The 2006 Lebanon War:
Lessons Learned



2007 Sarah E. Kreps

From Parameters,  Spring 2007, pp. 72-84.

To critics of airpower, Israel’s 2006 war with Hizballah exposed the fallacy that targeting centers of gravity, such as population, command and control, and infrastructure could coerce the adversary into surrendering, and that airpower could obviate the need for land forces and independently win wars. Given Israel’s unexpected challenges in waging the Lebanon war, airpower and then Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, seen as the overzealous proponent of airpower, became easy targets in after-action reports, criticism that ultimately led to Halutz’s resignation and replacement by Gaby Ashkenazi, a former infantry commander.1 But does the Lebanon war warrant a swing of the strategic pendulum back towards favoring ground forces? What contributed to Israel’s unprecedented military challenges in confronting Hizballah? What are the appropriate strategic lessons to glean from the summer 2006 war in Lebanon?

In examining the Lebanon campaign, this article highlights three weaknesses in the Israeli strategy. First, the Israeli leadership’s faith in airpower as an antiseptic, low-casualty answer for modern warfare clouded the possibility of other strategies that may have been more effective in achieving its objectives. Second, the leadership suffered from the classic “fighting the last war” mentality, internalizing the lessons from a military campaign— namely Kosovo—in which airpower was successful and applying it to an incongruous environment. Third, airpower was ultimately counterproductive against an asymmetric adversary such as Hizballah. By launching mobile katyusha rockets from holy sites and schools, Hizballah virtually ensured that Israel would inflict civilian casualties; through its strategic use of the media,


Hizballah used the collateral damage to intensify support for its ideology and recruitment. In this asymmetric environment, airpower and perhaps military force more generally may be limited in their effectiveness. As this article suggests, only a comprehensive strategy that integrates airpower and military force into a broader political strategy will ultimately bring this type of adversary to its knees.

The Airpower Debate

Proponents and opponents of airpower have debated its use for almost 100 years, taking on both the general utility and applications of airpower compared to ground forces. Soon after the advent of aircraft, and with World War I stagnating in the trenches, General Giulio Douhet of the Italian General Staff saw airpower as the way out of the standstill. He envisioned the use of bombers to render the enemy “useless” by destroying their cities, population, and will to fight; command of the air, Douhet promised, would translate into victory.2 His contemporary, Brigadier General William (Billy) Mitchell, responsible for US air units in France during WWI, shared Douhet’s view though he applied it more judiciously, arguing that if airpower successfully targeted transportation and industry, it could defeat the adversary. Mitchell, like Douhet, tirelessly promoted the view that airpower should transform what he saw as the atavistic reliance on land and sea forces. Both men found their views heavily challenged by senior leaders, and Billy Mitchell’s efforts to prove the value of airpower by sinking German battleships during peacetime (the 1920s) ended with his court-martial and resignation from the military.

The Cold War’s airpower advocates, including Curtis LeMay, chief of Strategic Air Command—responsible for the US bomber and missile-based nuclear arsenal—further cemented the reputation that the use of airpower meant strategic bombers to the exclusion of tactical air and ground support operations, let alone other instruments of power, whether military or diplomatic. Colonel John Warden (USAF Retired) more elegantly conceptualized the logic behind airpower and strategic bombing by defining the adversary’s centers of


gravity and explaining how airpower would cause physical paralysis and eventually lead to the enemy’s resignation.3 Left out of his equation were the tactical applications of airpower, including integration with ground forces; Warden reduced the means of success to the strategic applications of airpower. Then Chief of Staff Halutz, who conducted the Lebanon war, also appears to have bought into the idea that airpower had superseded ground forces as the key to strategic success. In 2001 he asserted that “I maintain that we also have to part with the concept of a land battle. . . . Victory is a matter of consciousness. Airpower affects the adversary’s consciousness significantly.”4 While the universe of airpower proponents is by no means monolithic, and despite the fact that modern airpower doctrine emphasizes combined uses of force rather than airpower as the only decisive instrument, airpower in these absolutist incarnations has been an easy target for its detractors.

