Habakkuk on reality in the ME


thank you for that most interesting explanation of why Hizballah may indeed,
as Nicolas Noe suggested in Asia Times last month 'believe that the next war
can and should be the last one between Israel and its enemies.' 

What you write, however, has the effect of further inflaming a suspicion
which has been growing steadily stronger in me over the past weeks — that the
situation in the Middle East is rather like a
smouldering volcano.  It may not erupt,
but could well do so, and if it did, the eruption might come suddenly and
unexpectedly, generating a conflict which could escalate out of control, possibly
with totally catastrophic results. 

And the likelihood of catastrophe is, I think, greatly increased by the fact
that many people are living in a fool's paradise, and do not grasp quite how
dangerous the situation

A key part of the background here I take to be the change in Israeli
attitudes described in the seminal 2008 Middle East Policy article 'Abandoning
the Iron Wall: Israel
and the "Middle Eastern Muck"' by Ian Lustick.

(See http://www.polisci.upenn.edu/faculty/faculty-articles&papers/Lustick_MEP_2008.pdf.)

The fundamental change whose implications Lustick explores in this paper is
the effective abandonment over the last few years of the 'Iron Wall'
conception, which Jabotinsky set out in 1925, and which was the basis of
Israeli policy until recently.  In
essence, this conception involved bludgeoning the Arabs into accepting that Israel could
not be destroyed, as a prelude to negotiated accommodations.

What has now replaced this, Lustick argues, is an image of Israel as an
isolated outpost of Western civilisation, in an Arab/Muslim world with which no
accommodation is possible.  And this
change opens up all kinds of possibilities for catastrophe.

According to Lustick, Israelis are 'coming to see the Middle East as a whole
the way they came to see Lebanon
in the 1980s.'  A 'natural feature of this
overall outlook,' he writes, is:

'an image of the Arab/Muslim world, and the Palestinians in particular, as
irrational, brutal and violent, imbued with intractably anti-Semitic hatreds
fortified by deeply anti-Western, Muslim-fundamentalist fanaticism.'

This is relevant to the point made — very fairly — by Fred and 'different
clue', that all kinds of other factors are involved in the increasing
propensity of Israelis to emigrate, besides the growing military capabilities
of Hizballah and Israel. 


While that is clearly so, the evidence presented by Lustick suggests that
apprehensions about the security situation are an increasingly important
motivation in causing Israelis to think their future may lie elsewhere.

And this is, surely, not surprising.  For
implicit in this view of Israel
as an isolated frontier post in a 'civilisational war' is an obvious question
as to whether it makes sense to stay there. 
Why live on Hadrian's Wall, when one could live in Rome
— or Seville,
or indeed Londonium, as it once was called?

A further effect of this image of the 'Arab/Muslim world' as 'irrational,
brutal and violent', obviously, is to make the increasing military capabilities
of Hizballah and Iran look yet more threatening than they would otherwise seem.  It may indeed be that, as 'different clue'
suggests, if the Israelis decided 'to think very slowly and clearly' they could
live with these.

But if one sees the possessors of these capabilities in the terms in which
Lustick suggests that Israelis see the whole 'Arab/Muslim world', then the
threat does indeed come to seem 'existential' — and the collapse into the
all-too-easy and catastrophic analogy with genocidal aspirations of Nazi
Germans follows. 

What further follows is that even a perfectly 'rational' Israeli strategist
may be right in perceiving the threat from Hizballah rockets and possible
Iranian nuclear weapons as 'existential' — because if people believe it to be
so, it becomes so.

In a kind of vicious circle, the maximalist definition of Israeli security
requirements which results further diminishes the possibility of the kind of
grudging acceptance of the presence of a Zionist 'settler state' from the
'Arab/Muslim world' which the 'Iron Wall' conception made the basis of Israeli

So the route down which Israel
has chosen to go makes it, from Nasrallah's point of view, too dangerous — and
perhaps also too sheerly insulting — to be accorded even grudging acceptance.  And at the same time, it has also opened up
the possibility of a perfectly 'rational' strategy to exploit the fears of
Israelis to cause the state to self-destruct.

However, it seems to me that both their dramatic successes against Israel,
and the fact that these do make it eminently possible to conceive of a strategy
which will cause the settler state to self-destruct, may be inducing in
Hizballah a combination alike of hubris and exaggerated — or perhaps it would
be better to say misdirected — fear.

Ironically, this seems to me oddly similar to the combination of hubris and
exaggerated and misdirected fear which, after their dramatic victory in 1967,
blinded the Israeli leadership to the fact that any realistic prospect of
making the 'Iron Wall' strategy work depended upon using the territorial gains
it achieved as bargaining chips — rather than trying to hold on to them.

You write of Hizballah's attitude to a war:

'They know it wouldn't be painless but I guess they are using a logic that
the big hurt once is better than the continued hurt for centuries to come.'

But the fear of a 'continued hurt for centuries to come' surely is
grotesquely exaggerated.  The Israel portrayed by Lustick is simply not one
which has very good prospects of surviving 'for centuries to come' — it is one
in which an 'incapacity to imagine a future for Israel
in the Middle East that is both positive and
acceptable' has been spreading right across the political spectrum.  And again, this is a case where once
something is imagined to be so, it is liable to become fact.

At the same time, there is a very real shift in opinion in the United States.  In particular, key military figures —
notably General Petraeus and Admiral Mullen — are coming to grasp the depths
of the problems that the way in which the Israelis have come to see the
'Arab/Muslim world', and the policies which result, cause for the United States.

