– From available information it appears that Israel has decided to assault areas in Gaza with ground troops. To that end the IDF has been moving forces into assembly areas near the border. Available photography shows vehicles parked administratively rather than tactically . This would indicate that the IDF does not anticipate offensive action by the Palestinians before the IDF chooses to cross the border. Some of the vehicles shown in photographs are US made 155 mm. self propelled artillery pieces. This would point to an offensive that will be heavily supported with artillery fire as was the IDF effort in south Lebanon in ’06.
– Statements by Livni and Brigadier (Ret.) Hertzog indicate that Israel’s goals in Gaza are essentially psychological in that they seek to demonstrate to all the Israeli capability and willingness to inflict great damage and numerous casualties in pursuit of a position of dominance in the ME region. Israel senses correctly that its image as hegemon in the eastern Mediterranean was badly eroded in the period from the Israeli evacuation of south Lebanon through the ’06 war and into the present. It now seeks to restore its image of ruthlessness in pursuit of its goals. The belief persists in Israel that enemies can be made into clients through intimidation.
– There appears to be a major cleavage within the incoming Obama Administration between those who wish to continue to accept what amounts to Israeli tutelage in US Middle East policy and those who do not. The key issue leading to a division of opinion and an inevitable crisis within the administration is whether or not the United States should pursue an improvement of relations with Iran. The Israeli oriented faction among Obama’s people follow Israel’s lead in opposing this arguing that Iran is the functional equivalent of Nazi Germany, i.e. an unalloyed evil ruled by irrational madmen. Their opponents argue that Iran is a country like all others, a country that follows its state interests and that realizes that its interests would be served by detente with the US. This faction believes that a US/Iran relationship can be made to provide a security umbrella for Israel. The AIPAC and AEI dominated group does not accept this concept, implicitly accepting Israel’s rejection of an American security guarantee as well as its rejection of the concept of nuclear deterrence.
The US armed forces and the Obama Administration to come intend to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan based on the successful strategy followed by the Petraeus team in Iraq. Presumably, Petraeus and his current study team favor this approach. Such a strategy of increased use of US conventional troops, civic action in infrastructure improvements and mobilization of local forces against the Taliban may well work. Nevertheless, this may not be the optimal strategy for the US in Afghanistan. The US armed forces are in the business of using troops against threats. Does this institutional bias influence thinking in this matter? Would it not be better to use guile rather that brute force? Is Afghanistan not a case better handled though covert political action? This is an open question. pl