Robert Pape authored one of the more substantial criticisms of airpower and strategic bombing, arguing in Bombing to Win that coercion by punishment—that is, targeting population centers and infrastructure and thereby undermining the adversary’s will and commitment to fight—is highly dubious. Rather than leading to the adversary’s concession, as Warden had argued, Pape found that strategic bombing can actually increase the adversary’s resolve, particularly when the source of conflict is contested territory. Given their optimism about coercion by punishment, leaders initiating the attack therefore tend to underestimate the cost and overestimate the likely success. More effective, Pape argued, is coercion by denial, in which friendly forces target the military assets and capabilities that the adversary needs to resist, including the fielded forces themselves. Degrading these assets would hinder the adversary’s ability to carry out its end of the campaign, ultimately leading to its acquiescence.5

While the debates play themselves out during peacetime, they are particularly lively during and immediately following operations that seem to provide supporting or disconfirming evidence for one or the other side. Yet even these empirical measures are hotly debated. For example, the Kosovo war seemed to provide the most sweeping evidence in support of the argument that airpower alone can coerce an adversary and bring about victory. Without the use of any ground forces and with just 78 days of airstrikes, the allied coalition had successfully forced the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, to surrender, leave Kosovo, and accept the Rambouillet Agreement, seemingly providing an overwhelming success story for airpower. Subsequent analyses, however, have suggested that airpower alone was not responsible for the Serbian defeat. Rather, airpower in conjunction with the threat of ground forces, Russian withdrawal of support for Serbia, and the role of the Kosovo Liberation Army, helped bring about an end to the Kosovo war.6


Similarly, the recent Lebanon war may seem to erode the position of airpower and strategic bombing advocates. Analysts on both sides of the Atlantic criticized the reliance on airpower as a way to achieve Israel’s strategic objectives: to “stop the firing of katyusha rockets against Israeli communities and to return the two abducted soldiers to Israel.”7 In a Washington Post article, Phillip Gordon argued that “strategic bombing has almost never worked” and predicted that the Lebanon campaign would chalk another mark in the loss column for airpower.8 Robert Pape mused that “Israel has finally conceded that airpower alone will not defeat Hizballah.”9 On the Israeli side, critics were quick to conclude that overreliance on airpower by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) contributed to Israel’s apparent inability to pummel “a relatively minor terror organization, like Hizballah, operating from the smallest, weakest nation in the region.”10

Airpower did offer an easy scapegoat for Israel’s challenges in the August conflict, since the campaign strategy did rely heavily on strategic bombing to achieve its objectives and the IDF did not ultimately operate as decisively and successfully as many had expected. Results of the first major postwar investigation (the Shomron report) and the nearly concomitant resignation of General Halutz in January 2007 have renewed domestic and international criticism of Israel’s reliance on air power during the conflict.11 But just as the causes of victory in the Kosovo campaign are more textured than a cursory study would indicate, the causes of difficulty in Lebanon are more nuanced than simply arguing that airpower was again a perennial failure.

While airpower did not achieve Israel’s strategic objectives—the two soldiers remain unreturned12 and Hizballah was still launching 100 rockets a day into Israel up until the tenuous UN-sponsored cease-fire—it also was not an abject failure.13 The IDF, operating primarily through its air assets, is thought to have eliminated about 500 of Hizballah’s most advanced fighters, and forced many of the others to evacuate the areas south of the Litani River. Use of airpower did destroy about half of the unused longer-range rockets, and much of Lebanon’s infrastructure—used to resupply Hizballah—was destroyed. After the war, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah indicated that had he understood the degree to which Israel would retaliate, he may have been more cautious about the capture of two Israeli soldiers in the first place, which perhaps suggests that his experiences with the August 2006 conflict will make him more reluctant to push Israel too far in the future.14 In other words, the IDF may have encountered challenges but may also have fought defiantly enough to create a deterrent for future Hizballah aggression, though this claim will only be confirmed or refuted over time.


