We just had the usual late spring three day national exercise where one day they hold coast to mountains, north to south siren head for the shelters practice scenarios. Then there was the news that the IDF and emergency services were practicing for a potential and unprecedented assault where thousands of rockets would be launched in mass swarms with as many as a thousand rockets per wave, something well beyond anything that the Iron Dome with even every other system assisting could ever be hoped to prevent. The estimates were that under such an assault there could be as many as four-thousand deaths and untold casualties in the first few days. Where such news stories likely unnerved a great number of those reading them, I had been feeling something was amiss and even mentioned that to people after the practice shelter runs just seemed eerily more like a premonition than a practice session. The claims is that Iran is planning this little warm welcome by arming Hezballah in Lebanon with more rockets than they would likely be capable of launching even if given free range to do so for two to three weeks. Then they are also attempting to set up a secondary strike location near the Golan Heights likely to strike the IDF forces guarding that front and potentially also giving the Iron Dome and other anti-missile systems a second set of angles to compute on their intercepts. Perhaps that explains the serious tautness permeating the air making each breath full of the tensions strangling the very oxygen needed for life itself.
Will these feelings really be a true forecast of what is to come later this summer or just a case of the nerves which will be remembered with great laughter at my expense. I will welcome the humbling experience but then again there are many other threats which could also make life less enjoyable here in Israel. Fortunately the BDS people have not succeeded to any great extent outside the university and college campuses despite the great dilemmas and threats of the past few weeks with the FIFA affair and the Orange CEO misfire and retractions followed by repeated apologies and protestations of great affection for and loyalty to providing service in Israel. Meanwhile, it appears that the crisis of upsetting the Israeli public was far more concerning than any threat from the BDS crowd whose loud screaming has proven to be unnerving but eventually harmless and without any real harm if ignored. Still, the initial reaction from the CEO of Orange could prove troubling should other CEOs prove to be anywhere near as panicked as the Orange executive then Israel might end up facing some difficulties but also should these companies have such easily spooked in response to empty threats CEOs then perhaps they should find a new CEO made of sterner stuff. But the BDS is a mostly empty threat while Iran is a very real threat with great complications.
The main complication is what should Israel do if they realize that an attack is imminent from Iran, strike at Iran in a preemptive strike to prevent what would be an existential threat to Israeli existence and risk President Obama leading the charge in the United Nations Security Council to destroy Israel by referring them to the International Court of Justice at the Hague for attacking another United Nations member nation with the American President believing the Iranian claims that they had no such attack planned and Israel really was the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East and even the entire world. The following destructive actions from the United States, European Union, United Nations, and the international court systems which could result in a majority of nations recalling their ambassadors and closure of the Israeli Embassies in their nations and even the United Nations might eject Israel and cancel the United Nations Resolution which was theoretically the reason Israel became a nation. The fact that the United Nations and the world’s nations turning against Israel could not actually have any effects on the fact that Israel is a nation as Israel meets the requirements that define a nation so despite whatever actions the rest of the world might decide to take, Israel would remain a nation unless overrun by the nations of the world as revenge for their perceived unprovoked attack on Iran, though that is also highly unlikely.
Where, in all reality, an assault out of Iran is unlikely at this time, an assault from out of Syria coordinated with Hezballah in Lebanon as well as assisting in the Syrian assault as the last hurrah attempting to gain allies to assist Bashir al-Assad as his position has become more untenable with every passing week and it is rapidly becoming desperation time where any possible hope will be attempted no matter how far-fetched or remote the probability for success. An assault on Israel, especially one which leaves Israel sufficiently hurt that Assad can claim that he has accomplished what the rest of the Arab world has failed in achieving, making Israel reel from the damages of a swarm rocket attack, as swarm attacks are the known Iranian tactic for overwhelming opponents hoping for marginal success, would the world finally back an Israel equivalent strike to prevent similar follow on attacks or turn on Israel claiming the tired accusation of disproportionate response, as they are want to do. The possibility that such an attempt would assist Assad in any way shape or form is ludicrous and would only result in an assault by Israel on the areas of Lebanon controlled by Hezballah to wipe out every possible missile and rocket storage areas and launchers and also destroy every last possible Hezballah base, training area, bunkers, tunnel systems and any other assets that Israeli intelligence has identified. There will be the unfortunate necessity to strike the storage and launch sites in southern Lebanon which are largely below the Litani River, an area which the United Nations forces in Lebanon, UNIFIL, were supposed to prevent Hezballah from rearming and rebuilding their infrastructure according to United Nations Resolution 1701 which brought the last Lebanon War to an end. Unfortunately the UNFIL forces have had great difficulty and quickly simply gave up and refused to risk any confrontation while the European UNIFIL troops simply took their equipment and returned to Europe refusing to assist claiming the risk was too great and the potential for success too low, and there even have been those seen to aid Hezballah in their operations in southern Lebanon. This has allowed Hezballah to place launchers and missiles and rockets in virtually every civilian structure including schools, apartments, homes, hospitals and virtually every other structure imaginable. The intents of Hezballah is exactly the same intent Israel experienced last summer during Operation Protective Edge where Hamas fired the majority of their rockets from next to the same exact types of buildings and had their underground bunkers beneath hospitals and schools in attempts to maximize the civilian casualties in order to generate as much bad media coverage as possible.
