Haphazard planning has ruined many military campaigns. Military power is of no use when the political objectives are unrealizable, worse when they are unknown.

Lebanon will not disarm Hezbollah any time soon, if ever. Hezbollah will not return Israeli MIAs. The Israeli government’s demands cannot be met. That means the IDF will have to move into Lebanon to clean up. Israel has done that before. Civil war, civilian casualties, an international outcry, an inconclusive confrontation, and mounting losses and costs. Israel will have that again. And the moment the IDF withdraws from Lebanon, another guerilla outfit will start assembling there.

The IDF ousted the PLO from Lebanon because the Lebanese hate Palestinians. Israel cannot similarly oust Hezbollah, deep-rooted and very popular among Muslims. It would take years to turn Lebanese public opinion against Hezbollah. If Israel wants to do that, better arm Lebanese Christians to fight Hezbollah.

Even if Israel pushes Hezbollah out of Lebanon, it will move elsewhere. There are plenty of territories with little government control around, and in the worst case Hezbollah can retreat to Iran. We might protect Israel’s northern border against short-range missiles, but what precludes Hezbollah from acquiring Zelzal-3 or North Korean long-range missiles? The hard part of missile technology is targeting, but Hezbollah can hit the bullseye. Hezbollah can also carry the fight on from wherever with suicide bombers, drones, and international operations. Unlike the PLO, Hezbollah does not need a platform close to Israel, and is very hard to destroy. Hezbollah has already sprouted several foreign organizations and can transfer resources among them..

Faced with the impossibility of annihilating Hezbollah, the Israeli government rachets up the violence, expecting someone to stop Hezbollah. Not likely Iran, but the UN or perhaps Syria could do that. Or maybe not. We cannot feasibly handle the whole scenario, and the Israeli government has escalated close to that level. The IDF is in Gaza and poised to move into Lebanon; any eruption in Judea and Samaria will force Israel to go there; Israel has to make good on the implicit threats we made to Syria; and there is Iran. Israel cannot handle a protracted war with all of them. Iran has almost infinite capacity to sustain itself; recall its dragged out war with Iraq.

Israel has to act fast: eliminate Syrian military capacity; destroy the Iranian nuclear facilities; relocate the Palestinians to Jordan; create a buffer zone in South Lebanon and arm the Christians to clean up the rest of Lebanon; let Syria annex Northern Lebanon for a sop.