The Allure of Airpower

That said, Israel encountered unprecedented challenges from Hizballah compared to its previous successes against Arab states in the region for three main reasons. First, Israel military and civilian leaders seem to have been seduced by the idea that airpower generally and strategic bombing specifically could antiseptically win wars and therefore made land warfare “anachronistic.” As General Halutz has argued, “Many air operations were generally implemented without a land force, based on a worldview of Western society’s sensitivity to losses. A land force is not sent into action as long as there is an effective alternative. . . . This obliges us to part with a number of anachronistic assumptions,” including that land forces are a requirement for victory.15 Airpower was thought to provide a low-cost—primarily in terms of casualties—way to defeat the adversary. Israel maintained that it could use stand-off weaponry and inflict sufficient amount of pain on the civilian population to the extent that it would turn its support against Hizballah and create a “local political reaction to Hizballah’s adventurism.”16 According to this vision, airpower could achieve those strategic objectives while exposing the IDF to a much lower risk of casualties than if they were to strive to win with a ground attack, since “there is no ground battle without casualties.”17

The “victory from the air” thesis had gradually gained traction in Israel over the 1980s and 1990s, replacing what one airpower critic has referred to as the “Ben Gurion” model of definitive victory through fierce and bold maneuvering. Israel’s experiences with a costly 18-year occupation of Lebanon after the first Lebanon war had given them pause in terms of deploying ground troops back to the same region.18 Moreover, some observers noted that emphasis on economic stability over state security had also made high-risk strategies, such as those that might involve high casualties, less attractive: “Israeli governments in recent years have been so preoccupied with stoking the economy that they have been reluctant to take the steps necessary to ensure long-term security for fear of spooking the markets.”19 In its place was a mindset in which success and failure were measured by the number of fallen soldiers, which was likely to be higher through the use of ground forces than through airpower. This measure, however, inevitably constrained options available to achieve the state’s objectives. As one Israeli critic noted, “If counting the fallen causes vacillation and indecisiveness, and annihilates ambition to deliver a strategic victory, how could gains become anything but losses, in terms of strategic objectives or loss of life?”20 Ultimately, operational imperatives and domestic preferences operated in different directions. Achieving the objectives called for an approach that integrated more ground forces with the use of airpower, but IDF leadership and domestic preferences


called for a lower casualty strategy, which meant heavier reliance on stand-off approaches such as air raids and launching missiles from afar.

In one incisive after-action analysis, a prominent Israeli columnist sought to identify the cause of the IDF’s challenges: “Usually, the accusation of folly is directed at battle-hungry generals and warmongering politicians. However, at the end of this war, the accusation of folly will be directed at an entire cadre of Israeli opinion-makers and social leaders who lived in a bubble and caused Israel to live in a bubble.” That bubble, he writes, is set off from a reality in which Israel’s survival should have been predicated on its willingness to defend its interests through all necessary means. By fighting through means thought to limit casualties, that is, through an emphasis on stand-off airpower, they compromised their ability to defend themselves. The columnist Ari Shavit concludes that for the Israeli leadership, “Its caution is a recipe for disaster. Its attempt to prevent bloodshed is costing a great deal of bloodshed.”21

The words sound dramatically similar to those of Clausewitz, who offered sage advice on the potential consequences of strategic restraint:

Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst . . . It would be futile—even wrong—to try and shut one’s eyes to what war really is from sheer distress at its brutality.22

The ineffectiveness of such restraint—airpower in the case of Lebanon—presented Israeli military planners with a conundrum, however. What was the optimal course of action in response to a small-scale terrorist attack or in this case troop capture? The question is complicated because using the stand-off, lower-risk strategy of airpower could be ineffective, while ground forces were likely to sustain heavy losses, making that option not palatable domestically or internationally.