Moreover, Israel's 'fear
and loathing of Obama' — to quote the title of a recent piece by the Financial
Times foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman — is very visibly helping the
evolution of American opinion in directions unfavourable to Israel.

(See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/310bdc10-5163-11df-bed9-00144feab49a.html.)

Actually, Rachman's article is a good example of the kind of 'fool's
paradise' in which so many are now living. 
Having noted a whole host of factors which make many of us believe that
the time for the two-state solution has passed, Rachman goes on to assume that if
the Israelis fell in with the rather small changes in settlement policy
suggested by Obama, the road to a two-state solution might still be open.

Doing this blinds him, and many others, to the fact that a realistic
perception that their society is facing a dead end is pushing some Israelis to
take refugee in fantasy, while other — perfectly realistic — ones are driven
to contemplate extreme solutions.  The recent
article in Haaretz by Ephraim Sneh, which we discussed here some weeks back, is
I suspect a kind of coded 'thinking aloud' about the possibilities and
difficulties of such solutions by a perfectly 'rational'  Israeli strategist. 

Unlike Rachman, and much opinion in the supposedly 'rational' West, Sneh was
facing up to the extreme intractability of the dilemmas which confront Israel.  And one route out of these dilemmas is indeed
a war which, if not necessarily the 'last war' between Israel and its enemies, would be
intended as a very radical 'game changer' indeed — as Clifford Kiracofe has

It is fairly clear that Israeli military power is inadequate seriously to
set back the Iranian nuclear programme, and deeply unclear that the balance of
military power has shifted towards Israel so as to make possible the
kind of decisive victory against Hizballah it so signally failed to achieve in

Accordingly it is likely that the only war which makes sense for Israel is
one in which it can enlist the massive military power of the United States, in
an all-out war in which it would hope to do the maximum damage possible both to
Hizballah and to Iran. 

A possible further objective of such a war could be to create a situation
whereby the vision of a civilisational clash became self-validating — with the
United States
having so involved itself on the Israeli side that it could not easily retreat
from the complicity thus created.

Among others, Colonel Sam Gardiner, in his recent report entitled 'The
Israeli Threat', has argued that an Israeli strike on Iran could very
well create a situation in which the Obama Administration could feel it had no
option but to join in on the Israeli side.

(See http://www.foi.se/upload/nyheter/2010/FOI_Rapport%20G5_NY2_med%20omslag.pdf.)

Very often, if one sees signs that an adversary may be preparing to set a
trap for one, the sensible response is to take steps not to fall into it — and
if possible, by failing to act as the adversary, to cause the attempted
entrapment to backfire.

On this basis it would seem sensible for the Iranians to attempt to devise contingency
plans aimed at responding to any Israeli attack, in ways which tilted the
balance against intervention in the United States — the kind of
approach suggested by Lysander in a previous thread.  

And by cheeking Obama over the settlements, Netanyahu may have made this
much easier — both because this may make the President incandescent at any
attempt to pressure him by Israelis, and because there is clearly a growing
number of people in the United States who think that Israel needs to be taught
who is the tail and who the dog.

It may be the Iranians are not in a position to wrong-foot the Israelis in
the way Lysander suggests.  But if they
were able to do so, the potential gains could be very great.  For Israel to suggest that the Iranian
programme is such an 'existential threat' that it has to take unilateral
action, and then to take action unsuccessfully, would be precisely the way to
encourage its citizens to bolt.

Moreover, a restrained response could make it possible to turn the image of
the Muslim world as 'irrational, brutal and violent' back on the Israelis.  If one thinks through the implications, one
can I think see the possibility of a truly massive propaganda coup.

What then of Hizballah?

The appropriate strategy at the outset of any conflict seems obvious enough
— one of 'symetrical response', which at one of the same time establishes the
Israelis as aggressors, and ensures that they suffer damage commensurate with
— and if possible tailored to — that which they inflict.  It has to be demonstrated that Israel cannot
now, and cannot realistically hope in the future, to destroy the retaliatory
capability of Hizballah.

So far, the picture you give of Hizballah's strategic thinking seems to make
excellent sense.  However, I remain
puzzled by the calculations you suggest are behind the vision of this war as
the 'last one' between Israel
and its enemies.

What you say about the 'lessons of 1066' and the imperative 'don't join with
the enemy where you haven't planned to' certainly seem to me to have been very
much to the point in 2006, and to be very much to the point today. 

However, you seem to me to be suggesting that Hizballah thinks that this
conflict is the likely to be a final and decisive one, precisely because they
can realistically plan for circumstances in which they can advance into Israel.

In their shoes, I would certainly have contingency plans for all kinds of
situations.  But I would still both think
that the kind of immediate decisive victory you suggest is unlikely, that the
dangers of attempting to achieve it are liable to be very great — as well as
believing that it is unnecessary.

For this there are several reasons:

1.  You suggest Hizballah believes
that a 'symetrical response' could trigger the kind of panic which would
produce an immediate exodus, which in turn could lead to an immediate military
collapse: rather than simply accelerating a more extended process of

This may be so, but hopes that aerial bombardment could trigger a rapid
panic have rather often not been vindicated. 
The RAF and USAF devastated German cities in the latter stages of the
Second World War, without having significant effects on German morale.

