Lebanese “Reliability” and the IDF-Hezbollah War

It’s not often that I link CNN.  I’m still pissed about Kristian Amanpour lying through her teeth on-air during the Balkan War.  You know, when they shot down the F-117, and picked up the Serbian broadcast… “We’re not allowed to tell you where this is,” was the word coming out of my t.v., as if they were somehow sneaking around like news-ninjas.  In actuality, the words “Novi Sad” were clearly written in Cyrillic at the bottom of the screen.  The supposed hush-hush was simply their sad way of trying to conceal the staggeringly poor quality of their coverage.

But this is a good link.  It shows something that you also saw during the Balkan Wars.  I remember a cease-fire being described to me, between some Croats and Serbs… on the sly, because the weather was just bad enough that they had an excuse not to be fighting.  This was important, because that kept the Chetniks (Serb extremists) from shelling their own people for cowardice, etc.  So they exchanged booze and cigarettes (which became the source of several jokes, as the cigarettes were “Croatia” brand.)

And lest any of my readers start to go off on the Serbs — don’t.  The Serbs *invented* what we now call the “color revolutions.”  They figured out how to chuck a dictator out on his ass without the benefit of having any bullets.  (Pity, the tyrants have figured out how to counter that move, but it was nice while it lasted, and there are literally millions around the world in historical debt to the Serbians for coming up with it.) Yes, the Chetniks suck.  But even they had a historical case to make, and had Milosevic not been playing them like a fiddle, they could have made a much more successful version of it peacefully.

Similarly for WWI, any military historian can tell you about “tea time artillery,” and the steps that the sane contingents of the French and Germans — plunged into a war each side theoretically wanted to win, but about which the average German or Frenchman had no say and little stake — took to make sure nobody got hurt while looking they were fighting each other.  You had to put up a convincing show so that some starry-eyed officer or bloodthirsty former university student didn’t wind up getting you hanged.

The troops at Marjeyoun had no skin in the game.  They don’t want to be there, any more than the sane contingents of the Serbs did.  Any more than the green-grocer from Marseilles had anything against the machinist from Rostock.

The pendulum is now swinging away from the 19th and 20th-century total war invented by General “leave them nothing but the tears in their eyes” Sherman, and honed afterwards.  Now increasingly, it’s becoming a game of specialists and cadres.  Hezbollah believes. IDF believes.  They’ve got skin in the game, and they want the prize.  The Taliban guys want it.  Our guys hunting them are hungry, too.

The typical dude in Beirut?  No skin in the game.  It’s only his fight if it’s forced upon him.  The typical conscript?  Even less, on a battlefield in which he knows for a fact that he’s meat for the professionals, especially in the middle east, where the brass as often as not treats its conscripts as mobile windbreaks with rifles.  My college paintball team did small-unit tactics, and we had some older gents who were veterans advising us in the process, and teaching us small-unit movement and tactics.  So I have way more training than the average civilian.  And in spite of the fact that we were paid what we considered the ultimate compliment in passing… “not bad.  You guys move like you’re coming out of A school,” me and mine had no illusions about how long we’d last against the real deal.

If we knew we weren’t going to make spec… what about some poor schmuck whose “training” consists of some badly-designed PT, a few days of “point your weapon that way when you pull the trigger,” and getting yelled at a lot in the heat, plus something like half a lesson’s worth of “this is how you keep your weapon clean?”  Well, hell no he’s not going to engage unless he’s got a damned good reason.  He’s a half-assed holding attack at best, like the Yugoslav guys in the late 80s who were manning worn-out T34c’s on the Italian border, expected to survive for fifteen minutes before NATO went over them like a speed bump.

So if the Lebanese government continually says “this ain’t my fight,” then there’s no way they should expect their poorly-equipped, leadership-deprived troops to do anything but salute, agree with them, and serve tea to guys nobody wants to be fighting in the first place.

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