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Hizbullah, The Strategy of Attrition & 'Israel`s' Options

The person who best defined the foundations and means of revolutionary war was Mao Tse Tung.... In his book On Guerilla Warfare he sited the rules of guerilla warfare: strong cohesion between the residents and the guerillas (warriors); withdraw upon a strong hostile advance; agitate then attack once the enemy retreats. And if a comparison were to be made between the guerilla warfare method pursued by Hizbullah and the maxims determined by Mao Tse Tung, they`d turn out quite similar....Hizbullah looks after the citizens` living, residential, and medical interests ...
Hizbullah, The Strategy of Attrition & "Israel`s" Options
Al-Hayat 9/12/1998
By: Riad Kahwaji

For some time, "Israel" has been facing a crisis, one unprecedented since it was founded fifty years ago. Never has the Jewish State encountered such crisis as the one in South Lebanon, nor has it confronted such division as the current one due to the occupation of areas in the Lebanese south and western Bekaa by "Israeli" forces.

During the history of the Arab-"Israeli" struggle, the debates of the successive "Israeli" governments in the Knesset focused on how to keep hold of the occupied Arab territories or on planning how to occupy and annex more. However, the debate today among the "Israeli" public opinion is on how to withdraw from South Lebanon without signing a peace agreement beforehand, which used to be an "Israeli" condition on Lebanon. And as "Israel" evades from withdrawing from areas in the West Bank it undertook to abandon in an agreement signed with the Palestinian Authority (PA), it offers to withdraw from the South in return for mere security arrangements from the Lebanese Government. In the meantime, some voices are raised high in "Israel" for a one-sided, unconditioned withdrawal - the first ever publicized in the history of the Arab-"Israeli" struggle. The amazing part: this huge crisis is occasioned by a few hundred ideological warriors determined to win and expel "Israel" from their land. The local media calls them the men of the Islamic Resistance (IR); western media refers to them as Iranian supported Hizbullah Guerillas; "Israeli" media labels them as terrorists.‏

Guerilla warfare is what military researchers name the nature of engagements taking place in South Lebanon between Hizbullah warriors on the one hand, and between "Israeli" combatants and the "Israel`s" proxy "South Lebanese Army" (SLA) militia on the other. The success of such long, exhausting wars is due to a firm strategy lain down and supervised by an efficiently-organized political leadership.‏

This article will reveal Hizbullah` strategy and its internal and foreign maneuvers, and will expose how "Israel" confronted that strategy and what it intends to do on the level of altering its military tactics and handing over the initiative to the "Israeli" air force, according to statements of the "Israeli" media and observers. The new tactics are derived from a research presented by a reserve colonel in the "Israeli" air force to his leadership.‏

Hizbullah`s Strategy‏

The ideal strategy for a nation confronted with a strong enemy that occupies all or part of its land is the indirect strategy which was discussed by several military researchers namely Liddel Hart. What indirect strategy induces is the avoidance of any widespread military confrontation with a militarily strong enemy capable of destroying the opponent`s army, its constituents, and infrastructure. Thus, the sole case in which researchers recommend direct wide-scale confrontation, generally speaking, is when the two countries at war have equal powers. So, it becomes a direct strategy. Yet the indirect strategy is a resort to military, political and economic means to reach the objective. Through employing this strategy, the party whose land is occupied attempts to destroy the enemy`s spirits and internal front. The objective of the war, as the British military historian and researcher Hart states, is "to impose the resistance`s willpower on the enemy with the least possible human and economic loss."‏

The indirect strategy is the most appropriate type for the revolutionary strategy which is adopted by forces to liberate their land or work on toppling the system in the country. And in this situation the revolutionary forces resort to "maneuvering the enemy"; that is, venturing to reach the goal through continuous, divergent, and swift attacks characterized by internal shock and coordinated with an external media, diplomatic and political campaign in order to gradually place the opponent under a heavy burden.‏

