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The War Nerd August 11, 2006
 
Gophers by TKO: Lessons from Lebanon
A Special Intra-Issue Column! By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 4
 

But back here in the US, we're supposed to think Hezbollah's victory is a disaster. But why, exactly? First of all, why are Americans are supposed to love Israel when there's never been much sign that Israel loves America? We give them three billion a year, and they give us little more than grief. Ask the crew of the USS Liberty -- no, wait, they're all dead, killed by an Israeli airstrike and followup machinegunning by Israeli gunboats, on a USN vessel flying the American flag. Ask the USAF generals who begged the Israeli Air Force to pass on crucial info on Syrian air defenses after the IDF's campaign against the Syrians in. The Israelis take any classified info they want from American intelligence, but when it was their turn to cough up some secrets, they stonewalled us. Fast-forward to Reagan's disastrous Lebanon invasion, when we lose two Navy jets against the same Syrian air defenses the Israelis had figured out years earlier. What did these guys ever do for us?

The worst thing a world power can do is pick sides in a non-stop tribal war for sentimental reasons. You know why we're speaking English and not French, thank God? Because way back in 1609, the French explorer Champlain hooked up with a Huron war party and headed south into New York. He liked the Huron, they liked him (the French had much more respect for the Injuns than the Brits, generally got along well with them) and when the Huron went into battle against a tribe they told the Frenchman was their hereditary enemy, he couldn't resist a chance to help his allies and show off his hi-tech military equipment. This being 1609, the hi-tech gadget was a huge arqebuse, more like a shoulder-fired cannon than a modern rifle -- but when Champlain lit the fuse, pointed the barrel at an enemy chief and fired, he made an even bigger impression than he meant to. Sure, he killed the enemy chief and probably got to strut like a 17 th -c. Pimp all the way back to Tribal HQ, and no doubt got a warm reception from all those Huron girls who wanted his Superbowl QB genes...but he also doomed the French in North America.

By the way, if you ask me what's really wrong with the French militarily, I'd say it's not cowardice at all, it's sheer impulsiveness, the kind Champlain showed that day -- too worried about looking good, not cold-blooded enough, no long-term plan.

See, the Hurons' hereditary enemy happened to be the Iroquois, who were not just the tribe next door. They were a six-tribe confederation, one of the few big, stable alliances among the North American Native tribes, with a reputation for holding a grudge forever. From the moment Champlain fired his hand-cannon, the Iroquois were the sworn enemy of the French and the allies of the English. It wasn't that the Iroquois actually liked the Brits -- I mean, who could like those snotty, slow-witted Redcoats?--but the Iroquois felt like Churchill in WW II: they'd have made a deal with Satan to get rid of those Froggy bastards who'd embarrassed them.

So even though the French knew how to make friends with the natives and the Brits didn't, the Brits had the biggest and most powerful tribe in the Northeast on their side. From then on, the Brits had the advantage. It took them another 150 years to take Quebec, but once the Iroquois swore vengeance, that area was as doomed as Constantinople.

We did a Champlain in the Middle East when we made Israel sentimental favorites back in 1948. But at least we had good reason -- giving the Jews a safe haven after Hitler tried to wipe them out. And at least Israel really was the underdog back then, before Congress handed them everything but their own aircraft carrier.

The IDF hasn't been a real underdog for a long time. Amateurs look at the map of the Middle East, see poor li'l Israel in the middle of all that Arab real estate and think the IDF is still the underdog. Nope--Israel was set up by a bunch of smart, educated Europeans, and when you match an army of those guys, backed by billions in US military aid, against peasant conscripts, only a fool bets on the peasants. Doesn't matter how much real estate they have, peasants in uniform are useless in conventional warfare against smart, motivated Western troops.


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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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