Small Wars Journal

The 2006 Lebanon War: A Short History

Tue, 09/11/2012 - 5:30am

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a two-part series.

The morning of 12 July 2006 began like any other for the Israeli villages of Zar’it and Shelomi.  At 9:00 a.m., as the villagers arrived to work, the calm morning routine came to an abrupt halt when, from over the northern horizon, a cluster of Katyusha rockets appeared.  Before an alarm was raised, the shrieking rockets arched into the unsuspecting villages, exploding balls of fire and shrapnel.  Several kilometers north, amid the rocky ridges of south Lebanon, teams of black clad Hizbullah militants labored over mortar tubes and rocket launchers, maintaining a steady barrage of fire and steel that shocked northern Israel awake.  This bombardment, unbeknownst to the Israelis, was a diversion for a far more audacious operation: the infiltration of northern Israel by elite Hizbullah commandos.  While Israeli civilians rushed for cover, heavily armed infiltrators slipped furtively over undefended border fences near the Israeli farm town of Shtula—an area unmonitored by surveillance cameras—and into their enemy’s homeland.  After five months of careful planning and several trial runs, Operation Truthful Promise was underway. 

Having successfully crossed into Israel undetected, the commandos hurried 200 meters over dry borderland to milepost 105 on a deserted border road between the villages of Zar’it and Shetula.  This position offered Hizbullah an ideal location for mounting an ambush.  On one side of the road, was an overgrown wadi, which the ambushers used for cover and concealment as they observed the road and their designated kill zone.  Additionally, the rough terrain produced a blind spot for nearby Israeli border posts, reducing the likelihood that the ambushers would receive direct fire from an Israeli position outside of the kill zone.[1]  To reduce the likelihood of detection further, Hizbullah snipers in south Lebanon engaged and destroyed surveillance cameras along the border roads.  Small groups of fighters also launched a series of diversionary attacks that distracted Israeli quick reaction forces that were mustering along the border.[2]

While their comrades conducted diversionary attacks, the ambushers at milepost 105 silently waited, hidden within the wadi, waiting for their enemy to step into their trap.  East of the kill zone, a pair of Israeli Humvees that carried eight reservists, just hours from ending their tour of duty, headed toward the trap.  As the Humvees closed on the ambushers, the lead vehicle struck a large IED, initiating the ambush.[3]  Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) shrieked across the road and ripped through the thin armor of the lead Humvee, engulfing the crewmembers in an inferno.  Bullets and shrapnel peppered the trail vehicle that carried Staff Sergeant (SSG) Goldwasser and SSG Regev, wounding them and the other stunned passengers.  Amid the smoke and confusion, several ambushers rushed by the smoldering remains of the lead vehicle and snatched Goldwasser and Regev.  With their victims in hand, the Hizbullah fighters withdrew across the border before Israeli reinforcements arrived.[4]  Operation Truthful Promise had succeeded.

Outraged over the bold attack, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorized a large-scale military retaliation against Hizbullah.  The unprovoked raid provided Olmert with an opportunity to deal a major blow to a longtime Israeli adversary.  Through military action, the Olmert government sought to destroy Hizbullah’s military capabilities and convince the Lebanese government and people to disarm the organization and abandon their support for it.  Israeli military planners initially believed that they could quickly achieve Olmert’s stated objectives through an air and sea campaign, backed by limited ground forces.  Yet, as the 2006 Lebanon War unfolded over 34 days, Israel’s plans for a quick and decisive victory fell apart. 

