Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Israels decision to enter into a uni-lateral cease fire in Gaza was followed by the proclamation of victory from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. I'm not sure by what measure PM Olmert is defining victory but from where I stand I see little cause for celebration.

Hamas, while wounded, remains intact and in control of the Gaza strip. Further Hamas has used the media in a masterful fashion and the vast amount of reporting and analysis coming from many sources has the slant of sympathy toward Hamas and the plight of the Palestinian people while presenting Israel as an overbearing aggressor or tyrannical bully. The most common utterance being Israel's "lack of a proportional response."

A bit of a rant:

Criticism of Israel's lack of "proportional" response to Hamas in Gaza is legion. It's also patently nonsensical when considering the concept of war. The insistence on proportionality seems based on an odd assumption that warfare should and does contain some essence of morality. That the act of visiting death and destruction on an enemy can be accomplished in an easy, almost gentle manner. That the primary objective of making war should not be about following a doctrine that delivers victory (however it's defined) in the quickest and most decisive fashion but that making war should be done in the most delicate manner possible. The breezy detractors of Israel's "murderous" or "genocidal" crimes in Gaza point to the civilian toll as their basis for outrage. I suspect, as often as not, their true base is their own skewed sense of moral authority and concept of a "just world." The Israeli offensive in Gaza is a boon that allows them to present their cause under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism. The adherence to the fallacy that if we just try harder we'll be able to fight "nice" wars is ridiculous.

Rant over.

Regardless of morality or proportionality, Israel's response was strategically flawed from the get go. It's reliance on air strikes (however precise) delivered to Hamas the very ammunition they needed to successfully wage a propaganda war; dead Palestinians and broad international media coverage of the destruction wrought by bombs and artillery. At the same time Israel gained little to nothing in the objective of disassembling Hamas nor in pulling them out of power in Gaza.

For Gazan's, Hamas will emerge victorious purely through the act of surviving the Israeli onslaught. Hamas will take full advantage of this and present the uni-lateral cease fire not as a case of Israel bowing to international pressure but as a successful act of repelling an infinitely more powerful war machine. The Hamas message will be simple and effective: David has, again, defeated Goliath. And this message will be carried further as Hamas takes aim at it's West Bank political rivals. Hamas will likely spin their victory in an effort to define Fatah as capitulators to the Zionist scourge and a non-entity in the fight for Palestinian emancipation. It's hard to imagine the Palestinian Authority coming away from this with any political capital what so ever. For many Palestinians the view will be that Hamas took it to the Zionist oppressors while Fatah stood and watched. As Fatah fades further into obscurity so to goes the possibility of a unified Palestinian government and with that the hope of any two state solution.

From the standpoint of xGW, Israel is ineffectively following a 2GW doctrine of battle against a 4GW enemy. Attrition and firepower (unless used in a genocidal fashion) are not going to prevail against propaganda and the weaponization of the media. Israel needs to seriously overhaul their strategic doctrine and step away from the big boom and into the small war mentality.


Anonymous said...

"Hamas took a gamble. We thought, at worst Israel will come and do something from the air - something superficial. They'll come in and go out. We never thought that we would reach the point where fear will swallow the heart and the feet will want to flee. You [Israel] are fighting like you fought in '48. What got into you all of a sudden?"

Operation Cast Lead was primarily a Psychological Operation whose kinetic aspects were intended to create exactly that fear and surprise.

Anonymous said...

Hamas will never honor a ceasefire, and as soon as they start firing rockets again, Israel must too.

These people equating Israel with the Nazis have to be insane, and they are mostly from the Left. The Left acting like Nazis and calling for a new Hitler, and for the Jews to go to the ovens, wow! Hitler, someone even most of them would say they hate. The Left, many are anti-semitic Nazis, they should be so proud. The truth is coming out, it is getting harder to hide.

The MSM is insidious, they are instrumental in fanning these flames. We must keep trying to de-brainwash as many people as possible. As the brave Geert Wilders put it recently, "To begin with, there is already a Palestinian state, and that is Jordan. This land covers nearly eighty percent of the historic Palestine. Most residents of Jordan are Palestinians, for instance queen Rania."

Why doesn't Jordan take the poor Palestinians in the West Bank and Egypt control the nut jobs in Gaza?

They don't want them, that's why. They should be made to take them. That may be the only answer.

Hamas is what makes Gaza much worse than it could be. If they would give up the dream of destroying Israel and the Jews and stopped all missiles and suicide bombers, and all terrorist attacks, Israel would welcome doing business with them, and things would be peaceful. But they can't do this as long as they follow their Koran strictly.

