Rowan Scarborough writes today in the Washington Times that American military and intelligence officials believe that Israel’s claim to have destroyed as much as 50% of Hezbollah’s military capability is overstated:
War planners are finding that much of Hezbollah’s firepower is hidden in hard-to-hit bunkers, tunnels or civilian neighborhoods, or is being spirited away in trucks after rockets are launched.
The problem for Israel is, there are limits to air wars and there are missions that only ground troops can carry out. Aerial bombardment cannot get at all targets, or verify damage. That is one reason Israel is contemplating a limited invasion to clear out bunkers and create a buffer zone free of Hezbollah rockets.
I think that’s probably right. A lot of recent experience has shown that bombing, no matter how skillfully done, is relatively ineffective at taking out specific micro-targets. The only way to really clear Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon is with ground troops, which I think Israel is implicitly acknowledging by preparing to launch a ground attack within a matter of days, if not sooner.
One obvious problem is that, given what we now know about the range of Hezbollah’s rockets, driving the terrorists out of southern Lebanon isn’t good enough unless you assume that Lebanon’s government can deal with the terrorists if they are elsewhere in the country. Why that should be true, however, isn’t clear.