Thursday, July 20, 2006

Proxy War- Part II

Yesterday I talked about how George Bush and Syria's President were in agreement about what to do about Hezbolah in Lebanon. Talk a good game, but do nothing to stop the fighting. Today I'll examin why George Bush will do nothing in Lebanon till Israel has put a dent in Hezbolah.

From his perspective, the Katushya attacks are a God-send. Since the begining of the GWOT, he has had a to walk a fine line about preserving perceptions in order to keep Arab allies in line and try to stay on the moral high ground. This is about bringing terrorists to justice, not about promoting an agenda that furthers Israels interests. Tough job for one of the most pro-Israel presidents since Harry Truman. Just as in Gulf War I, preserving the coalition depended on keeping Israel in the box. Thanks to the attacks he does not have to any longer. He gets to give Iran's ally a balck eye and it costs him nothing but 3 billion a year in aid to do so. Plus from his perspective its a two-fer; since Hezbolah ios backed by Iran, they get a black eye. That is especially helpful since, thanks to the continuing drain of the Iraq war on the US military and the SECDEF"S obsession with down sizing it, the military is no position to start a 6th war any time soon. (Homeland Defense, Iraq, HOA, PI, deterrence of North Korea). And to be blunt, this is a fight we should stay out of , and benefit from.

Benefit from you ask? The US, gets to watch Hezbolah and by extension Iran get a punch in the nose, a labeled terrorist organization get hurt and as a weekend bonus, see Israel do some tactical development and research on all the weapons we have sent them, for free. (Free to us at least, the Israelis pay a price.) For both President Bush and the Israeli Prime Minister the clock is ticking. Once again from Stratfor:

Two of the realities cannot be changed. Nothing can be done about geography or demography. Culture can be changed. It is not inherently the case that Israel will have a technological or operational advantage over its neighbors. The great inherent fear of Israel is that the Arabs will equal or surpass Israeli prowess culturally and therefore militarily.
If that were to happen, then all three realities would turn against Israel and Israel might well be at risk.

That is why the capture of Israeli troops, first one in the south, then two in the north, has galvanized Israel. The kidnappings represent a level of Arab tactical prowess that previously was the Israeli domain. They also represent a level of tactical slackness on the Israeli side that was previously the Arab domain. These events hardly represent a fundamental shift in the balance of power. Nevertheless, for a country that depends on its cultural superiority, any tremor in this variable reverberates dramatically. Hamas and Hezbollah have struck the core Israeli nerve. Israel cannot ignore it.

Embedded in Israel's demographic problem is this: Israel has national security requirements that outstrip its manpower base. It can field a sufficient army, but its industrial base cannot supply all of the weapons needed to fight high-intensity conflicts. This means it is always
dependent on an outside source for its industrial base and must align its policies with that source. At first this was the Soviets, then France and finally the United States. Israel broke with the Soviets and France when their political demands became too intense. It was after 1967 that it entered into a patron-client relationship with the United States. This relationship is its strength and its weakness. It gives the Israelis the systems they need for
national security, but since U.S. and Israeli interests diverge, the relationship constrains Israel's range of action.

The Israelis know they can never win the public opinon battle about this invasion. They really don't care. If Israel is going to be attacked anyway, it might as well achieve its goals. So long as the patron is happy, and they would have to do a lot make George Bush happy, they feel they have room to maneuver. In this instance the US has a lot of incentive to give them that freedom. More STRATFOR analysis:

Therefore, this is one Israeli action that benefits the United States, and thus helps the immediate situation as well as long-term geopolitical alignments. It realigns the United States and Israel. This also argues that any invasion must be devastating to Hezbollah. It must go deep. It must occupy temporarily. It must shatter Hezbollah.

At this point, the Israelis appear to be unrolling a war plan in this direction. They
have blockaded the Lebanese coast. Israeli aircraft are attacking what air power
there is in Lebanon, and have attacked Hezbollah and other key command-and-control infrastructure. It would follow that the Israelis will now concentrate on destroying Hezbollah -- and Lebanese -- communications capabilities and attacking munitions dumps, vehicle sites, rocket-storage areas and so forth.

Most important, Israel is calling up its reserves. This is never a symbolic gesture in Israel. All Israelis below middle age are in the reserves and mobilization is costly in every sense of the word. If the Israelis were planning a routine reprisal, they would not be mobilizing. But they are, which means they are planning to do substantially more than retributive airstrikes. The question is what their plan is.

George W. and Condi will take their time finding out, that is for sure. In the meantime Israel has the freedom it needs to move. Witness a recent e-mail add from the Jersulaem Post (I suscribe electronically to the paper):

Like the pig and breakfast, Israel is totally committed!

There are of course risks, particularly if Israel kills large numbers of Lebanese. It will provide a proganada field day and another excuse for the Iranians to stir up trouble someplace else (Like attacking Americans in Iraq.....). But that's to be seen. For the future, the watch word with Bush is- WAIT!

And since its not us doing the bombing, that's probably a good thing.


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