The Revolutionary Principles of War‏

The person who best defined the foundations and means of revolutionary war was Mao Tse Tung, the leader of the revolution and founder of the People`s Republic of China. In his book On Guerilla Warfare he sited the rules of guerilla warfare: strong cohesion between the residents and the guerillas (warriors); withdraw upon a strong hostile advance; agitate then attack once the enemy retreats. And if a comparison were to be made between the guerilla warfare method pursued by Hizbullah and the maxims determined by Mao Tse Tung, they`d turn out quite similar.‏

Hizbullah maintains a good relationship with most residents of the border areas due to three factors. First, the majority of Hizbullah`s warriors come from that area; they were born and raised there. Second, the Lebanese southerners believe in the justice of the resistance`s cause -the legitimacy of the resistance- and want the "Israeli`s" expelled from their land. And third, Hizbullah looks after the citizens` living, residential, and medical interests through the services presented by the party`s humanitarian, medical, social, and educational institutions which stretch over the South and Bekaa`.‏

Equally, the party`s combatants ward off from a direct battlefront encounter when the enemy takes an offensive position. They rather pull back, deploy, and plant small ambushes for the enemy forces. Thus, Hizbullah recognizes that a direct battlefront encounter with a strong enemy would have adverse results on its forces. Hence, the party`s warriors annoy the enemy through attacks employing explosives and wire guided anti-armor missiles.‏

Hizbullah didn`t bind itself to Mao Tse Tung`s experience. The party developed it and went further by developing its own tactics to tally with the type of land, the objectives, and the enemy`s weaponry. So the party began its martyrdom attacks at both the "Israeli" Army and the SLA (South Lebanese Army) militia`s convoys, checkpoints, and posts. The "Israeli`s" responded by taking measures to restrain the inhabitants of the border-area from traveling in their cars alone, imposing that there should be a minimum of two people in the vehicle. Afterwards the party resorted to planting ambushes: small groups would infiltrate into the occupied belt attacking the enemy`s patrols and checkpoints. The "Israeli`s" modified their tactics by reducing and redeploying regular forces as to reduce the volume of their geographic deployment, and entrusted the security operations to the special paratroop force since the paratroopers are better trained than the army, i.e. the infantry for guerilla warfare. Then, Hizbullah upgraded his armament, using Russian made AT3 SAGER and Korean AT4 SPIGOT missiles which are wire guided missiles with a range greater than 2km. This armament caused damages and casualties in the "Israeli" lines. The "Israeli`s" reacted by: entrusting a greater role to air force so as to escort the convoys; trimming down the number of military stationary posts; planting nightly ambushes intended for the resistance. The party`s reaction was adequate and immediate. It resorted to focused, intensified bombardment of stationary posts with mortars and Katyusha missiles, transferring fear into the posts where "Israeli" troops had looked forward to a sense of safety promptly following the end of a patrol (they participated in) haunted with fearful anticipation of exploding landmines or anti-tank missiles hitting their vehicles. Hizbullah`s combatants also got their hands on night vision systems adding, with that, a new surprise factor- night attacks against "Israeli`s" and escaping from ambushes planted by the "Israeli" paratroopers. In addition, the "Israeli`s" endeavored to terrify the southerners and create a gap between the party`s fighters and the inhabitants by revengefully bombarding the residential areas on the opposite side of the border zone. Subsequently, Hizbullah turned to counter-strikes on Jewish colonies in northern "Israel" using Katyusha missiles. The internal reaction in the colonies was greater and with a stronger impact on the "Israeli" government than was the effect on Hizbullah`s relationship with the southerners, the matter which forced the "Israeli" government into the so-called April Understanding which dictates that civilians on both sides will be unharmed. This recurrent success generated great faith within the resistance fighters in themselves and in their leadership whereas the "Israeli" soldiers found themselves in a state of fear of the unknown; they had no idea how to confront an adversary that doesn`t abide to fixed rules in combat which national armies abide to, meanwhile their political leadership was entirely confused on how to deal with the hopeless situation.‏

