(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans says that some long standing assumptions are crumbling along with buildings and infrastructure in the current Middle East conflict.
(SEAMANS) The mini-war between the Hezbollah and Israelis has shattered a basic credo of Mao Tse Tung, the sage of terrorism. He said, “Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and cooperation.” Thus implicit was the belief that the Hezbollah in Lebanon could take refuge among the people, store their weapons in the people’s mosques, apartment houses, and homes and be safe from attack because the Israelis would not strike where there are so called innocent civilians.
The Israelis have shattered that assumption and said that they had to attack defensively wherever the Hezbollah were fighting from and taking refuge. When critics charged that the Israeli bombing and shelling was all out of proportion, Israel replied that proportionality is not compared to the event but to the threat. That is, the bigger the threat the bigger the response needed. Since the Hezbollah have made the Lebanese people a major weapon by firing their missiles from civilian areas the Israelis say they are replying in kind no matter what the humanitarian reaction.
Another assumption exploded in Lebanon was Donald Rumsfeld’s belief that a high-tech army armed with the latest electronic weapons and super-smart bombs could take the place of large cumbersome ground forces. Well, the Israeli air force and artillery pounding away for over three weeks have not removed the need for the Israeli infantry to move in. They found themselves surprised, ambushed and battling a tough, well trained and supplied Hezbollah mini-army that had not been broken by the rain of Israeli bombs. As demonstrated by our failure in Iraq, a large force of boots on the ground will always be needed to mop up the holdouts and police the aftermath.
A key component of whatever ceasefire is achieved at the UN will be an international force that will move into Lebanon to assure the disarming of Hezbollah and prevent its reemergence. It will take another UN resolution and at least another month under the most optimum circumstances before this international force can be organized. They will have to be battle-willing troops who will hammer any Hezbollah uprising and that could mean casualties.
Creating such a force of perhaps up to 30,000 troops faces many hurdles as noted in the New York Times by Stephen Hadley, President Bush’s national security advisor. He listed the logistical problems as follows: Who’s going to contribute the troops? When will they be ready to move? Who’s going to lift them and get them into Lebanon? Once they are there, where do they go?
Meanwhile, as they labor over the ceasefire problem at the UN – the death toll rises in Lebanon and Israel.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.