Addicted to novelty since 2001

Where’s the Tactical Analysis of the Israel-Lebanon Conflict?

I’ve been watching the news more or less nightly over the past three weeks, following the events in the Middle East. As I’ve watched the random carnage on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, I’ve been asking myself a bunch of questions:

  • What kind of missles is Hezbollah firing into Israel?
  • How many missiles does Hezbollah have? How many have they fired?
  • Does Israel have counter-measures to shoot these missiles down before they land?
  • How are the Hezbollah missiles fired? From the back of a truck? A static launcher? Something else?
  • Have Israeli ground troops actually entered Lebanon? If so, how many, where and to what end?
  • What other weapons does Hezbollah have to defend itself? Do they have, for example, large stocks of small arms, mortars and the like?
  • Will Israel eventually have to stop bombing and send in large numbers of tanks and troops?

The list goes on. I know I could probably google up a storm and find these answers, but I think they’re worth explaining in a nightly news broadcast.

I feel like I knew these answers during the first Gulf War. That’s when I learned a bunch of terms like Scud, Patriot, A-10 Warthog and so forth.

It’s 15 years later, though, and the news–as far as I can tell–isn’t interested in sharing this sort of information. Sometimes they seem desperate to make the correspondents the subject of the story. Sometimes they seem overly interested in the human interest angle, and tend to be hyper-focussed on the story of a single person or family. Sometimes I think they just don’t know what they’re talking about.

Why do you think I’m not hearing my answers to these questions?

One other question which continues to haunt me: for the love of all that’s holy, what’s the frickin’ correct pronounciation of Hezbollah? Is it Hiz-bollah or Hez-bollah?

12 Responses to “Where’s the Tactical Analysis of the Israel-Lebanon Conflict?”

  1. Declan

    It’s alot easier and more flashy to describe the weapons of two conventional armies with modern tanks and planes. Katyushas are not really all that sexy being basically World War II weapons. With the first gulf war journalists were able to push models of tanks around sand pits and make it look dramatic. With the second they travelled in real tanks with satelite phones and made it sound dramatic. With this war all they can really do is show up after a rocket hits.

    Here is what I have learned from RTE and BBC news.

    1/4 : It would appear Hezbollah are firing at least 4 different kinds of rockets. The famous Katyusha ( ones which need to be loaded into a launcher usually on the back of a truck. Secondly some kind of man portable ones that seem to be set up manually like fireworks and fired, one of the British stations had a journalist filming them. Those look to be short range and horribly inaccurate, more point in general direction of country and hope for the best. Thirdly there are rumours that Iran has sent Hezbollah longer range rockets but they havent been seen yet and may fall into the bracket of “the bad guys have X weapon that will kill us all”. Fourth, some type of shortrange guided missile that they used to hit an israeli warship.

    2) Yesterday they had fired just over 1000 rockets according to Irish radio. Though someone else said they fire an average of 100 a day so that would make it closer to 2000. They are supposed to have over 10000.

    3) No one has real countermeasures to shoot down rockets heading towards a city or country. Despite popular myth, tha patriot missile systems in the gulf did not work properly and they were trying to shoot down big scud missiles (which are basically just a couple of generations evolved from V2s). Katyushas are smaller and ao are alot harder to hit.

    5) Yes Israeli troops have entered southern Lebanon but they seem to be staying within what they want to set up as a buffer zone. The Guardian last Saturday had a two page article on one of their battles in a village.

    6) Hezbollah have lots of small arms up to anti-tank weapons.

    7) Israel may well be sending in large numbers of troops today at least the bbc says they are.

  2. Aaron Brazell

    Most of the stuff above I agree with. Hezbollah does not have missiles (that we know of). They havce rockets. And the difference is in the guidance system (or lack thereof). The Katyushas travel at a low trajectory – too low for Patriot missile batteries or other SAMs to knock down.

  3. Metro

    Re. pronounciation: From Cold Desert et al it seems the closest you’ll see in English is Khezbollah. Translating sounds represented in Arabic script to the English equivalents is tough.

    Re. weaponry: I suspect the lack of “their-side-has/our-side-has” analysis isn’t discussed out of sheer IDF embarrassment.

    It’s hard to brag up your war machine when it keeps killing five times more civillians than legitimate targets; and yet the vastly inferior technology you’re trying to stop is still raining down around your ears in Haifa.


  4. John Bollwitt

    The stockpiles of weapons are also hard to measure due to potential support from Iran and Syria, which has already been mentioned, but there is no way to completely determine what that might be. They could be sending weapons, or they could be sending money. And if they’re sending money, what kind of weapons could that buy from some place else to smuggle into the conflict?

