Thursday, August 03, 2006

There's some debate in the military community as how to best categorize Hezbollah as a fighting force. "Normal" guerillas ? 4GW ? A hybrid ? It is a testament to Hezbollah's internal security and operational focus that today we have a far better understanding of al Qaida's structure, capabilities and planning paradigms than we do the inner workings of the military wing of Lebanon's radical Shiite "Party of God".

Here is a survey of Hezbollah military prowess for would be military analysts to chew on, courtesy of The Jamestown Foundation. An excerpt:

"Hezbollah's military leadership has rethought much of the strategic and tactical doctrine that led to the repeated defeat of Arab regular forces by the IDF. The top-down command structure that inhibited initiative in junior ranks has been reversed. Hezbollah operates with a decentralized command structure that allows for rapid response to any situation by encouraging initiative and avoiding the need to consult with leaders in Beirut. The military wing nevertheless answers directly to Hezbollah's central council of clerics for direction.

The fighters are armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, typically assembling in small teams to avoid concentrations that would draw Israeli attention. The preparation of well-disguised explosive devices has become a specialty of Hezbollah. The uncertainty created by such weapons takes a heavy psychological toll on patrolling soldiers.

Hezbollah has improved its night-vision capabilities, although they do not compare with Israel's state-of-the-art equipment, which includes UAVs, helicopters and jet-fighters equipped for night warfare. Hezbollah fighters are well-trained in the use of complex weapons systems. Air defense units use SA-7 missiles and ZU-23 anti-aircraft guns on flatbed trucks.

The guerrillas rigorously examine the success or failure of each operation after completion. Tactics change constantly and new uses are sought for existing weapons. The use of mortars (81mm and 120mm) has been honed to near perfection. Hezbollah fighters have developed efficient assault tactics for use against armor, with their main anti-tank weapons being AT-3 Saggers and AT-4 Spigot missiles. Four tanks were destroyed in two weeks in 1997 using U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles (these missiles traveled from Israel to Iran as part of the Iran-Contra affair before being supplied to Hezbollah).

Hezbollah leaders believe that their fighters have a perspective on conflict losses that gives them an inherent advantage; according to Naim Kassem, deputy leader of Hezbollah, "[The Israeli] perspective is preservation of life, while our point of departure is preservation of principle and sacrifice. What is the value of a life of humiliation?" (Haaretz, December 15, 1996). With no hope of overwhelming Israel's well-supplied military, Hezbollah fighters concentrate on inflicting Israeli casualties, believing that an inability or unwillingness to absorb steady losses is Israel's strategic weakness.

Read the whole thing here. ( Hat Tip Small Wars Council)


Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett - "Demonizing Israel will come back to haunt us"

Dr. Chet Richards - Reason interview



William Lind - "Welcome to My Parlor"

Jane's - "IDF setback at Bint Jbeil"

DEBKAfile - "Israel’s Surprise Raid of Baalbek Is No Panacea for Tactical Ills"

I include the last due to it's widely presumed association and status as the unofficial mouthpiece for Israeli intelligence agencies.
also from within Israel, Haaretz has
"The road not taken"
The chet richards interview is splendid!

Great collection of articles.

According to 4GW theory (which keeps reinventing itself after every few months it seems), a 4GW force is extremely intelligent and able to fight independently or in small groups. This force seeks to infiltrate a society and them attempts to collapse it from within. Hezbollah does not fit this mold. What the Hezbollah has done is incorporate itself into the social and political structure of the Lebanese society. Rather than collapsing Lebanese society from within, they have turned the Lebanese population into an effective weapon by creating strong social and political ties with it. By addressing some of the day-to-day problems of the Lebanese - setting up schools, medical clinics, youth centers, etc. - they have been able to paint themselves as campaigners for the betterment of their Lebanese supporters. The Lebanese supporters in turn, facilitate Hezbollah’s operations financially and logistically (Iran and Syria help out too). This creates a cycle that aids in the constant renewal of Hezbollah no matter what the Israelis do to contain the group. Bottom line, the Hezbollah is not seeking to collapse Lebanese society from within. They feed from it. Hezbollah operates outside the society of their main enemy, Israel. Their war against Israel fits into the classic mold of trying to impose your will on your opponent by a selective campaign that concentrates on the targeting of civilians or non-combatants within Israel. Although Hezbollah’s attacks can possibly weaken Israel, it is very questionable (if not downright impossible) that they will be able to collapse Israeli society. It is unlikely that the Israelis will “give in” psychologically to the Hezbollah’s demands. At this point, the Hezbollah’s main solution is to continue a campaign of attrition hoping to inflict as many casualties as possible. Hitting Tel Aviv will, in all likelihood, increase the Israelis’ resolve and it might actually be counterproductive to the Hezbollah. We should never underestimate the resiliency of a prosperous democracy -that wins wars- when it gets attacked in its homeland. It is one thing to send your soldiers to fight 7,000 miles away from home and another to fight in your own backyard against enemies who want, but are really unable, to wipe you out of the face of the earth.
“Hezbollah operates with a decentralized command structure that allows for rapid response to any situation by encouraging initiative and avoiding the need to consult with leaders in Beirut.”

I think this illustrates what I mean by them being “Gamers”.

“The military wing nevertheless answers directly to Hezbollah's central council of clerics for direction.”