Unfortunately, this was the corner into which the Israeli leadership had painted itself. Once it decided to launch a retaliatory strike against Hizballah in exchange for their capture of two Israeli soldiers, its strategic options became limited. While it was incumbent upon the leadership to develop a strategy that would achieve the objectives of retrieving the soldiers and disarming Hizballah, the leadership and domestic audience were unprepared for a land-based strategy that was likely to yield higher casualties. Ari Shavit laments that Israel had become “a country for which not many are willing to kill and be killed.”23 Mentalities that favored economic stability and low civilian casualties constrained options; leaders either needed to adjust that mentality


to accord with reality or perhaps not launch a war unless willing to use the means necessary to win.

Fighting Another Military’s Last War

Second, the Israeli leadership appears to have fallen prey to the “fighting the last war” way of thinking. What reinforced its growing attachment to airpower as an antiseptic way to win wars at low cost was its observations of airpower’s successes in previous campaigns, specifically the Kosovo campaign of 1999. Israeli leaders had “referred to Lebanon as an updated edition of the successful NATO aerial operation in Kosovo in 1999.”24 General Halutz, the chief architect of the IDF’s response in Lebanon, and other senior IDF leaders had observed the Kosovo war, its reliance on airpower, and the apparent connection with a rapid, victorious outcome, and sought to adopt that intervention as a model of strategic behavior.25 Their interpretation of Kosovo as a success story due to airpower reinforced the pre-existing faith in airpower as a decisive tool in combat and reinforced their commitment to its use in future operations.

Under any circumstance, the problem of “fighting the last war” may be detrimental for militaries, since the current or future war may look less like the previous war than planners may think.26 What exacerbated that problem in the case of Lebanon is that the IDF was projecting lessons from a different state or set of states and against a different type of adversary onto a dramatically different setting.

Appropriating the lessons from conflicts such as Kosovo, which had apparently “achieve[d] victory on the cheap via airpower,” proved problematic primarily because the adversary in Lebanon was significantly different from the fight against Milosevic in Kosovo.27 Whereas the Serbians had used more conventional tactics, with some reasonably effective surface-to-air missiles, Hizballah relied on guerilla-style tactics against which airpower had less impact. Unlike the Serbians, for example, Hizballah hid elusive rocket launchers among the civilian population. Not only were the targets difficult to hit using airpower, Hizballah’s tactic of hiding targets among civilians meant that the inevitable casualties fanned the flames of support for Hizballah. Israel might have been beguiled by the low rate of casualties in Kosovo, but it tried to adopt a model that was ill-suited to its own circumstances, and even then adapted it without adding the tool that may have ultimately brought the Serbians to their knees: the threat of massive ground forces. At no time did Israel indicate with any degree of resolve the prospect of introducing large numbers of ground forces. Only the last weekend in the 34-day war did Israel mobilize enough reserves and promise a ground inva-


sion, two days before the international community intervened and imposed a cease-fire under “UN Resolution 1701.”28

The Unique Challenges of Asymmetric Operations

Understanding the implications of fighting the last war leads to the third major lesson from the Lebanon campaign: campaigns against asymmetric adversaries bring with them a unique set of challenges. Many of Israel’s previous military successes had been against Arab state militaries in more conventional force-on-force settings; these militaries had high-value targets worthy of striking, and Israel’s material advantage has consistently translated into high degrees of success, giving Israel “uncontested superiority in the realm of conventional warfare.”29 Campaigns against adversaries such as Hizballah show that having material and technological advantages do not necessarily translate into success on the battlefield, as Hizballah has “managed to reverse decades of Arab military humiliation, surviving the Israeli onslaught” of the 2006 war in Lebanon.30

Paradoxically, perhaps Hizballah’s greatest advantage was that it lacked high-value assets. In that way, they were like other terrorist or insurgent groups, which according to Airpower in Small Wars authors James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, “rarely present lucrative targets for aerial attack, and even more rarely is there ever a chance for airpower to be employed in a strategic bombing campaign or even in attack operations on any large scale.”31 Lacking high-value targets, such as industrial facilities and robust command and control nodes, Israel’s main targets became Hizballah leadership, fielded forces, and weapons, hid among the civilians and difficult to target.

