Thursday, June 29, 2006

Israel's Napoleonic Conundrum

The Israeli incursions into the Palestinian areas reminds me, to some extent, of Napoleon's campaign against Russia. After repeatedly defeating the Russian army, occupying territory and entering Moscow, the emperor believed that finally, Tsar Alexander I would have to come to the negotiating table and accommodate Napoleon's plans for the reorganization of Europe.

It didn't happen. Instead, Moscow was burned and a guerilla insurgency harried the Grand Army.

What more can Israel do? It has shut down the infrastructure, arrested members of the Palestinian government; short of a full scale reoccupation and then wholescale deportation of the population.

The Israeli strategy is to try and demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians that the Hamas approach is untenable. I think that strategy is bound to fail. The middle class that helped to curtail violence in Northern Ireland has been utterly decimated in the Palestinian areas. Israel might have been able to do business with Palestinian nationalists, but the irony is that the religious movements it tacitly supported in the 1980s to undermine both the "mayors" of the West Bank towns and Arafat are prepared to accept suffering as a religious duty--much as many of the Russian peasants did (and Tsar Alexander proclaimed the fight against Napoleon to be a holy war).

Hamas also has the long view. The Crusader kingdoms lasted under two centuries before being completely engulfed. I'm sure that most of their leadership is betting that Israel will suffer the same fate as Outremer.

How to demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians the staying power of Israel--and to make it economically worth their while to accept--I don't know how this can be down, at least right now.

"How to demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians the staying power of Israel--and to make it economically worth their while to accept--I don't know how this can be done, at least right now."

You really answer the question by noting that one side takes a long view of its prospects. The question is whether the long-term assumptions that permit one side to imagine that it has a long-term, and that the other side doesn't, are themselves valid.
Israel is locked into an "outpost" strategy and it is not surprising that its way forward is to build the wall and to try and physically separate itself from the Palestinians. There are going to be some hard questions about the future of the Israeli Arab population too.

This is really the future of the larger peace process it seems too. Egypt and Israel for example really aren't at "peace" in the sense of being closely integrated, they are more just not hostile. Same for Jordan. If the wall goes up there is no chance of a Israel-Jordan-Persian Gulf transit corridor developing.
There is no compromise that can be reached; this is going to be a war of attrition to the bitter end.
The salient question is when US will force her vassal state to retreat to 1967 borders and to relinquish East Jerusalem?
"Vassal state" is a bit extreme, anonymous 12:49. It is very clear that Israel doesn't take orders from the United States on this matter.

And no, no great pressure from the US. Read Victoria Clark's Holy Fire and her sections on Christian Zionists. Evangelical America has written off indigenous Christians of the region already.

The other point is that even if Israel did this, for most of Hamas, it is only step one, just as Saladin retook Jerusalem but it was left to Baybars to take Acre a century later.
I was struck by how this discussion reflects a point that Michael Scheuer said, as reported in TWR, about how no nation has a "right" to exist. This is of course different from "people" having a human right to exist individually and collectively. In 30 years, how outlandish would Ahmadinejad's demand of locating Israel in Europe?
Israel's creation at UN was lobbied for intensely by US. Israel is dependent on favorable loans that are guaranteed by US Government. Her military, to my knowledge, is provisioned by US so as not to require re-supply in the event of a war for 2 years. Both its right wing and left wing polotical parties are intimately related to their counterparts in US. US supports the land-grab policy of Israel. US & Israel pursued a joint project in Lebeanon in 1980s.
These are my reasons for identifying the Israel as a US vassal state.

I am aware of the various evangelicals. They want Israel to exist so that it can be destroyed per the fullfilment of their prophecies. So Jews have to dies again for Christians to live (sounds familiar, doesn't it?).
Just to be clear, I was questioning the long-term view of those on the Arab side who see Israel as a temporary presence in a region that can and should be a zone of exclusively Arab states.

