Edward Luttwak: Israel can win

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Luttwak, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the author of "Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace" (Belknap, 2002).]

It seems that most of the West's news reporters and pundits agree with Islamists everywhere that an Israeli victory in Gaza is impossible. They decry Israel's defensive attack on Hamas, prophesying an inevitable strengthening of Islamism among Palestinians and a dark future for the Jewish state.

How do our commentators come to this conclusion? They point, most frequently, to Israel's war with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, and echo Hezbollah's claim that it won a great victory. Indeed, this narrative goes, in launching their rockets at Israel, Hamas leaders were imitating Hezbollah's winning strategy.

In fact, Hezbollah was thoroughly shocked by the Israeli bombing campaign, and its supporters, who mostly live in southern Lebanon, are not likely to tolerate another wave of destruction caused by another Hezbollah attack. Even the inconclusive Israeli ground actions in Lebanon, which never involved more than six companies (roughly 600 men), resulted in the loss of some 400 Hezbollah fighters in direct face-to-face combat while Israel suffered only 30 casualties.

Of course, none of this prevented the Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah from claiming that he had won a great victory for God. Had his victorious claims actually been true, Israel should have been deterred from attacking Hamas. And by his logic, Israel would have cowered in fear of thousands of more rockets from Hamas, and the even more powerful rockets that Hezbollah would launch in tandem. Nasrallah certainly encouraged Hamas to attack Israel in language that implied he would intervene if a war ensued -- a credible promise had he really won a victory in 2006.

But as soon as the fighting started in Gaza, Nasrallah reversed the terms of his declarations -- threatening Israel if it attacked Lebanon (which of course nobody in Israel would want to do). When three rockets were fired from inside Lebanon on Thursday, Hezbollah wasted no time assuring the Israelis that it had nothing to do with it, and that it did not even have that type of rocket in their inventory. This is a familiar trope of the Palestinian experience. There is always some extremist leader ready to instigate the Palestinians to fight, implicitly promising his valiant participation -- until the fighting begins and the promises are forgotten in fear of Israeli retaliation....
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Arnold Shcherban - 1/10/2009

Sorry for mistakenly repeating "minimal" at the wrong place.

Arnold Shcherban - 1/10/2009

It seems like the author of the article deliberately confuses the meaning of military victory with political and ideological one.
The Israel's supporters who wined and continue to wine about alleged Israeli "defeat" over its last Lebanon offensive have been doing (and continue to do) this with just one objective in mind: to agitate Israeli and international public to accept even more damaging and lengthy incursions into Lebanon and Palestinian territories, regardless of terrible destruction of civilian infrastructure and death score there, as long as the ratio of respective minimal human and armament cost to Israel is kept to a minimum.
From the standpoint of that major indicator virtually all Israeli
military actions taken over the decades of the conflict were military wins/victories.
The issue, however, whether they have translated into (led to) respective political victories or victories in the area of international public relations. The answer here is almost
unequivocally negative.
More and more non-Muslims, and Jews themselves (not already mentioning Palestinians and Arabs) stop buying the traditional excuses forwarded by Israeli and Western (mostly American) mass media and governmental officials, such as perpertual and unilateral Arab aggression and rejection by them of all continious attempts towards peaceful and fair resolution og the conflict made by Israeli and Western peacemakers.
There is no and won't be a "win" (except of terrible loss of life and devastation) on a horizon in this most important for the resolution of the conflict area, and therefore, current IDF operation to eradicate Palestinian resistance and Hamas (or its heir) as a political force is doomed to fail.