Against these elusive targets, the IDF’s attempt to use long-range bombs and artillery to disarm and defeat Hizballah was intractable, the operational equivalent of finding needles in haystacks. Not only did the IDF have limited success in killing Hizballah leadership and destroying the mobile rocket launchers, but in trying to target the elusive leaders and katyushas, the IDF inevitably contributed to the number of Lebanese civilian casualties.32 Rather than mobilizing the population against Hizballah, the collateral damage seemed to have the opposite effect, rallying and recruiting sympathizers to its side in the fight against Israel.

The Media as a Multiplier Effect

Hizballah’s strategy of using mosques and day care centers as weapons caches or hideouts for leaders meant that targeting those facilities would lead to casualties that looked egregious and disproportional when


portrayed in the media. Hizballah’s savvy use of the media acted as a multiplier effect for its asymmetric advantages. By showcasing the damage in Lebanon and portraying the Israeli attacks against civilians as inhumane, Hizballah was able to generate sympathy for its actions among the Lebanese domestic audience and also internationally. Photographs and video images, sometimes even those that had been manipulated for anti-Israeli effect,33 became a rallying cry for Hizballah individuals in the region and beyond. In addition to the Arabs in the immediate region who were thought to have been fighting alongside Hizballah, the United Nations found evidence that at least 700 Somali Islamic militants traveled to Lebanon to fight against Israel.34 Hizballah played the public relations campaign expertly and was able to use its media successes to recruit hundreds or thousands of foreign fighters. Clearly, Hizballah understood, as al Qaeda’s number two leader has observed, that “more than half of the Islamists’ battle ‘is taking place in the battlefield of the media.’”35

In addition to the individual level support that Hizballah’s media campaign generated, it also worked to build support from key states in the region. First, it helped mute opposition from the more moderate Saudi, Jordanian, and Egyptian governments which had initially been critical of Hizballah’s actions but “shifted their position in the wake of public protests in their countries about the Israeli bombing.”36 Second, by portraying the conflict as a pan-Islamic fight against Israel, Hizballah was able to galvanize support from the Shia Iranians and Sunni Syrians. While Iran and Syria have serious religious differences, they were unified in their antagonism towards Israel, and the battle that played out in Lebanon served to consolidate these countries’ support for Hizballah. The support translated into a continuing supply of weapons, fighters, and funding so that Hizballah could continue its armed opposition against Israel.37

In terms of strategic calculations, the amount of effort needed to overcome the adversary is the combination of the total means at his disposal and the strength of his will.38 By vilifying Israeli tactics in the media, Hizballah was able to recruit outside assistance and thus increase the means at its disposal. Moreover, its use of the media consolidated the will of its supporters. By merely demonstrating some ability to resist Israel and by making theatrical public speeches at Hizballah rallies, Nasrallah became a cult of personality behind which a much augmented population base followed.39 The combined effect of increased means of disposal plus increased strength of will raised the cost of victory for Israel.

The media also came into play in eroding the strength of will on the part of Israel and its close ally, the United States. Most of the international community agreed that in principle, retaliation against Hizballah for capturing two


Israeli soldiers was justified.40 But as the conflict continued and Hizballah members began positioning themselves so they could document footage of Israel destroying civilian assets—which often contained weapons that Hizballah could use against Israel, such as katyusha rockets—questions of proportionality began to arise. This assertion does not weigh in on whether Israel’s approach was entirely proportional, but does make the claim that Hizballah used the ambiguity of the proportionality doctrine to its advantage, largely through projections in the media. The Israeli government later acknowledged that the images of IDF raids in Beirut and the resulting civilian damage eroded its international support over the course of the conflict.41

Gradually, members of the international community began to question the proportionality, a trend that peaked with the ill-fated attack on the Lebanese town of Qana. The collateral damage inflicted on Qana—almost inevitable given that Hizballah was fighting from within densely populated civilian areas—prompted widespread criticism for Israel’s approach to the conflict. International reactions to the attack caused Israel to suspend air-strikes for 48 hours, but the implications of the attack went beyond Israeli foreign policy. The attacks “illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for the United States in the current Middle East crisis.”42 The United States was already in a difficult position of on the one hand seeking to support its ally, but on the other trying to mitigate anti-Americanism in a region with high strategic importance. Negotiating that balance became more difficult “with each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon,”43 particularly Qana. While the United States formally maintained its support for Israel, these incidents and the images that followed no doubt shortened the timeline that it would allow Israel to prosecute the war, which in turn constrained Israel’s strategic options.

