If You Were an Israeli Strategic Planner, What Would You Do?

Check out this short video. Ignore the soundtrack; I put that on to obscure the voices of some of the people with me who weren’t crazy about the idea of being quoted. 

Now, here’s what you’re looking at. You’re looking at Shi’a villages, on the right, controlled by Hezbollah. One of those villages contains a model of the al-Aqsa mosque. Last October, Ahmadinejad was standing there–in that village–announcing to joyful crowds that soon they would make the Zionist filth disappear.

Buried underneath that village and others near it, which you must admit look lovely from this vantage point, are weapons. A lot of them. You’ve got command and control systems, IID, anti-tank weapons, short-range rockets, anything you need. This isn’t a big secret; after all, this is the view–without binoculars–from where I’m standing, so obviously it’s not going to be hard to watch what they’re doing and where they’re burying this stuff.

So. You can fire a rocket from there and hit Haifa, which has a quarter of a million people in it, and indeed, during the last Lebanon War, they did just that, hitting an open area of an oil refinery. Had the hit been just slightly more direct, you can imagine what would have happened.

And where are these weapons buried, exactly? Near schools, hospitals, and civilian homes. It’s easy to see that, too. So, you take them out and you will, inevitably, kill kids–kids whose only crime has been to be born in the wrong place.

You be the strategic planner: How many rockets would they have to launch before you said, “Okay, we’re taking those installations out?” 

The Israeli answer–to judge from experience–is about 10,000. That’s how many rockets were launched from Gaza at Israeli civilian populations before operation Cast Lead.

No, no, that number’s not a misprint. About 10,000. 

So, seriously. At what point, if you were responsible for Israel’s defense, would you take them out?

Don’t say, “Now.” That border’s been quiet since the 2006 war. You need to think about this in the complete diplomatic and military picture. You do that, you start a war–a big one. And you kill a lot of kids. 

One rocket? What if it doesn’t hit anything?

Ten rockets?

Fifty?

Now imagine that’s the American border, the rockets are flying over from Mexico, and they could easily hit a major population center like Dallas.

Anyone going to say, “Let’s wait for 10,000?” 

I kind of doubt it. 

  1. Del Mar Dave

    Ricochet readers (at least those of you using IE8), you can increase the impact of the video by:

    *  clicking on its image (not the Start arrow, and you might have to click a second time),

    *  letting YouTube open in a new screen,

    *  clicking on the full-screen icon in the lower-right corner and then

    *  moving to the pause button to stop the video and look at a still picture. 

    You can scan back and forth by moving the button that shows the progress of the video.

    Claire, in your next videos (of anything), a much slower scan of whatever you’re photographing will help a lot too.

    That said, very impressive to someone who’s never been there.

  2. Claire Berlinski
    C
    Del Mar Dave: Claire, in your next videos (of anything), a much slower scan of whatever you’re photographing will help a lot too.

    That said, very impressive to someone who’s never been there. · Mar 17 at 2:19am

    Yes, it would–and I’ll remember that next time. 

  3. Charles Mark

    If I were an Israeli strategic planner, I would face an enormous dilemma: To what extent should I let “international opinion” influence strategic decisions? The past week has shown yet again that Israel and its people won’t get a fair hearing, except in America, and even there reaction was muted. As for the rest, where were the allegations that the slaughter of the Fogel children was “disproportionate” or constituted “collective punishment?” Where is the condemnation of Gazan celebrations? I’m afraid “popular opinion” is a lost cause and should be disregarded, except to the following extent: I suspect that at official/Government levels there is for the most part a far greater understanding of the Israeli position, as evidenced by the maintenance of strong economic links in spite of ignorant calls for boycott, divestment etc. I further suspect that many governments simply let anti- Israel agitators blow off steam while not paying a great deal of attention to their rantings,except sometimes to dispense platitudinous criticisms of Israel which may be offensive but no more than that. I think there is after all a delicate balance in which Israel does have to avoid, up to a point, letting friendly Governments come under too much pressure.

  4. John Marzan
    • So, seriously. At what point, if you were responsible for Israel’s defense, would you take them out?

    are their rockets capable of causing mass casualties?

  5. Scott R

     Everything is easier said than done, of course, but…if the installation is that close, wouldn’t there be a surprise ground offensive option? Get in, blow it up, get out, kill very few kids?

