“More difficult than anticipated?”

Hezbollahrocketranges_800thumb640x9 "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the current, aerial phase of the operation was just "the first of several" that have been approved, an Olmert spokesman said.

But after four days of airstrikes against the symbols of Hamas power, there are few targets left beyond buildings evacuated days ago. On Tuesday, the biggest bomb load yet struck an empty Hamas government complex, as well as security installations and the home of a top militant commander.

Three Palestinians were reported killed Tuesday, compared to dozens in previous days. Since the offensive began Saturday, 368 Palestinians have been killed. More than 1,700 have been hurt, according to Gaza health officials.

Palestinian militants, meanwhile, kept up their rocket assaults on Israeli border communities, despite relentless Israeli air attacks against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and unwelcome word from Egypt that it would not bail them out by ending its own blockade of Gaza crossings.

The question hanging over the Israeli operation is how it can halt rocket fire. Israel has never found a military solution to the barrage of missiles militants have fired into southern Israel.

Beyond delivering Hamas a deep blow and protecting border communities, the assault’s broader objectives remained cloudy. Israeli President Shimon Peres acknowledged the challenge, saying the operation was unavoidable but more difficult than many people anticipated."  Yahoo News


"More difficult than many people anticipated."  Say what?  More difficult than anticipated by IDF General Staff Intelligence?  If that is so, then things have really gone to hell in a hand basket in the Qirya.  You used to do better work.  Maybe it is the politicians who have imposed this "goat rope" on the IDF. Maybe.

Remember Lebanon in ’06.  We all really know how well that went for the IDF (irony alert).  In the Lebanon case the air power crowd succeeded in persuading the Israeli government that the Lebanese (in general) could be intimidated into accommodating the Likud/neocon/Bush program for Lebanon.  That failed in spite of devastating air attacks on civilian infrastructure targets the length and breath of the country.  Then, there was a half hearted air/ground effort to destroy Hizbullah’s forward positions and rocket firing capability.  That proved impossible to do at any price that Israel was willing to pay.  The net result was that Hizbullah became an exemplar for every Muslim enemy of Israel, an example of how the IDF can be defeated by brave and well prepared men.  Politically, the ultimate result of ’06 was to make Hizbullah, and their Christian allies under General Aoun, the arbiters of events in Lebanon.

We have now seen the Israelis run through their target list in Gaza.  Hamas is still firing at Ashkalon and Beersheba.  One wonders just who has who by the testicles in this situation.  If the Israelis back away with some sort of unilateral ceasefire, then the ’06 judgment of the Muslims on them will be confirmed in many minds.  Thus far there are not enough ground troops "showing" in what the Israelis have brought to Gaza.  These deployments are a mere threat.  They will have to call forward many more units before the threat of a major ground operation becomes credible.

A major ground operation in Gaza may cause Hizbullah to resume hostilities from north of the Litani.  This should be considered as a risk inherent in a ground operation in Gaza.

Muslim militiamen of the Hizbullah, Hamas, Jeish al-Mahdi, etc. varieties have a major advantage in fighting the Israelis.  These Muslim fighters all believe in an afterlife in which they will be rewarded for their shihada, their testimony, their martyrdom in what they believe to be the path of God.  If you do not think that they believe that, then you are truly clueless.  There are not many Israeli Jewish soldiers who think the same thing.  Some, but not many.  This makes for a wildly disparate attitude towards casualties.  In Lebanon the Hizbullahis wore body armor and dug in well.  They did that because these men were valuable assets, not because they were not willing to "be all they could be."

"More difficult than many people anticipated."   Really?  Were Feith and Wolfowitz involved in the planning?  pl

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29 Responses to “More difficult than anticipated?”

  1. searp says:

    I am so sick of the Middle East that I am going to begin excising the term from my existence.
    Why, fundamentally, should Americans care? I see oil and pressure groups. Oil we can cure over time, the sooner we get started the better. Pressure groups, well, a tougher nut but we can work on that too. That is not a code word for Jews, by the way. Seems like the Saudis have been buying plenty of top-tier influence.
    I hope in my lifetime to see the term “benign neglect” applied with fervor to the whole damned region.

