As these various news stories (AP, Reuters, and AP) indicate, time is running out for Olmert to do something about Hezbollah. In addition the negative nannies are in full force arguing Hezbollah can’t be destroyed so there is no purpose trying (see here and here). Though this is largely mistaken and is based on bad history regarding the 1982 "Peace for Galilee" operation, that's a topic for another post. The relevant point here is that this attitude will also eventually weigh on Israeli opinion. As I’ve written before (here and here), Israel stopping without dealing with Hezbollah would be a major disaster for Israel and the world. There is method behind Israel’s apparent madness with the bombing campaign but only if it is preliminary to a ground campaign. Otherwise, Israel will come out doubly worse with the Lebanese people since not only did Israelis cause such destruction, they didn’t even take care of Hezbollah.
The military historian in me understands the purpose of the bombing campaign and giving it a little time before invading. It is a classic interdiction campaign to prep the battlefield for a ground attack. It is not a strategic bombing campaign as the various analysts in the AP story claim (the differences are subtle since both campaigns largely target the same assets, but strategic campaigns target assets outside of the operational theatre, of course in Lebanon the entire country is the theatre of operation, and targets more things like factories and civilians that Israel hasn’t been hitting). Israel’s bombing campaign is directed at degrading Hezbollah’s ability to move men and supplies around while picking off what men and material present themselves as targets of opportunity. This requires things like destroying the roads, bridges, power plants, airports, and seaports. During it the Israelis can also attain a better picture of Hezbollah’s dispositions and defenses. By itself this will have little effect on Hezbollah long-term. Its primary purpose is to exhaust the supplies and stamina of the Hezbollah fighters while discovering and then freezing them in their defensive positions (as best as possible, it isn’t perfect of course). When the Israeli ground attack comes it will then be against slightly fewer gunmen who are more tired, lower on supplies, and in better known positions that can be destroyed in detail. Without a ground invasion the Hezbollah gunmen will eventually rest, resupply, make good their losses and be able to move about, negating the entire campaign. A good interdiction campaign takes time; the pre-D-Day interdiction campaign lasted for many months for example. The problem is that time is the very resource Israel is short on.
Military operations are not conducted in a vacuum. The political situation is critical and the political window for Israel to invade southern Lebanon is rapidly closing. Soon the international calls for the United States to restrain Israel will become too strong for Bush to resist. Combined with rising opposition in Israel, Olmert will increasingly find it difficult to deal with Hezbollah. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to commit military forces in situations that are less than auspicious. In the end when compared with options of calling off the offensive now or ending it later after causing more damage and anger in Lebanon, invading before the military may be ready is the least bad option. It should be noted that it's not obvious if the Israeli government has a clear idea of what it is doing. While the campaign appears to be a typical interdiction campaign to prepare for a ground invasion, it could also just be the outgrowth of a hit back and look tough policy that Olmert has lost control of. Olmert’s Kadima government is essentially left-wing and such poorly thought out strategic policies are common amongst left-wing leaders (think Bill find-me-an-aspirin-factory-and-empty-tents-to-bomb Clinton and Lyndon find-me-jungle-to-carpet-bomb Johnson). It should also be remembered that the Israeli government includes the Jimmy Carter of Israeli politics, Shimon Peres. Of course I am not saying Israel will invade Lebanon; I am just saying they need to and time is rapidly running out do it.