  6. Instugator
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Claire, the first question to answer is: what do you want the area to look like after the conflict? Who remains in charge of it? Do you want to have to continually fight over the same reason? Rockets – small arms – man portable weapons are just that – man portable. They will return. Do we want the enemy to solve a transportation problem or render the problem itself moot?

    Why can’t I say now – and why do you care if we (placing myself in the position of an Israeli defense planner) engage in a larger war? Are you really telling me that that before you will engage in conflict some target on Israel’s side must be attacked again (you want to wait until an Israeli child is killed before you will authorize a response)?

    In my mind, the answer is now. The distance is beyond the area of interest (AOI) to the next geographic feature that permits me to control the transportation into the AOI. And we keep it. Airpower cannot do alone what you ask it to, given your constraints.

  7. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    The Israelis need to lay in — on a massive scale — bunker-buster bombs, and the next time there is serious trouble they need to use them. I doubt that they will have to do so twice.

  8. Keith Preston

    Claire, I am thinking of visiting the Holy Lands this summer.  Would you recommend to American tourists that they come or take a pass based on the current climate?

  9. Israel P.
    John Marzan

    • So, seriously. At what point, if you were responsible for Israel’s defense, would you take them out?

    are their rockets capable of causing mass casualties? · Mar 17 at 3:25am

    How many kids in a kindergarten would you count as “mass?”

  10. Bryan G. Stephens
    Paul A. Rahe: The Israelis need to lay in — on a massive scale — bunker-buster bombs, and the next time there is serious trouble they need to use them. I doubt that they will have to do so twice. · Mar 17 at 4:16am

    This is the answer if we cannot say “Now”. I would do it now though. Since they will be condemned no matter what, they should make themselves safe. Americans would not allow this.

    Didn’t we almost come to blows with Russia over weapons parked further away from Florida than Israel is long?

  11. Nickolas

    A decision might be made before this happens, but when the rockets start killing Israeli citizens (or US citizens in the Mexico scenario), their launch and storage sites get taken out, along with anyone involved in launching them. That is almost a no brainer.

    All possible effort should be made to minimize civilian deaths on the other side of the border, but the bottom line is that one of the primary jobs of a nation’s defense forces, perhaps the primary job, is to protect the lives of the citizens of the nation residing within its borders from external attacks.

  12. Instugator
    Paul A. Rahe: The Israelis need to lay in — on a massive scale — bunker-buster bombs, and the next time there is serious trouble they need to use them. I doubt that they will have to do so twice. · Mar 17 at 4:16a

    This is a ‘Massive Retaliation’ stratagem. For this type of education, it needs to be employed at the 1st provocation and will require many successive re-applications. It would work if you were opposing a nation-state which is responsible to its population at some level. Hezbollah isn’t (they are responsive to Iran). The Lebanese government is incapable.

    The actual issue is one of sovereignty. The Lebanese government claims but does not exercise sovereignty (rule of law) there.

    The answer is to establish rule of law, The question becomes which actor is the one to do this. I would advocate that Israel establish a protectorate over this territory until such time as they can either govern themselves wrt international norms or until Lebanon can exercise sovereignty over it (keeping it within international norms) 

  13. Charles Mark
    Instugator

    Paul A. Rahe: The Israelis need to lay in — on a massive scale — bunker-buster bombs, and the next time there is serious trouble they need to use them. I doubt that they will have to do so twice. · Mar 17 at 4:16a

    This is a ‘Massive Retaliation’ stratagem. For this type of education, it needs to be employed at the 1st provocation and will require many successive re-applications. It would work if you were opposing a nation-state which is responsible to its population at some level. Hezbollah isn’t (they are responsive to Iran). The Lebanese government is incapable.

    The actual issue is one of sovereignty. The Lebanese government claims but does not exercise sovereignty (rule of law) there.

    The answer is to establish rule of law, The question becomes which actor is the one to do this. I would advocate that Israel establish a protectorate over this territory until such time as they can either govern themselves wrt international norms or until Lebanon can exercise sovereignty over it (keeping it within international norms)  · Mar 17 at 7:17am

    Last time I looked Hezbollah was in charge in Lebanon, at least as Iran’s proxy.

  14. Charles Gordon

    The arsenal is most likely laid out to detonate like a volcano if any stealthy mules were to poke their noses under the tent. Hezbollah is more than willing at the first chance to blow off the map their own village hill.

