High-Tech Weapons Change Guerrilla Warfare

NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr compares the fighting in Lebanon today to the fighting there in 1982, when Israel last invaded. The big difference: Hezbollah now has considerable high-tech weaponry supplied by Iran.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

I remember 1982, when the G7 Summit Conference that I was covering in Versailles was rocked by word that Ariel Sharon's Israeli army had invaded Lebanon to root out the Palestinian resistance led by Yasser Arafat.

HANSEN: NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: There was a diplomatic upheaval among the big powers, but not much of a fight between the modern Israeli army and a band of guerillas, many of whom would end up in internment camps. It's very different this time, as an entrenched Hezbollah engages the Israeli forces. The Hezbollah is apparently skillfully led and deployed. It inflicts an unexpected number of casualties from ambush on the invaders and sends hundreds upon hundreds of rockets deeper into Israel than had been considered possible.

What made my eyes widen was to read that Hezbollah was using an array of modern weapons, including laser-guided anti-tank missiles. Laser guided! Shiite guerilla forces? There's clearly been a profound change in the nature of guerilla warfare and a principal element in that change is technological.

Where does the Hezbollah get up-to-date weapons? The assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank missiles are highly accurate Russian and versions of American weapons. So how does the Hezbollah get them? Presumably provided by the Shiite brethren in Iran, bought with oil profits. Oil is the great leveler.

So, insurgents can now inflict a greater toll on up-to-date military forces. That may help to explain why America and its allies have run into such serious trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, and why President Bush now finds himself having to send more troops to the mean streets of Baghdad from units elsewhere in the country.

For centuries, countries with sophisticated weapons have used their superior arms to help maintain their dominance in the world. It may be that a new page in history is being turned, and military superiority can no longer be counted on.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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