2.  You appear to suggest that, in response
to these anticipated signs of disintegration, Hizballah might advance into Israel — with
Palestinian refugees behind them. 
Whether they would enjoy the kind of advantages they enjoy when fighting
on the defensive on their own territory seems to me unclear.

3.  The key to the strategic position
of Israel is the alliance
with the United States.
 In recent years Israeli governments and
the American Zionist lobby have been very successful in marginalising
scepticism about unconditional support for Israeli politics — but at the same
time their actions have greatly increased such scepticism.  Since I started reading and commenting on
this blog back in 2005, the underlying change in the climate of opinion in the United States
has been palpable.

The conduct of Hizballah in 2006 encouraged the erosion of sympathy and
support for Israel — not
least because it turned so many familiar stereotypes on its head:  Israel looked less like David than
an inept and brutal Goliath.  A re-run of
2006, with Hizballah forces not crossing over into Israel, would be likely to continue

Any advance into Israel,
particularly if Palestinian refugees followed in its wake, would risk
reactivating all the old stereotypes of Arabs dreaming of pushing Israel into the
sea — and validating the Israeli vision of themselves as an isolated outpost
of Western civilisation.

4.  Last but hardly least, advancing
into Israel
would surely needlessly exacerbate the danger of Israeli use of nuclear

And I must admit to being puzzled by some of the reasons you give for being
reasonably sanguine about the danger of these weapons being used if indeed the
Israelis were confronted by the kind of rapid disintegration you suggest is

You suggest that it is unlikely that the Israelis would be in a position to use
nuclear weapons, because 'the Liebermans of Israel, those that use the
nationalist agenda would be long gone.' 
But if the rapid disintegration you suggest Hizballah anticipates
materializes, then how are 'those that use the nationalist agenda' going to
have had time to get out? 

Surely this is an argument for not attempting to secure a decisive victory
now — but leaving the implications of defeat to sink in, thus encouraging the
disintegrative tendencies evident in Israeli society?

5.  Moreover, another point made by
Ian Lustick seems relevant. He suggests that rather than force against Arabs
and Muslims being conceived of as 'a persuasive instrument in service of
political or diplomatic aims', it is now increasingly treated by Israelis as 'a
kind of rattonade'.

Apparently this is a term drawn from French practice in Algeria, whose literal meaning is
'rat hunt', and which signifies a violent strike on the enemy, 'for purposes of
punishment, destruction and psychological release.'

And here, one also comes up against the question of whether the Israelis may
be tempted to cope with their intractable demographic problems by attempting
'ethnic cleansing'. 

In an earlier thread, you and I have disagreed on the possibility of the
Israelis resorting to 'ethnic cleansing'. 
My view remains that — in normal circumstances — this remains
extraordinarily unlikely.  It is
precisely however in the circumstances of a war which runs out of control that
the unthinkable becomes thinking. 

So, for example, the transition in Hitler's policy from 'ethnic cleansing'
to 'genocide' in relation to the Jews of Europe comes in the early stages of
the Russian campaign.


How much significance one should accord to the famous interview given back
in 2003 by the Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld is a moot
point.  This is frequently misunderstood,
because people fail to grasp that that his key point is that by failing to
retreat to the 1967 borders, Israel
has left itself with no good options — and may end up with only catastrophic

But I think it does give one reason to fear how Israeli leaders might act,
in the context of a war running out control. 
The question as to whether the world would allow the kind of 'ethnic
cleansing' to which van Creveld suggested Israel might be driven produced the
following exchange:

"Interviewer: Do you think that the world will allow that kind
of ethnic cleansing?

"Creveld: That depends on who does it and how quickly it
happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch
them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for
our air force.

"Interviewer: Wouldn't Israel then become a rogue state?

"Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan:
must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother." I consider it all
hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to
that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth
strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability
to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen,
before Israel
goes under.

"Interviewer: This isn't your own position, is it?

"Creveld: Of course not. You asked me what might happen and I've
laid it out. The only question is whether it is already too late for the other
solution, which I support, and whether Israeli public opinion can still be
convinced. I think it's too late. With each passing day the expulsion of the
Palestinians grows more probable. The alternative would be the total
annihilation and disintegration of Israel. What do you expect from us?

(See http://www.rense.com/general34/dutchisraelimilitary.htm.)

And I think that although van Creveld may be blustering, one should be
cautious about assuming that both an attempt at 'ethnic cleansing', and also
the use of nuclear weapons, would be impossible in the course of a new Middle
East war — and in particular, one which Israel was losing catastrophically.

The conclusion to which I have come — with deep regret — is that the
'disintegration of Israel'
over the next few years if by far the most likely eventuality.  But if this is so, the political problem
becomes how to manage the winding up of the Zionist project, without this
generating a total and utter catastrophe. And as the catastrophe could indeed
be total and utter, it seems to me that a lot of people who are at daggers'
drawn actually have a common interest in avoiding it.

And for this reason, the best strategy for Hizballah would be to try to make
'deterrence' work, while, obviously, being prepared for it failing.  If it fails, however, they should, even if
the war goes their way, be extremely cautious about any ideas about advancing
into Israel.

Eschewing hopes of a final victory now would certainly involve accepting the
possibility that this might not be the last and final conflict.  But a successful defensive war could well
create a situation whereby the winding up of the Zionist project could be
achieved without a further war — and also make it likely that, if such a
further war materialised, it would be less apocalyptic than an all-out war in
present circumstances might turn out to be.

