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On Vox: By That Logic...

What Does the Israeli Government Think It's Doing?

Pat Lang Is Puzzled by the IDF:

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: CNN Situation Room 20 July, 2006:

And joining us now to talk a little bit about Israel's military strategy is retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang. He was headed a key Pentagon intelligence service and was the top DIA officer dealing with the Middle East for seven years. Pat, thanks very much for coming in. Can this Israeli military strategy of trying to deliver a knockout punch to Hezbollah work?

COL. PAT LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It doesn't make any sense to me. As you know, I've worked in all of these countries and with the IDF a lot, and studied it forever. And this just doesn't make any sense to me what they're doing, because as this Israeli air force major said, it's impossible to go around in a kind of hunt for all of these rocket launchers everywhere. Hezbollah is a numerous, well organized, disciplined guerrilla army. They have reserves in depth of people among the Shia people of Lebanon. They've been organizing this ground for five or six years. There are all kinds of tank traps and ambush positions. All kinds of things like this. It's a murderous place to go fight. And the idea that you can root people like that out who are Islamic zealots and cause them to quit and run away with air power and artillery and some small- scale operations, it's just -- it's just not on.

BLITZER: So what do you see the Israeli military strategy -- I mean, I assume they appreciate the same factors that you appreciate.

LANG: I don't understand it. I can't understand it. The only way you can stop Hezbollah from shooting into north Lebanon is to move...

BLITZER: Into north Israel.

LANG: Into north Israel is to move their gun line back to the north far enough so that, in fact, they can't reach you. The only way to do that, in my opinion, is with ground troops. Now, I know the IDF does not want to occupy part of Lebanon again, but they've somehow gotten themselves in a position in which there may be no other choice. And from what I understand, they're mobilizing large numbers of people and they're probably thinking it over. The other part of their strategy...

BLITZER: Because they tried that invasion for, what, 18 years, and it turned out to not such a great experience.

LANG: It was a terrible experience. The Lebanese lined up to fight them all over the place. It was a continual dribble of casualties all the time which finally politically caused Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon. And the other part of this, which is to -- to cause the Lebanese government to be something that it is not, a unified government that has an army that's a real army, instead of symbol of national unity who will act against Hezbollah, that's just not on. The Lebanese don't have that in them to do it.

BLITZER: The brigadier general, Alon Friedman, of the IDF, the Israeli defense forces, was quoted yesterday as saying, "Israeli strikes have destroyed about 50 percent of Hezbollah's arsenal. It will take us time to destroy what is left." Does that sound credible, that half of the rockets, half of the arsenal over the past nine days has been destroyed?

LANG: Well, there's no way for me to know and there's no way for them to know either, in any way. I mean, you know, I've fought this kind of war against guerillas in various places before, and you never really know until you get to talk to the people who were defeated afterwards to find out how many people you actually bagged. The only way you know how much you have worn them down by attrition is when the fire that comes into northern Israel starts to fall off and you run into less resistance when you go in on the ground.

BLITZER: I don't think he meant that they killed half of Hezbollah. I think what he said -- he meant they destroyed half of their rockets, let's say.

LANG: I don't think there's any way to know that. As I said, the only way you can know if those deep bunkers of rockets all over southern Lebanon have been emptied is if the fire into northern Israel starts to diminish. That's the only way you'll know.

BLITZER: All right. So put on your advice cap. You used to give advice to defense secretaries and top U.S. officials. If you were advising the Israeli government right now, the Israeli military, they've got rockets coming in from south Lebanon, they've got Hezbollah crossing the border, killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers, this is a U.N. recognized border, what would you do if you were the Israeli military?

COL. PAT LANG, FORMER PENTAGON MIDEAST INTEL. CHIEF: I would have advised them to take specific punitive action on the people who hurt them with the death of these soldiers and to negotiate an outcome with that.

BLITZER: What does that mean exactly, spell it out?

LANG: Well they've done this before. They've worked with the Germans and other people for the return of captured soldiers, things of that kind.

BLITZER: To do a prisoner swap?

LANG: That kind of thing.

BLITZER: But doesn't that encourage further terrorism down the road?

LANG: Well in this, as in many situations in war and politics, in fact you often have to choose between two bad alternatives. Now having done what they have done now, they are now in a position in which in four, five, six days, a week, two weeks, whatever it is, they're going to decide that they have no choice but to put a large force into southern Lebanon. And that's going to hurt them badly for a long time. In a lot of these things, once you start down the road, having made a bad decision, you're just stuck.

BLITZER: Pat Lang, U.S. Army colonel, retired. Thanks very much for coming in.

LANG: Good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you Pat.

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