posted at 9:35 pm on August 27, 2006 by Bryan
I wouldn’t link my own Vent again (for reasons not the least of which is that it didn’t generate anywhere the buzz of the Vents with Mary Katharine, Bethany or Jeff), but it is the only report I’ve seen out there that gives any sense of what underground bunkers of the sort Hezbollah built in Lebanon may be like. The bunkers I photographed are on Iwo Jima, but a bunker’s a bunker, more or less. Hole, ground, in. Repeat as many times as necessary.
It turns out Hezbollah’s bunkers are rather advanced. And the IDF destroyed one that was built near a UNIFIL position. Very near. Near enough that the UN’s blue helmeted heroes must have seen some of the bunker’s construction as it was going on. And did not a thing about it.
So yes, let’s all toast the UN as it deploys yet more of the blue military man group to southern Lebanon to “keep the peace.” It keeps the peace in our time.
Update: Sky News went into a Hezbollah bunker along with the IDF. The scale of construction on this particular bunker/tunnel complex is immense. The reporter notes that it had a sense of permanence about it–the walls were painted, there was a kitchen and what the IDF says were bomb-making materials. And the whole complex was within a couple hundred yards of a UN post. And there’s another smaller bunker within about 20 yards of a UN post.
I would say it’s unbelievable, but we all know that that just isn’t the case. The UN watching while terrorists dig in is all too believable.
(h/t Brian of London)
More: That Hezzie bunker that Sky toured is amazing and disturbing. It has concrete walls, and what appears to be running water and electricity. It probably had Wi-Fi hotspots and satellite TV for all we know. To dig and fortify a complex like that takes serious effort–earth moving equipment, engineering, electricians–plus all of the above-ground construction that was on one side of the hill the bunker was dug into. It’s possible that the UNIFIL troops didn’t know what was going on just a couple hundred yards from their post, but it’s impossible that the UNIFIL troops didn’t see or hear anything.
As to how this relates to bunker wars of the past, I’m as big a believer in the utility of air power as you’ll find. But air power has its limits, and these bunkers in Lebanon seem to be outside those limits. The Iwo Jima bunkers, which were unreinforced tunnels dug by Korean slaves using pickaxes, survived weeks of sustained bombardment from US Navy battleships offshore lobbing in big, dumb bombs day and night. That bombardment left the 23,000 Japanese troops unscathed. The Marines had to go onto that island, 70,000 strong, and root out the troops tunnel by tunnel for about a month, at a cost of 10 percent of the invading force killed in action (and something like two-thirds were considered casualties by the battle’s end). Likewise, it seems clear to me that the Hezzie bunkers were built to survive aerial bombardment or bombardment by sea (assuming they’re within range of Israeli ships), even taking into account the better precision and power of today’s weapons and the obvious skill of the IDF. There is no substitute for boots on the ground when taking on entrenched enemies. If anything, the Hezzie bunkers point to a need to increase the number and/or tactical efficiency of ground-pounding forces. And if leadership plans to fight an entrenched enemy with half measures, that leadership is basically planning to fail.