What began as an Israeli air campaign rapidly evolved into an extensive ground war of bloody house-to-house battles that the Israelis were ill prepared to wage.  Israeli political and military leaders failed to foresee this outcome because they developed their war plans based on three assumptions.  They assumed their military was prepared for the war, they assumed  force could convince the Lebanese to abandon support for Hizbullah, and they assumed they could achieve their objectives quickly and with minimal costs in blood and resources—all three assumptions were proven false by the end of the war.  Although the campaign succeeded in degrading Hizbullah’s military capabilities—at least in the short-term—and increasing security on the Israel-Lebanon border, it failed to disarm the organization and increased the political power of Hizbullah by rallying support behind the organization and reducing the Lebanese government’s ability to control it.  As a consequence of overly ambitious planning and pre-war missteps in preparation and training, Israel’s campaign increased the power and prestige of Hizbullah, while tarnishing its proud military’s reputation.  By analyzing Israeli and Hizbullah pre-war planning and preparations, war strategies, and military operations, this paper will explain how and why Israel failed to achieve its objectives during the 2006 Lebanon War.

I. The Path to War:  January 1979 to July 2006

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran, under the leadership up Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, adopted a highly aggressive foreign policy that sought to spread the Islamic revolution across the entire Muslim world.  Khomeini chose Lebanon, a small influential Arab country with a sizable Shia minority, as the testing ground for this ambitious policy.  Lebanon, at the time, was in the grips of an intractable civil war—a civil war that began in 1975 and seemingly had no end.  Amid this anarchy, Iranian intelligence and military agents covertly entered Lebanon in 1982.  Leading the operation was the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite arm of the Iranian military.  

Inside Lebanon, the IRGC had two objectives:  fight the Israelis, who had occupied Lebanon, and export the ideals of the Iranian revolution.[5]  To accomplish its first objective, the IRGC trained and deployed a proxy army composed mainly of battle-hardened street fighters.  Eventually, this group adopted the name Hizbullah, meaning the Party of God in Arabic.  To accomplish its second objective, the IRGC, through its Hizbullah proxies, preached its revolutionary ideology across Lebanon.  Years of covert military and political support infused Hizbullah with power and influence, especially among the Shias of southern Lebanon.  By the end of the 1980s, the organization had evolved from a ragtag terrorist organization that specialized in kidnappings and murder into a powerful political-military force that would alter regional politics.

In 1990, a delicate peace emerged between Lebanon’s quarrelsome factions.  Lebanon enforced the peace by dividing political power between its disparate ethnic and religious groups: Muslims (Sunni and Shia), Christians, and Druze.  This division of power has succeeded in preventing another outbreak of sectarian warfare.  Nevertheless, discontent among Shia Muslims, Lebanon’s fastest growing demographic group, has increased since 1990, as the group has sought wider representation in government, protection from Israel, and improved government services for its impoverished communities.[6]

Recognizing the potential to expand its political power, Hizbullah developed a shadow government within Lebanese Shia communities to address Shia political and social grievances.  This shadow government, beginning in the 1990s, has helped remedy many of the endemic socio-economic problems afflicting Lebanese Shias. [7]  By improving the lives of its Shia supporters, Hizbullah gained strong Shia support that translated into expanded political power and more volunteers for their military wing.  This support has grown through the 2000s, even after the 2005 Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops, who had provided aid and support to the organization.  The 2005 Lebanese elections demonstrated Hizbullah’s improved political standing, as the organization expanded its representation in Parliament to 14 seats.[8]  During the same year, Hizbullah strengthened its political influence and legitimacy by officially joining the government.  Guns and influence gave Hizbullah a nearly unmatched ability to shape Lebanese politics.[9]

While it expanded and consolidated its political power within Lebanon, Hizbullah led a guerilla war against Israeli military garrisons in south Lebanon.  Hizbullah fighters, backed by Syrian and Iranian aid, harassed the entrenched Israelis with suicide attacks and ambushes.  These tactics, eventually, eroded Israeli domestic support for the occupation of southern Lebanon, leading to the withdrawal of the majority of Israeli forces.  The Israeli withdrawal, Hizbullah boasted, was a tremendous victory for their organization and a demonstration of Israel’s inability to tolerate causalities.[10]  Yet their victory was not total: Israeli army garrisons remained in parts of Lebanon, including Shebaa Farms, Kafar Shuba Hills, and parts of Ghajar village.  To Hizbullah, any Israeli presence in Lebanon was unacceptable.  Thus, their war would continue, even if it meant bringing the battle to Israeli soil.