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40 Responses to Habakkuk on reality in the ME

  1. JohnH says:

    Truly amazing analysis! Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Matthew says:

    Very interesting analysis. It does explain why our officials are constantly trying to reassure the Israelis.

  3. JohnH says:

    On reflection, there is one small addition I’d make.
    Jabotinsky conceived of the Iron Wall as a way to show Arabs that Israel was impregnable. As a result, they would be persuaded to negotiate a peaceful co-existence with Israel. And that concept worked with Egypt and Jordan.
    Despite the affirmation of Jabotinsky in peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, somewhere along the way his concept got perverted to the notion that an Iron Wall was needed because Arabs would never agree to co-exist with Israel. This is where the Zionist project began to unravel, because Israel’s existence came to depend on overwhelming military superiority.
    Disproportionate power bred arrogance, intransigence, and a need for increasingly frequent and brutal demonstrations of military might, as a clear message not to f**k with the Jews. Sharon’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was the first clear indication that Israeli military power was out of control.
    Then in 2006 Hizballah returned the favor, popping the balloon of Israeli deterrence, exposing Israel to commensurate destruction, and putting the whole world at risk of an uncontrolled meltdown of the Zionist project.

  4. frank durkee says:

    If the ‘worst case’ set out above became a lively option, use of atomic weapons against others, what should the US actions be?

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    There doesn’t seem to be any real proof of Syrian transfer of SCUDS to Hizbullah. I want to see a picture of one in south Lebanon.

  6. kao_hsien_chih says:

    So, Israel is basically a Jewish North Korea, then? Given the developments of last few years, I’d come to conclude that being a mad dog that’s too dangerous to bother is exactly the attitude taken up by the North Koreans–although with enough provocations that the temptation to give it good kick is becoming too irresistible sometimes. Of course, Israel, like North Koreans, have been acting increasingly provocatively lately as well…

  7. BillWade says:

    kao_hsien_chih, I like the analogy, China is to NK, as we are to Israel.

  8. walrus says:

    Were Israel to threaten Europe with nuclear weapons, no jew in Europe would be safe, ever again.

  9. Lysander says:

    David, thanks a lot for the positive mention of my earlier comments.
    I’ve often wondered, and Col Lang, please tell me if I’m crazy, that Europe and America’s strongly pro Israel attitude has something to do with their own fear of Israel’s nukes. Professor Crevald suggests it might. In my view, if the situation were ever actually to come to such a point, my guess is that most Israelis would prefer to live in Europe than die in Palestine. But I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to test that hypothesis.
    But assuming Crevald is right, then someone may come to the conclusion that the best defense against a Mad Dog is a madder dog. Hence the real fear behind Iran’s potential nuclear capability. Would Germany be so willing to sell nuclear capable subs to Israel if they thought Iran had nukes? Would Europe back Israel to the hilt in every conflict, if Iran also had a “Samson option?” Just food for thought.
    I would be shocked if Hezbollah had the means to actually take and hold territory inside Israel. Infiltrate and cause damage, maybe. But actually grab an Israeli town and repel Israeli attacks?? I would be shocked. But if they could, they absolutely would. It would have to be a war started by Israel and not them. Hezbollah’s biggest fear isn’t a war with Israel, but being **blamed** for a war with Israel.
    Thanks for a great write up.

  10. Ali says:

    Thank you for the excellent analysis.
    The comments on the use of nuclear weapons reminds me of an argument I was having with a colleague about Israel/Iran. I believe the point I was trying to make at the time was: release of tactical nuclear weapons by the US could (only) happen in the event that US forces having been cut off from resupply and under threat of being over run following an Israeli strike and Iranian response. Regional war, particularly one which promises heavy losses, would make much that is unthinkable acceptable.

  11. Adam L Silverman says:

    Mr. Habbakuk: Excellent post! I have a question and a comment. Its been a long time since I’ve looked at the Jabotinsky/early revisionist Zionist stuff, but I’d appreciate it if you’d clarify for me: my understanding was that the revisionists actually held (hold?) both the positions that you lay out up front – that Israel is an isolated outpost because the Arabs are brutal, violent, etc and as a result the Iron Wall was (is?) necessary. As such it would seem that this is less an abandonment of one for the other and more of an emphasizing the latter conception and backgrounding the former. I am very curious as to your take on this.
    Also, the link to Professor Lustick’s paper is dead, but given that he runs one of the premier agent based modeling labs in the country, my guess is that he wouldn’t be making this assertion unless he had run enough simulations to be confident of the conclusions.

  12. Patrick Lang says:

    The US afraid of Israel? Does an eagle fear a chicken hawk? pl

  13. mo says:

