PART 2: Winning the ground war
"Senior Israeli officers continued to tell their press contacts that the timing of a ground offensive was a tightly kept secret when, in fact, they didn't know themselves. The hesitation was also the result of the experience of small IDF units that had already penetrated beyond the border. Special IDF units operating in southern Lebanon were reporting to their commanders as early as July 18 that Hezbollah units were fighting tenaciously to hold their positions on the first ridgeline overlooking Israel.
Moreover, the decision to call the reserves took key senior reserve officers, usually the first to be notified of a pending call-up, by surprise. The reserve call-up was handled chaotically - with the reserve "tail" of logistical support lagging some 24-48 hours behind the deployment of reserve forces. The July 21 call-up was a clear sign to military strategists in the Pentagon that Israel's war was not going well. It also helps to explain why Israeli reserve troops arrived at the front without the necessary equipment, without a coherent battle plan, and without the munitions necessary to carry on the fight.
July 22 also marks the first time that the United States responded militarily to the conflict. Late on the day of the 21st, the White House received a request from Olmert and the IDF for the provision of large amounts of precision-guided munitions - another telltale sign that the IAF had failed in its mission to degrade Hezbollah military assets significantly during the opening rounds of the war. But there was little grumbling in the Pentagon, though one former serving officer observed that the deployment of US munitions to Israel was reminiscent of a similar request made by Israel in 1973 - at the height of the Yom Kippur War. "This can only mean one thing," this officer said at the time. "They're on the ropes."
After-battle reports of Hezbollah commanders now confirm that IDF troops never fully secured the border area and Maroun al-Ras was never fully taken. Nor did Hezbollah ever feel the need to call up its reserves, as Israel had done. "The entire war was fought by one Hezbollah brigade of 3,000 troops, and no more," one military expert in the region said. "The Nasr Brigade fought the entire war. Hezbollah never felt the need to reinforce it."
The Hezbollah tactics were reminiscent of those followed by the North Vietnamese Army during the opening days of the Vietnam conflict - when NVA commanders told their troops that they needed to "ride out the bombs" and then fight the Americans in small unit actions. "You must grab them by their belt buckles," a Vietnamese commander said in describing these tactics.
On July 28, the severity of Israel's intelligence failures finally reached the Israeli public. On that day, Mossad officials leaked information that, by their estimate, Hezbollah had not suffered a significant degradation in its military capabilities, and that the organization might be able to carry on the conflict for several more months. The IDF disagreed, stating that Hezbollah had been severely damaged. The first cracks in the Israeli intelligence community were beginning to show.
But by any accounting - whether in rockets, armored vehicles or numbers of dead and wounded - Hezbollah's fight against Israel must be accorded a decisive military and political victory. Even if it were otherwise (and it is clearly not), the full impact of Hezbollah's war with Israel over a period of 34 days in July and August has caused a political earthquake in the region.
Hezbollah's military defeat of Israel was decisive, but its political defeat of the United States - which unquestioningly sided with Israel during the conflict and refused to bring it to an end - was catastrophic and has had a lasting impact on US prestige in the region."