Hamas also understood that Israeli missile defense and the fact that Israelis have shelters built into most buildings with them required in every new apartment, each apartment and not just the building, and in every newly build office building and retrofit being completed on most older buildings and many schools have been fortified to resist rocket fire; this the Israelis would be vastly more protected and thus the Israeli emphasis on life would serve to minimize Israeli casualties while in Gaza the Hamas efforts would intentionally cause excessive casualties amongst the civilians even making many levels higher directly caused by the overt Hamas efforts. They used this disparity and the media jumped at the reports basically asking over and over again how come there are so few Israeli casualties while there are reportedly thousands of Gazan civilian casualties being reported. There was an interesting finding confirmed by the United Nations investigations that there was almost and even number of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other combatant casualties as there were civilian casualties. The fact that Hamas and Islamic Jihad used the bunker and tunnel systems to keep their fighters as safe as they were able while refusing the civilians any similar access to these areas of safety.
The fact that the IDF attained a virtual 1:1 ratio was unprecedented in modern warfare by any military since the advent of modern warfare. World War I was the last war where civilian casualties were appreciably lower than civilian casualties having a ratio of 2:3 of civilians to combatants killed. World War II had a ratio of 2:1 civilians to combatants killed while the Korean War had a ratio of 2:1 civilians to combatants as well. The Viet Nam war numbers are very controversial and range in ratios of civilians to combatants from 1:3 or 1:1 or the more similar to previous wars of 2:1. The two Chechen Wars had ratios of 10:1 in the first war and over 4:1 in the second with a total of approximately 7:1. The NATO war in Yugoslavia had a 4:1 ratio of civilians to combatants. The Iraq War produced a ratio of well over 4:1 civilians to combatants by the numbers estimated by the Iraqi figures and 1:2 civilians to combatants by Coalition numbers, a case of believe whomever you like. The winner for most contested numbers as well as estimated worst numbers was the totality of the drone warfare by the United States in Pakistan. The United States claims that the total number of civilians killed during the past two years was a total of twenty to thirty civilians against numbers approaching between five-hundred and one-thousand militants and terrorists. Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution estimated a ratio of 10:1 as being much closer to the truth. The reported worst ratio ever reported for a single strike, thus the worst possible example and should be taken as such and not an actual comment but more as an example how in modern warfare a single attack can go so absolutely wrong. The report was from the British paper the Guardian which reported, “On 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children.” This single attack produced a civilian to combatant ratio of 128:1, fortunately this worst case scenario has had no similar such tragedies as far as we could ascertain.
