With America watching, Israel needs a knockout

This is a war that Israel must win, and decisively.

July 26, 2006 23:37
3 minute read.


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It's tough in war to keep one's equilibrium, especially when one's mood - depending on the news - swings from euphoria to despair. Euphoria was in the air Tuesday morning, as the headlines screamed that Israel took over a Hizbullah stronghold without any IDF casualties. Despair replaced that feeling Wednesday morning, with reports of the bitter battle in Bint Jbail that left a number of soldiers dead. It is critical to keep one's perspective, and this perspective has two key components: first, that this is a war, and in a war soldiers get killed; and secondly, that the IDF - as good as it is - is not omnipotent. A mythic aura has been created about the IDF over the years, an aura that posits that if the political echelon would just loosen the reins, let the army do what it knows and wants to do, then the IDF could pretty much have its way and make short order of any adversary. "Let the army win," was a popular cry over the last few years during the worst days of the Palestinian terrorism. Now the political echelon is letting the army win, indeed giving it the green light and the time to do what it needs to significantly slam Hizbullah and change the reality there for generations. But the work is not easy. If you solely use airpower, then the critics say you can't beat Hizbullah from the air and that you need to introduce ground troops. But when you introduce ground troops, and there are loses, as their inevitably will be, the critics question your wisdom and warn once again of sinking into the "Lebanese morass." It's a no-win situation. Yet this is a war that Israel must win, and decisively. There is no reason to repeat what many have written over the last two weeks: that this war, yet unnamed, is an extension of the 1948 Independence War that has never really ended - a war for the country's right to be here, a right denied by Hizbullah and its masters in Iran. But even if Hizbullah does not at this time pose an existential threat to the country - Hizbullah will not throw us into the sea - Israel needs to win this war, and deliver a punishing blow to Hizbullah, for another key reason: to preserve our status as a key strategic US ally. Prime Minster Ehud Olmert has said on a number of occasions since the fighting started two weeks ago that the whole Arab world is watching, and the outcome of this conflict will have wide-ranging ramifications for the region. But not only are the Islamic countries watching, so is the US. Beyond all the talk about how the US supports Israel because it is the only democracy in the Middle East and because of shared values, the US supports Israel because it sees Israel as an important component of its own national security dogma, an American bridgehead in a region hostile to the US. As such, Washington is watching to see how we do. The US wants to see Hizbullah weakened badly; it wants to see Damascus weakened badly; it wants to see Iran suffer the loss of a key proxy. This is in their interest. This will help their own efforts in Iraq. A democratic Lebanon, something impossible with a strong Hizbullah and Syrian meddling, will enhance the American status in the region, a status that is declining with each passing Iraqi day. It's a safe bet to assume that in Washington they are watching very carefully how this war is going, and whether Israel is able to deliver the knockout punch to Hizbullah that the US wants to see delivered. Washington is watching and judging Israel to see how effective a strategic asset Israel really is. Israel needs to deliver Hizbullah a resounding defeat for many different reasons: not the least of which is to preserve its strategic position in the eyes of the Americans. And that is an existential imperative.

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