Israel, on another learning curve

Writing at National Review Online, Emanuele Ottolenghi makes a good case that, while Israel might not have won decisively in this last go round, Hezbollah did not achieve any of its objectives at all, and suffered some serious losses all around, both in terms of soldiers and materiels. Ottolenghi also shows that the myth of “invincible Israel” was not shattered, because it’s always been that — just a myth. Although Israel has survived each conflict with the surrounding Arab states and non-governmental armies, it was only in 1967 that she moved with overwhelming speed, and even then she suffered tremendous casualties (especially in Jerusalem), and faced an arduous, illusory “peace” over the next 40 years. Nevertheless, what’s been important is that Israel is not stagnant; from each encounter, she’s learned:

There is a pattern, then: Each war brings Israel a new challenge. Each time, it takes Israel time to absorb the blow, understand its nature and mechanisms, and then make elaborate corrections and improvements to its combat doctrine. Israel has lost battles in the past. It learned from its mistakes and it improved its fighting capabilities the next time around. In this worn-out recent war with Hezbollah, Israel’s performance was no different from that in past wars. At a heavy price, it inflicted a severe, but not decisive, blow to Hezbollah. It will now learn how to fight better next time around.

What about the last myth, the idea that Israel cannot digest casualties anymore?

If this were true, how could we explain Israel’s victory in the second Intifada? Over 1,000 civilians were shredded to bits by Palestinian terror. Yet, Israeli society soldiered on — literally. In the latest round of fighting, it was Israel’s leadership that balked at the risk of casualties, not the country, which from left to right was united in an unprecedented support for a more comprehensive and aggressive campaign to finish off Hezbollah once and for all. Israel’s home front did not break down, despite a month spent in shelters in the North, and the severe shortcomings of its logistical machine and those who were in charge of it. Israelis proved their resilience and their stubborn will to stay and put up a fight, for when the real volley of missiles comes in from further afield.

As for the future, these myths and the misperceptions on which they may be based will no doubt contribute to the next round of war. When that comes, one should take note of how the two societies at war responded to their perceived successes and failures.

Israel will now have a commission of inquiry, whose outcomes may end the careers of military and political leaders. It will reflect on its mistakes. It will cry over the futility of the deaths of so many of its best, due to those mistakes. It will blame those responsible and it will demand a heavy price of them. But it will get its answers.

What of Lebanon? Amidst the ruins of Beirut, the rubble of the bridges over the Litani, and the craters punctuating the highways, what does Nasrallah do? He proclaims victory. What does Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora do? He cries in front of the cameras, praises Hezbollah, and clings on to the myths of victory even as evidence of defeat is all around. They do not set up independent commissions, and they do not summon generals, politicians, and clerics, demanding they take responsibility. The last time an Arab country had its own commission of inquiry about a military defeat was in Iraq, in 1949. That precedent will remain the exception. Lebanon will not inquire now into how a foreign agent, having taken over half the country and infiltrated the government at all levels, dragged it into someone else’s war. It will do away with the need to understand what went wrong by proclaiming victory. So that when war returns, the “shattered myth” will rise again, as reality catches up with the myths of Arab rhetoric.

You can read the whole of Ottolenghi’s article here.

By the way, if you want to read something less optimistic — much less optimistic — Rachel Neuwirth, at American Thinker, envisions a scenario in which America abandons Israel to go it alone against Iran.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Leaders have always wanted to avoid war, when it was the people in democracies calling for heads to be rolled.

    In dictatorships, the situation is reversed.