Sunday, July 30, 2006

Just a Bundle of Coincidences in the Timing of the Qana Disaster

The NYTFifth Column keeps churning out misleading news stories almost exulting in the apparent standoff in South Lebanon, proclaiming it a victory for Hezbollah [in not so many words] and beginning the groundwork to eventually proclaim another disaster for George Bush in the making. But a story by Tom Shankar has the following interesting factoids:
The United States and Israel have each fought conventional armies of nation-states and shadowy terror organizations. But Hezbollah, with the sophistication of a national army (it almost sank an Israeli warship with a cruise missile) and the lethal invisibility of a guerrilla army, is a hybrid. Old labels, and old planning, do not apply. Certainly its style of 21st-century combat is known — on paper. The style even has its own labels, including network warfare, or net war, and fourth-generation warfare, although many in the military don’t care for such titles. But the battlefields of south Lebanon prove that it is here, and sooner than expected. And the American national security establishment is struggling to adapt.

“We are now into the first great war between nations and networks,” said John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a leading analyst of net warfare. “This proves the growing strength of networks as a threat to American national security.”

In a talk that Mr. Arquilla calls Net Warfare 101, he describes how traditional militaries are organized in a strict hierarchy, from generals down to privates. In contrast, networks flatten the command structure. They are distributed, dispersed, agile, mobile, improvisational. This makes them effective, and hard to track and target.

The circumstances at the Qana collapse are possibly indicative: First, the building is hit around midnight [or suffers a near miss], then almost explodes [or implodes] eight hours later. By noon, placards are prepared with Condi Rice cartoons and Arabic slogans denouncing Qana, demonstrations are organized, Lord Haw Haws like CNN's vapor-head Nic Robertson are guided by Hezbollah minders once again to do breathless pro-Islamist commentary in the midst of shouting crazies, and of course, UN SecGen gets another chance to blame Israel and Bush. All within hours.

And, just coincidentally, on the day Condi Rice was scheduled to go to Beirut. CNN calls this an "amazing coincidence." More serious observers speculate that the victims in Qana were deliberately, by omission or commission, used as shields and then allowed to remain in an area where Hezbollah had weapns caches. When the building crumbled or blew up---Hezbollah was already prepared.

I would not put it past the bearded mad mullahs to have sacrificed 60 lives to win world public opinion---on purpose by commission, perhaps. Why the eight-hour intermission between airstrike and collapse of the building? But more from Shankar:
Hezbollah still possesses the most dangerous aspects of a shadowy terror network. It abides by no laws of war as it attacks civilians indiscriminately. Attacks on its positions carry a high risk of killing innocents. At the same time, it has attained military capabilities and other significant attributes of a nation-state. It holds territory and seats in the Lebanese government. It fields high-tech weapons and possesses the firepower to threaten the entire population of a regional superpower, or at least those in the northern half of Israel.

While Hezbollah has emerged as a new kind of threat, it cannot be forgotten that the network is a creation of Iran, with the support of Syria, and both countries know they cannot attack Israel — or American interests — directly. The Bush administration is debating internally whether the best course of action against Iran and Syria is to negotiate with them, isolate them, or do something stronger.

Hezbollah’s success in surviving Israeli bombardment poses an immediate implication for American military planning as the United States figures out what to do about Iran, either as part of an effort to halt its nuclear ambitions or a broader offensive with political goals, like regime change.

The political demonstrations, the staged events for chronic dupes like CNN's Robertson, the trashing of UN buildings simultaneously in Beirut and Gaza, all point to massive coordination---probably from Damascus where both Hezbollah and Hamas networks do command and control---Hezbollah's Nasrullah was rumored to be in Damascus yesterday. Perhaps there is joint staging done from Damascus to both the Sunni and Shi'ite militias.

Vapid Tom Friedman says better to make jaw with Syria than to make war. Vapid Tim Russert nods sagely---looks like an MSM consensus building. And dissing Condi is the latest game inside the Beltway---even fossils like Warren Christopher, whose tenure at State was all talk and compromise---did Warren tell you how he got N. Korea to accept $4 billion to sign a paper saying they would not develop a nuke? Clever fellow. But Shankar actually suggests the outlines of a solution, then collapses back to Hearts&Minds to end on a minor key:
"We are in a world today where we have a non-state actor using all the tools of weaponry," from drone aircraft to rockets to computer hacking, said P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in the impact of new technologies on national security. "That’s what this new 21st-century warfare is going to look like. We have now entered an era where non-states or quasi-states do a lot better militarily than states do." He added, "I don’t think we have answers yet for what to do."

The United States also has to take into account Hezbollah’s global reach — it is blamed for the attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Argentina in the 1990’s, and its cells operate in Latin America, across the Middle East and in Southeast Asia, and it could attack American interests in any of those places.

Critical to the American response, military officers and academic experts say, is that the United States acknowledge that its takes a network to fight a network. American intelligence agencies and the military proved it can fight this kind of war, as it did in Afghanistan to rout Al Qaeda, when intelligence officers and small groups of Army Special Forces worked with local fighters to call in devastating air strikes and drive the Taliban from power.

Within the Bush adminstration and across the military, a clearer view is emerging out of the chaos in southern Lebanon. It is that nation-states know they cannot directly take on superpowers — either regional or global — without getting their clocks cleaned, and so they use proxies they train and support to take the fight to those superpowers. The fight against groups like Hezbollah requires a strategy for dealing with their sponsors. These networks, Hezbollah included, don’t float around in the ether like free electrons bumping into each other. They alight. They attach themselves to territory. In Afghanistan it was with the full support of the Taliban. In Pakistan, it’s an ungoverned space. In Lebanon, it’s a state within a state. Cut off state support, or eliminate the ability of the networks to survive in ungoverned areas, and they collapse on themselves.

No solution has been written. But it would include military force along with diplomacy, economic assistance, intelligence and information campaigns.

"Most critically, we have to get better at — it’s such a clich? — winning hearts and minds," said a military officer working on counterinsurgency issues. “That is influencing neutral populations toward supporting us and not supporting our terrorist and insurgent enemies.”

Yes, it's national liberation fronts that we must cut off from their core areas by blowing up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Like the Parrot's Beak, for those who remember. The tendency of the military to upgrade their high-tech networks reminds me of listening to Herman Kahn suggest building a high-tech fence to keep N. Vietnamese from entering S. Vietnam to supply VC and their own military units. Just several generations later, and more complex systems in highly urbanized environments.

I suggest that rather than submit to death by a thousand cuts, the US and Israel consider the twin resource bases of Hamas and Hezbollah---Oh by the way, did I mention the subject of Iranian nuclear weapons was scheduled to come up TOMORROW in the UNSC, but strangely was bumped by the new crisis in Qana?

Hmmm.... Just another coincidence, I suppose!

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