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The War Nerd August 25, 2006
Gophers by TKO: Lessons from Lebanon
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email

FRESNO, CA -- It's not easy being right all the time. Way back on July 23, when all the suckers in the Mainstream Media were passing on the bullshit about Israel expelling Hezbollah from Southern Lebanon, I said Hezbollah was going to win every round of the fight. I took a lot of heat for that, but now, when you look through the smoking ruins of Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon, you see two things: the yellow Hezzie flag flying high, and the fat face of your favorite War Nerd sticking his tongue out at all the better-paid pundits who got it wrong as usual.

You know what "Mainstreaming" is, don't you? That's when they put retards in schools for normal people. And that's what the Mainstream Media is: a bunch of retards who don't know a damn thing about contemporary war, don't even want to know. It's Affirmative Action for fools, not just giving them jobs but shoving them in front of a camera to tell all the suckers back home how the good guys are gonna win, sleep tight, don't worry.

The funniest bit is the way desperate suckers are trying to spin total defeat of the IDF into some kind of victory. What's impressed me is that no Israelis are saying that. All the Israeli commentators I've read have faced up to the fact that they got hosed. It's the Americans, totally out of touch with reality and desperate to stay that way, who are finding lame excuses for the IDF, like "Hezbollah didn't really WIN, since they didn't wipe out Israel."

The best answer to that comes from an Israeli columnist I read, who said, "If a lightweight boxer fights a heavyweight and gets a draw, the lightweight won." Except I'm not sure it was even a draw. I think Hezbollah flat-out won, not just in PR/Propaganda terms but by anybody's standards. They're in total control of the field of battle, Southern Lebanon -- I hope none of you are dumb enough to think that this "International Peacekeeping Force" is going to actually try to disarm Hezbollah after the Israelis couldn't do it by force of arms. And I'll throw y'all a little curve by arguing that Hezbollah may even have had a smaller casualty count than the IDF. I can't prove it, and I'm not sure, but because Hezbollah fought smart and played defense most of the time, they may actually have had fewer KIA than the 118 the IDF is admitting.

The IDF isn't even claiming to have killed more than about 500 Hezzies, and that in itself is shocking. It means that the kill ratio, conventional army to guerrillas, is less than five to one. It should be ten to one at least. The Israeli Air Force tried to fudge those stats by blasting a lot of Lebanese civvies, about 900 or so, but that was just dumb, and it's probably going to cost the IDF C-in-C, Dan Halutz, his job.

Halutz is exactly the kind of idiot who'd feel at home with guys like Cheney: he's all tough talk and no performance. Halutz was a fighter pilot who got famous for sound bytes about how he loved dropping 1,000-lb bombs on the Pals, and he tried to run the war against Hezbollah the same way: by "shock and awe," blowing up apartment buildings and bridges, scaring the grandmas. Didn't work. The Shi'ites are way, way tougher than the Pals, always have been.

I remember back when the IDF first occupied Southern Lebanon, a teenage Shi'ite girl rammed a car full of HE into an IDF M113, killed a couple of soldiers, and one smart IDF Colonel said, "This is going to be bad. In 30 years of fighting the Palestinians, nobody ever did that to us." He sure was right about that. In fact, the Shia ran the IDF out of Southern Lebanon in 2000, and when they lured the IDF back in this summer, it took just one month to send the Israelis running south all over again, pretending that they're delighted to accept a UN peacekeeping force.

Back here in the US, we're supposed to think Hezbollah's victory is a disaster. But why, exactly? First of all, why are Americans are supposed to love Israel when there's never been much sign that Israel loves America? We give them three billion a year, and they give us little more than grief. Ask the crew of the USS Liberty -- no, wait, they're mostly dead, killed by an Israeli airstrike and followup machinegunning by Israeli gunboats, on a USN vessel flying the American flag. Ask the USAF generals who begged the Israeli Air Force to pass on crucial info on Syrian air defenses after the IDF's campaign against the Syrians. The Israelis take any classified info they want from American intelligence, but when it was their turn to cough up some secrets, they stonewalled us. Fast-forward to Reagan's disastrous Lebanon invasion, when we lose two Navy jets against the same Syrian air defenses the Israelis had figured out years earlier. What did these guys ever do for us?

