Hizbullah at war
Frequent Arabist reader Andrew Exum has penned an interesting report for WINEP on Hizbullah's military tactics and strategy in this summer's war. Andrew eschews the politics of the war to focus on Hizbullah's surprising military prowess, bringing the perspective of his experience with the US Special Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most military accounts of the war have relied overwhelmingly on Israeli military sources -- which is hardly surprising since they have made themselves much more available than Hizbullah's military leaders, who probably prefer to lay low for obvious reasons -- but Andrew did get some information from Lebanon. I particularly like his analysis of the impressive resistance encountered during Israel's ground offensive:
Hizballah’s tenacity in the villages was, to this observer, the biggest surprise of the war. As has been mentioned already, the vast majority of the fighters who defended villages such as Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil, and Maroun al-Ras were not, in fact, regular Hizballah fighters and in some cases were not even members of Hizballah. But they were men, in the words of one Lebanese observer, who were “defending their country in the most tangible sense—their shops, their homes, even their trees.”So the heroes of this war were ordinary people -- although probably with some past military/guerrilla experience -- defending their villages. Elsewhere in the report Andrew posits that the most experienced Hizbullah fighters, further up country, did not even see that much action. In my mind this makes the Lebanese Army's inaction even more shameful: once again, ordinary villagers in the south were abandoned into the hands of foreign invaders.
All the same, the performance of the village units was exceptional. Their job—to slow and to bleed the IDF as much as possible—was carried out with both determination and skill. In Maroun al-Ras, nearby Bint Jbiel, and other villages, Hizballah made the IDF pay for every inch of ground that it took. At the same time, crucially, Hizballah dictated the rules of how the war was to be fought. Or as one observer put it, “This was a very good lesson in asymmetric warfare. This was not Israel imposing its battle on Hizballah but Hizballah imposing its battle on Israel.” The narrow village streets of southern Lebanon do not lend themselves to tank maneuver, so the IDF would have to fight with infantry supported by armor, artillery, and air power. This kind of fight negated many of the IDF’s natural advantages and forced the IDF ground forces to fight a very different kind of battle than the one for which they had trained.