There is no negotiating with a mad man, or with Jihadis who want to die to go get their 72 virgins.
I hope Israel doesn't quit too early. If Israel is destroyed, terrorism in the rest of the world will just increase, it will never stop, as long as there are Radical Muslims, or rather, Muslim Fundamentalists; who are appeased, defended, and kissed up to.
absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
let someone hit you

over and over again
and NEVER hit back harder

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
DO NOT defend your country

from terrorist monkeys
just let them bomb you at will

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
BOMB kindergartens

then piss and moan and whine
when their parents bomb you back

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
never mock Hamas

it's just their religion
All real freedom starts with freedom of speech. Without freedom of speech there can be no real freedom.
What Really Happened in the MidEast?
Help Stop Terrorism Today!


ortho said...

It's easy to armchair-general a war. You argue, "Israel's response was strategically flawed from the get go...." What would you have done differently? What strategies do you recommend Israel should employ in the future against Hamas?

Jay@Soob said...

C4 where is that quote from?

Jay@Soob said...

USpace thanks for the comment. I don't see Egypt or Jordan "taking in" the Palestinians as a viable solution, whatever the historic political boundries.

Mike said...

I always figured that "proportionality" would mean the IDF indiscriminately lobbing ordnance into Gaza, seeing as that's Hamas SOP. Somehow I doubt those extolling "proportionality" would approve of such action.

Jay@Soob said...

Ortho, agreed it's quite easy to sit in the comfort of ones home and armchair general a war.

What would I change in Israels strategy? Assuming the objective is to eliminate Hamas (as was stated prior to the action) a more effective measure (and bloodier for IDF, no doubt) would be tactical/small arms/door to door effort.
Abu Muqawama posted an excellent quote via John Paul Vann:

"This is a political war and it calls for discrimination in killing. The best weapon for killing would be a knife, but I'm afraid we can't do it that way. The worst is an airplane. The next worst is artillery. Barring a knife, the best is a rifle — you know who you're killing."

There was a time when I thought Hamas might be brought around through diplomatic efforts. That they could be "massaged" away from their militant origins and "mature" into a viable political party (think IRA/Sinn Fein or the apparent shift within Hezbollah toward governance and away from militancy)but that time is over. It seems quite clear to me that Hamas' political efforts and grass roots civilian infrastructure efforts are measures to keep the war engine running. That they are living true to their charter which is less about the plight of Palestine and more about the destruction of Israel.
What's your take on this?

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Good stuff. It adds fuel to that compost heap that is smoldering in my brain lately.

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

The Real Gaza Massacre

Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Humiliated Hamas Lashes Out

It's as if the Israeli campaign was seeking to humiliate and discredit Hamas, as much as it was to destroy military and government assets.

. . . Hamas is already the growing target for ridicule in the Arab world. If Israel was trying to get Hamas exposed as a bunch of tyrants, genocidal liars and blowhards, they seem to have succeeded

M1 said...

Sometimes short term matters.

This particular "short term": Israel slaughtered. Heck, Hamas b like the bleeding and limbless knight in Monty Python's Jabberwocky. "I'll bite you!" the knight triumphantly screeched as he bled out).

"Uppity Arab mutha's, cower!!" That's the message delivered and it looks like it's been delivered. Knights' & proclamations of otherwise be damned - for now.

Long term? Nothing given.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jay, I'm not sure if this post will be welcome or not, but I've always found your comments on my blog and subsequent discussions to be intelligent and open minded even if we (no doubt) disagree on a lot. So although this can be an emotive issue that often ends badly, here goes...

1. About 'victory'. Although Hamas may be a 'victor' in the sense of winning a propaganda victory, their organisation must presumably have been seriously hurt whereas Israel suffered only minor casualties. The Palestinian people are certainly not victorious in any sense, neither in the short or the long term. In the short term, enormous numbers of civilians have been killed. In the long term, their prospects for escaping from their present horrific situation are no better. Palestinians continue to live in squalor, without economic access to the outside world, no control over their borders, limited access to water resources, continual military incursions into their land, etc. Israel on the other hand is a successful modern economy where almost all its people can live almost all their time untroubled by fear.

2. About 'proportionality'. I believe proportionality is in the Geneva conventions, although if memory serves it refers to proportionality of an action relative to the purpose of the action. So as you say, citing relative death counts doesn't speak directly to proportionality in this sense. However, there is a genuine issue of proportionality. What are the aims? Is it 'proportional' to use means of warfare that you know will end with hundreds of civilians killed if there is another means that would involve some more soldiers killed (on your own side) but many fewer civilians? Aren't we entitled to criticise in the strongest possible terms a state that treats foreign civilians as if their lives were worthless? For example, isn't the doctrine of collective punishment disgraceful and immoral in every possible way?