To translate: the Gamers receive the explicit instructions needed for the next game. You make Gamers at 3 not 15, but you know that better than I. Maybe there should be some explicit law saying you can’t teach babies to kill, although I am still trying to figure out if ambiguity is not a worst thing to teach them or if it exists at all.
I think trying to determine if Hezbollah is 4GW or something else is moot. Looking at it from a larger strategic perspective what Hezbollah is doing could be done by any armed force regardless of its generational level. What you have is an organization whose strategy is to cause as many civilian deaths as possible. The offensive operations they undertake are designed to entice their enemy into responses that cause civilan casulaties. To achieve this they operate as close as possible to "friendly" civilians and trust in the law of statistics that not every bomb will hit their fortified bunkers, fixed launching pads or mobile launchers and will eventually hit the apartment building, school, mosque, ect, next door. Their defensive formations are optimized for the terrain they fight in. In this case cities inside their own country. They are in small, light infantry, formations operating from a series of fortified positions that demand more firepower to nuetralize than to defend. Again they stay true to their strategy and trust in the law of averages to favor them in their goal of maximum "collateral damage". Any Israeli soldiers they kill, any tanks they destroy are mere icing on the cake. What they want is to delay, and even better, frustrate. They are not trading space for strategic depth, they merely fall back in order to offer fresh targets for the IDF to destroy because Hezbollah 'wants' the IDF to destroy as much of Lebanon as possible.

I absolutely agree with you. I was going to get to that point but I made my comment during a break from work and ran out of time to continue my comment. Whether or not the Hezbollah is a 4GW force is indeed irrelevant. You description of Hezbollah's tactics is spot on.

IMHO, much of 4GW theory is simply a regurgitation of classic counterinsurgecy and counterguerrilla doctrine. 4GW theory argues that this is a "new kind of war". To me, war is war is war is war. Are the Janjaweed a 4GW force? What about the dudes that were hacking people up with machetes in Rwanda not too long ago? Was Milosevic a 3GW or a 4GW "warrior"? What about Saddam? Or Zarqawi? Moqtada al-Sadr? Trying to fit our enemies into these categories is IMHO counterproductive.

"Hezbollah's military leadership has rethought much of the strategic and tactical doctrine that led to the repeated defeat of Arab regular forces by the IDF."

The Hezbollah has probably received extensive training from Iranian spacial forces (probably the Pasdaran). Special forces are trained and designed to operate with much more leeway than conventional forces. The Israelis are not facing the imopentent and rigid Syrian or Egyptian armies this time. I am sure the Israelis know this and will probably (I hope) respond accordingly.

"The fighters are armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, typically assembling in small teams to avoid concentrations that would draw Israeli attention."

Nothing new here, Iraqi insurgents and the Taliban do the same thing. Bunching up in the same place is a sure way to get your ass schwaked by a 2,000 pounder courtesy of the IAF.

The night-vision capability part is worrisome, though.

What do you think of "culture-centric" warfare? I think this, as part of COIN/3BW, has a better staying and relevance power than 4GW (which as you know seems to reinvent itself every few months).

It is quite likely that Hezbollah is going to be the model for future Arab armies, which bodes ill both for the survival of central authorities in the guise of nation-states or for minorites within those nations. Children taken at an early age to become stone-faced killers capable of melding the martyr philosophy with considerable experience with modern weapons and communications technology.

I've never heard the term "culture-centric warfare" before. Maybe I have, but I've heard of some many (add your word)-centric versions of warfare that I've lost count. Also, it's been a long day here in Tampastan and my brain is running at half speed. It sounds like a good concept though. The concept of 4GW has some utility, but I don't think we need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to some concepts. Culture matters when it comes to waging war and conducting military operations. The way a nation or group wages war is a reflection of its culture. From a COIN/3BW perspective knowledge and respect of the culture in which you are operating is essential. Actually that applies beyond warfare. This knowledge includes language skills of course. As a military we are improving this skills, but we have to get better. That being said, some of the mistakes we've made in Iraq and elsewhere would be considered mistakes regardless of cultural background. The abuses of Abu G. would have been abuses even if they had taken place in Cleveland, Ohio. The crimes committed in Abu G. and Haditha went far beyond a lack of cultural or language knowledge. Arresting or killing the wrong person would not get you any new friends whether you are in Baghdad, Seoul, Frankfurt, or Miami. Of course most of our troops behave in exemplary manner, but our war is a war of images where the good is many times downplayed, or unreported and the bad gets overplayed and amplified. Our enemies, Hezbollah included, are of course thinking human beings. To fight us they will adapt their organizations depending on their environment. I think that the difficult thing is that there would be no set model or prototype for our future enemies. Or maybe there would be, but as usual, the devil is in the details. Hezbollah is very different from say, the Jaysh al-Madhi, al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Taliban, Abu Sayyaf or the FARC if you want to talk about a non-Muslim group. They all have things is common, but like I said the devil is in the details. Part of the problem is the emergence of this sort of organizations in ungoverned areas or failed states. Like you said, when you combine hatred and martyrdom with modern weaponry or modern technology (witness 9/11) the results can be catastrophic. It is sad when the potential of young men is wasted because of hatred, when creativity is used in the service of destruction and not creation.
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