  2. J says:

    Israel’s actions are one of a thug, not a professional military.

  3. Jose says:

    Col., excellent analysis! Wish I had to skill to state events as effective as you can. Just want to add, haven’t we seen this before?

  4. JohnH says:

    “The question hanging over the Israeli operation is how it can halt rocket fire.”
    Well, duh, the answer is staring the Israeli leadership right in the face. But the solution is also anathema to them–negotiations.
    It worked in June and it can work again.
    You have to marvel at the incredible incompetence of Israeli leadership and their handlers in Washington. You have to give something to get something, an idea the Bushies and the Li[ku]ddites refuse to understand, because giving anything is not conceivable.

  5. Mad Dogs says:

    You asked in your previous post, about Hamas’s intentions, and now in this post, the question arises of Israel’s intentions.
    I’ve been giving more thought to this and here’s what has come to mind:
    Ignore the public propaganda pronouncements by the Israeli leadership. They are meant to be consumed as truth only by fools. There are plenty of fools that will indeed consume them, and in the front row are the American Traditional Media (TradMed).
    For example, take the statement by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the Knesset that “this was war to the bitter end.”
    Tis nothing but nonsense. As we all understand, Israel is not going to go in and wipe out Hamas, much less all of the Gaza Palestinians from whose ranks Hamas recruits.
    Therefore, Barak’s statement is BS.
    Since neither Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni nor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are stupid, one should understand that they too know what they are saying is nonsense. Fertilizer meant for those who consume such drek.
    So, if Israel’s leadership isn’t publicly telling the truth about their motivations and intentions, we are left to examine what they are “doing” instead of depending on what they are “saying”.
    What Israel is “doing” used to be called “counter-terrorism”.
    No, not the definition of “counter-terrorism” as it is used circa 2001 and forward.
    No, I’m talking about the definition of “counter-terrorism” as it wss used circa 1917.
    “Counter-terrorism” where one side uses terrorism to intimidate its opponent, and then the other side uses the very same terrorism to return the favor. Think Russia in 1917 and the terrorism and counter-terrorism used by the Red and White revolutionary and counterrevoluntionary forces.
    Israel, under the pretend propaganda of performing “civilized war”, is actually treating Gaza to the very same terrorism that Israel endures with the rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. You rain down missiles and bombs on us, and now we are doing the very same to you. Howdya like them apples?
    And Israel will get away with it simply because no one credible will call its attacks terrorism. And yes, the Palestinian victims are not considered credible by our friends, TradMed.
    Secondly, I don’t believe their will be any great ground invasion of Gaza by the Israelis. Ground invasions typically have an objective of taking that hill or that fort. No such objectives exist in Gaza that Israel wants.
    Israel may use their armor as bait to engage Hamas ground troops, but that will be only to whittle down Hamas forces.
    In a strange way of war, this may actually improve the quality of Hamas ground forces since as you know, the dumb ones who stand out in the open or blindly charge are the first ones killed. The smart and sneaky ones who take advantage of terrain and timing are more likely to survive.
    I think Darwin called this “survival of the fittest”.
    Additionally, one of the primary intentions of Israel is to whittle down Hamas’s political support (good luck with that) among Palestinians. This is in order to strengthen Palestinian support for Fatah.
    Yes, that same old corrupt Fatah. Corrupt, but accommodating Fatah!
    I think the Israelis may be betting on the wrong horse with this tactic, but perhaps not. We’ll see.
    Lastly, as everyone and their brother understands, the blitzkreig of Gaza is meant to burnish “tough guy/gal” credentials for both Labor’s Ehud Barak and Kadima’s Tzipi Livni in the February elections. Short term gains in trade for longer term headaches.

