In Iraq and Afghanistan, the "Coalition's"
defeats continue slowly to unroll. In Lebanon, it appears Hezbollah may win
not only at the moral and mental, strategic and operational levels, but, astonishingly,
at the physical and tactical levels as well. That outcome remains uncertain,
but the fact that it is possible portends a revolutionary reassessment of what
Fourth Generation forces can accomplish. If it actually happens, the walls of
the temple that is the state system will be shaken worldwide.
One pointer to a shift in the tactical balance is the comparative casualty
to the Associated Press, as of this writing Lebanese dead total at least
715, of whom 628 are civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers (who, at least officially,
are not in the fight), and only 58 Hezbollah fighters. So Israel, with its American-style
hi-tech "precision weaponry," has killed 10 times as many innocents
as enemies. In contrast, of 120 Israeli dead, 82 are soldiers and only 38 civilians,
despite the fact that Hezbollah's rockets are anything but precise (think Congreves).
Israel can hit anything it can target, but against a Fourth Generation enemy,
it can target very little. The result not only points to a battlefield change
of some significance, it also raises the question of who is the real "terrorist."
Terror bombing by aircraft is still terror.
Understandably, these events keep Americans focused on the places where the
fighting is taking place. But more important developments may be occurring on
the flanks, largely unnoticed. An analysis piece in the Sunday Cleveland
Plain Dealer by Sally Buzbee of AP notes,
"Anger toward America is high, extremists are on the upswing, and hopes
for democracy in the Middle East lie dashed. …
"'America, we hate you more than ever,' Ammar Ali Hassan wrote in the
independent Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm, in the kind of visceral,
slap-in-the-face rhetoric boiling across the region. …
"Even many Arab reformers now believe the United States cares more
about supporting Israel than anything else, including democracy."
Egypt is one of the three centers of gravity of America's position in the
Middle East, the others being Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. An article by Michael
Slackman in the Sunday New York Times suggests that Egyptians' anger
is turning on their own government:
"For decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict provided presidents, kings,
emirs, and dictators of the region with a safety valve for public frustration.
"That valve no longer appears to be working in Egypt. …
"'The regular man on the street is beginning to connect everything
together,' said Mr. [Kamal] Khalil, the director of the Center for Socialist
Studies in Cairo. 'The regime impairing his livelihood is the same regime that
is oppressing his freedom and the same regime that is colluding with Zionism
and American hegemony.'"
Today, in an interview with the BBC, Jordan's King Abdullah warned that
the map of the Middle East is becoming unrecognizable and its future appears
Washington, which in its hubris ignores both its friends and its enemies,
refusing to talk to the latter or listen to the former, does not grasp that
if the flanks collapse, it is the end of our adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is also, in a slightly longer time frame, the end of Israel. No Crusader
state survives forever, and in the long term Israel's existence depends on arriving
at some sort of modus vivendi with the region. The replacement of Mubarak,
King Abdullah, and the House of Saud with the Muslim Brotherhood would make
that possibility fade.
To the region, America's apparently unconditional and unbounded support
for Israel and its occupation of Iraq are part of the same picture. For a military
historian, the question arises: will history see Iraq as America's Stalingrad?
If we kick the analogy up a couple of levels, to the strategic and grand strategic,
there are parallels. Both the German and the American armies were able largely
to take, but not hold, the objective. Both had too few troops. Both Berlin and
Washington underestimated their enemy's ability to counterattack. Both committed
resources they needed elsewhere and could not replace to a strategically unimportant
objective. Finally, both entrusted their flanks to weak allies – and to luck.
Let us hope that, unlike Paulus, our commanders know when to get out, regardless of orders from a
leader who will not recognize reality.