During the interwar years, from 2000 to 2006, Hizbullah conducted at least 19 attacks into Israeli territory.  Generally, the Israelis showed restraint in response to the provocations, believing it could contain Hizbullah while it dealt with what it believed were more pressing threats, like instability and violence in the disputed territories or growing Iranian influence in the Middle East.  Political pressure from the United States increased the pressure on Israel to limit its responses to Hizbullah aggression.  The United States, in the wake of the 2005 Cedar Revolution, pressed for restraint in regards to Hizbullah, as it sought to nurture the growth Lebanese autonomy and democracy following Syria’s withdrawal.[11]  However, Israeli patience with Hizbullah had its limits.

 Israeli leaders were growing concerned in early 2006 over the build-up of Hizbullah rockets on its borders and the frequency of cross border raids into Israel by both Hizbullah and Palestinian militants.[12]  Hizbullah’s rising political power in Lebanon also worried the Israelis, for if their power continued to increase, they could eventually secure control over the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), giving the organization a near monopoly on military power within Lebanon and access to improved weaponry.  When Hizbullah launched the 12 July raid, Israel gained an opportunity to put an end to Hizbullah cross border raids and halt its growing power that threatened Israeli national security.  Israel, as Brigadier General Ido Nehushtan (head of the IDF Planning Directorate in 2006) stated, would no longer “tolerate the presence of Hizbullah forces along the border, operating freely as a state within a state, operating against Israel as it pleases and holding Israelis hostage, choosing when to pull the trigger.” 

The motives behind the 12 July raid remain unclear.  According to Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s charismatic leader, the raid was not designed to provoke a war with Israel.  Nasrallah contends his organization launched the raid to force the release of captured militants and sympathizers imprisoned in Israeli jails.  “The [Israeli] prisoners,” Nasrallah declared following the raid, “would not be returned except through one way, indirect negotiations and a trade of prisoners.”  Nasrallah assured worried Lebanese officials that the conflict would not expand beyond the initial raid and limited Israeli reprisals.  The mounting pressure and saber rattling from Israel, he assumed, would “calm down after 24 to 48 hours.”  "If the Israelis are considering any military action to bring the hostages home,” Nasrallah contended, “they are delusional, delusional, delusional."

Delusional or not, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defied Hizbullah’s predictions.  Facing intense public pressure to retaliate after the raid—a raid that occurred only a month after the kidnapping of corporal Gailad Shalit by Palestinian militants—Olmert decided to act forcefully and seize an opportunity to punish an old foe.[13]  In a televised speech he delivered shortly after the raid, Olmert rejected Hizbullah’s proposed negotiations.  He proclaimed that Israel would punish Hizbullah for its "act of war” with “a very painful and far-reaching response.”

Through military action, the Olmert government sought to recover its captured soldiers and improve Israeli national security by eliminating or significantly reducing the military and political power of Hizbullah.  Israel intended to achieve this strategic ends by accomplishing three supporting goals.  First, destroy or seriously degrade Hizbullah’s military strength, with a focus on its rocket arsenal.  Second, reduce popular support for the organization in Lebanon by convincing Lebanese Shias and other groups to turn on Hizbullah.  Finally, pressure the Lebanese government to disarm Hizbullah and deploy the Lebanese Armed Forces to southern Lebanon to secure the borders.  Achieving these goals, according to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, would reshape the Lebanese political landscape—a highly ambitious objective that far exceeded the objectives of previous Israeli attacks against the organization. 