  6. John says:

    Were Feith and Wolfowitz involved in the planning?
    I doubt it. Those two don’t have a pair between them and never did. Much like Olmert, Netanyahu, and that great believer, Livni.

  7. Dave of Maryland says:

    A major ground operation in Gaza may cause Hizbullah to resume hostilities from north of the Litani. This should be considered as a risk inherent in a ground operation in Gaza.
    I thought that possibility unlikely, though I don’t doubt Nasrallah is itching to do something. If Lebanon were to open a second front the Israeli Air Force would bomb it back into the stone age. Hezbollah would be blamed & lose its domestic support. I presume Israeli airfields could be shut down with reasonably accurate surface to surface missiles, as runways are big targets. Question is if Hezbollah has the necessary missiles & the will use them.
    On the other hand, the longer the Gaza attack goes on, the more pressure mounts on Nasrallah to do something, or lose face internationally.

  8. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    My civilian take: the longer Hamas launches Qassam rockets into Israel, the greater the odds that it desires an IDF ground assault into Gaza. It’s a lure. If Hamas stops this tactic, then it desires to avoid a ground assault at this time.
    This assumes that Hamas has control over those launching the rockets from Gaza.
    But either way, Hamas has gained a most significant political victory on the global stage.

  9. Binh says:

    I’m surprised it took this long for them to run through the target list. Gaza is a very tiny and very densely populated ghetto with unbelievable poverty and malnutrition rates. A ground invasion is the next logical step to stem the flow of rockets, but it may be a mini-repeat of ’06 unless they are really willing to shed the blood of many Israeli soldiers and countless more civilians.

  10. pbrownlee says:

    Is the greatest current existential threat to Israel the Israeli Government, the IDF, an impotent or incompetent (both?) intelligence apparatus — and any likely successors in the near future?
    Gaza’08-’09(-10??) may demonstrate that Lebanon ’06 was no fluke — possibly even to some western mainstream media.
    It will be quite interesting to see which goes first — any semblance of democracy (one person/one vote, rule of law, personal freedom/s and so on) or the Jewish state that purports to guarantee “never again” a Holocaust (at least for Jewish people).
    This may be a tipping point.

  11. Brett says:

    Shaping up to appear rash, rushed, and foolish (the offensive). I like the graphic along with this post – was it pulled from somewhere?

  12. WP says:

    Re: Futility Bombing Gaza.
    I preface my positions with the disclaimer that all I am just a suburban lawyer and amateur student of history.
    These are some questions I would like to hear discussed. I post as a series of questions because I really do not have any military expertise or solutions, just hard questions and puzzlement. I look at the discussions I see at other places on the web and it seems that the really hard questions are simply not being asked and should be.
    My questions to you are:
    1. How can any sane military leader ever expect that any aerial bombing attack on Gaza to be successful that does not constitute the war crime of “illegal punishment of the innocent population”?
    2. How can any land assault on Gaza ever be successful unless the goal and result of the attack is the removal of all or most of the Palestinians from the territory?
    3. Is there any possible solution to Israel’s dillemma with Gaza other than failure and genocide of Israel or genocide of Palestinians?
    4. Given the Palestinian’s undeniable religious dedication, is there is any solution other than total conquest by one people over another like in Joshua? Or, put another way is primal war ethical?
    5. In the long-run, which is more humane, a long and continuing conflict or a total victory by one party over the other?
    In considering these questions, I reviewed an old series of posts concerning the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war I found interesting to read concerning Lebanon in 2006 discussing the laws of “billiards and ballistics,” the rule that two peoples or objects cannot share the same physical space without consent. Search “Sherman’s Ghost” where there is a “devil’s advocate” arguing in favor of total war against Southern Lebanon that creates a wide and barren buffer between Israel and its antaganoists to the North.
    Thanks for hosting one of the most interesting blogs on the net and Happy
    New Year!

