(Interesting spin....) http://billmon.org/archives/002528.html Punching Above Its Weight Three days in, and it looks like Israel is losing the war. Not militarily, of course -- The IDF could turn Lebanon into a parking lot if it wanted to, and if it's willing to take enough casualties it can probably push Hezbollah away from the Israeli border and suppress the rocket attacks (or at least most of them.) No, Israel is losing this war the same way it "lost" the October 1973 War -- by not crushing its enemies swiftly and completely, and then rubbing their faces in their own impotence and humilation. Just the opposite: Today it was Israel that suffered the humilation of nearly losing one of its missile frigates to a warhead-carrying Hezbollah drone -- a threat the IDF apparently didn't even know existed. An explosives-laden drone, apparently launched by Hezbollah, hit an Israel Navy warship off the coast of Beirut, causing serious damage to its steering capability . . . Several hours after the vessel was hit, an Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said the damage was worse than originally thought. She added that the ship, still burning, was being towed back to Israel. Ragtag guerrilla forces aren't supposed to be able to sink ships of the line -- just as they aren't supposed to be able to penetrate a fortified border, ambush an Israeli Army patrol and kill or capture the lot. Nor should they be able to launch ballistic missiles with a range of 40 miles or better. But the IDF now thinks they can: Until recently, Hezbollah rockets were believed to have limited range and effectiveness. But after Haifa was hit on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said the group's more advanced missiles could fly more than 40 miles, a range that could endanger more Israelis. Forty miles gets you to Hadera -- about half way to Tel Aviv. This could be scare mongering. The Israelis may be exaggerating Hezbollah's capabilities to provide political cover for a prolonged and bloody campaign in Lebanon. But the problem is that the organization keeps exceeding expectations. Rockets are still raining on northern Israel (not the alleged 40-mile jobs, but lethal enough.) Hezbollah TV and radio are still on the air. And now they're taking out Israeli ships. This should give an enormous boost to Hezbollah's prestige and popularity in the Arab world -- just as the initial success of the Egyptian attack across the Suez Canal in '73 helped erase the humiliation of the Six Day War and made Sadat, for a time, a regional hero. That prestige, in turn, could make it more dangerous for "moderate" (i.e. U.S. dominated) Arab countries to move against the group or criticize it publicly. The same goes for Hezbollah's domestic enemies inside Lebanon. (In that sense, Hezbollah may have found the sweet spot in Fourth Generation War: It isn't a state and doesn't carry the political or defensive burdens of one, but it controls enough territory, commands enough popular loyalty and has enough allies to mount some fairly sophisticated military operations, using both conventional and nonconventional weapons. It's powerful enough to be successful -- and be seen as successful -- but not so powerful that state actors like Israel can fight it on equal terms. We may be looking at the New Model Army of the 21st century.) For the Israelis, all this only increases the urgency of delivering a knock out blow quickly -- lest the voices of caution inside the Cheney administration prevail and Washington steps in and imposes a cease fire. It's possible, of course, that the opposite will happen: The Cheneyites may be just as rattled by Hezbollah's resiliance as the Israelis, and may insist that the IDF finish the job, no matter how how much time and blood it takes. After all, whatever raises Hezbollah's prestige also raises Iran's, and whatever raises Iran's lowers Cheney's. That may be more than the gang can stand. But old habits die hard, and there is a long tradition in the Middle East wars of the mediators moving in just as the Israelis are about to kick some serious Arab ass. As I suggested earlier, the economic and political pressures are enormous, and are only going to get worse. If I were the IDF general staff, I wouldn't count on having more than a few weeks to complete the operation -- whatever it is. But given how well Hezbollah is doing so far, it doesn't look the Israelis can deliver a knock out blow -- not in a few weeks, or a few months and probably not even in a few years. And a Hezbollah that takes whatever Israel dishes out, and emerges not just intact, but with a few notches in its own gun, would be a Hezbollah that looks like a real winner.