Oh the terrible ironies today brings. It seems that every day of this war when I sit down to write there is something worse, more frightening, more troubling to write about. And tonight is unfortunately no exception.
The Olmert cabinet has approved an IDF plan to expand the invasion taking territory all the way to the Litani River and beyond. Yesterday, I wrote that I hoped Olmert, who Haaretz has reported was hesitating in the face of the expected casualties such an assault would guarantee, would do a clear-eyed assessment and decline the IDF’s invitation. But my hopes were dashed when Olmert did indeed accept the IDF plan. But Robert Rosenberg writes of ongoing concerns that still rankle Olmert and others in the cabinet:
Olmert is worried about two aspects of the army’s plan: There’s the casualty forecast on the Israeli side — some 300-400 soldiers could be killed in close quarter fighting with Hizbolah fighters who are indigenous to south Lebanon, with no way to estimate how man civilians as Hizbollah responds with all its remaining strength.
The other major concern is whether the operation might not draw an increasingly (and isolated) Syria into the fighting. The IDF would probably find it easier to fight the Syrian army head on, than to fight Hizbollah’s guerrillas — but Syria’s missiles are much larger with much greater range than Hizbollah’s and there is no guarantee that faced with a military defeat, the Syrian regime might not press the button for a missile barrage into the center of the country.
And there is a third, unspoken concern — what if the IDF operation, which could begin as early as the weekend…does not work? The IDF has failed over the last month to stop the rocket attacks into northern Israel and while the theory of how it will stop the rockets sounds logical [!], the practice might not be as successful. The last time it worked, in any case, was against the PLO in 1978, whose fighters were far less trained, far less disciplined, and far less devoted and committed to the cause than the jihadists of Hizbolla
We can argue over whether the IDF “theory” “sounds logical” or not (I say it doesn’t). But Rosenberg’s other points are sound and well-taken. Israel is taking on itself a four to five fold increase in the number of fatalities from the present. Why in God’s name is Olmert willing to accept such slaughter of his young boys? As Billmon wrote yesterday, they will only be capturing territory which they’re likely to withdraw from if a peacekeeping force is ever deployed.
Olmert is making a calculated gamble that he can face down Syria as he decimates Hezbollah and captures even more Lebanese territory. I’m not so sure he can count on Syrian cowardice in the face of such a provocation. I fear that Syria may raise its sleepy head and roar. And as Robert notes, Syria doesn’t even have to use its military forces offensively. It can merely launch rockets against Israel and its troops in the field and kill thousands in the process.
As for Rosenberg’s final concern, it is the most salient one. Clearly (at least to me), the Litani push will not work. It cannot work. It will not destroy Hezbollah. It will not silence the rockets. Why does Israel continue to beat its head against the wall thinking that by doing so again and again the result will somehow be different?
As proof let’s look at today’s sad news. Hezbollah has killed 15 IDF soldiers in south Lebanon:
Fifteen Israel Defense Forces troops were killed on Wednesday, the army announced late Wednesday night, as fierce fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas raged in the southern Lebanon villages of Ayta al-Shaab and Debel.
The 15 IDF soldiers were killed in a series of firefights across the front. In the most serious incident, nine reserve paratroopers were killed and 11 wounded by anti-tank missiles fired on a house in the village of Debel, in the central sector. Four reservists from an armored brigade were killed in a tank explosion, apparently caused by anti-tank missiles, in the town of Ayta al-Shaab. An infantryman was killed late Wednesday when he was hit by a mortar in Marjayoun.
Twenty-five soldiers were wounded in Wednesday’s actions, six seriously. Two of the seriously wounded were members of the standing army; the rest of the wounded were reservists.
I am deeply sorry to say that this is but a ‘taste’ of what’s in store once Israel commits to the Litani offensive. More dead. But little or no effect on the enemy and its capacity to fight.