What this whole discussion about ratios of civilian to combatant was simply to put into perspective the fact that the IDF conducts itself with the restraint and discipline often recalled in military training as control of fire, the confirming of targets and assuring that the long field of fire is free of noncombatants thus minimizing the harm to noncombatants. What people need to realize that in warfare where if you do not eliminate an enemy combatant whence you have the opportunity then you are risking the lives of many of your fellow soldiers and potentially to yourself. Should a Hamas, Islamic Jihad or other terror combatant in Gaza present themselves as a target believing that no Israeli would ever shoot them because they have strapped two young children to their chest hiding their torso from being viable targets due to the children he has unmercifully and illegally as such is a grievous breach of the rules of warfare, but these are terrorists who have a sizeable disregard for the rules of war. They should understand one of numerous rules of war that states that should a combatant utilize a protected building, item or person to protect their position or person, then that protected building, item or person is no longer protected and can be determined as a legitimate target if not shooting the target otherwise protected item to remove the combatant and end the threat of the actual target, such as permissible providing no other alternative is available. Thus far there have been no reports where any IDF soldier had targeted any combatant terrorist who has thusly protected themselves unless they were positive that they had a shot which they confidently could make without causing undue threat to the innocent children beyond the horrors they are already experiencing. Simply put, there have been incidents where trained snipers were embedded in combat units and took such shots usually targeting the combatant’s head thus causing the innocents no harm and possibly saving their lives.
The one item we can be assured of is that should Hezballah begin raining rockets, mortars, artillery rounds and missiles into Israel and largely targeting civilian areas with approaching one-thousand-two-hundred or more which would overwhelm even the extremely effective Iron Dome systems and the other systems developed to augment Iron Dome providing a layered defense system, but even such would never be capable, as neither would any other earthly system, of intercepting such a volume of projectiles. The only way to prevent such a threat would be to blanket style attack taking out every potential asset Hezballah has destroying their arsenal in place in both Lebanon and Syria. There would be no viable alternative and do not even go down that blind alley known as the United Nations which will be screaming for Israel to practice restraint and not escalate the threats and violence. And if Israel should actually listen and scale back her response leaving the vast majority of the Hezballah weapons systems intact then who will prevent Hezballah from launching another thousand-plus projectiles on day two then once again there would be the United Nations which will be screaming for Israel to practice restraint and not escalate the threats and violence. Then the third day after Israel called off a night of horrific raids destroying everything they know where it exists using the most accurate munitions in the Israeli arsenal leading to yet another day of approaching or exceeding a thousand projectiles followed immediately by the United Nations which will be screaming for Israel to practice restraint and not escalate the threats and violence. Hezballah is reputed to have over one-hundred-thousand rockets and missiles and this does not include artillery rounds or mortar rounds. This means that Hezballah would be capable of continuing such thousand rockets and missiles for over three months as they would have sufficient to last at least one-hundred days before requiring any restocking by Iran.
The threatening reality is that Iran is currently resupplying Hezballah ahead of any conflict and by the time they pull the covers off the launchers and launching the rockets and missiles while all the time the United Nations which will be screaming for Israel to practice restraint and not escalate the threats and violence. I realize the United Nations reference might be getting a little repetitious but just realize how the Israelis feel when we are always told to show restraint as it must be permissible to target Israelis even though only about three out of four Israelis are Jews. We heard the complaints during last summer’s war with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and friends where reporter after reporter would ask why there were so many Gazan civilian deaths and virtually no Israeli civilian casualties. If my memory serves me correctly there was one reporter at least who slipped up and instead of saying Gazans and Israelis but instead stated there were vastly more Arab casualties than Jewish casualties and it begs the questions as to where are the dead Jews in comparable numbers to the Arab deaths in Gaza. He likely stated it the way many others also saw the conflict as so many Arab dead and almost not even a single dead Jew.
We can only guess how many were thinking where were the dead Jews in significant numbers despite their knowledge of the extents that the Israeli government and construction companies have gone to fortify safe areas in order to prevent Israeli casualties, Jewish, Arab, Christians, Muslims (yes Israeli Muslims and perhaps one should ask how many Jews are allowed in Arab Palestinian areas), Baha’I and others all living in some degree of terror during the war last summer and would be just as terrorized should the potential warfare that Iran and Nasrallah has hinted awaits Israel, if not more so. The real problem is if the signals from Iran are anywhere near accurate, there might also be another front opened up from out of Gaza initiated by Hamas and coordinated with Islamic Jihad and the other forces which Iran has kept on their payrolls. The real fear is if any warfare this summer should turn into a full-scale and all-out war with far more than the Iranian allies with potentially Turkey adding their forces as well as Iraq and who knows who else. My prayers are for nobody to be even frightened this summer because no violence or threats of violence beyond that we have already heard. May peace grace the hot and hazy days of summer.
Beyond the Cusp