The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Real Test Of The Gaza War Will Be The Israeli Invasion Of Southern Lebanon

Israel’s been talking smack about invading Lebanon to occupy southern Lebanon up to the Litani River for some time. (The southern-most river on the map.)

Lebanon has been wrecking havoc in Northern Israel with missiles and drones and Israel has been able to do very little to stop them. Although Hezbollah usually hits military targets recently an attack caused a wildfire and the attacks, even before the wildfire, had caused most of the settlers in the northern region to flee, for example:

Settlers residing in Kiryat Shmona are now at 3k, down from 24k before Hezbollah started operations WSJ cites the settlement’s mayor: 40% don’t intend to return & they are among the settlement’s richest.

(Ian – AKA: those with other options aren’t returning.)

General consensus seems to be the attack is most likely in August or September.

Israel has completely lost deterrence against Hezbollah. Their air strikes don’t make Hezbollah stop and if they go to full air war, Hezbollah will go to full missile war. The only way to reduce the strikes is to control enough of Lebanon so that the shorter range weapons can’t reach Israel.

It’s unclear if Israel will actually invade, but there’s a strong argument they have no choice.

According to an analyst who’s been fairly good thru the war, it seems likely the total number combat soldiers will be about eighteen thousand, twice as much as the 2006 invasion.

About half of them will be reserve soldiers.

In 2006, the last time Israel invaded Lebanon, Hezbollah won. If I were a betting man I’d give 3:1 that Hezbollah wins. The Israeli army has not covered itself in glory in Gaza and Hezbollah’s troops are battle-hardened veterans of the long Syrian civil war, plus are heavily dug in with tunnel networks and bunkers.

No doubt America will provide some assistance, but unlike a Hezbollah ground invasion scenario, it’s unlikely the US will commit troops on the ground or serious air-power to an Israeli invasion. On top of that it’s clear that Biden’s beginning to realize that the Israeli war is costing him electorally, and he’s unlikely to want to get drawn in further.

If Israel actually invades it is a truth moment: until they do, they can bluster and act tough, but if they invade and lose everyone will know how weak they’ve become. At that point truly all they will have left is their nuclear deterrent: the Israeli military, once considered the finest in the world, will be derided as a joke. If Israel doesn’t invade, this will be why: they’re avoiding losing what’s left of the reputation of their military.

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9 Comments

  1. Feral Finster

    If you think that the United States will not, at a bare minimum, commit serious air power to assist the Israeli invasion and genocide, then I have a bridge in Arizona to sell you.

  2. Soredemos

    I’m not convinced the IDF was ever genuinely considered the finest in the world, or even particularly mediocre, by informed commentators. Israel was just very good at hyping itself up (and this goes way back; I have a propaganda book from the 80s on the Merkava tank. It wants to present itself as a sober assessment, there’s a whole genre of these books for pieces of hardware. But it’s clearly written in dubious English by actual Israelis).

  3. someofparts

    Well, certainly no shortage of martyrs to avenge, from the Hezbollah perspective.

  4. mago

    Don’t know, but the cognoscenti say Israel is fried if it attempts an assault on Lebanon.
    Of course US intervention is assumed by the aggressor.
    Are the weapons and will there?
    Don’t know, but ignorance rules.
    Buena focking suerte a cada.

  5. NukeIsrael

    Maybe the Russians start sending Lebanon drones, hypersonic missiles, and AA defense systems if the US participates in attacking Lebanon.

  6. Stormcrow

    Ian:

    I would not want to bet against you, even at the sweet end of 3/1 odds. I’m afraid I’d lose my shirt.

    The last time the Israeli army tried to invade Lebanon, they got handed their asses. Hezbollah didn’t play a game the Israelis had some reasonable expectation of winning, namely maneuver warfare.

    Note to Soredemos: once upon a time, the IDF was indeed quite adept at this particular form of warfare. Don’t bother figuring out whether you want to believe me. Find out what what Liddell Hart thought about them. And he wasn’t the only one.

    But the gap between the Yom Kippur War and the 2006 fiasco was more than an entire generation. And if you don’t think a very competent army can rot out quite completely in that short a time, I give you the Imperial Japanese Army between 1906 and 1937. Read and marvel.

    Instead, Hezbollah presented the IDF with a fortification system done right. The IDF broke their teeth trying and failing to breach it. Lots of precedent for that approach working against maneuver warfare specialists: Kursk comes to mind instantly.

    The only way I can see Israel winning a second invasion, even with the force quality they had two decades ago, is if Hezbollah does something egregiously stupid.

    But I don’t think Israel has even that good an army anymore. IIRC, Ian has already mentioned van Creveld’s observation, that an army which only fights the weak becomes weak itself. And the only “practice” the IDF has had at the art of war from the 2006 fiasco until last October has been beating up on essentially helpless Palestinian civilians.

  7. Mark Level

    I’m pretty sure that “Pride goeth before a fall” is New Testament and not Old (Torah).

    The Israelis, like their ‘Murican partner in their mutual Homicide-Suicide Pact, are full of arrogance & chutzpah & entitlement (think they’re “ACE”) and if they pull that trigger, I will go with Ian’s odds . . . (Hat-tip to Will Menaker on the pact, you decide which party is the suicide though Israelis strongly leans to homicide in the short run currently; also I can’t say with certainty which is the Dog & which is the Tail. Biden seems to be an Eeyore tail, however.)

    Empires always crash in blood & carnage. We’re coming up on 8 months of genocide, yet Israel seems to be militarily defeated. Still, we’re in a hole & they won’t stop digging.

  8. elkern

    US “kinetic” participation in any attack on Hezbollah would be limited to air strikes.
    We currently have only one aircraft carrier in the region – the Eisenhower – and as Ian noted recently, it may need some repairs and/or resupply before being ready to drop bombs on anybody. Stationing the Ike off Lebanon would be a glaring admission of failure to keep the sea lanes (Red Sea) open (that mission has already failed, but USA hasn’t openly admitted that yet).

    US military planners must know that Russia is making lists of oblique ways to retaliate for US openly allowing Ukraine to use US weapons to attack Russian territory, and hitting a US Carrier (again?) would be near the top of that list. Hezbollah would have to think long & hard about taking responsibility for attacking a US carrier; they’d get lotsa Street Cred points, but US retaliation would kill lotsa Lebanese civilians and complicate Hezbollah’s battles with the IDF.

    Hmm, I’ve been focused on the idea of some Axis of Resistance group (or Country) *sinking* a US carrier, but now I see that there’s a spectrum of damage that they can use in the terrible “game” of escalation – a spectrum running from “target”, through “attack”, “hit”, “damage”, “incapacitate”, to “sink”. The Houthi’s “attack” seems to have “hit” and maybe/likely “damaged” the Eisenhower, and the USA has (sensibly) responded by – essentially – running away. Hezbollah would probably be willing to take the next half-step – overtly damaging a US carrier – but could be reluctant to actually sink one. Can Russia supply them missiles to thread that needle?

    Bottom line: USA is more likely to fire [cruise] missiles at Lebanon than to risk more attacks on the Ike.

  9. Carborundum

    I don’t see how the IDF can generate enough forces to wage a campaign of choice in Southern Lebanon. If they do, there will be an extended period (a number of months) of training up reserve brigades over and above what we’re seeing to support the Gaza campaign.

    My view, this is phony war on both sides.

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