The trend of the next century may be to diminish the proportionality of strength to size. This trend may threaten Israel's security if it empowers neighbors and private groups but it may also reduce the advantage against Israel that larger population and strategic depth would seem to give to the Arab world as a whole. The situation is likely to become much more dangerous but I don't think either side can be confident of the outcome in a confrontation.
I think it is very important not to discount long term view. Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians never forgot their period of independence and refused to accept the permanence of the Soviet Union--and they outwaited the USSR. If majority of Palestinians see the trends on their side and are prepared to pay the generational price, they can succeed.
It is hard to avoid polemical terms in this debate. But I would like to look at this issue in rather simple terms:
- Hamas is primarily responsible for this mess. They want to be a nation state power and at the same time to be a terrorist. It does not work that way. Israel has every right to undertake the current action plan.
- The cost of not doing anything will be very high for Israel. That is not an option.
- About the original question whether Israel has any cards left as far as punishing Palestinians goes. But why not think that the question is ‘separating lives’ of Israel from Palestine. The wall business is all about that, suffering of Palestinians is an unintended consequence.
- Once the separation takes place, hell with Palestinians. They can live whichever way they want to live. If constant war is the status they want, they will get that too.
- Finally, it will be futile to undermine sentiment and at times religious fervor which is on Israel’s side. If Palestinian’s take this suffering in religious terms, I do not see Israelis taking in any different way. The basis of Israel’s resolve is lot in religion and on top of it they have developed sufficient culture and prosperity to have enough stakes in this conflict.
Nick, Israel has gotten itself into this mess, and its policies during the current crisis are nothing like extrication.

The US, with vastly more resources, is in serious trouble trying to suppress a counterinsurgency in Iraq, but they are at least trying to do some of the right things - build infrastructure, support a moderate local government, provide a feasible alternative, work with local dominant actors. We're doing them incompetently and we are being swarmed under the bloodshed dynamic, but we're trying.

The Israelis aren't even trying. They're still treating an ethnic insurgency as if it was an international war.

The disengagement is a good idea - physical separation of civilians is a minimum - but not nearly enough.

The pessimists are right on this one.
Indeed. By dumping crap for years on secular Arab Nationalists, Israel now gets Hamas and other Islamic fundamentalists as negotiating partners. The two use different forms of terrorism too. Arafat et al wanted maximum publicity, but were not intent on causing great loss of life ny their acts. Islamic fundamentalist terrorists want body count.

I hope the people of Israel are happy with the difference.
Israel has gotten itself into nothing.
This is not political.
Israel sits on what HAMAS says 100% of the time cannot be negotiated away by MAN. There is simply nothing to discuss.


The entire structure of HAMAS (which is actually the Muslims Bortherhood as they happily admitted when Yassin met room teemperature) needs to be utterly destroyed. If the Palestinian people as a result, well, then, they FREELY ELECTED, and are responsible for their govt, just as we in the USA are.
No free lunch.

There is NOTHING to discuss between HAMAS and Israel.
"It happened like this: When the leaders of the Islamic armies conquered Syria and Iraq, they sent to the Caliph of the Moslems, Umar bin-el-Khatab, asking for his advice concerning the conquered land - whether they should divide it among the soldiers, or leave it for its owners, or what? After consultations and discussions between the Caliph of the Moslems, Omar bin-el-Khatab and companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, it was decided that the land should be left with its owners who could benefit by its fruit. As for the real ownership of the land and the land itself, it should be consecrated for Moslem generations till Judgement Day. Those who are on the land, are there only to benefit from its fruit. This Waqf remains as long as earth and heaven remain. Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void."
All of this calls into question some of the analysis we have heard both with regard to Palestinian voters and Iranian ones, that they voted for Hamas and Ahmadinejad because of being feed up with corruption and wanting economic prosperity. Is there any good polling data out there that suggests that perhaps a majority of voters take the religious candidates seriously as religious candidates (so voted for Hamas not because of corruption but because they want an Islamic victory against Israel)?
In 2002 or 2003 a poll conducted by a palestinian organization showed that 58-59% WANTED to continue the "struggle" and that any 'peace' (i.e. hudna) should only be a waystation on the way to the complete destruction of Israel NO MATTER WHAT.

