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Two great posts on Israel vs. Hezbollah

Ian Walsh at Sean Paul's place:

Still the extent to which Hezbollah had pre-prepared the battlefield with infrastructure - both defensive and supply caches and highly sophisticated tactics, has exceeded what I think anyone except Hezbollah themselves expected. Even they, I suspect, are probably somewhat surprised at how successful they've been. At a guess they expected to force Israel into an attrition battle, and to inflict heavy losses (but take heavier) but they probably figured Israel could push them back faster and further and easier than they have.

But what has become clear is that Hezbollah's army is effectively made up of elite light infantry who are also capable of operating as guerillas. Or as a military analyst friend of mine put it, "what do you call light infantry trained in insurgency warfare? Special forces."

Facts on the Ground are simple - Hezbollah has imposed costs on Israel for the invasion that Israel is not willing to sustain. Israel has not been able to take out Hezbollah's strategic deterrent, has not been able to degrade Hezbollah's command and control, has not been able to break public support in Lebanon for Hezbollah and has not been able to break the morale or unit cohesion of Hezbollah's forces.

[This] should also make people start thinking more seriously about so called non state actors like Hezbollah and the Tamil Tigers and the Islamic Courts Union and their similarities and differences from States. Such organization - with the support of a population and fulfilling most of the roles of the government, yet not internationally recognized, are likely to increase in number and efficacy over time - and as we have just seen, even now, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Welcome the new Middle East. It's not your father's Middle East anymore.

And Sterling Newberry at TPM Cafe:

he first conclusion that we can draw is that we are watching the fall of the Israeli Empire. An empire is a state which rules over non-citizen populations integrated into its power structure. Israel, while a small empire, is still an empire, with subject territories which dominate its resources, command and control decisions, and military profile.

Some will object to this characterization, on the grounds that Israel has elections and a democracy. But empires have often had democratic cores - including Athens, Rome, The British Empire. The United States has been called an imperial power - even by some who are proud of the nature of the US as empire. New York is, after all, the "Empire State". The defining characteristic of an empire is the division between subjects and citizens, and the exploitation of subjects for the benefit of the citizens. Israel meets this test.

One of the characteristics of this empire, is that it has been able, over the last 40 years, to militarily dominate or deter larger states around it. It was a matter of survival for Israel to have a "near abroad", and to carve out buffer zones to hold key military points. But this relied on the perception that conflict with Israel was political suicide - that to fight with Israel is to lose to Israel.

However, the last invasion run by Israel is now almost 25 years ago. Since then, the imperial capacity has dominated their doctrine, and hardware, and their decisions reflect this. Go to any article on the Merkava tank, and you will read that it was designed for crew survivability. Empire's have a basic reality, a small core of privileged people having to dominate a poorer rapidly growing population. They must either coöpt, or crush, those under their control.

The United States must also think long and hard about what the results of the first phase of this conflict means. The Rumsfeldian small and light approach has had its tombstone carved along the Litani - the light infantry of Hezbollah might not be able to take the brunt of a full assault - the results will only be known over time -but they are clearly capable of dealing with lesser thrusts that rely overly much on technological superiority, and not enough on volume of fire power.

The readjustment of electorates to realities takes time. It has taken nearly 3 years for the American public to adjust its expectations in Iraq. While the strategic costs of withdrawal are high, it is becoming less clear that winning is even achievable given the commitments Americans are willing to make. The North Vietnamese used to joke that Americans ran a school for anti-aircraft training over Hanoi. It may well be the case that Iraq is a giant school for the light infantry counter-forces of the future.

Caveat: Yes, Israel is a sovreign state (and therefore has a right to exist). But having made the imperial bed, they, like we, must learn to lie in it.

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