  13. harper says:

    I totally agree that this operation into Gaza has massive backfire potential for Israel. Not only is the world horrified at the senseless brutality and disproportionality of the Israeli attack. It does appear that Israel’s air power geniuses are repeating the same mistake they made in Lebanon in 2006. Now, the incoming Obama administration is going to have to put the Israel-Palestine situation on top of the agenda, and I suspect they are really pissed off, given the other weighty issues–ie. financial crisis, jobs crisis, infrastructure crisis–that they wanted to tackle first thing, and cannot avoid.

  14. swerv21 says:

    Greetings Colonel Lang:
    Perhaps you might want to check out Zvi Bar’el’s analysis at Haaretz. It is here: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1051356.html.
    He’s fairly insightful as usual.
    For one thing, I think he is one commentator on the Israeli side who is hearing echoes of the ‘second Lebanese war’ in this offensive. His outline of Hamas’ diplomatic victory is as follows:
    “Hamas can rack up its first victory for its methods as several European countries are already talking about a “humanitarian” cease-fire, and Egypt has been fixed in the public eye as a collaborator with Israel. This will make it hard for Egypt to act as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, and the war in Gaza will require international involvement and certainly active Syrian involvement to end the hostilities.
    In that way Gaza goes from being a local dispute between Israel and Hamas to the status of half a state with the same status as Israel, so hopes Hamas.
    Such a step could never have come off through regular diplomatic channels, where Hamas would have appealed to Egypt or some other mediator, but only by enlisting the masses in the region and by bypassing the Palestinian Authority, which is not functioning during this crisis.
    Mubarak’s efforts in his speech on Tuesday to relink the West Bank and Gaza and place Gaza again under the PA’s authority says something about the diplomatic battlefield. A separate cease-fire with Gaza under Arab and international pressure may be interpreted as a recognition of the separation between Gaza and the West Bank – and recognition of the Hamas government. This will place Gaza under the diplomatic auspices of Iran and Syria, on the border with Egypt.”
    It is kind of painful to consider strategy when so many are suffering, but if Egypt has truly lost its credibility as a broker between the Isreali’s and Hamas, and if the operation is ineffective in its stated goal of removing Hamas from power- then that means only broker left is Syria.
    This makes Syria the winner of the latest conflict.
    Has Syria’s new found leverage been telegraphed by the arrival of Arlen Specter in Damascus?

  15. Marcus says:

    One of the easiest things to do is live air-ordnance practice on defenseless “wogs.” Difficult will be the response of a desperate people to this reckless air slaughter, probably in the form of suicide bombers in cafes and Pizza shops. More difficult would be to enforce UN mandates on your own citizens with regards to West Bank settlements. But why should Israelis pay any attention to the UN? After all what has the UN ever done for Israel?(snark)
    The lack of a First Amendment clause (separation of church and state) hobbles progress in Israel (IMHO). The insistence on maintaining a Jewish state plants the seeds of acrimony. There is no platform for hope with regards to equal treatment for Muslims in Israel without equal treatment laws. Even though the US has solid non-discrimination laws the Arab world (rightfully) sees a one-sided allegiance to Israel by American policy. Without hope the situation will continue to degrade.
    The Bush administration made a cynical attempt to follow Israeli practice and subvert US law by declaring a “war on terror” (yet to be defined outside of criminal behavior by government officials) suspending due process, and practicing torture on people the Executive labeled “terrorist.” Thank God we still have a Judiciary that can interpret the Bill of Rights.
    In the medium term Hamas will probably acquire the deadly anti-tank missiles (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article606179.ece) that were so effective for Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the war of attrition will continue.

