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Symposium: Deadly Errors By: Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 18, 2006


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What did Israel achieve in its military effort to dislodge Hezbollah from southern Lebanon? What consequences will result from the present “ceasefire” agreement? To discuss these questions with us today, Frontpage Symposium has assembled a distinguished panel. Our guests are:

Sol Stern, a contributing editor to City Journal and a Manhattan Institute senior fellow. He is the  author of the forthcoming Israel Without Apology (Encounter Books).

 

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Dr. Kenneth Levin, a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Princeton-trained historian, and a commentator on Israeli politics. He is the author of The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.

 

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David Keyes, an expert on the aftermath of the Gaza Disengagement. He assisted a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. and specialized on terrorism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has traveled throughout the Middle East, where he co-authored academic papers with the former U.N. ambassador and the former head of Israeli military intelligence research and assessment. One of his latest papers is “Al-Qaeda Infiltration of Gaza: A Post-Disengagement Assessment,” published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

 

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and

 

Dr. Michael Widlanski, a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

 

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FP: Sol Stern, Dr. Kenneth Levin, David Keyes and Dr. Michael Widlanski, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.

 

Dr. Levin, let’s begin with you. In the second round, we will discuss the "ceasefire" and its ramifications, but first let’s touch on how and why this war escalated in the first place. What did you make of Israel’s attempt to root Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon? What do you make of how it was carried out?

 

Levin: Clearly, there have been major problems with Israel's strategy in this war, as Hezbollah’s ability to continue intense bombardment of northern Israel vividly demonstrates.

 

Israel knew before the war of Hezbollah’s deployment of in excess of 12,000 rockets, including some very sophisticated models. It knew a fair amount about Hezbollah’s infrastructure and the location of its strongholds along the Israeli-Lebanese border as well as the location of major command and control centers. It seems to have been less aware of the sophistication and redundancy of Hezbollah emplacements in both the south and in southern Beirut and the Bekaa valley, and about the sophistication as well of the organization's logistics, fighter training, ground-fighting equipment, and electronic warfare capabilities.

 

In addition, the IDF overestimated what it would be able to accomplish through an air war, initially pursued ground incursions much more modest than its longstanding plans for a campaign in south Lebanon called for, and was obliged to employ reserves whose training as well as equipment have been compromised in recent years in the context of IDF budget-cutting and reallocations.

 

Hezbollah’s ability to continue to inflict damage and casualties on Israeli communities more than a month into this war will no doubt reinforce the determination of Palestinian groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade to try and emulate Hezbollah’s tactics and strategy. It will also hearten related groups elsewhere both in and beyond the Arab and broader Muslim world.

 

On the other hand, Israel, having started the war at a time not of its choosing but rather in response to Hezbollah provocations, and despite many missteps, did manage to make substantial inroads in dismantling Hezbollah’s frontline positions and pushing its cadres back from the border. In addition, it did so with, despite the painful losses its forces have suffered, significantly less killed and wounded than Hezbollah, with its state-of-the-art weaponry and sophisticated system of well hidden and overlapping firing positions and IED’s.

 

Moreover, Europe has joined the U.S. in acknowledging that Hezbollah started this war and that the organization’s military must be dismantled in line with UN Security Council resolution 1559, points reiterated in the recently passed UN Security Council resolution on ending the conflict. There has been little reason to expect that any strengthened international force in Lebanon would aggressively pursue the defanging of what remains of Hezbollah, and the stipulations of the new Security Council resolution are consistent with the lowest expectations in this regard. But it may still be of some use to have the objective of Hezbollah’s disarming reiterated as a key goal.

 

The Bush Administration’s insistence on putting the onus for the conflict on Hezbollah and its Iranian and Syrian sponsors and the Administration’s demand that there be no return to the status quo ante have, of course, been of vital importance in shaping whatever has been positive in the international diplomatic response.

 

The question remains how much Israel accomplished in depleting Hezbollah’s capabilities. There is another overarching issue: all through the 1990's, in responding to Hezbollah attacks, even as Syrian troops were stationed in Lebanon, Israel allowed Syria - as well as Iran - to pursue a proxy war against her at no cost. That continues to be the case today, and it seems a major error of Israel’s government that it has even given assurances to Syria that it can stoke the Hezbollah war machine and not fear Israeli reprisal.

 

FP: Mr. Keyes?