    We are going to have to meet in real life some time – this format is just lacking for such a subject.
    Your volcano analogy is apt except of course that there is less randomness.
    I don’t actually think most of the leadership on both sides of the divide underestimate the dangers. Their continued saber rattling should be seen as being in spite of the dangers.
    I think Lustick’s analysis that the Iron Wall has been abandoned is correct but I am not buying his reasoning that it is happening because Israel is coming to the conclusion that it is surrounded by peoples who they see “as irrational, brutal and violent, imbued with intractably anti-Semitic hatreds fortified by deeply anti-Western, Muslim-fundamentalist fanaticism”.
    The reason I don’t buy this is that one, even Ben Gurion himself accepted that Arab opposition to Israel had nothing to do with faith and two Israel today has, at the very least, amicable relations
    with more Arab states than not (although these relationships were strained to a lesser degree in 06 and a greater degree in the attack on Gaza).
    The Iron Wall has been abandoned, in my opinion, because after 91 the Israelis no longer felt the need to prove its military strength coupled with the semblance of an actual peace process with the Palestinians. At the same time the settler occupation of the West Bank and Israels water problems I believe led them to the conclusion that they would never give up what the Palestinians wanted for peace and the Palestinians would never sign on to what they were being offered.
    But any semblance of the wall they wanted to retain was first damaged in 2000 and I believe finally crumbled in Lebanon and Gaza. The simple fact is the IDF ain’t what it used to be and its foes aren’t the incompetents they used to be.
    I used to agree with the notion that if the Israelis really thought about it, they would realise Hizballah and Hamas are not the existential threat they are made out to be. But if we think about it, existential to Israel has a different definition to the rest of the world precisely because of its faith based raison d’etre.
    The resistance to Israel therefore is existential, not because Israel may be defeated but because the threat and danger may be enough to push its brightest and its best to leave. By the same token that is why there is so much opposition to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
    Which of course then begs the question of why the Israeli leadership works so hard to portray its opponents as “irrational, brutal and violent”. Surely they are only doing their opponents job for them by scaring more and more Israelis to leave.
    So I do think their existential fears are real if we accept that existential means something slightly different to Israel.
    Will Israel left to its own devices collapse on itself? I don’t believe so. It will only drift evermore towards to the right, making it even more attractive to the US right wing evangelists and garner their protection. But, according to Hizballahs current strategy, they are perfectly happy to wait. There will only be a response to an attack – They cannot, politically be seen to be launching the first strike this time (although as a caveat I don’t know how any possible retaliation operation for the Mughniyeh assassination fits into the scheme of things).
    To be honest, I think to Nasrallah, the route Israel takes is only important if it goes via Lebanon (acceptance of Israel, grudging or otherwise is not going to be on the minutes of any Hizballah meeting anytime soon).
    So if Israel does resort to this all out war, what of the response.
    The Iranian response will I think be very much based on who attacks it and how. As the Colonel has pointed out previously, the big question is if this attack happens, the Israelis need to use someones airspace.
    The Hizballah response will, in the main, be retaliatory and symmetrical as Nasrallah said.
    Leaving aside any infantry movements, the first question has to be could Israel and the Israeli public cope with the kind of destruction done to Lebanon in 06? Could its economy? Lebanon could because the Lebanese are used to it.
    But in my post I specifically meant that it would be what happens on the ground that will make the difference.
    I think Hizballah’s strategy of advancing into Israel is not so much a goal as an eventuality they predict as a result of how often it happened in 06.
    If they can cross over as easily the next time then they want to be ready to hold onto that land and make Israel that little bit smaller.
    The thinking however, and I apologise if I misrepresented this, is not for an immediate and decisive victory.
    It is that if they plan to and are able to push into any of the land that was part of historic Palestine (much of Northern Israel was actually Lebanese owned but that’s a different story) the Israeli belief that the “barbarians” had entered Rome would be panic inducing.
    So what I was in fact suggesting was not that Hizballah’s advance would be predicated by Israeli panic but the other way around.
    Its true that any advance into Israel would allow for the old stereotypes to be rekindled but if you believe you are fighting the last war that isn’t an argument you will care for. But that is also why Hizballah will not initiate the next round. By being the victim, they will use the “cant stand the heat stay out of the kitchen”t defense.
    The Nukes are obviously the large radioactive elephants in the room. I am not, believe me, sanguine about them and only put forward possible hopes on why they wont be used. But the truth is that the Samson option may very well be implemented no matter how Hizballah reacts if the disintegration of the Zionist project is at hand.
    But, just to be clear, I am not saying Hizballah wants or even expects a “decisive victory”. They do not have the manpower or resources to achieve anything like that. Their strategy is that by simply pushing the IDF back, they will put enough doubt in enough Israelis so as to catalyze the disintegration.
    I wouldn’t be too concerned about genocide against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza if a war were going that badly for Israel. In that scenario I think Hamas and the fighting forces of Fatah would quickly patch up their differences and create more fronts against Israel.
    I am far more concerned with the “legal” cleansing going on right now in Jerusalem and the West Bank (where now under Israeli law, if you are from Gaza, you are classified an “illegal immigrant” and “deported”.
    To draw back from speculation and look at things from as they are, the situation in Lebanon today is that deterrence is working. Israelis love to point out that 2006 was a success because their Northern border has never been so quiet, while forgetting to mention that is was they who made the noise.
    And any future war would be “defensive” for Hizballah in that it would be in response to an Israeli attack. The only difference this time is I believe, that Hizballah are planning a strategy that minimizes the cost to Lebanon, in infrastructure definitely, but more importantly in lives. How they will do so without triggering an apocalyptic response we can only wait and see as it would be horrifyingly ironic that they would trigger such a response as a result of having a strategy that is aimed at saving lives.

  14. mo says:

    here’s the link without the punctuation at the end…:)

  15. VietnamVet says:

    Thanks for the most informative posts. As one who was trained to duck under the school table in case of a Soviet attack, my fundamental belief is that a nuclear salvo would never be limited and would inevitably lead to use of the entire arsenal and nuclear winter. This scenario, MADD, deterred Stalin, Mao, Khrushchev, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush.
    MADD falls apart when a non-state organization obtains a nuclear weapon or a religious State, led by a true believer, has a limited number nuclear weapons and perceives its existence is under attack.
    The only way to counter the extinction perception is to lower tensions by ending occupations and securing borders. However, bringing Peace to the Middle East and avoiding a nuclear apocalypse is non priority just like the New Orleans levies, regulating derivatives, or requiring an acoustic switch on the oil well shut-off valve. Vested corporate interests are making money off of war, graft and pumping oil on the cheap; no matter what catastrophe awaits.