The worst thing a world power can do is pick sides in a non-stop tribal war for sentimental reasons. You know why we're speaking English and not French? Because way back in 1609, the French explorer Champlain hooked up with a Huron war party and headed south into New York. He liked the Huron, they liked him (the French had much more respect for the Injuns than the Brits, generally got along well with them) and when the Huron went into battle against a tribe they told the Frenchman was their hereditary enemy, he couldn't resist a chance to help his allies and show off his hi-tech military equipment. This being 1609, the hi-tech gadget was a huge arqebuse, more like a shoulder-fired cannon than a modern rifle -- but when Champlain lit the fuse, pointed the barrel at an enemy chief and fired, he made an even bigger impression than he meant to. Sure, he killed the enemy chief and probably got to strut like a 17th-c. Pimp all the way back to Tribal HQ...but he also doomed the French in North America.

See, the Hurons' hereditary enemy happened to be the Iroquois, who were not just the tribe next door. They were a six-tribe confederation, one of the few big, stable alliances among the North American Native tribes, with a reputation for holding a grudge forever. From the moment Champlain fired his hand-cannon, the Iroquois were the sworn enemy of the French and the allies of the English.

So even though the French knew how to make friends with the natives and the Brits didn't, the Brits had the biggest and most powerful tribe in the Northeast on their side. From then on, the Brits had the advantage. It took them another 150 years to take Quebec, but once the Iroquois swore vengeance, that area was as doomed as Constantinople.

We did a Champlain in the Middle East when we made Israel sentimental favorites back in 1948. But at least we had good reason -- giving the Jews a safe haven after Hitler tried to wipe them out. And at least Israel really was the underdog back then, before Congress handed them everything but their own aircraft carrier.

The IDF hasn't been a real underdog for a long time. Amateurs look at the map of the Middle East, see poor li'l Israel in the middle of all that Arab real estate and think the IDF is still the underdog. Nope -- Israel was set up by a bunch of smart, educated Europeans, and when you match an army of those guys, backed by billions in US military aid, against peasant conscripts, only a fool bets on the peasants.

Till now -- till Hezbollah. Hezbollah chose when and where and how they were going to fight Israel. Here are the lessons they learned. Read'em and weep, because they work just as good against US armed forces and tactics as they do against the IDF:

First, most important lesson: take the defense tactically, the offense strategically. This ought to be a familiar doctrine to any American war buff because it was the policy behind most of our great victories, like Bunker Hill, New Orleans, and it's what kept Lee's Army of Northern Virginia on top against bigger and better-equipped Federal forces until Gettysburg -- and the only reason Lee lost there was because he abandoned the policy like a fool. Hezbollah took the offensive strategically by prepping the ground, Southern Lebanon, with a network of underground bunkers, then picking its moment to attack Israel while the IDF was busy kicking ass down in Gaza. The IDF, already under pressure for not rescuing that soldier kidnapped by Hamas in Gaza, charged over the border right into the trap.

Once they'd provoked the massive attack they hoped for, Hezbollah assumed the defensive, sticking to their bunkers and launching an incredible number of guided and unguided missiles against the Israelis. The most devastating weapon they have is the RPG 29, the newest Russian version of our old friend the RPG 7. The RPG 29 seems to be able to knock out the IDF's MBT, the Merkava 4. That's a big, big blow to the IDF, because the newer Merkavas are supposed to be invulnerable to anything but huge shaped charges laid as mines. They're equipped with all the latest tricks in anti-missile defenses, like reactive armor and screens that are supposed to make the warhead detonate prematurely -- kind of like premature ejaculation for RPGs. ("Oh jeez, sorry honey, I guess I just got too excited, your turret's so damn sexy....") The RPG 29 has a simple but effective counter for all this last-ditch defensive stuff: a tandem warhead, where the first warhead blasts the reactive armor or screen and the second, the really deadly shaped-charge one, has a free path right into the tank. By sticking to their bunkers, where they could fire from safety at the Merkavas, the Hezbollah antitank teams destroyed the Merkava 4's rep in a few weeks.