 

Keyes: Israel’s success to date has been modest in the war against Hezbollah and I believe much more needs to be done if Israel is to emerge as the clear victor.  Over the past month, the IDF has carried out some 10,000 sorties over Lebanon and attacked about 5000 targets.  Nevertheless, until the moment before the cease-fire took effect, Hezbollah was launching 150-250 rockets every day.  Since the beginning of the conflagration, over 4000 rockets have been fired at Israel.  Naturally, Hezbollah made almost no attempt to target military positions and preferred spraying entire cities at random.  Hezbollah has caused vast physical damage in the north and hundreds of civilian casualties.  Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens have essentially been confined to bomb shelters.  While many of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles have been eliminated by the IDF, they retain significant military capacity.    

 

Israel must seek total victory against Hezbollah.  Unfortunately, it seems that Israel’s political leadership has taken more of a piece-meal approach and lacks the strategic vision or moral courage to do what is necessary. 

 

I do not doubt that if the military was given an order along the lines of “Do whatever you must to end the rocket fire and crush Hezbollah,” that this could have ended long ago.  Indeed, what should have occurred in the first days of this Hezbollah provocation is that Israel should have used as much force as necessary for as long as necessary to utterly vanquish Hezbollah.  This can be done and it needs to be said.  A proper defense would target all known Hezbollah positions.  Hezbollah fighters must find immunity nowhere—even as they prove their cowardice by hiding among civilians.   

 

Perhaps most disturbing is that it did not have to be this way.  Over the past six years, while many preferred to ignore the growing threat on Israel’s northern border, Hezbollah steadily amassed incredible amounts of fire-power and enjoyed total freedom of movement.  The Lebanese government has been complicit in Hezbollah’s every move, as they allow the terrorist organization official representation in Parliament.  Syria facilitated weapons transfers and Iran served as Hezbollah’s primary life-line, providing the group with upwards of $100 million each year.  Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 emboldened Hezbollah and gave them the ability to amass some 12,000 rockets pointed at northern Israel.  That one day these rockets would be unleashed on Israel with devastating consequence was painfully obvious.  The bottom line is that Hezbollah should never have been allowed to sit on Israel’s door-step, armed to the teeth, waiting for the right time to strike.

 

But what’s done is done.  Now we find ourselves at war and there is a new opportunity to take the right course of action.  Let there be no doubt about it: by fighting Hezbollah, Israel is doing the world a tremendous service.  It is enforcing the UN’s toothless Resolution 1559 which two years ago called for disarming and disbanding all militias in Lebanon.  It is disrupting one of the Middle East’s most brutal terrorist organizations—a group that has carried out assassinations world-wide, blew up a Jewish community Center in South America, and before 9/11 killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.  It is forcefully undercutting the Islamic Republic of Iran as Hezbollah has long been the Iranian government’s favorite proxy and co-conspirator in the quest to defeat liberalism and democracy.  If Israel does all that it can to neutralize Hezbollah, the world we be an immeasurably safer place because of it.  Conversely, if Israel stops short before the job is done, as now seems to be occurring, then another war with Hezbollah is inevitable.   

 

FP: Dr. Widlanski, what do you make of Kenneth Levin's and David Keys' perspectives?

 

Widlanski: Both of the gentlemen are correct that Israel was caught by surprise, but so was Hezbollah.  Israel was surprised by Hezbollah's military capabilities, as Dr. Levin says, by its sophistication--in tactics and communication-- and redundant fortifications and weaponry.    

 

But Hezbollah was surprised by Israel's intentions, by the willingness of Prime Minister Olmert and his colleagues to do more than a pro forma military response. They kicked sand in Israel's face and expected Israel to roll over.  Hezbollah was also surprised by the strength of Israeli combat forces--not airpower--but the determination and skill of the average Israeli infantry soldier and tankist, who have outfought Hezbollah on Hezbollah's home turf by a ratio of 7-1 up to 10-1. 

 

And the biggest surprise of all for Hezbollah was the Israeli public which Hezbollah had described as a weak spider web waiting to be swiped away.  Sheikh Nasrallah discovered that the Israeli public could take a punch, a few punches, and not lose the will to fight. The Israelis in northern Israel--Haifa, Nahariya, Qiryat Shmona--said they were willing to live in shelters or leave their homes, if only the IDF would knock out the terrorists.    In fact, you also make a point that is often made by martial artists: that when someone attacks, he becomes most vulnerable, he opens himself up to a counter-strike. And in boxing there are three basic kinds of fighters: the jabbers, the sluggers--who go for a quick knock-out--and the counter-punchers.

