
The Israel Defense Forces did nothing of the sort in Lebanon. Most Lebanese Shias are so hostile to Israel that such a strategy might not work even if David Petraeus himself were in charge of it. Even then it would take years to produce the desired results, just as it has taken several years in Iraq. Israelis have no wish to spend years fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon. International pressure would force them out if they did.
A Petraeus-like strategy wasn’t an option for Olmert. That, however, doesn’t mean we can’t compare the effectiveness of the Olmert and Petraeus strategies.
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/2502.