From the Wall Street Journal news pages today:
A week into its bombardment of Lebanon, Israel faces a key decision: whether to ramp up a ground war in southern Lebanon….
…Israeli military experts say it’s now clear that air strikes alone won’t dislodge Hezbollah from southern Lebanon or destroy its thousands of rockets and missiles. With a successful ground operation, Israel could cripple Hezbollah and perhaps induce other factions in battered Lebanon to permanently shut down the Shiite Muslim group’s militia.
But escalating the conflict is risky for Israel. The casualties would likely be far greater than the Israeli military has experienced so far. The operation could fail, dealing a devastating blow to Israel’s reputation in the region.
And time is short. Israel’s attacks have plunged all of Lebanon into a humanitarian and economic crisis. They have stirred up hostility in a country previously seen as sympathetic to the U.S.’s calls for greater democracy in the Middle East and raised the likelihood of international intervention…
… An Israeli ground invasion would seek to create a buffer zone between the border and the most populous villages of southern Lebanon. A ground campaign is likely to lean heavily on special forces such as those that carried out yesterday’s incursion. The idea is to root out militants from their strongholds, hunt for weapons and exit quickly. The Israeli military has ruled out a lengthy reoccupation of Lebanon…
…Retired Israeli Gen. Moshe Yaalon, until last year the chief of staff for the Israeli Defense Forces, said Israel has largely eliminated Hezbollah’s long-range missiles, degraded its launch sites in the south and “cut it off by sea, by air and by land…”
… But Zvi Stauber, a military expert and head of Israel’s Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies, said Mr. Olmert can’t simply continue with more of the same. “The big question now is if air power alone is enough. And I don’t think so,” said Mr. Stauber. “I believe some ground forces are needed.”
Gen. Amnon Lipkin Shahak, former chief of staff of the Israeli military, agreed that some form of ground offensive is required if Israel wants to seriously reduce Hezbollah’s military capability. But he said Israeli military leaders are reluctant to commit a large number of troops to the offensive, fearing heavy losses.
Yesterday Israel broadcast warnings into southern Lebanon telling civilians to leave the region, a possible prelude to a larger Israeli ground operation…