Defeating the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is emerging as a credible possibility. For decades, the IDF’s invincibility has haunted Arab governments, their armed forces, and resistance groups in general. The invincibility doctrine has also demoralized the Muslim world, forcing them to accept Israel’s military excesses, including the inhumane treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories, as fait accompli. The current war in Lebanon, though brutal for civilians, is in the process of shattering the IDF’s real and imagined invincibility. The IDF’s perceived vulnerability would in the future invite pestering and relentless guerilla warfare against Israel’s territorial integrity. Even friendly Muslim governments, such as Jordan and Egypt, would be less willing to fully cooperate with Israel in supporting the war on terror. These groups would form a new “coalition of the willing” to engage the IDF. Already, Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda have joined their rhetoric to fight the IDF in unison
The war with Hezbollah is exposing the IDF’s distinct weaknesses that undermine its status as an unconquerable military. The IDF is failing in its intelligence, targets, tactics, and strategies. The proof of the failure is in the indiscriminate destruction scattered on the ground. The crime scene, as they say, tells the story. Since the IDF is well-connected with the United States, its military supplies are unlikely to dwindle in the near future. In the Lebanon war, however, the IDF has destroyed dozens of buildings and killed hundreds of civilians but achieved nothing of strategic importance. The Hezbollah rockets continue to fall on Haifa. The IDF seems helpless to stop them.
The Hezbollah resistance has shown that the IDF can be engaged in a protracted no-win warfare, and real damage can be inflicted on its soldiers and hardware, including its sophisticated ships. The IDF appears to have been designed for sprint wars, and not for marathon wars. Hezbollah’s determined guerillas with no tanks, aircrafts, navy ships, guided armaments, or surveillance satellites have bamboozled the IDF’s well armed troops, supposedly the best in the world. A similar guerilla force in Iraq, which refuses to go away, reinforces the guerilla determination to fight hard. Gone is the thesis that well-equipped armed forces can defeat “terrorist cells” only if more force is used more frequently and more brutally.
The Hezbollah initiative, even if it is flattened in due time, would encourage the proliferation of other guerilla groups in the region to engage the IDF at other points on the long and seamless Israeli-Arab border. At the present time, no guerilla groups have surfaced in Jordan, Egypt, and Syria ready to engage the IDF across the border. This will change, as new groups draw enraged inspiration from the cages of Palestine and the ruins of Lebanon. And if Iran or Syria is attacked, the guerilla movement would find its quickening impetus. The suppressive measures that Arab national armies have so far imposed on guerilla groups would be removed since the public opinion, the so-called Arab street, would not allow national armies to crush homegrown groups challenging the IDF. The ambiguous but strategically lethal entente between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government would be writ large in the entire Middle East. It would serve as the future model for engaging the IDF.
This model would take roots because almost all Muslim countries in the neighborhood and even beyond share a secret desire to weaken the IDF. They were not sure if that could be done. In the past decades, the IDF has defeated the combined armed forces of several Arab states in matter of days. Outstanding Israeli occupations serve as reminders of the IDF’s iron hand. Gaza and the West Bank are perpetually under the IDF boots. Syria cannot retrieve the Golan Heights from the IDF, and Lebanon is helpless to undo the IDF occupation of the Sheeba Farms. The IDF demolished Iraq’s nuclear power generator like a sitting duck. Per Dick Cheney, the IDF might incinerate Iran’s nuclear facilities as well. Even Jordan and Egypt, which have no territorial claims against Israel, have little reason to root for the IDF. For these disgruntled nations, the Hezbollah has furnished an opening of possibilities, including the possibility of defeating the IDF.
The IDF knows that the stakes are high. That is why Israel has persuaded the US to block any attempts to halt fighting for a while. Ironically, however, even the Hezbollah is in no rush to beg for a ceasefire, since a long war benefits guerillas and not the IDF. In quick punches, the IDF plans on annihilating the Hezbollah. It wants to do in Lebanon what the US forces could not do Iraq. The IDF wants a big victory. The annihilation of Hezbollah must be so visible, believes the IDF, that the entire world could see the fate of “terrorists.” If the war continues, the IDF is likely to intensify its bombardment and the attendant destruction in both Gaza and Lebanon. If the war stops, the emboldened Hezbollah would become even stronger in the years to come.
Meanwhile, the IDF’s strategy of total incineration of “terrorists” is creating public outcry throughout the world. For years, commentators, journalists, lawyers, and politicians have advanced the argument that terrorists are morally worthless because they kill innocent civilians. On the basis of this argument, a universal call is made to wipe out all terrorists. This argument is now pointing toward the IDF. The merciless killings of civilians in Gaza and Lebanon, the extensive annihilation of utility plants, apartment buildings, roads, and the bombardment of stand alone UN posts, all these reckless and confused military undertakings have forced the viewers across the world to draw parallels between terrorists and the IDF. Even the label of anti-Semitism has not prevented UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egland, who has previously served as the Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross, from saying that the IDF is violating the laws of war, i.e., the IDF has committed war crimes.
Ali Khan is a professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.