Lessons from Lebanon

Given the limited effects of airpower against asymmetric adversaries, and the domestically and internationally unpopular prospect of using ground forces against Hizballah, what were Israel’s strategic options? The Israeli government could not stand by and appear to do nothing when rockets were falling on Israeli towns and soldiers were being captured. Moreover, the government, new to office and seeking to fill the large shoes left by General Sharon, was right to assert its right of self-defense and retaliate in some manner. While airpower offered a way to demonstrate leadership resolve and appeal to society’s interest in doing something, and without the need to mount legislative and civilian support for the otherwise riskier strategy of using ground troops, it clearly faced challenges in the execution. What are the lessons to draw from those challenges?


The first lesson, based on this analysis, would be to suggest caution when applying anything but contextualized lessons from the last war. Certainly, no two wars are the same, but some are more similar than others. Noting the strategic context—conventional, asymmetric, etc.—is key to understanding how best to match the strategy to the adversary. By thinking not just about whether a particular approach worked, but by placing that approach in a particular context and then evaluating its utility, leaders may be better able to avoid the pathology of fighting a war that happens to be incongruent with their immediate context.

A second lesson is perhaps not that airpower is a categorical failure, but that it does not promise the antiseptic elixir that some leaders are seeking. If leaders are serious about providing security, they must identify their strategic objectives and match them with appropriate and realistic instruments and be willing to use those instruments even at the risk of incurring casualties. Conflicts such as the Gulf War and Kosovo may have given the impression that high precision stand-off weapons can deliver victory with few casualties, but these may have been the anomalies. The very nature of a war makes bloodshed likely. While acting within the bounds of proportionality, a state’s leadership’s business is to provide for their state’s security and win wars; “kind-heartedness” is not always the best way to achieve that goal.

Third, the outcome of a conventional military against an asymmetric adversary may show that not just airpower, but military force in general may have limited effectiveness in this type of unconventional environment. Given the way opponents use casualties as political theater for generating support, the use of military force, which inevitably leads to casualties, will likely only invigorate a resistance that is founded more on an ideology than on the material power that fuels conventional militaries. Since the opposition is as much ideological as military, then it is not clear that only the use of force—land, air, or some combination thereof—will itself bring the adversary to its knees. Rather, the use of force should be integrated within a broader political strategy designed to collapse support for the adversary.

In these asymmetric settings, much of the conflict may play out in the battlefield of the media. The centers of gravity against asymmetric adversaries may not be their infrastructure and command and control nodes, which are severely lacking compared to regular armies. Lacking high-value assets, the centers of gravity for asymmetric adversaries may become their citizens’ political will. And as the case of the Lebanon war and the draw for foreign fighters and civilians shows, “citizens” may not mean the citizens of that particular state, but the individuals who are inclined in a similar ideological way, whether they live in Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, or Egypt. The public relations battle therefore may not be limited to information operations (IO) in the im-


mediate area of operations, in this case Lebanon, but across boundaries, targeting individuals that may be sympathetic to the cause taking place on foreign lands. Any information operations strategy, whether jamming radio transmissions of the adversary or disseminating information favorable to friendly forces, must therefore be deployed not just locally but on a more widespread basis, to include potential foreign fighters.

