It’s been 10 years since the Second Lebanon War. Was it a success or a failure? The Winograd Commission has issued its verdict, and military historians will, no doubt, continue to have their say, but the important point for us at this time is not what was, but what may yet be, and what lessons from that war could be applied to possible future encounters with Hezbollah.
Those who led that war are countering criticism by pointing to the years of quiet on the northern border that followed the UN-brokered cease-fire. A 33-day war, with 164 Israeli fatalities (43 civilians and 121 military personnel) that was to be followed by 10 or more years of quiet — is that an equation that signals success, or failure? In the event of a future encounter with Hezbollah, would such a result be considered to be satisfactory, or even a success? How much should we be willing to pay for intermittent periods of calm after each encounter? This question has also faced us in the south, where successive military operations have achieved intermittent periods of quiet, and where our leadership has even declared that the aim of such operations has been to achieve a few years of respite before Hamas resumes its attacks.
Fighting a war to bring about a few years of quiet was seen as a reasonable aim in Israel in its first 25 years of independence. Clearly incapable of completely routing the Arab armies arrayed against it, Israel came to consider that their repeated defeat would lead the Arab leaders to conclude that they could not overcome Israel on the battlefield. The strategy worked. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 was the fourth and last attempt by a coalition of Arab armies to attack Israel. Is this also an effective strategy against terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or Hamas? Are they likely to learn after receiving repeated that there is no point to returning to the war path against Israel?