Crossposted from Asia Times Online.
Knowledgeable Israeli sources report that the Israeli Air Force decided not to make contingency plans to target Hezbollah rocket installations with a high quotient of probable civilian casualties, or those which would bring charges of human rights violations against Israel. After a heated argument among senior officers, the Israelis did include rocket batteries surrounded by human shields in their target list. The fact that they were left out of the targeting procedure to begin with shows how deeply the horror tactic has cut into Israeli self-confidence.
For the moment, Hezbollah is bogged down in the Syrian civil war, where it has lost perhaps a third of its front-line fighters, and in no mood for a confrontation with Israel. Nonetheless a war on Israel’s northern border is likely some time during the next several years. Hezbollah’s masters in Iran, who provided the munitions and constructed their emplacements, and who man some of the rocket artillery on the ground, probably would begin a war with a limited bombardment—daring Israel to retaliate massively and earn the condemnation of the UN Security Council.
Simple military logic dictates that if Hezbollah begins to fire any rockets, the correct thing to do is destroy the inventory. A fraction of Hezbollah’s projectiles could shut down the national airport, destroy major refinery and electrical generating facilities, and put the whole population of Israel in bomb shelters.
Judging by Israel’s fumbling over the targeting issue, its leadership seems in a quandary.
If Israel were prepared to reduce Hezbollah in the event of war, it would have taken the precautionary step of publicizing its estimates of the likely number of civilian casualties, in order to inoculate world opinion against the eventual need to kill some tens of thousands of civilians. I do not normally offer advice to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but this is not an issue of Israeli defense per se but rather the management of world opinion. He should make public an estimate of the probable number of civilian dead in the event of a war with Hezbollah, but double the number. He could then argue after the fact that he had exercised restraint by killing only half as many as initially estimated. I do not mean this facetiously. The West got used to half a million dead Syrians, and it can get used to the idea of 100,000 dead Lebanese.
Read the whole essay here.