Remember the march up to Baghdad, and everybody said the Americans are bogging down, the sandstorms are too awful to fight in, debacle in the desert, etc.?

No one knew what the f*** they were talking about. The fog of war lay thickly o’er the field of battle.

Now, many people are saying, in authoritative tones, the Israelis have really lost the war already, or that Hez has won some symbolic victory, or that Hez cannot be defeated and will return strengthened to the fray, or that the Lebanese will be Israel’s enemies for decades, or that this whole thing was a terrible mistake for the Israelis, or the world will demand an end to the killing of civilians, etc.

Again, no one knows what the f*** they are talking about.

Journalists have to turn in something, even if they don’t have any decent facts, so they just yack. Bloggers, even the smart ones, denied much in the way of decent facts to chew on, have nothing to work with, and they just yack too.

(Yes, I include myself in that.)

Only the grossest outlines seem to me to be visible through the fog.

These seem to me to be key facts. Israel has just committed a large land army. Israel is blocking the exit to Syria. Hezbollah is fighting at least in some places, instead of hiding or running like good guerillas who have read their Mao would know to do. Israel has not stopped attacking even though there was, as expected, a Hez-created photo op of dead civilians, and the usual outcry from the usual suspects. Israel is being supported at least implicitly by the USA and indirectly by Europe and Egypt and Saudi, all of whom are afraid of Hez and would be relieved if it were destroyed and do not seem inclined to do anything serious to stop the Israelis. The Israelis have the momentum, and Hez is forced to respond to their attacks, not vice versa. Most importantly, the Isrealis are currently deeply engaged in whatever it is they are trying to do, so there is a lot of movement of vehicles and aircraft and shooting and smoke and babbling incoherence from people who are in the midst of it, sometimes tragically. This inchoate mass of images conveys nothing coherent.

These key facts do not, so far as I see, seem to point to an Israeli debacle. But the true “key facts” may be totally unknown to me, or to anybody, at this point. No one has the big picture, or if anyone does, they are not going to tell us anything about it in the middle of a high intensity shooting war.

The proverbial fog of war has again descended, and it is impenetrably dense.

We won’t know (1) what the Israelis are really up to, if they even know, they may actually be “winging it” from day to day or (2) whether whatever it is they are doing has worked or not, for a while yet.

12 thoughts on “Fog”

  1. Remember the march up to Baghdad, and everybody said the Americans are bogging down, the sandstorms are too awful to fight in, debacle in the desert, etc.?

    And before that, when they said we’d lose big in Afghanistan. The winter would be too harsh for our delicate American troops, the Afghanis were too tough, the terrain was too rugged, etc etc. They even said that we couldn’t win because the British had some trouble there back in the 1880’s!

    Bloggers, even the smart ones, denied much in the way of decent facts to chew on, have nothing to work with, and they just yack too.

    So they should do what I do and just keep from talking about it until they know what is going on.

    The only problem with that strategy is that they won’t get the big traffic from people hungry for news, and they won’t get the rep as being the go-to blog for info if their bloviations turn out to be right.


  2. One thing that is becoming clearer by the day is that Olmert is out of his depth. His recent announcement that despite the current war he wants to continue with his West Bank withdrawal plan was extremely foolish, both politically and strategically. It is fortunate that Israeli public opinion overwhelmingly favors expanding the war to destroy Hezbollah. I wouldn’t be surprised if W gave Olmert a “don’t go wobbly” talk just before the Israelis expanded their ground operations yesterday. I wonder how long Olmert will last as PM.

  3. It doesn’t matter anymore what actually happens in the real world, only what the instant makers of reality say is happening counts.

    The deadly effect of the hostility the chatterers have for the US and any other aggressive western power, such as Israel, is that only negative scenarios are allowed.

    Everything except abject surrender or accomodation is wrong, a defeat, or suspect in some way. There is no success in anything at any time, at least until an acceptable regime in Washington accepts the policy and morality positions of the media, academic and other elites.

    And, even in that case, the relentless search for scandel and controversy will outweigh any sympathy. There is little or no difference between the NYT and the Enquirer, or between the 24 hour news shows and Jerry Springer.

    Hez has won the media/political war because so many people in those areas are explicit or implicit allies. The military situation is almost irrelevant.

    If, by some miracle, Israel trapped and killed every single Hez in Lebanon, all that would matter all over the world was the bombing of Qana, and the pictures of the dead children.

    In the modern world, Waterloo is a news narrative or a picture. Battles don’t even matter any longer.

  4. Veryretired – I think you are looking at a metastable state and mistaking it for stable. This pacifism is an aftershock of the casualties of WWI and WWII. It will (and I’m gong out on a limb here and making a prediction) be shattered when one or another nutcase gets ahold of a Soviet, NK, Pakistani, or Iranian nuke and uses it. We’ve managed to prevent this so far, but we have to win 100% of the time, they only have to get lucky once.