  16. FDChief says:

    Israel has two choices. Genocide. Or endless war.
    In the old pre-CNN/AL Jazeera days the Israelis could have rolled up their sleeves and enjoyed some real old fashioned atrocity. You know how it’s done – the strong have been doing it to the weak since Cain whacked Abel. It worked for the Romans. It worked for the Normans. It worked for the Mongols and the Zulus and, well, pretty much anyone else savage and ruthless enough to enjoy it. It will work for the Israelis, if they have enough barbarism in their guts to do it.
    But this isn’t genocide…it barely rises to the level of serious warfare. It is just the angry outburst of a gadflied society unwilling to show real guts, either by wholesale slaughter of their enemies (and accepting the barbarity of their deeds), or by making peace and taking the risks that come with it.
    Frankly, as an American I’d happily wish a plague on both their houses, except my country seems to think that Israel is something we need to nurture like an endangered species. I cannot for the life of me understand why: Israel may be the most useless “ally” the U.S. has ever had outside of Barbados, maybe, or Andorra.
    The Israelis remind me of the French First Empire; eternally fighting and winning but without a clue of how to win without fighting. Surrounded by implacably inept enemies, they have to fight and fight and MUST win every time. Their enemies only have to win once (although they’ve been too freaking inept to manage that over sixty years).
    But, like the Corsican’s empire, eventually Israel’s enemies will combine successfully and kill them.
    And then we can stop having these arguments about these both of these two groups of homicidal idiots.

  17. jr786 says:

    Referring to the last part of your post Col. it seems to me that the great danger faced by the United States has always been the association of its actions/support with anti-Islamism, something that the israelis would dearly love
    I’m in an Arab Muslim country as I write and yesterday at mid-day prayer we were asked to make du’a for mujahadeen Palestina, as children collected donations for Palestinian charities and inevitably Hamas. I had not seen this before and asked several men if they thought the cause of Palestine was an issue for Muslims rather than Arabs; you understand the implication.
    The genreral consensus was that as of now it was not but that dependent on certain events it could easily be construed as such, and that such events were dependent on Arab media. Images that would never appear on Western tv ran endlessly on all the satellite channels, as you can imagine, but always depicted as somehow a struggle for residual Palestinian nationalism, although the people interviewed called on Muslims to help, not Arabs.
    I thought that was significant.

  18. 505thPIR says:

    I believe that Iran has a hand in this though it is veiled by several layers. It is war by proxy and Hamas/Hezbolla are executing “the plan” to a T.
    Once Israel goes over the top with their response in Gaza there will be a rain of rockets and provocations from Lebannon proper.
    President Elect Obama will be given no free pass as he enters office by the Iranians in their ongoing struggle to challenge Israel and to a greater extent, the US in the region.
    Israel cannot win these fights without inducing and also suffering unacceptable casualties. Each “showdown” will be a loss for them and will further embolden those who would have formerly declined to challenge the Israelis. These are still the opening acts of a conflict that will go on for decades.

  19. JohnK says:

    I second the notion for long term benign neglect. Let them all eat sand. Turn US foreign aid to folks who appreciate it and will not war on their neighbors.
    Perhaps this was observed earlier, but the results of this bombing are a wonderful recruiting tool for the Al Queda crazies. (And the US is paying a for a large part of it. Meanwhile George is on vacation.)

  20. boindub says:

    The USA (like others) is totally reliant on oil. Without it all systems would stop . No oil means no food or water for many millions who will die in the US. USA is vulnerable and therefore dangerous
    Therefore it will go to war and kill as necessary to secure oil which God has seen fit to put largely under Arab lands. Trading is not secure enough. Israel is the unsinkable base to launch any war necessary to secure the oil. All understandable.
    Jews are using this leverage to further their power ambitions and it has corrupted them. 50 dead babies and 400 dead thousands injured to-date in this present murderous lust for power.
    They would be better without power (as the Vatican became when it lost land and armies). Israel must be disarmed and its ’67 border secured until an overall solution is reached.
    The USA will not do this because of its need for Israel as a base.
    Who will do it. Russia ?. China? (it is in their interests to let the US stew in this) A combination of States? . Americans as a people could if they applied pressure by blocking streets, Gov offices etc. Boycott the people and produce of all involved in any country the operate (Aparteid South Africa) Who cares?. Do USA citizens feel guilty of murder? How many must you (USA=Israel) kill before enough is enough
    If my country was murdering people I would not accept it. Gov. buildings occupied, roads blocked, Jail accepted. …. It would not happen here.
    The US should teach the world a lesson about how badly the US is needed. Get a good map , find the USA, go there. Spend your money on Health and education. God knows you need them. First do your duty to clean up and pay for the messes made.
    My annoyance is not anti American but frustration at what you and I have lost unnecessarily.
    Jews are giving people an irrestible reason for a rise in anti semitism which would be a huge mistake.
    Is no American smart enough to solve this, the problen they cause, without force. Shame on you.