  16. Bart says:

    I often think there’s a Nobel Peace Prize for anyone who could convince Israel to move shop. This is not a new idea, but one not open to public debate. There are plenty of more pleasant places in the world that are under-populated.

  17. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    I’ve been following this thread with interest and ignorance. Dr. Silverman’s question to ‘mo’ as how to access Professor Lustick’s article and ‘mo’s’ answer was beyond helpful.
    I found Prof. Lustick’s paper “Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and “The Middle Eastern Muck” an extraordinary history lesson that offered me a level of basic knowledge about Israel and its existence much as your videotape did for Islam. It gave me a way to approach the issues in David’s post that would otherwise have been beyond my comprehension.
    Lustick’s paper also raised questions for me about possible domestic parallels including the consequences of our not dealing with our long standing problem with immigration policy and the likely loss of European (Caucasian) hegemony; our political drift into tolerating the demonizing our own and other peoples and our patent and growing preference to avoid dealing with the hard stuff as too dangerous politically.
    If there are other papers out there of similar character, please don’t be reluctant to post them.

  18. Jane says:

    Um, is the ‘end of the Zionist project’ modeled on the way the Muslims fled Mecca because it was under nuclear threat?
    Like any cultists who believe that they are protected by God, the settlers are extremely unlikely to go anywhere. And I’d expect that very few ordinary Israelis would flee either although they might send a son or daughter abroad.
    As the Muslim world develops, the IDF advantage necessarily shrinks. I’m no military strategist but I would be extremely surprised if the IDF currently could not do to any given Arab country what we did to Iraq. What Israel does not have, and never had, is the ability to govern afterwords.
    Given the irredentist impulses in some forms of Islam, Israel is not irrational to wonder whether a permanent peace is available for any price from the current generation of Muslims. It may not be their own situation but rather the attack on the United States which is convincing Israel that a co-operative two state future is implausible and leading them to take defensive actions which render it even less likely.

  19. Patrick Lang says:

    “the attack on the United States”
    What attack on the US? pl

  20. I found Mr. Habbakuk’s discussion very interesting. I also found Lustick’s paper very interesting and informative. But I found Col. Sam Gardiner’s report very disquieting. Some remarks and questions about Gardiner’s report:
    1. Why does it come across as advocacy rather than analysis? Why does it sound like it had the assistance of a professional novelist (ignoring the poor proofreading that left an editor’s stylistic remarks in the body of the text)?
    2. Is the model for an American-Israeli intervention in Iran (whether America is coerced by Israel or not) the war in Iraq (which was easy in its initial phases in part because the CIA had bought off Iraqi generals) or the War in Kosovo (where the military results of bombing were less than satisfactory)?
    It would be useful if someone could comment on the technical military aspects of Gardiner’s report. Is it going to be so simple?

  21. Forgot to add:
    3. Don’t the Iranians have an intelligence service that spends its time reading reports like Gardiner’s? Wouldn’t they be making appropriate recommendations? Wouldn’t they be listened to?

  22. Jane says:

    It does not take a large percentage of a population to cause chaos.

  23. Israel as many others are about to really find out what a world led by the “others” is capable of doing?
    Too bad the American leadership frittered aways its influence for a few shekels. Because of lack of foresight,imagination, talent, and plain old corruption American is now faced with a leadership in all facets that cannot lead. WOW and it seemed to happen so fast. No wonder superheroes are back in vogue.

  24. GulfCoastLaddie says:

    ‘We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force.’
    If we don’t give the Isrealis what they want they’re going to shoot us?
    Geez, sometimes I think my kids are a little too spoiled. What kind of people think like this?

  25. @DH, COL Lang, mo and the others,
    Thanks for a truly informative and enlightening thread!
    The “mad dog” analogy of DPRK and China to US-Israel seems more than apt. Both nations suffer the wagging of respective tails.

  26. Fred says:

    “A ‘natural feature of this overall outlook,’ he writes, is: ‘an image of the Arab/Muslim world, and the Palestinians in particular, as irrational, brutal and violent, imbued with intractably anti-Semitic hatreds fortified by deeply anti-Western, Muslim-fundamentalist fanaticism.’”…
    In 1965 Alabama was (and still is) part of ‘Western civilization’. The attitude of the members of ‘civilization’ who live there is certainly different now.
    Even Governor Wallace changed his views:
    George Wallace was elected a 4th time as Governor of Alabama with African American support. Of course some members of the ‘Tea Party’ spat upon Congressman Lewis recently. The Congressman was on of the first men beaten attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.
    Perhaps we should see that Islam IS a western religion and that the countries whose population is mostly Muslim are also part of Western civilization.
    Jane, 9/11 was no more an attack upon America by adherents to Islam than Timothy McVeigh’s attack in Oklahoma City was an attack upon America by Christians.

  27. David Habakkuk says:

    Adam Silverman, mo,

    Both your comments take me into areas where my knowledge of the relevant history is inadequate.