3. Furthermore, on the subject of proportionality. Despite the technical objections to the word, it seems fairly obvious that if one side is experiencing civilian casualties at a rate hundreds of times that of the other side, then something is deeply wrong. An observer without an opinion preformed would surely, if they were basing their observations on compassion for the conditions and lives of human beings, reach the conclusion that it is the Palestinians that are overwhelmingly the victim in this conflict, and not the Israelis.

4. Regarding strategy. I don't know what 2GW, 4GW etc. entail, but I think I can guess the gist of it. I don't think it's accurate to describe Israel as fighting an old fashioned type of war trying to destroy an enemy. The actions taken by Israel work at several levels. First of all, they are actions taken in support of electoral rhetoric. You must be seen to be doing something, even if that something is counterproductive. Secondly, their actions are quite consistent with a long term strategy of making it more difficult to resolve the issue of the Palestinians and of establishing "facts on the ground" as was the explicit Israeli strategy from before it was even founded. By relentlessly attacking the Palestinians and making any form of civil society there impossible, both through military actions, economic ones, and by control of borders and resources, Israel ensures that the Palestinians could never have a stable government that Israel could negotiate with. Their actions make more and more extreme forms of actions by the Palestinians their own possible response. This seems counterintuitive at first, but Israel doesn't want a settlement because it would mean the end of the "facts on the ground" strategy, and possibly losses of territory and control over some water resources.

Jay@Soob said...

M1, lol an apt analogy. Agreed, long term nothing given.

Jay@Soob said...


Your comment is well thought and aways welcome. Dissent and debate are encouraged. Discussions would be boring if we all just sat around and agreed with each other. I'll answer your comments point by point very soon (got some errands to run first) but I suspect we agree on this subject more than you may believe, only we're coming at it from two different directions perhaps. More soon.

Jay@Soob said...

Dan the Samovar,

Addressing your points as they were brought up.

1. I agree that a Hamas victory is not a victory for the Palestinian people. Quite the contrary. Hamas will use this "victory" to propagate more propaganda upon the Palestinians in Gaza many of whom will rally around what they envision to be the David fighting their cause against the Zionist Goliath. The end result is right back to square one. Hamas will use the ceasefire to rearm and a year from now (assuming a realistic international effort isn't put in place) we'll be back to daily rocket attacks into Sderot and other cities along the Gaza border.

2. You're assuming the IDF was engaged in a doctrine of collective punishment. I disagree. By utilizing airpower to soften their enemy they limit their own casualties. This is a reasonable method of conducting war. My issue with this strategy has nothing to do with morality (I can't conceive of a moral fashion to conducting war; and the day we as a whole can will be a dark day indeed) rather that the collateral damage (very limited when compared to the prospect of purposefully targeting civilians in an effort to, as you say, collectively punish; see Hama, Syria or Dresden, Germany for an examples) is used by Hamas to weaponize the media, garner an imbalanced international reaction and foment more Palestinian fury and subsequent support.
There was a time when I thought the Hamas trifecta of provident infrastructure (in light of the corruption of Fatah's PA,) politics and militancy could be "matured" into a semblance of governance. That time is over. It's clear to me that Hamas exists for the sake of Hamas (and their hopeless charter of eliminating the Jewish state) and not for the sake of the Palestinian people.

3. Compassion and war. Sorry, I don't get the relation.
Beyond that, I think I understand the reasoning behind the Palestinian people electing Hamas into power. I even understand why they, as a whole, essentially stood by while Hamas staged a coup, took control of Gaza as their own essential fiefdom, executed Fatah members (still happening in hospitals during Operation Cast Lead) and provoked a war with an obviously superior foe.
What I don't understand is why the apparent global reasoning holds Israel as the "bullies" and ignores the part Hamas played in this. What's amazing is that global players like the US, EU, UN, etc. didn't play a proactive part in this and step in weeks before the ceasefire ended and attempt to placate a situation (thousands of rockets fired into Israel during the cease fire, Israeli blockade, etc.) before it came to a head. Instead we see what we've always seen; a reactive measure after the dust settles.

