Threatening War Crimes or Good Solid Deterence?

Did Israel commit war crimes in the 2006 war vs Hezbollah? Sure.  Might threatening to commit war crimes in any  future confrontation be smart deterence theory?  Absolutely.  This seems to be exactly what they are doing:

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel will use “disproportionate force” if Hezbollah guerrillas attack Israel, a senior military commander said in published comments Friday, adding that any village used to fire missiles against the Jewish state will be destroyed.

 Maj. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who commands forces along Israel’s northern border, issued a similar threat against Syria.

Eizenkot said Israel would show no mercy on Lebanese villages that harbor Hezbollah fighters. Israel has repeatedly complained that Hezbollah fighters used residential areas for cover, limiting Israel’s ability to respond.

Eizenkot stressed that this is “not a recommendation,” but a plan approved by the highest levels. “If fire is carried out from Shiite villages in Lebanon, this is the operational plan: Very aggressive fire.”

He said Israel would use what he called the “Dahiya doctrine,” a reference to the southern suburbs of Beirut where Hezbollah’s headquarters are located. During the 2006 war, Israel destroyed dozens of buildings in Dahiya, including the offices of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

“What happened in the Dahiya quarter in Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired upon. We will apply disproportionate force upon it and cause great damage and destruction there,” he said. “From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”

Let me be clear: I am not condoning war crimes.  But this is a smart strategy for Israel.  Here is the strategic reality:  Hezbollah has no ability to engage in s offensive operations against Israel.  Or, put it this way, they don’t have the ability to “liberate” a single inch of land.  The best they can hope for is to conduct provocative small scale attacks to bait Israel into entering South Lebanon where it can sit back and fight defensive guerrilla war which neutralizes to some extent Israel’s tactical advantage.  So for Israel the status quo is just fine.  And if by making these threats they scare Hezbollah or make it clear that the material price of any future attack against Israel is going to be so high, then this is very smart  nicely executed deterence theory in practice.

2 Responses

  1. Status quo is fine for Hezbollah too, right? They have a seat in govt, they’re the strongest military power in Lebanon, why would they risk that to fight Israel and not gain anything?

  2. agreed.

    I think we could say in both theory and practice Israel is happy with the status quo. So threatening to blow up every village in South Lebanon is smart if thats what it takes for Hezbollah to not get tempted to do any future kidnapping ops

    I think in practice we can say HB is happy with the status quo.

    In theory maybe less so. Because in theory they are dedicated to the destruction of Israel. And after their big “victory” last July there are probably some voices whispering in the ear saying “man we gotta follow up on that” like maybe kidnapp more soldiers or something like that. If they really think they won a strategic victory as do 99% of people in the Middle East, then who knows, maybe they get overconfident and make a miscalulation. It also doesnt have to be an officially sanctioned operation. Maybe some low level guys near the border cause an incident. For example, A few weeks ago a 19 year old HB guy shot at a Lebanese Army helicopter- obviously this wasnt a group-sanctioned operation. If everyone in Hezbollah knows that any ops against Israel are going to led to the destruction of huge chunks of S. Leb that might help lessen the temptations.

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