Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Net War in Lebanon

This is coming a couple of days late (thanks to my "baseball break"), but Thom Shanker had an interesting piece in the New York Times on Sunday concerning Hezbollah's strategy in the current conflict in Lebanon. Shanker writes:

Certain that other terrorists are learning from Hezbollah's successes, the United States is studying the conflict closely for lessons to apply to its own wars. Military planners suggest that the Pentagon take a page out of Hezbollah's book about small-unit, agile operations as it battles insurgents and cells in Iraq and Afghanistan and plans for countering more cells and their state sponsors across the Middle East and in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

He notes that Hezbollah's strategy of dispersing its forces (including some 12,000 rockets) and relying on small units is one that "pits finders against hiders and favors the hiders." It is also, according to Shanker's Pentagon sources, a strategy that Iran, which trained Hezbollah, might adopt if it were attacked.

How can the United States (or any traditional military power) deal with net war? Shanker offers no solutions, but he indicates that diplomacy must be part of the mix. He concludes, in fact, with this advice from an unnamed expert:

"Most critically, we have to get better at--it's such a cliché--winning hearts and minds," said a military officer working on counterinsurgency issues. "That is influencing neutral populations toward supporting us and not supporting our terrorist and insurgent enemies."