Horns of the Dilemma
There's an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal which quotes a UN source who describes some of the difficulties an IDF ground force will have in neutralizing Hezbollah rockets.
... unlike conventional armies, Hezbollah doesn't keep its weapons in armories. It hides them in the homes of supporters, in remote valleys and caves, and in small factories and industrial workshops scattered across Lebanon, according to Israeli and Lebanese military experts and the group itself. Ardent members willing to die for the movement are assigned to protect these sites, many of which are said to be booby-trapped.
"There are no Hezbollah bases anywhere. So the only way to find the weapons is to go on foot and look for them," said Timur Goksel, a former United Nations official who lives in Beirut and has tracked Hezbollah's military capabilities for two decades.
That reality underscores the core conundrum Israel now faces: Defeating Hezbollah means tracking down and destroying its enormous supply of rockets and missiles, estimated at roughly 13,000 in all. Yet to do so Israeli soldiers would likely need to search house-by-house and cave-by-cave throughout the hostile territory of southern Lebanon, many military officials and analysts here say.
While there is always the possibility the Israeli government and military officials are conducting a sophisticated information operations campaign, the military is not mobilizing for a large scale invasion of Lebanon. Only three battalions (about 300 troops per battalion) have been mobilized over the past few days. With Israel being a small nation, a large scale call up of troops could not be hidden from public view.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, in his analysis of the strategic considerations notes "if Israel were interested in a long-term occupation, it would have had to call up far more reserves than it did." This also applies to a large military operation designed to destroy Hezbollah and pursue them into their rear bases in the Bekaa Valley, where they are supported by elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the Syrian military. The Beirut-Damascus Road is 35 miles from the Israeli border, Baalbeck and Hermel, two Hezbollah headquarters are 60 and 90 miles from the Israeli border respectively.
So that dilemma creates the obvious incentive for Israel to escalate the war unless another method is found to rein in Hezbollah. The WSJ article continues:
One risk in the coming days is that the sides will remain locked in a series of escalating strikes. If so, some observers here worry Israel may decide that the only way to rein in Hezbollah is to attack Syria and possibly even Iran. Those two countries have long been Hezbollah's primary supporters, providing the group with the bulk of its weapons and aid.
A senior Israeli politician suggested Hezbollah's main foreign sponsors may not be beyond Israel's reach. "We place full responsibility for this crisis on Syria and Iran," said Isaac Herzog, a member of Israel's security cabinet. "We are not ruling out any operation and we will not forget who is responsible."
International and US policy so far has been to acknowledge the premises of the problem without accepting the conclusion. It is the equivalent of saying, "yes you have cancer, but don't operate".
At the Group of Eight meeting in St. Petersburg, key European allies joined the U.S. in beating back a Russian attempt to have the G-8 formally lay the blame on Israel for its assault of Lebanon. What emerged was an American-crafted compromise by the industrialized nations blaming "extremist elements" for triggering the violence and issuing a call for Israel to exercise "utmost restraint." The communique demanded that the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas return a total of three abducted Israeli soldiers and halt their rocket attacks into Israel.