  21. David Habakkuk says:

    I think there are a lot of indications that the Israelis are not thinking rationally about strategy — a likely reason for which is that, if they do think rationally about strategy, they will have to confront the fact that the forms of power they possess simply do not provide any kind of secure base for the long-term survival of a Jewish state in Palestine.
    As the Colonel noted in a previous thread, a central threat is demographic, particularly as many among the elites on whom the country depends can very easily go elsewhere. As Amos Elon noted back in February, Olmert knows this very well.
    ‘According to Haaretz, he told an American delegation recently that in “Israel there are perhaps 400,000 people who maintain the state, leaders in the economy, in science and in culture. I want to make sure they have hope, that they’ll stay here.” His own two sons, it is well known, live in New York.’
    (See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21015)
    Figures from the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption suggest that there are already 750,000 Israelis living abroad. If this estimate is accurate, as John Mearsheimer recently noted, it is likely that there are already fewer Jews than Palestinians living in Greater Israel. And Mearsheimer also quotes a 2007 poll according to which a quarter of Israelis are considering leaving — including almost half of young people.
    He also points to the longer term implications of differential birthrates. Not only is the figure of 4.6 children born to each Palestinian woman on average far higher than the 2.6 born to each Israeli woman — among Israelis, 7.6 children on average are born to ultra-Orthodox Jewish women. Neither discrepancy points to a future in which all those ‘400,000 people who maintain the state’ will want to share.
    (See http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/1599_israelis_abroad.htm, and http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/12/12/the_changing_face_of_israel/.)
    The intractable problems of the Zionist project push Israelis into making the Holocaust the focus of national — and Jewish — identity. In his recent book, Avraham Burg quotes the Israeli write Boaz Evron, commenting that the Shoah ‘is our main asset nowadays. This is the only thing by which we try to unify the Jews. This is the only way to scare Israelis into not emigrating. This is the only thing by which they try to silence the gentiles.’
    (See http://sabbah.biz/mt/archives/2008/12/10/john-mearsheimer-invoking-the-holocaust-to-defend-the-occuption/.)
    But this is a high road to nowhere. You cannot indefinitely stop emigration by attempting to sustain the preposterous fiction that all gentiles have lurking in them a deep-seated desire to murder Jews. And you are inviting Jews elsewhere — in particular in the United States — to audition for the role in which that unpleasant man Kevin MacDonald has cast them: that of a ‘hostile elite’.
    (See http://www.vdare.com/macdonald/051105_stalin.htm.)
    But what exits are available from these dilemmas? In their latest discussion of prospects for peace in the Middle, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley are notably pessimistic about the prospects of any likely leadership, both among the Israelis and the Palestinians, being able to deliver a two state solution. But what prospects would a Jewish minority — and particularly one with a large ultra-orthodox component — have in a binational state with a Palestinian majority?
    (See http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22230.)
    It is I think reasonably clear that the least worst option for Israel is along the lines repeatedly suggested by the Colonel, which involve seeking a ‘hudna’ with Hamas, peace with Syria, and some kind of diplomatic accommodation between the U.S. and Iran.
    It seems however highly likely that too many Israelis, as well as too many of their supporters abroad, will continue to take refuge in the fantasy that there are alternative and better solutions, largely involving the brutal use of force, to the increasing problems of the vulnerability of Israel to missile attack from Hizbullah and Hamas.
    Meanwhile, the apocalyptic not to say hysterical portrayals in Israel both of the likely speed with which the Iranians can acquire nuclear weapons, and of the implications of their doing so, are liable to produce precisely the kind of panic-stricken emigration which is the greatest threat to the country.
    But then this often happens when people are in a blind alley — they prefer fantasy solutions to least worst options, and end up with disaster.