    The simple fact is what you do know, don’t know, and everything else that generates so many theories and educated guesses by “experts” on the region. posted this, which helps to explain the history of the conflict a little more. It’s a good read based on the post you made some time ago about not understanding the history of the Middle East.

  5. Chris

    Just throwing it out there, but maybe you knew all the names during the Gulf War because the US was directly involved, ground troups and all. They had it plastered over the news all the time, and some of that leaks up north.

    Remember though, “Israel Can Do No Wrong”(tm)

    * Israel can do no wrong is a trademark of Canada, US, and UK. All rights reserved.

  6. NB

    Another subject conveniently ignored by the World Press is the role of Arms Dealers and Manufacturers in these conflicts. There’s a web of financiers/bankers/manufacturers/dealerswho make a healthy living from supplying the combatants. I for one would support some investiogative reporting in this area.

  7. Andy K

    I’m not going to defend (North) American journalists for not doing their jobs, but you have to concede that you’re asking for some very detailed information. The very nature of “tactical” is that it probably shouldn’t be made public. However, even if journalists don’t have answers, they should raise the questions.

    I’m not a big fan of military “intelligence” either, but you have to admit it does no good to go blabbing what you know about your enemy to the press. Unless of course you’re spreading counter intelligence and propaganda. For example “we know enemy has A (and by saying it on CNN, we want them to think that we know)” but in fact we don’t want the enemy to know that we know they have B. So anything the media gets from the military should be assumed to be false (but then wouldn’t the enemy know this too…)

    I think wikipedia (which I love and browse for fun daily) has spoiled us web surfers into believeing there isn’t something so intricate it can’t be summed up by a volunteer expert. Blogs and their comments make us believe there are smart people out there with all the answers, some of whom can surely predict the future. Real life is is not only more complex than that, it is infinitely larger. That’s why I think it’s unrealistic to find the answers you seek in the media or on the internet.

  8. 'nee

    Re the first comment, which said “Fourth, some type of shortrange guided missile that they used to hit an israeli warship.” Just a nit to pick, it was a drone plane loaded with explosives. Part of the reason that Israel claimed that it was a missle, as another commenter mentioned above, was because it’s embarassing to have your multimillion dollar equipment sunk by a remote controlled plane.

  9. TMac

    Darren, the same questions occur to me watching (mostly) CBC coverage. A related question is whether the media is showing a bias to one side or not. The bias I see is to focus on civilian suffering and casualities (if that can be called a bias) rather than military goals and accomplishments. But I keep asking myself, where/who are these Hezbollah fighters? Israeli commentators make it seem like they are hiding out in community centers and people’s basements and backyards,and every so often come out to fire rockets/skirmish with Israeli troops. That’s why civilians keep getting “collateral damaged”. Is this accurate? Does Hezbollah dress in military uniforms? I don’t think I’ve seen a picture of one Hezbollah soldier yet – just civilian “supporters”. Maybe I’m not watching the right news channel.

  10. darren

    TMac: You’re right across the board. Other questions:

    How much support does Hezbollah have in Lebanon? Is it widespread or are they hated?
    What does Hezbollah realistically hope to accomplish?
    What sort of resistance are the Israelis facing as they enter Lebanon on the ground?

  11. Metro

    Hizbullah derives more support as time and the destruction of Lebanon goes on.

    Israel’s stated goal is already unobtainable. Slate has some excellent analysis available here. The Economist has a terrific article this week (“The Accidental War”) explaining the problem, although it’s subscription only. Try the print copy at the library.

    Basically, as the number of orphans climbs, and as the people of a crippled nation grow more desperate, the number of Hizbullah (and Al-Qaeda, and Hamas, and Islamic Jihad) recruits grows.

    Hizbullah, also an elected component of the Lebanese parliament, is seen as having been instrumental in the earlier Israeli retreat, following 20 years of occupation, in 2002. They’re also seen as having helped drive out Syria.

    And in a nation with modest infrastructure even at the best of times they act as a social service agency, helping the poorest to get medical care and other necessities.

    All Hizbullah has to do now to assure its continued existence is keep claiming to be fighting the invader. Sheik Nasrallah probably didn’t anticipate the strength of Israel’s response, but it’s doing him no harm.

    The Israelis seem to be meeting the same things as the US in Iraq. Improvised ambushes, hit-and-run mortarings, rocket fire. The fighting is often in the ruins of cities–tight quarters and hard to move in without bumping into your own troopies.

    The Israelis claim to have killed about a hundred guerillas. Hizbullah, known for accurately claiming its martyrs, says about eighty. Israel has lost some sixty people, most of them soldiers.

    I apologise for the long “comment”–more of a posting really. But I hope that answers a question or two.

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