A comprehensive, decisive and disproportionate ground offensive is a prerequisite for denying Hizballah and Palestinian terrorism the capabilities to bomb the center of Israel, to whack the psyche of civilians in northern and southern Israel, and to hit sensitive Israeli defense and civilian installations.
An enemy cannot be demolished by a quick, elegant, remote-control, low-casualty operation via smart bombs and surgical operations. Demolishing an enemy, and obliterating its capabilities, require a sustained military presence and control – which characterize ground forces – in order to leverage the effect of smart bombs. Thousands of such bombs hit Iraqi forces for three months during the 1991 War, but it was the four days of ground battles, which forced Saddam to surrender. In 1989, US aircraft and choppers strafed Panama City with missiles and bombs, but it was the introduction of US ground forces, which destroyed the Noriega regime. In 1995 and 1999, US aircraft demolished the Serb military in Bosnia and Kosovo respectively, but it has been the presence of US ground forces, which has stabilized the region. Israel’s experience in Gaza and Lebanon is replete with missiles, surgical eliminations and limited short-term ground operations, which have caused much destruction of enemy capabilities, short of bringing the enemy to submission. Just like the effect of pruning a tree, the long-term effect of such military tactics has been to strengthen the roots of Palestinian and Lebanese terrorism.
Safeguarding the long-term security of its civilian sector is the most critical duty of Israel’s government, which can be attained only by a major ground operation. A ground operation entails fatalities, but there is no free lunch in the battle for personal and national security, especially not in the Mideast. Refraining from a comprehensive ground operation would cause a further increase in Israeli civilian losses and a further destruction of civilian infrastructures, which could instill a sense of helplessness and vulnerability and an erosion of confidence in the capabilities of the IDF and the government. The 1991 precedence of 39 Iraqi “Scuds” hitting Israel has demonstrated that the long-term psychological impact of missiles hitting the civilian sector is worse than the impact of homicide bombing. How much worse will be the impact of thousands of Katyusha (Hizballah) and Kassam (Palestinian) missiles afflicting the Israeli psyche?!
The US President and Congress have supported Israel’s battle against Hizballah and Palestinian terrorism, which constitutes a mutual enemy and a role-model for anti-US terrorism in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The American President and Congress hope that Israel – an outpost of US interests and values – will launch the decisive operation as soon as possible. Any delay of such an operation makes it more difficult – for them – to withstand the pressure (for evenhandedness) by the Department of State bureaucracy, CIA, Bush 41st, Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft, the multi-nationals, Saudi Arabia, Western Europe and the UN.
A reluctance to undertake a large-scale ground operation would lead Israel, once again, toward political negotiation with Lebanese and Palestinian terrorism, which have systematically and terroristically violated all commitments made to the US and to Israel. The temptation to conduct a dialogue with terrorists, who are determined to annihilate the Jewish State, does not constitute a virtue. It is a self-destruct symptom of vacillation and a reflection of the victory of wishful-thinking over realism, which have played into the hands of terrorists.
One may attribute such reluctance to the trauma of the 1982 Israeli war against PLO presence in Lebanon. However, the damage of that war was not the war itself, which prevented a consolidation of PLO deployment along the Lebanese border, as currently demonstrated by Hizballah. The damage of the 1982 war was the adoption of an erroneous lesson – avoidance at all cost of a large-scale ground operation. Rather than concluding the appropriate lesson – avoidance of an unnecessarily expanded operation and improving intelligence and operational capabilities – the tendency has been to “throw the baby out with the bath water”, thus handicapping the IDF and the morale of the public.
It would be illogical to assume that the helpless Lebanese government would “snatch the chestnuts out of the fire” for Israel, asserting its sovereignty in Southern Lebanon. Beirut does not have the muscle or the will to challenge Hizballah. One should not expect weakling Lebanon to undertake an initiative shunned by Israel. A strong sovereign nation should not subcontract its counter-terrorism effort.
The aversion toward a comprehensive, decisive and disproportionate ground offensive – which has been embraced by the advocates of restrain in face of Hizballah’s buildup during the last six years – would prevent the attainment of the goals of the war on Lebanese and Palestinian terrorism, would exacerbate civilian losses, would further erode Israel’s posture of deterrence, would feed Arab belligerence, would further destabilize regional instability, would weaken US support of Israel, would distance the area from peace and would plant the seeds of future and more horrific waves of terrorism.