Hezbollah to the Rescue?
By Clint Douglas
In 2006, Hezbollah fought Israel to a bloody stalemate using what many analysts are calling "hybrid-warfare," which lies somewhere between what we generally understand to be guerrilla and conventional warfare. Hezbollah fighters utilized sophisticated anti-tank and anti-ship missiles, as well as surprisingly secure high-tech communications systems, all the while maintaining a decentralized and dispersed organizational structure that remained resilient under continuous Israeli bombardment. Small mobile anti-tank teams proved elusive targets to both air and artillery attacks, and were highly effective in blunting the progress of Israel's armored columns. Hezbollah not only survived the contest, but emerged more powerful than ever.
After Georgia's calamitous war with Russia, there has been discussion as to how we should help re-equip and re-train the Georgian army. Some have suggested that we learn from our adversaries and teach the Georgians how to apply some of these lessons from Hezbollah. In principle, this sounds like sage advice. A Georgian force that eschewed such hardware as tanks, and focused instead on procuring and mastering such infantry systems as night vision devices, secure radios, sniper rifles, and guided missile launchers would be a potent force. Should the Russians decide to invade once again, they would be confronted with the same problems that the Israelis faced in southern Lebanon. Georgia is more mountainous and Russian mechanized forces would, by necessity, be confined to the roads, where they would be vulnerable. It could go even worse for them, given that the American systems that would be supplied to Georgia, such as the Javelin anti-tank missile and the Stinger shoulder launched surface-to-air missile, are superior to anything fielded by Hezbollah. The other, political, advantage of such a military structure is that it is fundamentally defensive in nature, as it lacks an offensive maneuver element -- those tanks again -- that the Russians might reasonably find threatening. They wouldn't have to worry about the Georgians making a dash to the Roki tunnel in South Ossetia, and the Georgians would have a credible deterrent to further Russian incursions.
Sadly, it's not so simple.
In the first place, by all accounts, the Georgian army conducted itself poorly in their brief conflict with Russia last month. Many troops panicked and fled well before they even had contact with the advancing Russians. If history is any guide (which it is, on occasion) the Russians will not respect the Georgian's fighting ability for this reason alone, while on the other side, the young men of Georgia will no doubt long for the day when they can restore their national honor. This, compounded by the fact that Russia effectively stole South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is loudly proclaiming that he will re-unify the country, almost guarantees another war. We should consider this fully before we decide to re-arm Georgia. The United States is simply too preoccupied in Iraq and Afghanistan to become effectively enmeshed in the Caucuses. The Russians have already threatened to close their air space to NATO flights to Afghanistan, which may become even more important given our deteriorating relations with Pakistan.
I am very sympathetic to Georgia's plight and its desire to get out from under Russia's thumb. But, painful as it might be to its citizens, they have to understand that the lost provinces are not coming back. Then, again Georgia never controlled them in the first place. Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia violently attempted to secede from Georgia as soon as the Soviet Union fell apart. President Saakashvili is, at best, a bungler, who allowed himself to be drawn into a war that he never had a chance to win and as such his judgment remains suspect. Only after the passions have cooled should we seriously consider giving the Georgians weapons of any kind.
As for today, and how to punish the Russians for their recent brutishness, the markets seem to be doing that quite nicely for us. While all of the stock markets of the world are certainly taking a beating, the Russian market has been absolutely eviscerated. They're dealing with the financial meltdown just like everyone else. However, their problems are compounded by a flight of international capital, caused by a lack of the rule of law in the country and the fact that already nervous investors are wary of a new aggressive Russia. This hits the wealthy ruling class right where it hurts-they're pocket books. And these are the people, who have the ear of Vladimir Putin. The Russians might see that it's in their own best interests to tone down their recent swagger.
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