To develop a campaign plan to achieve its strategic objectives, the Olmert government turned to Lt. General Dan Halutz, the Chief of the Isreal Defense Forces’ (IDF) General Staff and a former Israeli Air Force (IAF) pilot.  On 12 July, General Halutz had two plans on the books for a war against Hizbullah.  The first plan was Operation Stone of Fire—a plan that the Israelis had developed and refined since 2000.  This plan called for multiple Army divisions to invade southern Lebanon and push Hizbullah 40 kilometers north to the Litani River, reducing the organization’s ability to strike Israel with rockets.  There were significant drawbacks to this plan.  A large Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon risked provoking regional and international condemnation for the inevitable destruction to civilian life and property that it would cause.  A large ground war also risked more IDF causalities that would likely lead to increased domestic political pressure, just as it did during the occupation of southern Lebanon during the late 1990s.  General Ido Nehushtan, who served as General Halutz’s chief planner, believed the plan “had lost its relevance after Syria's military withdrew from Lebanon [in 2005].  “Hizbullah,” he believed, “required a different approach.”

The second plan under consideration was a 48-72 hour bombing campaign, codenamed Operation Ice Breaker.  This plan was more in line with the Israeli General Staff’s preferences.  General Halutz, however, wanted to expand the scale and intensity of the original version of the campaign.  He envisioned an aerial blitz that would attempt to destroy Hizbullah’s entire military apparatus.  General Halutz also believed that the size and scope of the campaign could convince the Lebanese people to turn on Hizbullah and disarm it.[14]  Israel, General Halutz warned, would “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years” in order to remove the Hizbullah threat.  The IDF General Staff was so confident in the expanded version Operation Ice Breaker that they promised U.S. officials a decisive Israeli victory within 35 days.[15]

Israel’s military strategy and planning rested on three assumptions.  The first assumption was that a heavy-handed military operation could both destroy Hizbullah’s military wing and erode popular support for the organization.  Military force, although appropriate for degrading Hizbullah’s military power—at least in the short-term—risked undermining the second goal by increasing popular support for the organization.  Hizbullah’s popularity originated from its history of fighting Israel and providing reconstruction aid and social services to its communities.  Bombarding Hizbullah targets that are often deeply embedded in civilian neighborhoods worked in favor of Hizbullah’s political strategy, by providing the organization the opportunity to play the role of Lebanon’s defender against Israel, while also enabling it to act as first responders to the communities harmed by the fighting.  The impending Israeli military operation, therefore, had two conflicting aims.   

Israel’s second assumption was that it could quickly defeat Hizbullah with limited costs and commitments.[16]  The Israeli military had the means to destroy or seriously degrade Hizbullah’s military capabilities, when given the necessary time and political support to do so; and three times in the past, Israel’s small disciplined military, withstood the combined power of nearly the entire Arab world.  If Israel could successfully wage a multi-front war against multiple well-equipped armies, logically, the same force could handily defeat a group of militants.  However, Hizbullah, in 2006, was a different kind of enemy.  Hizbullah is not a conventional army, like Israel’s former Egyptian or Syrian adversaries, nor is it mostly unconventional, like Hamas.  Hizbullah is a highly evolved militant organization that possesses a deadly combination of conventional and unconventional military capabilities.  The organization also has a robust political wing that operates independently and within the Lebanese government.  Israel did not anticipate the strengths and capabilities of this so-called “hybrid” threat; consequently, it went to war overly confident that it could vanquish its enemy, who, as it discovered, was far more tenacious and capable than anticipated. 

Israel’s third assumption during the lead-up to the 2006 Lebanon War was that its military was ready for war with Hizbullah.  On the eve of the conflict, Israeli Army personnel had little to no training or experience fighting an enemy as disciplined and capable as Hizbullah.  After the 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon, the IDF focused on combating undisciplined, low-tech Palestinian militant groups.  These militants, unlike Hizbullah, generally operate in small, lightly armed squads (about a dozen men) and lack formal military training.  A typical Israeli Army unit could easily outgun and outmaneuver most Palestinian militants.  Hizbullah fighters, on the other hand, are well equipped and trained in modern infantry and guerilla tactics.  By focusing their attention on Palestinian militants, Israeli soldiers became increasingly unprepared for combat against larger more disciplined enemies.  Tank crews, for instance, had little or no experience operating their vehicles in open land combat.  Many crews had spent more time as riflemen on foot patrol than they did inside their vehicles; and when they did fight inside vehicles, they operated more like pillboxes or armored bulldozers.  Without proper training and experience, Israeli tank crews were unprepared for combat inside their tanks while operating in open terrain that required large, complex maneuvers.

