Analysis: Try envelopment instead of conquest

Israel finds itself at the crossroads of two processes: a flawed agreement and a slow military campaign.

IDF soldier lebanon 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
IDF soldier lebanon 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel finds itself at the crossroads of two processes: advancement toward a limited, flawed diplomatic agreement on a cessation of hostilities, and a military campaign that hasn't moved forward as planned. Each is a source of different hopes and threats. The diplomatic process enhances the prospects of survival for many innocent people on both sides of the conflict, but it threatens the chances of changing the balance of internal power in Lebanon and, consequently, of building a new order in the Middle East. Paradoxically, France and other EU countries are pursuing an agreement that may harm their long-term interests in the region and their internal interests by preserving the power of Hizbullah. That terror organization has replaced al-Qaida, temporarily, as the leading edge of international terrorism, of Shi'te fundamentalism and of extreme, violent organizations in Europe, known and unknown. The IDF campaign may weaken Hizbullah to the level that the Lebanese government and its army will be able to move south and accept authority in southern Lebanon. But due to the overly protracted tempo of the advance, that campaign may become too ugly and too gradual, and the lives of many civilians will be at risk. Diplomacy and military operations should, in principle, work together to achieve national goals. The synergetic effect of these mutually supportive efforts can enhance the scale of achievements and reduce the time needed to attain them. In this conflict, diplomatic initiative has been hinted at previously. It emphasized initiating negotiations with Syria, above or under the table, because only Syria is able to control Hizbullah and to negotiate on its behalf. However, the military campaign requires further discussion. The new goal is to seize the northern line of the area in which Israel envisages a multinational force and the Lebanese army ultimately deploying. Consequently, in order to reduce the potential IDF casualities, the strategy should be changed from occupying ground to envelopment of essential area. Seizing the Litani River line or further north, which will become the northern border of the multinational force, is an applicable, attainable military objective. Envelopment of the area and omitting the villages may accelerate the rate of advance and the accomplishment of the mission. Such a strategy embodies some other advantages: It strengthens Israeli deterrence; it reduces Hizbullah's ability to launch Katyushas, because longer-range rockets would be required to reach across the border. No less important, it may help save Lebanese civilians' lives. This different strategy - using ground forces to envelop Hizbullah terrorists - encompasses well-defined, quickly achievable military objectives. When coordinated properly with diplomacy, it will help in achieving a UN agreement and the State of Israel's national goals. The writer, a colonel (res.) in the IAF, is head of the technology and national security program at the Holon Institute of Technology and an expert in national security, air warfare and counterterrorism. He is also the author of The Vulture and the Snake: Counter-Guerrilla Air Warfare: The War in Southern Lebanon.