 

Israel slugged in 1967 and 1956. It counterpunched in 1948 and 1973, and it is counterpunching now. The big problem is that after the initial enthusiasm of Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz to respond, there was almost immediately a weakening of will, a return of "the Lebanon trauma" or fear of what the Israelis call--"ha-botz ha-Levanoni"-- "the Lebanese Quagmire."

 

I'm afraid that I agree with David Keyes's assessment of the tepid and hesitant Israeli war-fighting strategy till now and especially the Olmert Government's overseeing of the army. It has hamstrung the army, like a coach calling every single play from the bench, and then it has blamed the quarterback for calling a bad game. There is growing Israeli public frustration and concern with Olmert especially because he only relied almost entirely on airpower, ignored infantry and armored experts, and ordered the possible land operations expansion only after a month of fighting. The result, as David Keyes has said, is thousands of rocket impacts in Israel: the worst effect on Israel's home front in all its wars since 1948.

 

FP: Sol Stern?

 

Stern: I agree with the other panelists that the Olmert government made serious mistakes in the early phase of this war. Like the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel put its trust in air power and delayed too long sending in a sufficient number of ground troops. You might say that the Israeli military establishment was following a "Rumsfeld" strategy.

 

On the other hand, some of Israel's neo-conservative critics have been somewhat unfair and unhistorical. They seem to have been fantasizing about another lightning Israeli victory on the model of the Six Day war. But the volunteer Shiite fighters of Hezbollah are not the peasant conscripts of Nasser's Egyptian Army. They are more like the fanatical Japanese soldiers in the caves of Iwo Jima who fought to the death and inflicted horrible losses on the U.S. Marines. Thus, it's understandable that Israel at first  tried to uproot the Hezbollah religious fanatics methodically and, yes, slowly, in order to prevent a bloodletting among its own young soldiers. After all, Israel lost 300 soldiers in the first week of the 1982 Lebanon invasion -- and that was primarily in fighting against the PLO. As cheerleader far from the realities of the battlefield, we have to consider the possibility that launching a massive ground war early on would have been walking into a well-prepared Hezbollah trap and resulted in massive Israeli casualties without commensurate gains in suppressing the Hezbollah rockets.

 

We also ought to maintain some historical perspective on how the Hezbollah monster was allowed to grow. In 1983, Hezbollah was operating under the umbrella of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard contingent stationed in Lebanon. It blew up the American Embassy and then the U.S. Marine barracks, murdering over 400 people. The 220 dead marines represented the U.S. Marine Corps' biggest loss of life in a single day of combat since the battle of Iwo Jima. How did the Reagan administration respond to this early act of war against America by Iran and its Hezbollah proxy? It targeted Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard positions in the Beqaa Valley for air strikes by carrier-based warplanes. But Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger aborted the mission at the last minute (without consulting the President) because he feared a "backlash" from friendly Arab regimes. The Reagan administration then turned tail and pulled the marines out of Lebanon. Capitalizing on the widespread belief in the Arab world that the U.S. had been shown to be a paper tiger, Hezbollah grew to become the serious threat that both Israel and the U.S. must now confront. 

 

It's too early to tell how much damage Israel has inflicted on Hezbollah. I suspect that it's quite a lot. Still it won't matter much if the U.S. and its allies don't take the diplomatic and political offensive (if necessary, accompanied by the threat of force) to make sure that Hezbollah isn't made whole by Iran and Syria. What we do know is that this is only one battle in a long war of attrition. Democracies like the U.S. and Israel are still in the early stages of a learning curve, trying to find a winning strategy to defeat the barbarians of the Islamist Fascist international. 

 

FP: Dr. Levin, back to you. What do you make of the “ceasefire” and its dangers?

 

Levin: Security Council Resolution 1701, passed August 11, calls for an end to the presence of Hezbollah south of the Litani and, indirectly, prevention of its being rearmed by Iran and Syria. But it does not create a very robust international force, instead merely adding some ostensible muscle to UNIFIL, does not mandate the enhanced UNIFIL to carry out either of the above objectives, and has even less to say about the disarming of Hezbollah forces and dismantling of its military infrastructure north of the Litani.