The combat effectiveness of Israeli brigade and division level units also suffered from the post-2000 shift in priorities.  Beginning in 2000, the IDF focused its training on small skirmishes and policing missions, not large combined arms battles.  Because of this shift, few brigade and division commanders had significant training or experience commanding large units in training environments or in the real world.  The interwar focus on low intensity conflicts, which was necessary for confronting Hamas and similar groups, reduced the IDF from the formidable conventional fighting force that it was in the 20th century to an organization that was best suited for stability operations.  The IDF, essentially, had lost its ability to conduct effective full spectrum operations.   

In terms of equipment, Israel was also unprepared for war against Hizbullah.  During Hizbullah’s insurgency against the IDF in the 1990s, the Israelis had two distinct advantages over the militants: heavy armor and airpower.  Hizbullah understood that withstanding a future Israeli assault meant countering these two advantages.  In the interwar years, Hizbullah addressed its disadvantage by purchasing advanced anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) that were manufactured by Russia and, in some cases, the United States (wire-guided TOW missiles).  Armed with these advanced weapons, Hizbullah militants gained the ability to destroy any Israeli armored vehicle, including the Merkhava main battle tank (MBT)—the heaviest tank in the Israeli arsenal and, arguably, the best in the world.  To counteract ATGMs, tanks require reactive armor plating, which are armored plates that cover the outside of a tank.  These plates explode off a tank as the heat of the incoming missile approaches, destroying or deflecting the threat before impact.  Reactive armor plating is especially effective against ATGM fire.  Unfortunately, for the IDF, the Israeli government decided against purchasing newer reactive armor plating.  Without this plating, Israeli tanks and vehicles were extremely vulnerable to Hizbullah’s newly acquired ATGMs.  

To address the challenge of Israeli airpower, Hizbullah engineers constructed intricate, heavily fortified bunkers throughout the rolling hills and rocky ridges of southern Lebanon.  From inside bunkers, Hizbullah militants could evade the IAF, store weapons, and move along covered and concealed routes to ambush Israeli ground units.  Although strong, their fortifications could be destroyed.  Bunker-busting bombs, manufactured by the United States and proven effective in Iraq and Afghanistan, were available for the Israelis to purchase.  These weapons, however, had little utility against Palestinian militants—the main focus of Israeli military operations prior to 2006.  Because of this focus on low intensity conflicts, Israel did not stockpile these bombs.  Hizbullah’s construction of fortifications and deployment of ATGMs achieved their desired effects: Israel armor lost its near invulnerability to Hizbullah arms and the influence of Israeli air superiority was diminished. 

Hizbullah was, unlike Israel, highly prepared for war in southern Lebanon.  Its fighters, who lived and operated among the towns that lined the Israeli border, almost craved war.  One fighter reflected on how he and his comrades, in the lead-up to the Israeli ground assault, “were waiting for combat like a man awaits his bride.”[17]  With its fighters willing and enthusiastic for combat, Hizbullah countered the Israeli assault with a defensive strategy that adhered to a simple formula for victory: force a heavy-handed Israeli response, exploit the outcome, and make the conflict untenable for Israeli soldiers and civilians through a relentless rocket assault on northern Israeli.  Forcing a heavy-handed Israeli response meant surviving Israel’s initial aerial onslaught, while maintaining a steady stream of rockets into Israel.  By maintaining the rocket campaign and surviving the aerial assault, Hizbullah likely calculated it could force Israel to mount a ground offensive to stop the rockets and destroy Hizbullah positions.  Once in southern Lebanon, the IDF was entering Hizbullah territory, where the militants could inflict tremendous damage on their enemy from prepared defenses, reducing the morale of the Israeli military, as it did in the 1990s.[18]  Forcing an Israeli ground incursion had the added benefit of reintroducing Israeli soldiers to southern Lebanon, which could rally public support behind Hizbullah, similar to what it did in the 1990s.