  22. Suspect HAMAS ops are largely conducted underground at this point. Even look-down radar has its limits.

  23. It seems however highly likely that too many Israelis, as well as too many of their supporters abroad, will continue to take refuge in the fantasy that there are alternative and better solutions, largely involving the brutal use of force, to the increasing problems of the vulnerability of Israel to missile attack from Hizbullah and Hamas.
    I can’t help but to think of Northern Ireland and the support the IRA got from Irish Americans for a long, long time. A good book on The Troubles is Tony Geraghty’s “The Irish War” that describes a lot of the support for the fighting that flowed from the USA, even back to the time right after our Civil War. Some Civil War veterans learned their skills here and went over to fight.
    David, I’m sure you have a much deeper understanding of the Northern Ireland peace process than I ever could have. Would it be safe to say that the peace we see there today is largely due to waning support from the USA for continued fighting? My inkling is that the support by Irish Americans was actually counter-productive for the Irish they were supposedly helping, and when that support waned the IRA was forced to look for political solutions. The same may hold true for American Jewish supporters for Israel.
    Changing demographics are important in Israel. I wonder about the demographics of the supporters here in the USA, as well. Will the children of the most ardent supporters be as enthusiastic? And their grandchildren?
    In other cultures such as Ireland, very strong beliefs can be passed on for many, many generations. In America, where we don’t have the same sense of history, we “move on” in perpetual progress! I can’t imagine any parallel in the modern USA to Orangemen and their love for King Billy driving a political force here for more than three or four generations. Each succeeding generation is absorbed more and more into full-throttle consumerism – the great homogenizer.

  24. Habakkuk’s analysis fleshes out an intuitive hunch I held already. Thank you.
    Dave of Maryland doesn’t doubt that Nasrallah is “itching” to fight Israel again. From what I understand, Nasrallah has said over the years that he is not “itching” to fight. He expects that Hizbullah will have to fight, so they are preparing to fight. There’s a difference.
    When I was in Tyre, Nabatiyeh and Sidon this fall I did not meet anyone itching to fight. I met people casually in cafes who spoke with great respect of “Sayidna” Nasrallah. These same people also asked after America with stars in their eyes. The average Yussef on the street in South Lebanon is fascinated with America and tenderly believes that its people are great and warmhearted while its leaders are misguided and murderous. But itching to fight? Everybody I saw in South Lebanon was itching to enjoy the holidays after Ramadan with as much coffee-drinking, pipe-smoking, clothes-buying and sweet-eating as they could cram into a few days’ vacation. Fighting, no. People seem pretty damn sick of fighting.
    And the other piece is – after Israel left Lebanon in 2000, Nasrallah told the Palestinians that they were on their own. Hizbullah wished them well but they had to fight the Israelis for themselves; Hizb was not going to do it for them, nor would Hizb be drawn into “helping” them from the north.
    Remember the Sunni-Shi’a divide; remember also that the Palestinians fought the Shi’a *bitterly* during the Lebanese Civil War. Nasrallah is an implacable enemy of Israel – because Israel invaded, occupied and assaulted Lebanon, repeatedly. But Nasrallah is not “itching” to get into fights just to help the Palestinians beat Israel. Even when the Palestinians are suffering and starving to death, as in Gaza.