  5. In Napoleonís first campaign in northwestern Italy, he faced two forces, the Piedmontese and the Austrians. Although inferior in strength to his opponents total align forces, his first strategic act was to operate from the center bringing to bear the mass of his own forces against the Piedmontese army. His army was placed between his two opponents. In a series of unrelenting battles, the French forces pushed the Piedmont opponent back upon their capital, breaking their ability to play any significant part further in the campaign or war. Just as that part of the campaign came into completion, the Austrians awoke from their daze and showed themselves upon the area of operation. With the rapidity shown in pursuing the Piedmontese, Napoleon then lead the bulk of his army against the now ever more isolated Austrians. In a period of days and quick sharp battles the Austrians were sent reeling back across the Po and onward to the east. In his first major field command, Napoleon demonstrated his concept of íCentral Positioní. Does one doubt that the Austrians couldnít fathom what was going on in that fog of war? Do you think the Israeli military leadership hasnít read military history in its raw form or in an internalized institutional cultural form?

  6. I’m sorry John, I don’t have a clue what you are talking about. If, at the end, you mean that the west, esp. the US, would respond ferociously to a nuclear attack, I agree.

    However, the immediate response from the same people who today can’t be bothered with Hez’s tactics and atrocities but who are apopletic over any misstep by Israel would be that any retaliation by the US was a war crime, ill advised, disproportionate, wrong, and typical of an imperialist, war loving, cowboy culture that hasn’t matured enough to wield the power it does in the world.

    In other words, the judgement of the chattering classes would be just what is found on the floor of any stable full of horses—horsebleep.

    And that applies whether it’s a metastable or just a regular one.

  7. I think the Israeli military is following a long standing war plan. Modern militaries really don’t fly by the seat of their pants. The drive to Baghdad, for example, was one of several plans that had been evolving inside the Pentagon for several years.

    The Israeli first immobilized the Hez with airpower. Thats what all the strikes against “civilian” infrastructure were about. Knocking out power, communications and transportation. Once they get the Hez where they can’t run, they send in the ground troops to dig them out from under their rocks.

    All this is separate of course from all the myriad political calculations. The politicians may stop or start the military operations but the planning and tactics were worked out far in advance. Personally, I think the Israeli goal is to try and so reduce the power of the Hez that the other forces in Lebanon can assert the countries sovereignty. Barring that, they hope for a truely effective international force.

  8. Of course there’s a plan. However, the existence of a carefully designed military plan is not inconsistent with ineptitude by Olmert and other political leaders. I don’t think a competent PM would bring up, in the middle of a war in Lebanon, a now-obsolete scheme to withdraw from the West Bank. Doing so creates needless divisions among Israelis, who are otherwise unified on the Lebanon war, and telegraphs too much info to enemies. It is such an obviously inept move that it marks Olmert as inexperienced at best.

  9. “…a now-obsolete scheme to withdraw from the West Bank…”

    You keep saying this, but I don’t agree with it. Olmert is right. There is no reason not to withdraw from the West Bank. It was a mistake to keep it in the first place. If every Israeli was getting married and having nine kids, it would be different. But they aren’t and they aren’t going to. As it is, the WB is Algeria without any water in between. Leave it, and move on. Israel should pull back to a defensible perimeter, behind a nice, high wall. The idea that the WB provides “strategic depth” or some such thing is bogus. If some Arab army were stupid enough to go in there the Israelis would pound it out of existence from three sides. Keeping the WB was a source of cheap labor for a while, but was mostly a drain on resources that yielded nothing of value to Israel and was an unwanted and corrosive burden on the IDF. Nothing has changed any of those facts. If the Pals are stupid enough to try to lob rockets over the wall after this current exercise, they will get what they deserve, a retaliatory barrage on the launch site, and if necessary a punitive raid. Even the Palestinians are probably not that stupid, and if they are, they will suffer the consequences. The Pals are going to get their “state”, in Gaza and WB, and the world will see what they do with it. My bet: Nothing. Israel is well rid of them. The wall is Israel’s best friend. The next best thing to a moat.

  10. Even if you are right about the value of Olmert’s West Bank plan, he was stupid to make an issue of it now. It is an issue to be dealt with after the current fighting is over.

    If the Pals are stupid enough to try to lob rockets over the wall after this current exercise, they will get what they deserve, a retaliatory barrage on the launch site, and if necessary a punitive raid.

    Hezbollah got away with murder for six years before Israel responded forcefully. The Palestinians have been lobbing rockets into southern Israel almost since the day Israel withdrew from Gaza. Unless Israel is willing to respond forcefully and in a timely way to attacks it will continue to be attacked, in which case it is better off with the West Bank. But if Israel were willing to respond forcefully and in a timely way to attacks it wouldn’t be in this current war. I see no reason why the Palestinians will not interpret an urgent withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank as a retreat and sign of weakness, which is how they and Hezbollah interpreted Israel’s withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza.

    If Olmert wants to withdraw from the West Bank he should make clear that the idea is off the table until the current war is won and the Palestinians behave themselves for a few years. By raising the issue now he is saying that it is more important than dealing with the aggression of Hezbollah and Hamas. That is a position of weakness and will make it harder to reach a reasonable settlement with determined adversaries. I don’t know if he is stupid or merely so arrogant that, like Barak, he is uninterested in the Arab interpretation of his behavior. If nothing else he should quietly reconsider Israel’s policy of tactical disengagement. For him to ignore such considerations and say “full speed ahead” is crazy.

Comments are closed.