Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

DETERRENCE AND THE ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH WAR

tional force that normally includes armored, mechanized, air,

and naval units, an insurgency usually fights in organized

formations, often with each formation having distinct responsibility

for a defined area. Indeed, the military arm of Hezbollah

fought the IDF in such formation. Similarly, the same arm of

Hamas divided the Gaza Strip among its units, with each responsible

for some part of the strip.

When Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in May 2000, its

strategy for dissuading Hezbollah from continuing the fighting

by carrying the struggle into Israel was based on two forms of

compellence. First, Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, announced

that in light of Syria’s large-scale military presence in

Lebanon, Israel would hold it responsible for any Hezbollah attack.

Thus, an attempt was made to compel Syria to prevent

Hezbollah attacks. Accordingly, in the aftermath of its withdrawal,

Israel responded to a number of Hezbollah attacks by

retaliating against such Syrian targets as radar installations inside

Lebanon.

The second target of Israeli compellence was the population

of south Lebanon. Israelis reasoned that since the IDF had withdrawn

from that area—and thus Lebanon had been “liberated”

from “foreign occupation”—–the population of the south would

no longer support a continuation of the fighting. Under these

new circumstances, it was argued, the population of south Lebanon

would refuse to remain the victim of a cycle of Hezbollah

attacks and Israeli retaliation. Thus, the withdrawal would deprive

Hezbollah the legitimacy required to continue attacks

against Israel; hence, the Lebanese population would no longer

be willing to provide Hezbollah with the safe heavens required

for an insurgency.

The months and years following Israel’s withdrawal demonstrated

that the aforementioned expectations were only partially

warranted. Indeed, a balance of deterrence-compellence evolved

between Israel and Hezbollah in the framework of which the

populations of the Israeli north and Lebanon’s south were both

held hostage. Hezbollah attacks against Israel were few and far

between, reflecting that the population of the south was no longer

willing to sustain the costs of further Hezbollah provocations

that would invite Israeli responses. The importance of legitimacy

in this context was demonstrated when Hezbollah was

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