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I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

War in the Middle East

The headline isn't shocking. There' has been war in the Middle East at least since the end of the Ottoman Empire following World War I. The current fighting is between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank - Israel against two agents of terrorism. This isn't the first time these antagonists have exchanged blows, but the continuation of a long and frustrating war of attrition. The exchanges have been very low-key until recently. Now, apparently, the gloves have come off.

Both current confrontations came about due to the same behavior - the capture of Israeli soldiers to be used as hostages to free Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists held in Israeli jails. Israel, at least for now, has refused to play that game, and instead is inflicting punishment both against the antagonists and those that harbor, and in many ways, support them.

The war in Lebanon has been primarily an air and naval blockade, plus Israeli attacks against the infrastructure that would allow Hezbollah to be resupplied and re-equipped from Syria, one of its primary sponsors. An air battle is not sufficient in itself to accomplish the missions that Israel has set for itself: the return of the two soldiers captured by Hezbollah on June 12th that started the current fighting, and the destruction of Hezbollah's ability to attack Israel along the border between Israel and Lebanon. Sooner or later, they're going to have to invade Lebanon and wipe out Hezbollah one small piece at a time.

Much has been said in the news and in the blogosphere about the "lack of haste" on the part of Israel to invade Lebanon again (this happened once before in 1982, with the PLO as the adversary. Israel conquered and occupied southern Lebanon until 2000). I believe the Israelis are about to sweep into southern Lebanon in force, and destroy every Hezbollah bunker, tunnel, or hideout. The Israelis haven't been playing around until now, but getting everything set for the big push. They've had over a week to call up reserves, move equipment and supplies to the north, and prepare for the invasion. They've had a week to pound known and suspected Hezbollah hardened areas. They've managed to destroy the majority of Hezbollah's resupply network. Now it's time to move in for the kill.

There have been many small forays from Israel into Lebanon. These small forays had a number of objectives:

    To determine where the UN forces were, so that they wouldn't be attacked.

    To locate, and perhaps even dismantle, the many minefields between the Israeli border and Hezbollah's positions.

    To determine where the enemy forces were, and in what concentration.

There have already been a number of surprises for the Isrealis from Hezbollah, and there may be many more. The attack by an Iranian C-802 Silkworm shook the Israeli navy. Hezbollah's possession (and potential use) of the Iranian Zelzal missile, capable of hitting Tel Aviv (possibly even Jerusalem), is another very unpleasant surprise. A recent article stated that there are hundreds of tunnels and underground bunkers in southern Lebanon, some buried as deep as 40 meters (125 feet) below the surface. The only way these can be taken out is by ground troops. I'm sure one of the things Israel is concerned about, and one reason for the seemingly endless wait for soldiers to be prepared, is the fear that Hezbollah has, and will use, some of the chemical and biological weapons supposedly transferred to the Bekaa Valley from Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

This isn't a war to rush into without fully examining the options, the potential problems, and developing a plan to deal with all known contingencies. I think that plan has been developed, and is about to be implemented. The next step is the complete annihilation of Hezbollah.

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