Psychological operations were a central element of Hizbullah’s defense against Israel.  Hizbullah’s psychological operations targeted three primary audiences: the Israeli people, the Lebanese people, and the international community.  To influence the Israeli people, Hizbullah relied on its rocket campaign.  Hizbullah planners anticipated that they could reduce Israeli support for the war by making any Israeli victory a pyrrhic one.  To manipulate Lebanese public opinion, which the Israelis were trying to influence through firepower, Hizbullah relied on its extensive social services networks and media outlets.  Its social services networks would care for civilian victims of the war and its media network would spread propaganda over the airwaves.  To influence the international community, Hizbullah would broadcast images of death and destruction caused by the Israeli military strikes.  These images could engender sympathy for Hizbullah and outrage against Israel, especially in the Muslim world, where Israel was already extremely unpopular. 

South of the Litani River, Hizbullah’s 2,000 to 3,000 fighters fell under three sector commands.[19]  Within these commands, Hizbullah commanders oversaw the construction of an intricate and concealed bunker system that gave Hizbullah defense in-depth.  Operating in this manner ensured Hizbullah’s enemies came under persistent fire and observation while in southern Lebanon.  It also avoided concentrating forces that Israel could strike with its superior firepower.  These bunkers also utilized the terrain to their advantage.  Hizbullah engineers positioned many of their bunkers along ridgelines that overlook the exposed routes that the Israelis had to traverse to invade southern Lebanon.  These tactically important positions allowed the entrenched militants to track Israeli ground and air movements, anticipate their intentions, and set up improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ambushes along their routes.  Using these commanding views, forward observers could track approaching Israeli columns and call in accurate mortar fire.[20]  Coordinating the defense was a network of advanced aboveground and underground command and control centers that Hizbullah’s Iranian allies helped build, staff, and maintain.[21]  Due to Hizbullah’s superior knowledge of the terrain and highly prepared defensive positions, the Israeli invasion force in southern Lebanon faced a daunting gauntlet of coordinated ambushes, artillery attacks, and IEDs.

Since the 1990s, Hizbullah has cultivated strong support in Lebanon, especially in the southern Shia areas.  This support has enabled Hizbullah to build a strong political and military organization.  Politically, Hizbullah used their support in southern Lebanon to increase its power and influence on the national level.  Militarily, the organization gained a sympathetic population to operate amongst during confrontations with Israel.  With strong popular support, militants defending the towns and villages of southern Lebanon can blend in among civilians and attacked when and where they please.  Hizbullah has also integrated its command centers, weapons depots, and rocket systems into towns and homes of its supporters.  For instance, to conceal their rockets systems, militants installed the launchers and stored the rockets in homes of civilian supporters.  When it was time to launch, the operators knocked down a false wall, firing the rocket from inside the house.[22]  This tactic had the added benefit of limiting the IDF from striking most launch sites, given the difficulty in detecting the systems that remained concealed from aerial observation under the roofs of the houses.  At the same time, striking these rockets within civilian houses, risked producing collateral damage that Hizbullah could then exploit in their psychological operations campaign.[23]  Having strong civilian support and excellent knowledge and utilization of the terrain enabled Hizbullah to set up excellent defenses in southern Lebanon that played a crucial role in delaying and bleeding the Israeli advance in 2006.

