History had other plans, and on December 24 and 25, 1944, the Allies were still slugging it out with the SS and Wehrmacht in and around the Ardennes region during what is popularly known as the Battle of the Bulge; the Allies were doing their best to finally turn back what had been a surpising, resurgent Nazi offensive. Allied troops were no longer so loftily proclaiming that the war would be over soon.
The point of all that?
I'm pretty sure, though, that if the war hasn't ended by 10-14 days from now, 10-14 days from now we'll hear once again that Israel needs 10-14 days to finish the job. The Jewish state has come a long way from being able to destroy the armies and air forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in six days as it did in 1967, though Hizballah is a better funded, better trained, and more dedicated fighting force than any Arab country's regular army has ever been, except for maybe Saddam Hussein's army in the Iran-Iraq war. Then again, the Gulf War in 1991 showed what a paper tiger that was...insurgent terrorists have fought better...anyway...
Despite my overall misgivings about the international political scene that will emerge at the end of the war - whenever it ends - I admit that see the progress being made by Israel. There are fewer rockets hitting northern Israel. Up until now, the bold pronouncements by chief Hizballah terrorist Hassan Nasrallah that missiles would hit central Israel have been shown to be so much bluffedy-bluster (and may it remain so, though it may not). Trucks carrying armaments for Hizballah from Syria into Lebanon are being destroyed by the Israeli Air Force en route. Israeli troops are pushing further into southern Lebanon...and taking casualties.
Prime Minister Olmert said tonight "we never promised that at the end of this war there would be no rocket threats against Israel. Neither the defense minister, nor the leadership, nor I promised there would be no rockets within range." He went on to say, "We will agree to a ceasefire when we know for certain that the conditions on the ground will be different from those which led to this war."
And when exactly will that be? Can we be enlightened on what this means, in real terms? We know that implementing UN Security Council resolution 1559 is an ultimate, international goal...this constitutes the disarmament of Hizballah, and the Lebanese Army and the Lebanese Government extending Beirut's sovereignty into the south, and so on. But if, as one general (different from the one I mentioned earlier) stated this evening, Hizballah will not be disarmed with these battles and "that we will achieve this objective in the next series of battles," when does it end?
How does one make the ultimate decision, "Israel is safe, for the moment"? When can it be made? When the rocket fire stops? When the kidnapped soldiers, from the unprovoked Hizballah attack that started this war, are returned to Israel? When Hizballah goes from saying "Death to Israel! Death to America!" to "Am Yisrael Chai!" and "Allah Bless America!"? When Syria can no longer support Hizballah? When Iran can no longer finance Hizbullah, or send Revolutionary Guards to Lebanon?
When? What? How?
Let us hope that Vice Premier Shimon Peres was right today, when he said in Washington, "Syria won't go to war. They know their strengths and weaknesses. Their equipment is not modern and they won't go to war alone. The current conflict won't escalate to an all-out regional war." Let us hope that those are not included in the next edition of that informative book, "Famous Last Words", and that we don't get to find out if and when Iran - which has a defense treaty with Damascus - will come to the aid of a Syria with outdated Soviet weapons that we were told "won't go to war".
The lesson Jerusalem needs to learn is that you shouldn't set - or at least announce - deadlines you can't keep due to the fluidity of the battlefied situation, and then change them and believe that no one will notice. That just gives off the appearance of incompetence at the top levels.
When the stakes are this high, with irrational yet calculating enemies who perceive incompetence to be weakness, and when these enemies seeking to pounce on that weakness could set in motion a whole lot of regional - even worldwide - trouble...triggering what might unmistakeably, unarguably be a world war (given the various alliances and treaties)...well...
At the moment, incompetence - or the perception of incompetence - could be deadly. For millions.