4. I don't disagree with the relation to political rhetoric. But I have to ask, what semblance of civil society could be attained under a tyrannical government that utilized daily rocket attacks to antagonize it's neighbor?
Remember these rocket attacks accelerated after the concession of Gaza under Ariel Sharon and the subsequent forcing out of the one Palestinian political element the Israeli's had finally made some progress with.
Israel has plenty to account for and any progress forward from this point will require further concessions on the part of Israel.
But it's also going to require either; Hamas making a miraculous turn about and engaging in governance for Palestine, disengaging their militant efforts against Israel (and effing well clamping down on "satellite" militants) and sharing power with their West Bank rivals; or Hamas being marginalized politically to the point where the PA can gain a footing in Gaza and reassert control.
I'm being pessimistic here and don't see either of the above happening (I hope I'm wrong.) What I see is a ceasefire that gives Hamas time to regroup, re-arm and Israel time to elect or re-elect a hawkish party (Likud or Kadima) and in a year or two we'll do this all over again.

If I'm Israel I'm yanking the West Bank settlements and courting Abu Mazen like a jealous suitor. I'm engaging Syria about the Golan Heights (at best a symbolic gesture, which is fine) and, best of all, I'm locking my arm through Obama's and talking as straight on as I politically can to the Iranians. I'm levering the fanciful nuke holocaust/pre-emptive strike deal and demanding a realignment away from Hamas and toward Fatah. And I'm hoping my Yank benefactors capitulate and toss some IMF carrots into the stew and settle this ridiculous Iranian nuke holocaust thing and help out the PA/Israeli conflict at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jay,

This is an interesting discussion and it's great that we seem to be able to keep it at a very reasonable level. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a thing on the internet before! ;-)

"You're assuming the IDF was engaged in a doctrine of collective punishment. I disagree."

Maybe not this time (as it was I believe the IDF that broke the ceasefire rather than Hamas), but it certainly appears to all intents and purposes that this has been their strategy in the past.

"This is a reasonable method of conducting war."

You've probably thought about this point a lot more than I have, but perhaps war is not an appropriate word to describe the situation. It is in many ways more like a policing operation. For example, suppose that the US in the 'war on drugs' decided that all the drug dealers were operating out of some particular neighbourhood in a US city. There's no chance that they would declare war on that neighbourhood and pound it with bombs, they'd have to treat it as a policing operation. In many ways, the situation with Israel and Palestine is like that because you do not have a functioning government on the one side. Yes, Hamas was elected and is the closest thing they have to a government, but it hardly makes sense to say that they're really a government when they have so little control.

In other words, if the Gaza Strip and West Bank were part of Israel, but terrorist operations were being run from them, calling the counter-terrorist operation "war" and bombing these areas would not be considered reasonable by anyone I think. So it's only the fact that these two territories are not part of Israel that makes calling it "war" seem acceptable. But my claim is that this difference doesn't justify this when Israel has almost total control over these territories (economic, borders, resources, etc.).

"I can't conceive of a moral fashion to conducting war; and the day we as a whole can will be a dark day indeed"

That's an intriguing statement that suggests an interesting thought behind it. I'd be interested if you would elaborate? (Maybe a new blog entry if you like.)

"What I don't understand is why the apparent global reasoning holds Israel as the "bullies" and ignores the part Hamas played in this."

For me, this is one of those issues where depending on how you frame the question you get very different answers. If you frame the question as: who is more to blame, Hamas or Israel, then I would agree with you (with caveats below). However, if the Israeli strategy, as I argue, makes it inevitable that a group like Hamas would come into power, then it makes sense to lay the majority of the blame on Israel.

The caveat I mentioned in the previous paragraph is that there may be circumstances in which it is justified to take violent, even terroristic actions against your oppressors. I think that probably only holds when there are no other actions you can take and there is some hope that the violent actions may have a useful effect. Whether or not this is the case here is debatable (and a complicated issue which I haven't formed an opinion on).

"But I have to ask, what semblance of civil society could be attained under a tyrannical government that utilized daily rocket attacks to antagonize it's neighbor?"

I don't see that's relevant. I mean, Israeli civil society is perfectly well functioning despite their, if not daily at least regular, incursions into Palestinian territory, and their continuing blockade, etc. I imagine you could say the same about lots of countries, for example any country that had an empire.

"I'm being pessimistic here and don't see either of the above happening (I hope I'm wrong.) What I see is a ceasefire that gives Hamas time to regroup, re-arm and Israel time to elect or re-elect a hawkish party (Likud or Kadima) and in a year or two we'll do this all over again."