Without the proper training and preparations for a war with Hizbullah, without critical technologies, and without a realistic set of objectives, Israel went to war against Hizbullah unprepared.  Hizbullah, although its leaders did not anticipate the scale of the Israeli retaliation for the 12 July raid, was more prepared than Israel.  Throughout the 2000s, Hizbullah focused on how to fight Israel, as evidenced by its extensive bunker networks, acquisition of advanced weaponry to counter Israelis military advantages, and their strong ties with the people of southern Lebanon.  Also working in Hizbullah’s favor was the fact that the stakes in the war were much higher for them than for Israel.  Defeat for Hizbullah could have resulted in the total destruction of their military wing, reduced influence in the Lebanese government, and the reoccupation of their land by Israeli troops.  For Israel, on the other hand, defeat essentially meant the return to the status quo of the previous six years.  Because the stakes were higher for Hizbullah, it could muster a stronger will to combat than Israel.  Hizbullah’s high will to combat meant Israel’s vision of dismantling the organization quickly was highly unrealistic, for they lacked the necessary political willpower to achieve these objectives—objectives that would that require far more time and blood than Israel was willing to expend.   

[1] Nicholas Blanford, Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty Year Struggle with Israel, (New York: Random House, 2011), 375.

[2] Ibid., 377.

[3] Matt M. Matthews, We Were Caught Unprepared: The 2006 Hizbullah-Israeli War, (Fort Leavenworth: U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Combat Studies Institute Press, 2007) , 34.

[4] Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, 34 Days: Israel, Hizbullah, and the War in Lebanon (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006), 4.

[5] Robert Baer, The Devil We Know (New York: Random House, 2008), 96.

[6] Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007), 258.

[7] Baer, The Devil We Know, 200.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Dani Berkovich, “Hizbollah’s Primary Agent of Change: The Role of the Lebanese Army,” Strategic

Assessment 9, no. 3 (November 2006).

[10] Amir Kulick, “The Next War with Hizbollah,” Strategic Assessment 10, no. 3 (December 2007).

[11] Evan Montgomery and Stacie L. Pettyjohn, “Democratization, Instability, and War: Israel's 2006 Conflicts with Hamas and Hizbullah,” Security Studies 19, no. 3 (2010), 547.

[12] Dov Waxman, “Between Victory and Defeat: Israel after the War with Hizballah,” Washington

Quarterly 30, no. 1 (Winter 2006/07), 29–31.

[13] Daniel Byman, A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 252.

[14] Matthews, “We Were Caught Unprepared,” 23.

[15] Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 139.

 [16] Ibid.

[17] Thanassis Cambanis, A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War with Israel (New York: Free Press, 2010), 31. 

[18] Ibid.

[19] Matthews, “We Were Caught Unprepared,” 19-21.

[20] Ibid., 18.

[21] Ibid.

 [22] Harel, 34 Days, 40.

[23] Ibid. 


About the Author(s)

Andrew Chadwick is an Army ROTC cadet at the University of Maryland in College Park, where he also studies Military History.  In May 2013, CDT Chadwick will commission as an officer in the Army Reserves. Cadet Chadwick holds an MA in International Security from the University of Denver and a BA in Political Science from the University of Saint Mary.  CDT Chadwick previously served two years in the Maryland Army National Guard as a Combat Engineer. 



Tue, 08/26/2014 - 11:27am

In reply to by SpookyAction

Sorry for the late response. Thanks for the comments. I am not sure if you needed to be so insulting about "my poor reserach;" but that's your opinion and you are entitlted to it. I would also encourage you to read the second part of this article (…), which touches on some of your points.

In regards to your comments:

1. I think that I am pretty clear that Israel targeted civilian infastructure during this war. I wouldn't say they were indiscriminatly bombing. Bombs are expensive and they focused their attacks on civilian infastructure that had dual use (bridges, airports, etc.) and on Hizbullah political and miltiary infastructure, which, as I note, were located in populated areas, causing tremendous collateral damage.

