Monday, August 07, 2006

Israel's shotgun approach

The success of a military mission, to a significant degree, depends on the quality and amount of intelligence provided to the mission commander. If the intelligence is faulty or just plain wrong, the chance of a mission succeeding is severely diminished. If a mission leader ignores the intelligence provided for the mission, failure is nearly guaranteed.

So, what's happened with Israel? Given that the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt-Gen Dan Halutz, suggested he would eliminate the Hezbollah rocket threat within 10 days of the start of Israeli air-strikes into Lebanon, something must have gone terribly awry. This Wednesday will mark a complete month of Israeli military action against targets in Lebanon and still Hezbollah rockets rain down on northern Israeli towns.

The Israeli air campaign, which has managed to kill approximately 900 people, most of whom were civilians, has been ineffective in halting Hezbollah's rocket war.

Why? Because the Israelis don't know where Hezbollah's rockets are.

In May of 2000, when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, after almost two decades of occupation, they were shocked when the South Lebanese Army, a militia loyal to Israel, collapsed within two days. They had underestimated Hezbollah's strength and position. It was an intelligence failure of the first order and something of an intelligence coup for Hezbollah.

Today, it would appear the same thing is happening. Israel, relying on advanced technology and overwhelming air power, cannot locate and destroy Hezbollah's forces, and it's causing more than a little concern amongst members of the IDF. For one thing, Israeli Air Force pilots are starting to question the intelligence which identifies their targets and a few are starting to pull their punches.

At least two Israeli fighter pilots have deliberately missed civilian targets in Lebanon as disquiet grows in the military about flawed intelligence, The Observer has learnt. Sources say the pilots were worried that targets had been wrongly identified as Hizbollah facilities.
If that story is true it demonstrates a level of reticence within the IDF to bombing targets without clear intelligence. What was supposed to be no more than a two week operation is becoming protracted and the pilots releasing the bombs are questioning the quality of the intelligence used in making target selections.

If there is any real intelligence at all.

The fact that Hezbollah rocket attacks continue seemingly unabated would suggest that Israel may be shooting in the dark.

As one well-connected Israeli expert put it: 'If we have such good information in Lebanon, how come we still don't know the hideout of missiles and launchers?... If we don't know the location of their weapons, why should we know which house is a Hizbollah house?'
Indeed. And if they aren't able to determine precise targets that makes the Israeli air campaign little more than a "shotgun approach" to dealing with Hezbollah. If you can't find the bad guy, shoot up everything you can and you'll eventually get the bad guy. Boris spelled it out quite nicely here.

The IDF seems to have been engulfed in the belief that military air, in isolation, possessed the power to neutralize Hezbollah. The air force receives 60 percent of the military budget which has put a strain on the other two services. The army was required to pare back its training tempo and the armoured corps, a mainstay of the army, was reduced in size. Armoured corps reservists, required to train one month per year were not even seeing the inside of a tank. All of this was based on the dismissal by military intelligence of the likelihood of another conventional ground war against Israel. In short, Israel fell into the "air alone can win a war" trap.

Like all nations who go down that road and place all their faith in technology, they failed to assess the weaknesses of air power. The greatest of those weaknesses being that air strikes require high-grade intelligence to direct the pilot and the weapon to the proper target. And clearly, the intelligence isn't there, because if it was, the rockets which keep finding their way to northern Israel would have stopped long ago.

Israel has so much as admitted that its air campaign has failed as it launches an extensive ground campaign to seek out and destroy Hezbollah's stock of Katyusha rockets. It is now faced with another problem. It's army is much less prepared for a fight than it needs to be to take on Hezbollah. It's training is left wanting and it lacks the appropriate equipment.

And, then there is the fact that the Israeli Air Force has already made a mockery of the Purity Of Arms value of the IDF Code of Ethics. The army can either behave the same way or attempt to regain some semblance of morality in their actions.

In any case, it appears the IDF relied less on good intelligence and more on the effect of less than accurate bombing in an attempt to bring Hezbollah to heel. All they have done is incur the wrath of the civilized world and driven large numbers of the Lebanese population into the arms of Hezbollah.

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