 

It has yet to be seen what the belated Israeli push to the Litani will achieve in cleaning out Hezbollah personnel and assets before the IDF is obliged to withdraw from the region. But, at best, it is virtually inevitable that Hezbollah will retain a presence there and will be able to rebuild some of its capabilities despite the intent of Resolution 1701.

 

In this regard, while the Olmert government appeared to prefer a Chapter 7 resolution with the force of international law, Israel is probably better served with 1701 being a Chapter 6 resolution, as the enhanced UNIFIL might serve less to prevent cross border attacks by Hezbollah than to limit Israel’s capacity to respond to future provocations, and any such limitations would potentially be even greater were 1701 a Chapter 7 resolution that could entail the threat of international sanctions against Israel for any response to Hezbollah activities.

 

Is there likely to be anything positive in the outcome of this war? It would be nice to see some Lebanese backlash against Hezbollah for the destruction its actions have wrought, but with Hezbollah forces remaining strong, and with Syrian agents continuing to operate freely in Lebanon, most potential critics will be too intimidated to mount a politically significant anti-Hezbollah campaign aimed at reining in the organization.

 

The war has dramatically demonstrated to Israelis - including many who chose to ignore the lesson of events in Gaza over the year since unilateral withdrawal from there - what the future will almost certainly hold should the government proceed with Olmert's plans for unilateral withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria. That plan, already in some trouble before the war, is hopefully in its death throes, despite the prime minister's bizarre and unconscionable suggestion in the midst of the fighting that the confrontation with Hezbollah will in fact ease the way for his planned retreat from Judea and Samaria.

 

In addition, despite the terror attacks of the Oslo years in the 1990's and the horror of the terror war launched by Arafat in September, 2000, many in Israel have persisted in closing their eyes to the reality that Israel continues to face military challenges from those who wish to destroy her. Perhaps the current conflict will awaken more Israelis to that reality and to the obvious: that, even if there should emerge some post-Hamas Palestinian government with whom Israel could negotiate, the nation will still require defensible borders that will allow it to respond effectively to threats from any quarter, borders that include retention of the Jordan Valley in its widest sense, a buffer to the east of Jerusalem, the heights overlooking the coastal plain, and other key areas; a substantial, and fortunately sparsely populated, portion of Judea and Samaria.

 

One heartening element in Israel's response to the current fighting has been the steadfastness of the Israeli public in recognizing the existential threat and strongly backing an aggressive riposte.

 

But, as Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit noted in a recent piece ("A Spirit of Absolute Folly"), the political echelon’s errors in its conduct of the war and the IDF’s compromised capabilities can be traced to the circumstance of the Israeli public, the Israeli nation, having been betrayed over the last two decades by its elites. Those elites - political, cultural, academic and journalistic - insisted that peace could be had if only Israel would make sufficient concessions. They insisted that those who talked of ongoing threats, of the dangers in compromises that undercut the nation’s capacity to defend itself, of the continued need for a strong military and for the education of the nation’s youth in the rightness of the Zionist enterprise and the virtue of defending it, were somehow anti-peace primitives who refused to recognize new realities and a new moderation among Israel’s neighbors.

 

In this respect, the losses to Israel in the current war, human and material, as well as the impressions the war’s course has wrought in terms of Israel’s vulnerability and the concomitant compromise of Israel’s deterrence, must be added to the human and other losses suffered in the Oslo years, in Arafat’s terror war, and in the current struggle with Hamas and its allies, as still further costs of those delusions that comprised the Oslo Syndrome.

 

It is to be hoped that, in the wake of the government's unfocused, indecisive and muddled handling of the war, Israelis will recognize that, given the threats the nation faces, it cannot afford leaders whose decisions remain mired in the Oslo mindset or are guided by a conviction, as Olmert declared a year ago, that "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies." Most Israelis are not tired of defending themselves and their state, and they deserve and need clear-sighted leaders who share their determination.

 

Keyes: There are innumerable reasons why a cease-fire with Hezbollah at this moment, and the UN’s involvement, are very bad ideas.  In theory, of course, they both sound great.  Who isn’t in favor of ending a war?  Diplomats everywhere must be giddy that another meaningless UN resolution has passed.  But in practice, both ideas will prove very detrimental to Israel, America and the region as a whole. 

 

Dr. Widlanski is correct in pointing to Israel’s fears about the “Lebanese quagmire,” as it brings up painful memories of 1982.  This is a primary reason why Israel has accepted the cease-fire and will not retain ground forces deep in Lebanon for very long.  Nevertheless, in the long run, the upshot of prematurely ending an all out counter-offensive against Hezbollah will be terrible. 

