Thursday, July 27, 2006

Time For The Fallujah Option

Israeli soldiers are dying as they try to protect Hezbollah’s human shields. The IDF should radically reduce its casualties by adopting the US tactics used in Fallujah. Short term, more civilians will die, but long term Israel’s enemies will be cowed by a quick defeat of Hezbollah, reducing future slaughter.

Israeli troops are facing an enemy that - courtesy Iran, Syria and the UN - has had 6 years to dig in, accumulate weapons stocks, establish a robust communications network, survey ambush routes, plant mines etc.

In the Israeli tradition of leading from the front, it has deployed its best and brightest – yesterday in one street fight it lost a Lieutenant Colonel, 3 Lieutenants, 2 Staff Sergeants and 2 Sergeants.
The battle lasted for several hours during which Asor and his men sustained heavy casualties and killed at least 40 Hezbollah guerrillas, some in gun battles at point-blank range.
This kill ratio of 5 Hezbollah to 1 Israeli will get better as IDF tactics evolve, but it's way too high

In hand to hand fighting, barbarians are just as effective as we are - even better, because their moral defects can give them an advantage. Hezbollah's use of civilians as human shields means the IDF has to hunt them retail, rather than just destroying their bases and bunkers from afar. In battle Hezbollah will kill civilians as a matter of policy, be indifferent to their own dead and wounded, and torture and kill captives.

They’re the same as the Dervishes Winston Churchill fought in the Sudan, the Somalis in the Black Hawk Down episode, and a string of other tribes the Brits and Americans have fought over the years.

So fighting barbarians face-to-face is a mug’s game – you need overwhelming firepower. In the Battle of Fallujah, about 70 US soldiers died but the enemy lost about 1300. Here’s Wikipedia (I don't trust their numbers):
The city suffered extensive damage. Before the war, it was estimated that the city had 200 mosques. Some claim 60 of these had been destroyed in the fighting. Perhaps half the homes suffered at least some damage. About 7,000 to 10,000 of the roughly 50,000 buildings in the town are estimated to have been destroyed in the offensive, and half to two-thirds of the buildings have suffered notable damage.
That’s a kill ration of about 20 to 1; a number I suspect has been pretty constant since the time of the Romans.

The big difference between Fallujah and Lebanon was that the US had cordoned off Fallujah, so that anyone still there was almost bound to be a terrorist. That enabled it to use massive bombardment without fear of heavy civilian casualties, so minimizing hand-to-hand combat (although there were still plenty of those).

In Lebanon, the population has not been cleared out and the UN is acting as a human shield – there are analyses of Annan’s duplicity here and here.

Israel is a small nation and no doubt feels vulnerable to charges that it kills civilians and UN observers. So it hasn’t adopted Fallujah tactics, opting for very dangerous house-to-house fighting.

This will work, but at a cost in high quality Israel lives, money, and time. There are said to be about 6,000 Hezbollah, and they can be destroyed as a fighting force by killing their leader and about half their fighters - say 3,000. At 5 to 1, that’s 600 Israeli dead – weighted for population, equivalent to 6,000 Brits or 30,000 Americans. Not huge by WW2 standards, but a big hit for our softer modern societies.

The Fallujah approach would kill more civilians and any UN soldiers daft enough to stick around. But at 20 to 1, only 150 Israelis will die – a lot, but arguably a price worth paying for a few decades of peace.

The Israeli government should demand - perhaps with Canadian support - the withdrawal of all UN troops and non-combatant civilians leave within 36 hours. Then the IDF should use heavy weaponry to kill Hezbollah in its bunkers.

Provided the US keeps the bunker busters and daisy cutters flowing, that should be the work of a few weeks.

The useful idiots will excoriate Israel, but they’ll do that whatever.

The destruction of Hezbollah will teach Israel’s enemies that the human shield tactic doesn’t work against a nation fighting for its existence. Then we’ll have decades of peace and – who knows – Iraqi led democracy taking over the Middle East.