Thursday, August 24, 2006

The IDF Did Great

Contrary to received wisdom, the IDF's performance in the recent Lebanese war was first rate - it met the standard of the storied USMC assault on Iwo Jima.

The IDF faced an enemy that had spent 6 years fortifying this landscape:
...the forbidding and grim terrain of the fractured Lebanese battlefields,with their steep hills, dry stream beds, twisting roads, deep ravines...
They had thousands of deep bunkers with multiple entries and exits, linked with an unjammable fiber optic network. They had surveyed all potential attack routes and interdicted them with IEDs, mines, and surveyed aiming points. Their night surveillance - courtesy the Brit Foreign Office - was first rate.

And they'd built huge stocks of anti-tank guided weapons including the laser beam riding Kornet - the most modern in Russia's armory.

This formidable belt of fortifications was defended against air attack by the MSM. Hizbollah intermingled its bunkers and missile launchers with UN observation posts and villages, limiting Israeli airstrikes. And when airstrikes were launched, UN and civilian casualties were falsely presented by the MSM. This shield forced the IDF to deploy ground troops prematurely - as intended by Hizbollah's planners.

But in spite of this, the IDF killed about 600 of the enemy for the loss of 116 of its own troops. That's a ratio of about 5 Hizbollah to 1 Israeli - a remarkable achievement for an assault with limited air support against such deeply entrenched and complex fortifications.

A similar battle in recent history was fought on the island of Iwo Jima in February and March 1945. The Japanese also had deep fortifications deployed in apparently impregnable terrain, and they also had ample supplies of modern weapons.

Perhaps beacuse the Japanese were known to be deeply dug in, the US did little preliminary softening - just 100 bombers and battleship bombardment. Then the USMC fought a bitter and ultimately successful battle:
Japan suffered a heavy loss; about 22,000 Japanese troops were entrenched on the island, and only 1083 survived. The fighting was intense and the American troops captured the highest point, Mount Suribachi, in the first week of fighting. The United States lost a total of 6,821 men in the battle for the Island.
That's a ratio of about 3 Japanese for each Marine.

There were differences between Iwo and South Lebanon - the Marines only body armor was their drab green overalls, whereas the IDF soldiers had state-of the-art protection and faster casualty evac.

On the other hand the Israelis didn't - so far as I know - deploy the flamethrowers used to such great effect on Iwo. The modern equivalents are short range guided weapons with thermobaric, or fuel-air, warheads. They're particularly effective against bunkers.

So the IDF did well, even compared with the heroes of Iwo Jima - who won over a quarter of the Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in the whole of WW2. And the strong debates taking place within the IDF will ensure that, next time, they do even better. Perhaps that's explains this report:

The Lebanese PM also told the newspaper he does not expect Hizbullah to drag Lebanon into a war again.

"I don't believe it can happen again," he said. "I don't think Hizbullah is in the same position where it was before the war, and won't be able to repeat what it did. It learned the lesson from what happened."

I hope he's sincere - if he's buying time for Hizbollah to re-arm, he and the Lebanon will burn.