2. Regarding Hizbullah hiding among the civilian population: of course, they hid in civilian buildings to avoid detection. That is one of the main ways they avoided detection by Israeli aircraft. It is a smart tactic for gaining cover and concealement; and all guerilla-like fighters do the same thing.

3. Regarding attacks on civilian vehicles: I think I am pretty clear that the IAF did strike civilian vehicles in southern Lebanon. Not sure why you are criticizing me on this point.

4. Regarding Israel being outnumbered in previous wars: Fair point, when I wrote this two years ago I was less informed on the subject matter. The IDF did have quantatitve superiority many times during its past wars.

5. Regarding my use of the "Disputed Territories": I used this term to try to be ideologically neutral. Over the past two years, I have learned that there is no way to be ideologically neutral on this subject.

Thanks again for the comments. I would encourage you to be less insulting in the future, as it doesn't always facilitate productive debate. But I understand that the Israel-Palestine conflict engenders deep anger and anxieties among those who have been directly or indirectly affected by it.

Have a nice day!


Thu, 05/22/2014 - 3:30pm


You are correct in asserting that one of Israel's main objectives was to erode popular support for Hizbullah. However, you failed to mention how it went about trying to achieve this objective. It did so by indiscriminately bombing civilians and civilian infrastructure in hopes that they would turn against Hizbollah and blame the organization for all the destruction. Israel's Defense Minister was surprisingly candid about this: "If the soldiers are not returned, we will turn Lebanon’s clock back 20 years...Nothing is safe in Lebanon, it’s as simple as that.”

You go on to claim that a key tactic of Hizbullah was to hide among the civilian population. Well, Human Rights Watch--notoriously reluctant to criticize Israel--put out a report a few weeks into the war. It concluded that:

“In dozens of attacks, Israeli forces struck an area with no apparent military target… Israel repeatedly attacked both individual vehicles and entire convoys of civilians who heeded the Israeli warnings [to abandon their villages]”...They also attacked “humanitarian convoys and ambulances” that were “clearly marked"...None "of the attacks on vehicles…resulted in Hezbollah casualties or the destruction of weapons.”

Crucially, the report goes on to say, “no cases [were found] in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack.” Not a single case.

Finally, among other fabrications, you claim that "Three times in the past, Israel’s small disciplined military, withstood the combined power of nearly the entire Arab world." This is laughable to any student of history that has a respect for the truth. In all of its wars of aggression, including its ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948, the Zionist forces not only outnumbered their feeble Arab foes, but they were far better trained and equipped.

I understand this is late, but I just came across this article and had to comment on how poorly researched it was.


P.S. The West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip are not "disputed territories," they are internationally recognized as Occupied Palestinian Territory.


Tue, 09/11/2012 - 1:58pm

In reply to by Mark Pyruz


Thanks for the input; the early days of Hizbullah are still a bit murky for me. Regarding your second point, I understand it was in response to the abduction and killing. However, was this not part of a larger strategy for Iran to extend its power and influence beyond its borders--a strategy that continues today.

Mark Pyruz

Tue, 09/11/2012 - 10:11am

Much is missing in this piece, towards which I'll offer but a few items to assist the cadet:

1) From the point of view of Hezbollah, the raid was intended to snatch captives in an effort towards a prisoner exchange with Israel, The Israelis held over a thousand Lebanese prisoners from the occupation of Lebanaon, hence the name of the operation, "Truthful Promise." This tit-for-tat raiding between the two sides had been a cycle for some time. The Cadet would do well to read Professor Norton's piece, "Hezbollah".

2) The actual catalyst for Iranian intervention in Lebanon was the abduction and killing of Iranian diplomats in Beirut. Even so, Khomeini had to be talked into the intervention, being reluctant to do so in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war.

3) Going back to the initial Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, initially the Lebanese Shia population were glad to see the Palestinians retreat away from their territory, and there was actually a level of goodwill. However the Israeli military occupation was so brutal and contemptuous of the Lebanese Shia population, the result has been an ever more capable resistance that continues to this day.