 

First, Hezbollah is being let off the hook.  Though their capabilities have been degraded by the IDF, Hezbollah is still very much alive and kicking.  At the precise moment when Hezbollah should be stripped of any illusion that it will ever again have the capability to threaten the most democratic nation in the Middle East, Nasrallah is being thrown a life-line.  Many Lebanese citizens, not to mention Syrians, Iranians, Saudis, Egyptian Palestinians and Jordanians see this as an Islamic victory over Israel.  True, Hezbollah has lost far more people than Israel, but they have managed to inflict great damage on the Israeli home-front and have demonstrated sustained combat tenacity.  With little else besides rockets and zeal, Hezbollah has denied Israel a true victory in war. 

 

Second, the UN will do more harm than good.  A few thousand UN troops have been in south Lebanon since 1978, and if their mission was arming Hezbollah and allowing it to become the fiercest militia in the region, then yes, they have had astonishing success.  In the final analysis, the UN will provide cover for Hezbollah and limit Israel’s options for defending itself.  Does anyone actually believe that Nasrallah will hand over his dear weapons to menacing blue-helmet UN soldiers?  Given the flaccidity of the UN in nearly every sphere it has ever operated in, I do not believe for a moment that they will succeed in disarming Hezbollah.  One look at the pictures of UN and Hezbollah flags flying side by side in south Lebanon, or Nasrallah and Kofi Annan shaking hands and smiling together in Beirut, and it should be clear why the UN is bound to fail.  Likewise, the Lebanese government has no intention of disarming Hezbollah.  For years it has sat by as an accomplice to Hezbollah, and as I noted previously, even allows the terrorist organization official representation in the government.  Only the IDF has the will and capability to do what must be done. 

 

Because Israel’s counter-offensive has ended without achieving its goal, in all likelihood Hezbollah will be allowed to rearm and regroup.  In a few years or less, the same thing will happen again—thousands of rockets will reign down on Israel—and this time it may very well may be with the protection of an Iranian nuclear umbrella.  Just imagine the consequences of that!   Who would risk a nuclear war over a few thousand rockets?  Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and all other terrorist groups who have Iranian backing, will be able to act with utter impunity.  For these reasons and more, Hezbollah must be disarmed and dismantled, and Iran must absolutely be denied nuclear weapons.

 

If anyone doubts that Hezbollah is tied at the hip to Iran, one needn’t look further than Hezbollah’s own political platform from February 1985 which states “We view the Iranian regime as the vanguard and new nucleus of the leading Islamic State in the world.  We abide by the orders of one single wise and just leadership, represented by Wali Faqih and personified by Khomeini….” 

 

This is a war in which medieval Islamic fascism is pitted against enlightened liberal democracy.  Even if the two could co-exist, they should not be allowed to.  One is right and one is wrong.  Instead of pressuring Israel to cease its counter-offensive against Hezbollah, the United States and all concerned parties should encourage Israel in its moral and security imperative of defeating one of the world’s most deadly terrorist organizations.

 

Widlanski: I agree with most of the points but I would like to fine-tune them a bit. The first Lebanese war of 1982—and I was there, from the border to Jbeil, half way up the coast to Tripoli—was, indeed a different war against a different enemy. But the Israeli army also used its greatest assets—firepower and manoeuvre—to build momentum. All the rocket launchers were cleared out within one day. Here, too, the rockets might not have been all cleaned out, but the terrorists would have had trouble firing them at Israeli cities if they had had to worry about staying alive.

 

My recollection of 1982 is that fewer than 60 Israeli soldiers were killed in the first week of fighting—and many of them in friendly fire incidents. The 300 fatalities came later, in the fighting with Syrian forces and in set piece battles in the badly conceived siege of Beirut in July and August 1982, and later in ambushes of Israeli army re-supply convoys.

 

Israel is at its best in a war of movement, and it hurts itself when it gets bogged down. Sure, Hezbollah fighters are better trained and motivated than PLO fighters, but they forced Israeli losses mostly by using anti-tank rockets and road-side bombs. In head-to-head firefights, they almost always lost. Some of these anti-tank rocket incidents were avoidable. Israeli soldiers returning from Lebanon say that the hesitancy of Israeli political leaders and top military commanders actually turned the Israeli soldiers into sitting ducks in bad terrain situations. One squad leaders spoke of losing nine men who were buried in a house hit by an anti-tank rocket, and he said his superiors had told him not to keep moving but to stay in the house.

