There have been two recent incidents involving IDF assaults on Lebanese targets which ended in failure. Given the even greater failures of the 2006 Lebanon war in which Israel lost over 100 civilian and military dead, its soldiers were largely outmaneuvered by dogged Hezbollah veterans, and most of the northern population lived in air raid shelters for weeks, it’s important to note that not much may’ve changed.
The first incident involved an IDF commando unit composed of 10 Sayeret Matkal and Egoz (part of the Golani brigade) personnel who infiltrated a quarter-mile into Lebanese territory to plant spy gear. Hezbollah was one step ahead of them and had planted an IED which exploded. The operation was aborted and four soldiers from the Egoz unit were seriously injured. My source tells me the mission failed because the army had used the same route previously to plant surveillance equipment that tapped into Hezbollah’s communications network. While I’m no military expert, it seems that using the same route twice was a major error.
Similarly, I reported a few days ago that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is closely allied with the Assad forces, launched four Katyusha rockets from Lebanon. Despite the fact that an Iron Dome anti-missile battery is stationed in northern Israel, it only succeeded in intercepting one rocket of the four. It never fired at the others. The IDF has not spoken about the reason for the failure. It prefers to boast about successes and lie about weapons performance that is less than stellar.
An Israeli Iron Dome booster is attempting to pass off Iron Dome’s record this week as a success because it never fired at the missiles that landed in Israel. That’s a mighty strange definition of success. If you’re an anti-missile system and don’t fire at missiles targeting your population centers, then you’ve failed. It reminds me of the enigmatic, but memorable Bob Dylan lyric:
There’s no success like failure and failure is no success at all.
The failure is reminiscent of another dramatic Iron Dome lapse (Hebrew) during Operation Pillar of Smoke, when it failed to intercept a Fajr rocket that heavily damaged an Israeli apartment building. The IDF explanation was:
Remember that Iron Dome was not designed to offer hermetic protection.
In other words, when it works it’s great, but don’t expect it to work all the time. Which instills great confidence. On my Twitter feed, an Israeli diplomat claimed the missiles weren’t intercepted because Iron Dome only targets missiles that will land on populated areas. He piped down when I offered pictures of Israeli homes seriously damaged by the Katyushas.
The U.S. will be spending $500-million on the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system at least in part in order to provide a psychological cushion for Israelis who live in fear of rocket bombardments from their enemies in Gaza, Lebanon and Iran. If it can provide what’s perceived as an ironclad defense (which it can’t), then Obama believes there will be less clamor for aggressive Israeli action against Iran. Though of course the opposite could be the case: if Israelis believe they are safe from an Iranian counter-strike after an Israeli pre-emptive attack, they might be more inclined to support such adventurism.
Even earlier, Israel was forced to destroy one of its advanced drones after a party that was likely Hezbollah (or Iran) hacked into the navigation system and hijacked it.
If you add to this yet another failed Israeli operation to destroy Russian advanced Yakhont anti-ship missiles at Latakia due to a pro-government double agent who informed Assad before the IAF attack, Israel’s record isn’t looking terribly promising in countering threats from Lebanon (and Syria). This brings up the historical memory of multiple failures of IDF tactics and strategy in 2006, when Hezbollah tapped into IDF communications systems and was able to counter the latter’s military moves. Hezbollah proved to be a more formidable adversary than Israel had expected (though the militant group hadn’t anticipated the ferocity of the IDF onslaught and its damaging impact on the country’s civilian infrastructure).
While there’s no question that the IDF remains one of the more formidable armies in the world (at least in theory), it has lost at least some of the ingenuity, innovation and daring that used to characterize it. It has become an army of Occupation one of whose main roles is suppressing the resistance of civilian populations. That’s not exactly a formula for brilliant strategic thinking. And it shows.