    My training was as a journalist and television current affairs producer — which makes me a jack of a few trades and a master of none. However, it did imbue in me a conviction that to make sense of any complex political situation one had to attempt to reconstruct how the different actors involved saw the problems they were facing, and the appropriate solutions to them, and that doing this usually involved an attempt to acquire some grasp of the relevant history. Moreover, an understanding of how people define their problems and the solutions they find to them is necessarily evaluative.

    This may sound like gobblegook, but the questions you both raise about Ian Lustick’s account of the history of the ‘Iron Wall’ conception illustrates what I mean rather well. The Zionists may well have regarded Arabs as brutal and violent, but what I take him to be saying was that the ‘Iron Wall’ analysis in no way depended upon any such perception — that it was a perfectly rational response to the evident and unsurprising fact that the existing population of the area was violently hostile to the establishment of a Jewish state.

    In that sense — and I am not implying approval by this — it was the right answer to the problem: a brutal, but calculated, use of violence to achieve results that could only be achieved with violence.

    As to its failure, I have tended to think — subject to correction — that this may well have been because at a time when the positions of Israel and Arafat were not actually irreconcileable, the Camp David summit was bungled: with Dennis Ross playing a major role in mucking things up.

    And then, catastrophically, the failure of the talks was interpreted, by the Israeli leadership and most mainstream Western opinion, as having resulted from the Palestinians having — as Robert Malley put it — ‘turned down a generous Israeli offer, rejected the Jewish state’s right to exist, then turned to violence’.

    But this was the wrong analysis of the problem — and led to catastrophically miscalculated policies. In fact, both the ‘no partner’ theory adopted by Barak, and the view of the intifada as a war preplanned by Arafat for ideological reasons, were directly contradicted by what Israeli Military Intelligence researchers knew to be the case — but in Israel as elsewhere, key intelligence figures preferred to tell their political masters that these wanted to hear, rather than ‘telling truth to power’.

    Since then — as Akiva Elder chronicled in Haaretz in January last year — what we have had is a policy of unilateral actions and mindless violence, with at each stage Israeli intelligence hopelessly miscalculating the effects of their actions.

    (See http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1053882.html.)

    Will Israel ‘left to its own devices collapse on itself?’, mo asks, and suggests that it would only ‘drift evermore to the right, making it even more attractive to the US right wing evangelists and garner their protection.’

    A similar confidence in the durability of American support was expressed at the time of the invasion of Gaza by one Marcello, with whom mo and I discussed the implications of changes in missile technology three years ago.

    He wrote:

    ‘It seems evident to me that for most american conservatives palestinians are subhuman scum that should be exterminated. On the other side there are sufficient israeli supporters to make any rating conscious democratic politician balk. IOW the overwhelming majority of politically active people are firmly on the israeli side. The rest don’t care or, like the sort of people who are here, don’t count.’

    If Israel can maintain support for the directions down which it is going because of an alliance with thugs with a taste for mindless violence, then disaster looms.

    I would hope that this is an inaccurate assessment of American political reality. I would also hope that very many American Jews — like all of the British Jews I know, without exception — would not want to be seen dead with the kind of ‘conservative’ who regards Palestinians — or anyone else for that matter — as ‘subhuman scum that should be exterminated’.

    As mo says, if would be interesting to meet in real life some time. If either of you are ever in London, get in touch.

  28. BillWade says:

    I still think the question to ask Israel is, “what more do you want, what circumstances would be your ideal?”
    Once that is known, and I suspect it will never be known, we can solve the problems.

  29. JohnH says:

    I’m wondering if there is any scenario in which the Israel’s arrogant, militaristic leadership might talk tough but actually read the writing on the wall and not provoke a catastrophe.
    I’m wondering if Operation Cast Lead was undertaken with such severity largely because Israel has come to realize that there are no longer that many dogs that it can kick with impunity. If that is the case, then the Palestinians are in for some exceedingly tough times, while others will be abused verbally but not physically.
    As a result, Israel could stay intact longer than expected.

  30. FB Ali says:

    Excellent post (and a very good discussion). DH said, referring to Iran:
    Very often, if one sees signs that an adversary may be preparing to set a trap for one, the sensible response is to take steps not to fall into it….
    I would suggest that it is this that led to Gen Petraeus’s surprising public statements about the problems that Israeli policies could cause the US, and his reported attempt to extend his responsibilities to cover that area. He has been faulted here off and on for being ambitious and career-conscious, but waving this red rag at the Israeli lobby also shows that he can put his country’s interests above his own.
    It is interesting to speculate what led him to such a strong conviction of danger to the US from Israel’s policies. As part of his command functions he interacts a lot with the military hierarchies in many Muslim countries (and they usually have a decisive say in determining national security and foreign policies). It is probable that the views he heard expressed by them made him realise what a huge price the US would pay if Israel attacked Iran (no one believes that this could occur without US complicity and, probably, assistance).
    Petraeus probably realised that, if such an attack occurred, the US could write-off the Muslim world for the next decade or two.

  31. Patrick Lang says:

    FB Ali
    Perhaps pl

  32. Jane says:

    “Jane, 9/11 was no more an attack upon America by adherents to Islam than Timothy McVeigh’s attack in Oklahoma City was an attack upon America by Christians.”
    When McVeigh has as many imitators among Christians as Osama has had among Muslims, I will consider your argument seriously.
    When I first wrote my post I included the obligatory and sound disclaimer that the vast majority of Muslims profoundly disagree with and abhor Osama’s beliefs and actions but lost that post as I attended to other matters. It remains the case that Osama’s actions are predicated on his beliefs as a Muslim and that he inspires a small cult. When some 19 people with box cutters and back up can cause such destruction, it is irrational to write off the impact of such a cult. It is also the case that the Taliban fundamentalist were willing to shelter him.