Intelligence Apparatus‏

Among the most crucial factors which outbalanced the confrontation in south Lebanon to Hizbullah`s advantage was the party`s exceptional intelligence apparatus. As several military analysts and leaders in "Israel" confessed, the party was capable of establishing a complex efficient information intelligence system composed of informers in the occupied zone and among the ranks of the "Israel`s proxy SLA who monitor the enemy`s movements and notify the party`s leadership. And in an elaborate study conducted by Shamueil Ghordon, a reserve colonel in the "Israeli" air force, it is clarified that the "Israeli" Intelligence was unable to penetrate Hizbullah and mentioned that... "the party has numerous informers and monitors within our lines and among civilian inhabitants of the security belt who promptly provide it with accurate reports on potential moving targets such as patrols and convoys, and data assisting it in making instant decisions to attack or draw back. The most important intelligence work they (Hizbullah`s combatants) accomplished is knowing how to gather the "Israeli" intelligence data while they`re aware of how to deprive us ("Israeli`s") from attaining information rapidly." The success of the "Israeli intelligence in the past is what led to the failure of the majority of the Palestinian organizations` operations which were launched from South Lebanon in the seventy`s and eighty`s. Those who were contemporary with the period recall that in most Palestinian operations the fighters `fedayees` got killed before reaching their targets as they`d always find "Israeli" ambushes awaiting. Hizbullah`s operations, on the other hand, are mostly successful, proving the "Israeli" intelligence`s inability.‏

The Party`s Media and External Maneuvers‏

Hizbullah hit the jackpot once more when it efficiently took advantage of the authority of media and publicity. Mass media is generally interested in covering stories on sublime causes, such as liberations and revolutions. So after a rough start between the party and mass media on the whole, its media system was able to change the prevailing view through appropriate promotion for its operations. Pictures of the fighters carrying out their successful operations, taking certain "Israeli" posts by assaults, and fighting on lines on confrontation... all drew the attention of many international TV stations, consequently demoralizing the "Israelis". In this manner, the attitude in which the party was seen went from a fundamental terrorist movement to anti-"Israeli"-occupation resistance organization. This issue aided the Lebanese Government, which secures an international political cover for the Islamic and national resistance, to embark on international and Arab diplomatic and political campaign to expel the "Israeli`s" from South Lebanon. In addition, the Lebanese government`s policy joined the Lebanese and Syrian courses in peace talks with "Israel", and this step gave greater political and strategic weight to Hizbullah`s fighters and operations, making them the most significant, if not only, card on the table of negotiations with the enemy. And if we are to consider that there is complete coordination between the party and governments of Lebanon and Syria, as many people believe, then the indirect strategy determines the frameworks of confrontation with "Israel" and makes sure that it does not evolve into a direct widespread confrontation which wouldn`t be to either Lebanon`s or Syria`s advantage. Therefore, the confrontation should remain in its present restricted framework which adopts guerilla warfare so as to attrit and exhaust the enemy, demoralize his soldiers, and undermine his internal policy to reach the ultimate goal i.e. the withdrawal from south Lebanon and the Western Bekaa, and maybe even the Syrian Golan Heights. The indirect strategy, also known as the strategy of long-term struggle, endeavors "to exhaust and attrit the enemy in morale... It is a long-term mitigated struggle for liberation... commonly leading to victorious outcomes.‏

Anti-Guerilla Air Warfare‏

The standard use of the "Israeli" air force, the backbone of the "Israeli" forces, is nothing new; it was persistently recommended by some "Israeli" commanders the latest of which is colonel Bin Gordon. His theory argues that the air force provides intense fire and accurate hits on targets and deters more rapidly than ground forces. In addition, the air force has greater capability than ground forces, meaning that there would be less casualties among the "Israelis" since the resistance fighters lack means of efficient air-defense facing the highly sophisticated "Israeli" aircrafts. Gordon mentions in his study titled The Falcon and the Snake: Counter-Guerilla Air Warfare that the "Israeli" army`s principles of combat which is based on defensive attack fell short in opposition of the guerilla warfare waged by fighters with rules of combat founded on inflicting the greatest sum of casualties in the lines of its enemy. The bombardment, patrols, and pursuing fighters through valley... are tactics that proved their limitation in preventing Hizbullah`s attacks.‏