Sadly I have to agree. And I don't have a solution that would definitely work either. My feeling is that there are actions that Israel could take that would, possibly not in the short term, end the problems, whereas I don't think there is much the Palestinians can do. If they stopped all violent actions, it seems likely to me that they would subsequently be pushed into an ever smaller corner, with ever more restrictions on their movements, economic activity, control over resources, etc. On the other hand, Israel could choose to close the settlements, lift the economic restrictions, control over their border, and so forth, get rid of the checkpoints that make it so difficult to conduct daily life in the Palestinian territories, etc. If they did this, they would probably have more short term problems, but if they went into with the long term in mind, those actions could easily be the start of a solution to the problem. What could persuade Israel to do this? Either a change in mindset, or perhaps more realistically the application of political pressure.

Your ideas for what Israel should do also seem reasonable (and not incompatible with the above).

Jay@Soob said...

Hi Dan

Thanks to you as well for a civil discussion on what for many is an emotional and divisive topic.

I won't disagree that the Israeli's have utilized a system of attrition aimed at civilians in the past. Though as for who broke the cease fire I think it's debatable that it was the IDF given the rocket attacks that went unbated during the ceasefire.

I see what your saying regarding the terminology of "war." However both belligerents seem to view this altercation as a war even as they utilize very different strategies and tactics. I don't see any benefit for Israel in approaching this in a similar police action measure that Britain used in dealing with the IRA. Beyond the cultural, religious and ethnic divides Israel isn't attempting to re-establish colonial rule over Gaza.

Moralizing war:
Making war morally palatable through any means is a harbinger to making planet earth a conglomerate of technologically sophisticated, 12th century Mongol like warrior societies. When war loses it's tragic consequences it becomes increasingly easier to practice. Perhaps I'll put more thought into this and put up a post on it in the future.

If Hamas was fighting "the good fight" I'd agree with your caveat. Hamas, however, seems clearly devoted to keeping Gaza under an iron rule in an effort to propagate their endless efforts to bring about the destruction of the Zionist state and not at all about realizing a successful Palestinian state.

As for Israel's perfectly functioning civil society; If you lived in a city where when an air raid siren went off you had 15 seconds to take cover before a rocket exploded in some random location, would you attribute that to a perfectly functioning civil society? I wouldn't.

I don't think Israel can, realistically, lift the stringent security checkpoints. I do think that they could and should relax the blockade to allow NGO relief and outside money into Gaza. By sealing it off completely they, having failed to eradicate Hamas, leave Hamas alone to smuggle money and relief in through the Egyptian blockade (important to remember it isn't only Israel that is sealing off Gaza) which they use to tighten their control politically through rebuilding efforts and cash rewards to loyalists.

As things stand now the blockade remains in full effect (and Hamas is doing the rebuilding and violently repressing any that dare show solidarity with Fatah) and rockets continue to fall into Israel. On the whole we're back to square one. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jay,

"However both belligerents seem to view this altercation as a war even as they utilize very different strategies and tactics."

That's true, but it seems to me it misses the point that there are two other groups here as well as the belligerents, the Palestinian and Israeli civilians. The belligerents may be perfectly happy to regard it as a war, but I'm not sure the civilians would be so happy to do so. It just seems to me that the word "war" (as I understand it) has a reasonably well understood meaning in certain circumstances, but that using it in this situation is to use it well outside its usual meaning, and therefore that reasoning about it using the associations we have with the word can lead to confusion. I prefer to just try to look at the specifics of the situation and reason about them (to the best of my understanding). So I would avoid saying "This is a reasonable method of conducting war" because of the things I associate with the word "war" which are so much unlike what is going on in Israel and Palestine. Instead I'd see if we could look at the specifics of the situation and ask if it was reasonable without using the word "war" at all. In this case, my answer would be that no, given the circumstances, it wasn't reasonable to kill a thousand innocent people.

Perhaps the key thing about a "war" is that there has to be some vaguely comparable danger to both states that they could lose the war and end up being controlled by the other side. The difference in power between the two "sides" here seems so overwhelming that you can't describe it in this way.

"As for Israel's perfectly functioning civil society; If you lived in a city where when an air raid siren went off you had 15 seconds to take cover before a rocket exploded in some random location, would you attribute that to a perfectly functioning civil society? I wouldn't."

My impression is that for the majority of the population of Israel, it's not like this. Certainly, while I was there last year (only for a few days) I didn't get any sense that civil society wasn't functioning perfectly well. I went to a conference at a world class university (the Technion in Haifa) where they were doing cutting edge research with the best high tech equipment, I ate at comfortable restaurants that were serving excellent food, I stayed at a good hotel with all the amenities you find in hotels anywhere, etc.