  33. David Habakkuk,
    1. On Camp David, yes it was sabotaged by Ross etal. one can well argue.
    For example see, Akram Hanieh “The Camp David Papers” for the Palestinian perspective. Hanieh, editor of Al-Ayyam, was an adviser to Arafat. Persons I know with first hand knowledge of Hanieh and the negotiations recommended his account to me. It is available online although my personal copy is the original published by Al-Ayyam.
    There is a book by a US journalist, Clayton Swisher, about Camp David although I have not read it.
    2. It is too bad that the Taba Summit talks are forgotten these days. It was the very last ditch Clinton Administration effort.
    When I was in Egypt in 2002, I asked the Egyptian Foreign Minister His Exc. Ahmed Maher about Taba. He told me and I do quote “We were 95% there” and indicated that further negotiations could well have been fruitful.
    3. But what happened to Taba? The Bush Administration took office and its policy was to kill any serious negotiations and proceed with faux diplomacy. This was under the ever present Neocons naturally in touch with Ross etal.
    For me, the nullification of Taba by the Bush Administration, and subsequent Israeli behavior, spelled the end of any hopes for a negotiated two-state solution.
    That Ross is in the Obama Administration playing a role on the Middle East is one indicator of the Obama Administration’s true intentions, IMO…if Obama was serious about the Middle East, Ross would not be a player.

  34. Here is Mearshimer’s latest, although nothing new to our discussions at SST:
    “The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term. In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.”…

  35. Ali Mirza says:

    FB Ali
    Ironically, The National Review echoes your views but spins it to a different conclusion.
    “The upshot of this could not be clearer: Petraeus is echoing the narrative peddled incessantly by leftists in the government he serves and by Islamists in the countries where he works. According to that narrative, Israel’s plight is not a struggle for survival against immovable foes spurred by an Islamist ideology that must be discredited and defeated. To the contrary, this view holds, it is the result of a mere political conflict. It could be resolved, so the theory goes, if only Israel weren’t so intransigent – ie, if it would just stop taking so seriously its need to secure its citizens against enemies pledged to its destruction. Israel’s stubbornness (which is to say, its insistence on existing as a Jewish state in what Muslims regard as Islamic land) creates tensions that “flare into violence” (Palestinian terrorist attacks undertaken with the approval and encouragement of the region’s most influential Islamic authorities).”
    This appears in an article on Asia Times online written by David P Goldman.
    I would also recommend articles by Syed Saleem Shezad on the same site.
    Interesting reading regarding the Taliban.
    I do wonder though how a Pakistani journalist can have such access without being backed by some security agency within Pakistan.
    I tracked down the article referenced;
    On an unrelated note, found this little nugget on the national review site referencing Col Lang:
    “Sources remain anonymous when they have something to hide, or when they do not have the courage to speak their convictions outright. The records of frequent anonymous intelligence and defense sources give cause to doubt. Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Patrick Lang, for example, has argued that Likud controls America. He told associates that Undersecretary of Policy Douglas Feith sought to make the Middle East safe for Jews by a process of “de-Arabization.” Several journalists have relied on Lang as a source as did television networks that used him as an analyst. Most did not mention that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Lang was a registered agent of a foreign government.”
    This has been discussed extensively here so I had a good laugh.
    Don’t you stop blogging Col Lang. Too many kool aid drinkers would breath sighs of relief.

  36. Patrick Lang says:

    Ali Mirza
    For years now, scum like Rubin and Perle have called editors, producers and media executives to spread lies about me in the best agitprop tradition. pl

  37. Patrick Lang says:

    Ali Mirza
    I almost forgot that my lawyer forced a printed retraction of that particular calumny. If they had not retracted I was prepared to sue National Review on line. pl

  38. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang
    I presume the doubt you implied in your comment relates to the motive that I ascribed to Petraeus for his position on this matter. It is difficult to conceive of any other. Adopting such a strong stance on an issue so critical to the Israel lobby amounts to a career-ending move (as Chas Freeman, and, indeed, you yourself in a way, have experienced).
    Some time ago there were reports that Petraeus had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Such experiences often lead to a reordering of one’s priorities.

  39. Patrick Lang says:

    FB Ali
    I had not heard those reports. I earlier thought that DP was looking to replace Biden. but now, I think not. I agree that this is likely to be a career ender unless a sea change really is occurring as the Israeli crowd fears.
    Actually, that is very specifically what happened to me. It took years to reconstruct the evidence of the occurrence. pl

  40. mo says:

    Camp David was never going to be a success because if Arafat had signed what was offered he would have been lynched on his return.
    Echoing Clifford’s post, Taba was much more closer to getting a result but this time was scuppered by the right wing both in the US and Israel.
    Since then however, the Israelis have been offered the Saudi plan (referred to without irony as the Beirut Proposal) which they have studiously ignored.
    To better summarise my thoughts on The Iron Wall, it worked well until 91. After signing peace deals with Arafat and Jordan, the Israelis most likely believed it was no longer necessary as all they had left to deal with were the Syrians and their obsolete hardware and the Lebanese; And Lebanon, being such a small nation was never going to give them any trouble surely……

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