At sea Hezbollah used the same strategy: use guided missiles against high-value targets. Israel has been used to having control of the Mediterranean, and using its navy as low-cost, mobile artillery to blast enemy positions (and picnics). Hezbollah served notice that them days are over by hitting an Israeli gunboat with a guided weapon of some kind. It's not clear what they used, either an Iranian antiship missile or something homemade, some kind of model aircraft carrying a few pounds of C-4. Personally I'm hoping it turns out to be the Ace Hardware version, some dweeb's model Cessna, the kind you see sad Asian kids flying around your local high-school parking lot on weekends, modified by the Bill Murray character in Caddyshack -- you know where he makes models of the gopher's little friends, "the harmless bunny rabbit" and so on? I'm not sure what a Hezbollah model-airplane dweeb would make out of plastic explosive -- in fact, I'm not sure what a Hezbollah dweeb would look like if one even exists -- but it'd have to be something resembling the IDF's little friends, like a claymation US congressman with a sack of money in his teeth. Whatever it was, the contraption worked: killed four IDF crew, set the gunboat on fire, and taught the Israeli Navy a little respect.

Second Lesson: When you're fighting a force that depends on firepower and air power, DIG IN. Hezbollah has been tunneling out Southern Lebanon like that Caddyshack gopher from the first day the IDF vacated the area. They built reinforced bunkers, some with AC, designed to withstand air strikes and be used as firing positions for those new-generation anti-tank weapons. Just think for a second and you'll see that if you don't need to move, and stay underground like the Cong in Cu Chi, airpower can't touch you. The IDF kept waiting for Hezbollah to move aboveground but got nowhere, because the Hezzies had what the Germans call "fire discipline," the special kind of guts you need to stay still and not fire till the enemy's real close. The hotheads in Hamas have the more obvious kind of guts, attacking the IDF with small arms and old RPGs from the back of a pickup, but that kind of courage don't cut it no more.

Remember, in military terms, courage changes with the technology. When the Greeks fought one-on-one, courage was Achilles strutting up and saying, "I'll take the best guy you punks got." When the phalanx came into its own, courage meant NOT jumping out of formation on your lonesome but keeping rank, with your shield protecting your neighbor (or your bayonet, if you're talking the Redcoats' squares at Culloden in 1745). To fight and win the way Hezbollah did, courage is waiting...waiting...waiting for that Merkava to roll into the kill zone, not jumping up and firing your AK at Chobham armor.

And speaking of AKs, another lesson of this war is that the era of the automatic rifle as basic small arm may be ending. We may be heading back to some kind of shoulder-fired cannon (just like Champlain's!). Most of the IDF casualties in this war were inflicted by RPGs, just like most of our casualties in Iraq. The Chechen guerrillas have gone to a new formation, with three-man teams consisting of two RPG gunners with one AK man whose only job is to protect the RPGers. That may be the wave of the future.

Of course all these moves would've been wasted if the Israelis had caught on to what Hezbollah was up to, which leads to another lesson, one I'm always preaching: in asymmetrical warfare, Intelligence is everything. Or in this case, counterintelligence. Israeli intel, Shin Bet and Mossad, has been the real strength of the IDF for a long time. They're the best and most ruthless intelligence agencies since the USSR went bankrupt. But they had no idea what was waiting for them over the border. That's incredible, the most shocking news of all.

Remember, the IDF has instant access to all US military satellite intel, so this means that our tech intel was just as ineffective as Mossad's more traditional infiltration methods. That means Hezbollah, a huge organization with branches in every street in South Beirut and South Lebanon, has a scary effective counterintelligence branch. We all know the CIA is useless, but when Mossad and Shin Beth can't even penetrate the lower levels of a mass movement like Hezbollah, then the world has turned upside down.

And it has, folks. That's why this is such a huge, huge war. No matter what the waterheads on CNN try to tell you, the IDF lost totally, and every force configured like it -- such as, oh, the US Army or Air Force -- lost too. The Gophers are beating the shit out of the gardeners on this course. The gophers just kicked the shit out of Tiger Woods.

It's hard to say who gains in the long run. Short term, sure, Hezbollah wins big. But in the long run, maybe what's happened is that the day when genocide replaces the farce called "CI Warfare" just got a lot closer.

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Gary Brecher
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