    They have already prepared the media show. They have ready to roll out before the smoke clears, interviews with witnesses, framed with a background of sights and sounds full of wails of weeping widows and the empty shoes of dead children.

    The lives held in hostage IDF restraint is protecting are the lives of villagers on both sides of the border—but for all of whose death Israel will bear the blame.

    That border is now spotted not with landmines but with village busting bunkers ready to blow, aligned like a trip-wire around a Mount Armageddon, ready to start war.

    Their strategy is similar to MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction—but Hezbollah will be at its busiest in killing its own, while handing over the hope of mopping up the lands of Israel to its neighbors.

  15. Zavedomo
    Keith Preston: Claire, I am thinking of visiting the Holy Lands this summer.  Would you recommend to American tourists that they come or take a pass based on the current climate? · Mar 17 at 5:30am

    I’m not Claire but let me just say: go and see for yourself! The climate – in the sense that you mention – or, come to think of it, in the default sense either – will not change in our lifetimes (it is a very pessimistic assessment, I know but my crystal ball was manufactured by Kafka, Zamyatin and Orwell, Inc.). Go and enjoy the great country and the mind-boggling archeological and historical richness – and see for yourself how vibrant that country actually is…

  16. Cas Balicki
    Scott Reusser:  Everything is easier said than done, of course, but…if the installation is that close, wouldn’t there be a surprise ground offensive option? Get in, blow it up, get out, kill very few kids? · Mar 17 at 3:34am

    What? Super-Jew as omnipotent commando. It might work in the comic books and then only once, before you need a full scale military invasion. Scott, proximity makes things logistically easier. It doesn’t make things easy. 

  17. Aaron Miller

    I’d hate to visit Israel for only a few days. I would need weeks.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Don’t say, “Now.” That border’s been quiet since the 2006 war. You need to think about this in the complete diplomatic and military picture. You do that, you start a war–a big one. And you kill a lot of kids. 

    This reminds me of kidnappings. If you don’t pay, it’s more likely the hostage will die. If you do pay, you provide incentive for more kidnappings.

    Of course, it’s more complicated than that. If even half of people whose relatives are kidnapped pay, then the refusal of the other half could be rendered moot.

    Likewise, failing to stop terrorists for fear of losing “hostages” encourages the use of human shields. But there will always be plenty of people who choose not to pursue the terrorists because of that fear, so it remains a viable tactic.

    At times like these, I wonder why serin gas has been used in war but not sleeping gas.

    Anyway, I don’t know the answer.

  18. Charles Gordon
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: [...] Now imagine that’s the American border, the rockets are flying over from Mexico, and they could easily hit a major population center like Dallas.

    Anyone going to say, “Let’s wait for 10,000?” 

    I kind of doubt it.  ·

    The analogy with Mexico fails because of both Mohammedan beliefs and of the world’s perception of what Americans and Mexicans, in contrast to prejudice against Israeli Jews, are willing to do.

    Hezbollah warriors in training have a favorite cadence: “We love death more than they love life.” On the other side of the Mohammedan Ummah, no one has that thought.

    Yet clearly, in the world’s perception, for every Mohammedan death or hardship the Jews are the cause, notwithstanding every proof that Hezbollah owns the blame.

    The world will never see Mexicans take a Hezbollah-like stand—mass self-immolation—to rally foreign forces into a war with America.

    The world would see prompt American retaliation to rocket fire justified, proportionate, and acceptable to everyone (accept leftists), thus Mexican restraint.

    Would that it were so in the world’s regard for Israel, and in Hezbollah’s regard for the life of its own.

  19. Instugator
    Charles Mark

    Last time I looked Hezbollah was in charge in Lebanon, at least as Iran’s proxy. · Mar 17 at 7:44am

    Hezbollah left the Lebanese coalition government in Jan 2011. The two are not equal.

    Hezbollah effectively controls the area of interest in Clair’s question.

    BTW Claire, Mexico to Dallas is outside the range of “rockets”, but not Medium Range Ballistic Missiles.

    Better Analogy is El Paso.

  20. Judith Levy, Ed.
    C
    Instugator

    Hezbollah left the Lebanese coalition government in Jan 2011. 

    And in the process collapsed Sa’ad Hariri’s government, with the result that a Syrian-selected Hezbollah yes-man is now prime minister of Lebanon. Hezbollah militarily controls the area south of the Litani and as of January also essentially calls the shots in the government as well. It’s the coup nobody noticed.