Martin Van Creveld on Lebanon War
I suspect this will come to be the dominant interpretation from now on:
….Though the decision to retaliate in force was inevitable, it also meant that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) was taken by surprise and did not have time to prepare properly. Of the entire vast order of battle, only five regular brigades were immediately available. Moreover, these brigades had spent years doing little but carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the Occupied Territories. As a result, they had almost forgotten how to fight a real enemy; he who fights the weak will end up by becoming weak. Some of the burden fell on the Israeli Navy which shelled Lebanon’s coast, imposed a blockade, and cut the country off from the world. In doing so, one of its modern ships was hit by an Iranian-built surface to sea missile, suffering damage and taking some casualties. Since this was the first time in thirty-nine years anything of the kind had happened, it was a considerable propaganda victory for Hezbollah. At the same time it proved how much the crew had underestimated the enemy, since they (perhaps acting on their superiors’ orders) had not even switched on the vessel’s electronic defenses.….
”Stark raving mad” (majnun, in Arabic) was, in fact, the way many people in Lebanon and the rest of the Arab world reacted to the Israeli attack. As the statements of several of Hezbollah’s top leaders indicated, they too were surprised by the strength of the Israeli reaction. None of the organization’s original objectives were achieved. Its fighters remain in prison; the Israeli “occupation” of Shaba Farm continues; and Jerusalem, which it set itself as its ultimate objective to liberate, remains as firmly in Israeli hands as it has been during the last forty-four years. What the war did do was to show that, in case of war, neither Syria nor Iran would necessarily come to Lebanon’s rescue. The country’s infrastructure was left in ruins. Thirty thousand dwellings were destroyed or damaged, and dozens of bridges, underpasses, and gas stations demolished. Hundred of thousands of people were forced to flee, and as many as 2,000 killed.
I wrote a piece with a similar message last year. Looked strictly from the framework of their objectives, both 2006 and Cast Lead achieved a narrow sort of deterrence. Given the duty of the government to protect its citizens from harm, this is appropriate and should be considered a success.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t larger problems with Israeli grand strategy and defense policy, but the success or failure of Israel’s wars should be judged on the basis of the policy objectives that these Israelis set themselves.