In his survey Gordon suggested that a special force from the air force intervene to "take charge of planning and conducting all operations on the area of confrontation in South Lebanon and put in the disposition of the special intervention forces: fighter squadrons, gunship helicopters, pilotless reconnaissance aircraft, transporter helicopters, commandos units... all of which are prepared to take action round-the-clock. The command of the ground forces and artillery forces are to become under the command of the "special intervention forces" so as to upgrade operations and coordinate the various operational sectors.‏

Gordon visualizes the mode of the "special intervention forces`" work as follows... "Pilotless reconnaissance aircrafts patrol the 70 km long 30km deep security belt. And when these aircrafts detect a group from Hizbullah, gunship helicopters and fighters are immediately sent to shell them meanwhile an air-born commandos unit is positioned behind the group to ensnare it during its attempt to withdraw." Gordon also prompts the replacement of supply convoys with helicopters to provide ammunition and provisions for stationary posts, in addition to backing up armored patrols with constant aerial guard. In case the project is adopted by the "Israeli" government, Gordon looks forward to reducing Hizbullah`s operations.‏

Gordon`s tactic is exceedingly costly money-wise from an operational perspective since it necessitates greater activity of the air force. Besides, reconnaissance aircrafts and satellite surveillance cannot cover every inch of the occupied region round-the-clock whereas the patient fighter who has adapted to the environment will always find the convenient means and opportunity to infiltrate into the valleys and woods of the region which in turn provides a natural coverture for his movements. Timor Goksil, spokesman of the UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon) in South Lebanon, declared in a press conference in 1995 that "The men of the resistance are the very natives of this area; they are the shepherds, farmers, and merchants who inhabit these villages occupied by "Israel". Therefore, we cannot expel them like we used to with the Palestinian warriors in the past. The men of the resistance are Lebanese and nobody can stop or prevent them from attacking "Israel".‏

In addition, the tactic of focused air strike operations which Gordon mentioned won`t prevent the resistance from bombing its enemy`s posts with mortars and Katyusha missiles which are light-weight cannons rapidly transported before the enemy can determine its source and act in response. In a nutshell, the tactic of the counter guerilla air-warfare might limit but cannot impede the resistance`s movements. Hizbullah will continue to wage attacks as long as it has fighters determined on attriting the enemy which fears death, unlike the fighters.‏

Several analysts believe -those in "Israel" in particular- that what was related to the option of incurring Lebanese civilians or infrastructure is considered a hopeless alternative given that any raid will be countered with Katyusha shelling of northern colonies which will cause the April Understanding to collapse. And the "Israeli" government may find itself in a tight spot compelling it to an undesired resort to Syria. The "Israeli" government`s strategic option is to not withdraw unilaterally lest the residents of the occupied Arab lands take heart to resort to resistance in hope of liberation following Hizbullah`s steps. Yet "Israel" wants to maintain the current situation in the occupied security belt with a change of tactics to minimize its casualties until political progress revives the frozen peace talks on the Lebanese and Syrian tracks.‏

"Israel" anticipates that the initial results of the negotiations will be its withdrawal from the quick-sands in south Lebanon, unless the political crisis in "Israel" doesn`t reach a point where the "Israeli" government is forced to make a one-sided withdrawal and accept being defeated by Hizbullah.‏

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"There is another illuminating story of the wise man and the fool, found in Mao's Little Red Book. A foolish old man went to the North Mountain and began to dig; a wise old man passed by and said, "Why do you dig; foolish old man? Do you not know that you cannot move the mountain with a little shovel?" But the foolish old man answered resolutely, "While the mountain cannot get any higher, it will get lower with each shovelful. When I pass on, my sons and his sons and his son's sons will go on making the mountain lower. Why can't we move the mountain?"" -- huey newton -- "i am we" ( from revolutionary suicide)




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