Moreover, to the extent that asymmetric battles may be part of a broader ideological struggle, any wartime IO strategies must be combined with wider-ranging political strategies. First and foremost, that means addressing the Middle East peace process, since tensions in the Middle East are an ongoing source of recruitment for terrorist organizations. More generally, however, that means that the US and its allies must press harder in their public diplomacy efforts to bridge the ideological divide between east and west. Until these Western states can make advances on the battlefield of public relations, they are unlikely to see decisive victories on the battlefield of tanks, missiles, and planes.


1. Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon, “Halutz’s Resignation Hailed as First Step to Recovery From War,” The Jerusalem Post, 18 January 2007, p. 1; Ken Ellingwood, “Israeli Leaders Name Candidate for Army Chief,” The Los Angeles Times, 23 January 2007, p. A7.

2. Giulio Douhet, Command of the Air (New York, Coward-McCann, 1942).

3. John Warden, The Air Campaign: Planning for Combat. (Washington: National Defense Univ. Press, 1988).

4. Ze’ev Schiff, “The Foresight Saga,” Haaretz, 18 August 2006.

5. Robert Pape, Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press, 1996).

6. Daniel L. Byman and Matthew C. Waxman, “Kosovo and the Great Air Power Debate,” International Security, 24 (Spring 2000), 5-38.

7. The official Israel Defense Force Web site suggests that Operation Change of Direction was intended to achieve these two strategic objectives. See the July 2006 summary of IDF events at

8. Phillip H. Gordon, “Air Power Won’t Do It,” The Washington Post, 25 July 2006, p. A15.

9. Robert Pape, “Ground to a Halt,” The New York Times, 3 August 2006.

10. Yuval Steinitz, “The War That Was Led Astray,” Haaretz, 17 August 2006.

11. The Israeli government has commissioned several studies on the performance of the IDF during the Lebanon war, including the Shomron study, whose findings were released in January 2007, and the Winograd Study, due out in the spring. Former Chief of Staff Dan Shomron found in his investigation that the IDF lacked goals and suffered from poor leadership during the 2006 Lebanon war; he did not directly call for Halutz’s resignation but Halutz nonetheless resigned soon thereafter. For reactions to the Shomron report and Halutz resignation, see Yaniv Salama-Sheer, “International Press Agrees that Halutz was Responsible,” The Jerusalem Post, 18 January 2007, p. 3.

12. As of December 2006, the two soldiers had not been returned and it was not clear that they were actually still alive. See Donald Macintyre, “Israeli Soldiers ‘Seriously Injured’ in Kidnapping That Sparked War,” The Independent, 6 December 2006, p. 38.

13. David Makovsky and Jeffrey White note that Israeli strikes did little to neutralize Hizballah’s rocket launching capabilities. See “Lessons and Implications of the Israel-Hizballah War: A Preliminary Assessment,” Policy Focus #60, October 2006. A publication of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. For an additional perspective on whether Israel achieved these objectives, see Jim Quilty, “Israel’s War Against Lebanon’s Shi‘a,” The Middle East Report, 25 July 2006,


14. Daniel Byman and Steven Simon provide an excellent account of the Lebanon campaign in “The No-Win Zone: An After-Action Report from Lebanon,” The National Interest, 86 (November/December 2006), 55-61.

15. Ze’ev Schiff, “The Foresight Saga,” Haaretz, 16 August 2006.

16. Thom Schanker, “To Disarm Shadowy Guerilla Army, Israeli Air Power May Not be Enough,” The New York Times, 20 July 2006, p. A10.

17. Steinitz, “The War That Was Led Astray.”

18. Ibid.

19. Max Boot, “The Second Lebanon War,” The Weekly Standard, 4 September 2006.

20. Steinitz, “The War That Was Led Astray.”

21. Ari Shavit, “A Spirit of Absolute Folly,” Haaretz, 16 August 2006.

22. Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret, eds., (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1976), pp. 75-76.