  25. JJackson says:

    I, like the rest of you, am thoroughly confused by Israel’s motivation. The world had been quietly ignoring the Israel created Gazan humanitarian disaster and why would they want to focus attention on it? The rockets are a minor annoyance and their medieval siege tactics have left Hamas and Gaza unable to effectively defend themselves or launch an attack. The Americans and Europeans, who have been aiding and abetting, have been able to do so mainly because their lazy, foreign affairs phobic publics have no idea what has been going on. The Arab, and wider Muslim, world have been happy to condemn Israel in the media but have been too cowardly to stick their heads above the parapet and give military or significant financial support but too much obvious carnage and public opinion may force them to become more proactive. Mubarak is an embarrassment at all levels, the one crossing to an Arab neighbour and he is so dependent on US support to stop his own people lynching him it may as well not exist for all the use it is.
    Can it really be as callous as just a whip up support for the domestic election ploy, it seems it might be?

  26. Cloned Poster says:

    Thanks Leila, great commentary.

  27. David Habakkuk says:

    CWZ, Leila Abu-Saba,
    Northern Ireland I would not claim to understand. But I think it is fair to say that the IRA and Sinn Fein got no better deal than they could have had back in 1974. So in a sense support from the U.S. did not help the republicans. Diminishing support from the U.S. was certainly one factor in the eventual outcome — as well as diminishing enthusiasm in an increasingly ‘modern’ southern Ireland.
    One may also note the very constructive influence of the USG at key points in the later stages of the conflict — notably the role of the enormously impressive Bush Administration envoy Mitchell Reiss in insisting that Sinn Fein accepted the legitimacy of the police.
    I have no doubt whatsoever that support from the U.S. for Israel is likely to wane, and indeed that the present influence of the Israeli lobby on American policy will not last — partly for the reasons CWZ gives. And indeed I think it is precisely an awareness of this which has been behind the efforts of Israel and its U.S. supporters to exploit American power to secure a definitive resolution to the security problems of the country.
    A tragedy to my mind is that U.S. support has encouraged Israelis to that it is within their power to coerce the peoples of the Middle East into accepting the legitimacy of Israel, or that some transformation of political systems in the area will get of the underlying problem of antagonism to the presence of a Jewish state in Palestine. The failure of this is now producing a collapse into panic.
    What gets lost is what I take to be a central point of Leila is making — that a lot of people want to get on with their own lives, rather than harbouring Hitlerian fantasies of exterminating Jews, and that this desire could provide the basis for a series of (hopefully expanding) accommodations.
    I would not quite think ‘enjoy’ was the right word in relation to the Mueller and Lustick piece — it frightens the living daylights out of me! But precisely because of the catastrophic potentials of the scenarios they depict, I think it is important to think through the possibilities and problems of a series of (hopefully expanding) accommodations.
    But this would require changes of U.S. foreign policy across the board. Did you see the article entitled ‘Let Russia Stop Iran’ by three members of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv in the NYT just before Christmas?
    (See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21eran.html.)
    It may be overoptimistic in its suggestions about what could be achieved. However, I note that in what was in general a distinctly pessimistic recent evaluation of the state of U.S.-Russian relations in the wake of the Georgian war, Vladimir Orlov, who heads the Center for Policy Studies in Moscow, suggested there might be scope for cooperation over Iran.
    Having noted that Russia’s political leadership was ‘disappointed with the possibilities of large-scale strategic dialogue with Iran’ — by contrast with Turkey — Orlov suggested that this might create ‘new favourable terms for the dialogue with the United States.’
    A common approach to Iran, Orlov suggested, might involve:
    ‘the initiation of a direct dialogue between Iran and the United States, including the issues of security assurances to Tehran and normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations, Iran’s right to uranium enrichment but its own voluntary moratorium on enrichment or limitation of such enrichment, and the maximum application of the IAEA mechanisms to control the situation in Iran.’
    (See http://www.pircenter.org/data/publications/019-026_%20Orlov_eng.pdf.)
    This may be much less than the Israelis want — but it could still a better outcome than any of the unappealing other possibilities.

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