COMMENT

Challenges of an unconventional war

By P. Mandravelis

If there is anything we can learn from the unorthodox war currently under way in Lebanon, it is that Israel's military machine is too large to tackle Hezbollah. No army and no nation-state can effectively take on fighters dressed in civilian clothes who fire off rockets from among the civilian population. Today's armies are designed to face each other on the battlefield, with clear targets and measurable results. In an unconventional war, fire power acts as a boomerang. It leads to hordes of dead civilians and political repercussions that are diametrically opposed to those intended. Moreover, the victory of a conventional army is never completely secure. The strategic observation of veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger - Richard Nixon's secretary of state during the Vietnam War - still applies: «The conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.» This can be seen very clearly in Iraq. Apart from the fact that soldiers are not trained for complex operations, a conventional army is too cumbersome and unrefined to carry out a policing mission. First of all, military thinking generally dictates «shoot first, ask questions later.» Secondly the structure of an army is such that it can never achieve «surgical precision» in its operations. The aim of conventional wars has always been to wreak the greatest possible degree of destruction upon one's enemy. However, using a war machine to root out guerrilla groups always has the reverse results from those that were intended, as history has shown. Hezbollah seems to have realized this and is now exploiting the power of its rival to attain its own results.

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