 

As for the criticism of the Bush Administration, I can only say that if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were commanding Israeli troops in Lebanon –or in Iraq, for that matter—the situation in both places would be looking a lot better. Whatever one’s criticism of Bush’s ability to articulate or Rumsfeld’s relations with generals, there is no question that the Bush team “gets it” when it comes to situation: they know we’re at war, and they want to win the war. I’m afraid the same cannot be said for Ehud Olmert, for Amir Peretz or for Tzippy Livni.  Still, none of them has any real defense experience or national executive experience. The same cannot be said for the ailing Ariel Sharon.  I think he is even guiltier of Israel’s lack of readiness. Sharon was a military man who knowingly chose the politically facile way of delaying, avoiding or minimizing war during his term of office—with Fatah, with Hamas and with Hezbollah—for his own career. It’s a terrible indictment, and I know many fans of Sharon’s military successes will find my critique unpalatable. Still, to borrow Churchill’s analysis of British appeasement by two British prime ministers of Nazi Germany, Sharon has been more akin to Britain’s Stanley Baldwin than to Neville Chamberlain. Baldwin knew that Germany was re-arming but did nothing, while Chamberlain believed in Hitler’s peaceful intentions. Churchill forgave Chamberlain and eulogized him, but he never forgave Baldwin.

 

I give Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and even today’s British prime minister—Tony Blair—high marks for their support for Israel. In fact, Israel’s best spokesmen have been Bush, Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu—none of whom are in the Israeli government. They have been correct on the strategic issues all along.  They have understood that there is no such thing as “territory for peace,” and they understood that territory is still important in an age of rockets and smart bombs. 

 

Bush and Co. were not enthusiastic about Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policies. And the Bush Administration did everything possible to allow Olmert’s government the time and the tools to win the war, but you cannot expect them be more kosher than Israel’s own leaders. I’m afraid Israel’s so-called “elites” do indeed have much to answer for, and I hope Israel’s citizens will force a real housecleaning and not just some of the usual Scapegoating.

 

As former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens has said, the question is not what Israel did wrong in this war, but rather, what, if anything, did it do right.

 

The answer is that—at least in the beginning—Olmert and his colleagues (unlike Sharon, Rabin, Peres and Barak) were ready to fight. They then lost the will to fight, but the Israeli fighting man and the Israeli citizen never lost their will to fight. That is the really good news, and that is why, with God’s help, Israel will, I hope, gather its wits and its resources and get ready for the next round—which may involve Syria and Iran directly.

 

Stern: With just a few days passing since the cease-fire, I don't see much to cheer about. As weak and confused as the Olmert government's response was during the 34 days of fighting, its handling of the end game proved to be even more irresponsible and amateurish. I find it inexplicable that Israel's war cabinet finally voted for a full scale ground invasion, then held the troops at the border while waiting for a Security Council cease fire resolution, and only then, after the passage of the resolution, sent the troops on a wild dash to the Litani in the last 48 hours. You might argue that there was some method to the madness if Israel intended to stay on the Litani and squeeze the Hezbollah fighters in a vice from North to South while waiting for the foreign troops to arrive. But that's not what is happening. Rather, the government seems intent on getting out as fast as possible, while turning territory over to the hapless Lebanese army.

 

Of course this means that Hezbollah will soon be the ruling authority again in the south of the country. It is only a matter of time before their dead soldiers are replaced and rearmed by Syria and Iran. Thus, those two members in good standing of the axis of evil are so far winners in this round. It's also a victory that's been partly abetted by the feckless diplomacy of Condi Rice at the U.N. President Bush said all the right words about who was behind Hezbollah's aggression, but then allowed Condi to craft a resolution that didn't even mention the names of the instigators and enablers of aggression.

 

The only silver lining in all this is the extraordinary steadfastness and good sense of the Israeli people and the bravery of Israel's young soldiers. The people were ahead of the government during the conflict and remain ahead of the government now in honestly assessing what went wrong and what needs to be done in the future. We can only hope that this resilient democracy gets the leadership it deserves.

 

FP: Sol Stern, Dr. Kenneth Levin, David Keyes and Dr. Michael Widlanski, thank you for joining Frontpage Symposium.

 

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Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


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