23. Shavit, “A Spirit of Absolute Folly.”

24. Amos Harel, “IAF Chiefs Admit Air Power Can’t Subdue Rocket Fire,” Haaretz, 4 August 2006.

25. Seymour M. Hersh, “Washington’s Interests in Israel’s War,” The New Yorker, 21 August 2006.

26. These cognitive shortcuts—that is, making what may be false analogies with events that bear similar characteristics—are well-documented in the international relations literature, most notably Robert Jervis’s Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1976).

27. Max Boot, “Now The Israeli Fight Begins,” The Toronto Star, 20 August 2006, p. A17.

28. General Halutz has since been criticized for waiting until late in the conflict to consider seriously the possibility of launching a ground invasion of Lebanon. See, for example, Yaakov Katz, “Levine War Probe Places Blame on Halutz’s Shoulders,” The Jerusalem Post, 7 December 2006; Ilene R. Prusher, “Israeli Unease Grows Over Conduct of War,” The Christian Science Monitor, 1 September 2006.

29. Israel’s National Security Doctrine suggests that these successes result in part because of Israel’s better training and higher sophistication of resources. See David Rodman, “Israel’s National Security Doctrine: An Introductory Overview,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, 5 (September 2001). Israel’s success rate against asymmetric adversaries such as Hizballah has been more mixed. For an account of this history, see Dan Byman “Israel and the Lebanese Hizballah,” in Democracy and Counterterrorism: Lessons from the Past (Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007).

30. Middle East expert Ray Takeyh points out that Hizballah was better able to defend itself than “lions of Arab nationalism such as Gamal Abdul Nasser and Mr. Hussein defended Cairo or Baghdad - the seats of Islamic civilisation.” See “The Rising Might of the Middle East Superpower,” The Financial Times, 11 September 2006, p. 11.

31. James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, Airpower in Small Wars (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2003), p. 8.

32. See The Economist’s critique of the use of airpower in Lebanon, entitled “An Enduring Illusion—Air Power,” 26 August 2006, special report.

33. There is some evidence to suggest that international media outlets were complicit with pro-Hizballah individuals who staged or posed pictures intended to imply a high rate of IDF-inflicted civilian casualties. See, for example, Dave Kopel, “Were Front-Page Photos Staged?” Rocky Mountain News, 12 August 2006, p. 12C.

34. Robert F. Worth, “UN Says Somalis Helped Hizballah Fighters,” The New York Times, 14 November 2006.

35. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi,” News Release, 2-05, 11 October 2005,

36. Seymour M. Hersh, “Watching Lebanon,” The New Yorker, 14 August 2006.

37. Peter Spiegel and Laura King, “Israel Says Syria, Not Just Iran, Supplied Missiles to Hizballah,” The Los Angeles Times, 31 August 2006, p. 1. Vali Nasr writes of these religious regional dynamics in “Old Shiite-Sunni Blood Feud Drives the Mideast’s New Power Play,” The Los Angeles Times, 27 August 2006.

38. Clausewitz, p. 77.

39. Anthony Shadid, “Hizballah Chief Defiant at Huge Rally,” The Washington Post, 23 September 2006, p. A1.

40. Lionel Beehner, “Israel and the Doctrine of Proportionality,” Council on Foreign Relations, 13 July 2006,

41. Foreign Ministry Director of Public Affairs, Amir Gissin, admitted to the public relations failures that resulted from hitting civilian assets in Lebanon. See, for example, Tovah Lazaroff, “Photos of Despair Trump Sound Bites,” The Jerusalem Post, 14 November 2006, JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1162378392192.

42. Peter Baker, “Crisis Could Undercut Bush’s Long-Term Goals,” The Washington Post, 31 July 2006, p. A1.

43. Ibid.

Sarah E. Kreps is a senior fellow at the Institute of International Law and Politics at Georgetown University and an adjunct professor of political science at George Washington University. She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a graduate degree from Oxford, and is currently finishing her Ph.D. dissertation on US military interventions at Georgetown University. She has served on active duty in the US Air Force, where she worked on developmental programs for the US, UK, and NATO. She also served as a foreign area officer for European and Sub-Saharan African affairs.

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Reviewed 26 February 2007. Please send comments or corrections to