This is almost identical to the HAMAS popular vote.

Irregardless of the admitted hideous corruption of the PLA, and Arafat gang, the palestinian PEOPLE chose to make the 'trains run on time'. The Palestinians have been since the 1919 Abu Musa riots which saw the rise of Haj Amin Al Husseini the WORST LEAD PEOPLE on the planet. Whose fault is that, and why?

As far the Iranian people, lord knows.. but when 41% in THEIR poll said they WERE a part of the Axis of Evil, the Iranian govt called off the poll.
Epaminondas said: "but when 41% in THEIR poll said they WERE a part of the Axis of Evil, the Iranian govt called off the poll"

Could you please provide a reference?
It was the spring after Bush's speech...lemme see if I can find it
The deafening silence from the Bush government exacerbates a dangerously festering problem.

Tragically, the Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas. The fact that Hamas is a known terrorist organization (jihadist mass murder gang) is the exact reason the Palestinian people made this seemingly suicidal choice. From the Palestinian perspective, Israel, and the US are to blame for all the many monsterous Palestinian problems. Hamas, and the other Gaza mass murder gangs Hezbollah, Al Aqsa, PFLP, et al represent the only groups actually defending or advancing (however unsuccessfully Palestinians, and Palestinian interests.

This nightmarish reality must be recognized.

There has been little mention, and less action taken by the Bush government against any of the Gaza mass murder gangs. Somehow these mass murderers were and remain immune from the socalled neverendingwaronterror.

The Bush government's obssessive compulsive fixation on maraunding Iraqi oil, and profiteering from the war, occupation, and reconstruction of Iraq, (which we know was in the works before 9/11) has enabled the Gaza mass murder gangs to operate and flourish (Hamas winning an election) and defers to Israel to handle problems in the region.

The entire Arab, and muslim world exploits the Palestinian people and the disaterous situation as a tool to use against Israel, and the great satan, but provide alarmingly little support the the Palestinian people. Though nations like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Yemen, formally Iraq, and others abundantly fund and nurture all the jihadist and Gaza mass murder gangs,(with SA providing by far the lions share of support), very little support financial or other trickles down to the people if Palestine.

EU is useless. Russia and China share primarily arms trades concerns with the region, and are not pressed to take any side.

What is require is leadership. Leadership with the courage to recognize that the Palestinian people are not best served by Hamas. Hamas must go as a governing influence. No country can deal intelligently with Hamas.

The Bush government supports Israel unconditionally, and needs to press this issue openly to mark the divides, make the necessary stands, and force the issue to resolution. It will not be painless or bloodless, - but in the end a people choosing mass murderers as leadership do not deserve democracy and will never achieve freedom and certainly no peace.

That goes for all of us, especially those of us here in the land of Oz.

The lack of support for Palestinians will not last much longer. Wait when they are given SAMs. Civil aviation to and from Israel will cease.
What next? Is Israel going to being eliminating Hamas leaders again, and try to wipe out its cadres? What about the warnings to Syria? Last thing the US needs is a clash between Syria and Israel, with the quagmire in Iraq and the need to have a credible threat in place against Iran.
As an admirer of the usually astute Washington Realist, I feel compelled to point out a hint of unreality in the present post:

Whereas Paris is thousands of kilometers from Moscow, Jerusalem is only one day's ride on horseback to Gaza. Whereas Napoleon required an expidition to become involved in the affairs of Moscow, Jerusalem cannot but be directly inolved in the affairs of Gaza.

In short, "the long view" taken by Russia's leadership in response to invasion from Western Europe is not suitable to the tiny landmass of Israel. Neither side may prevail by simply waiting out the other side.

The unrealism of the Palestinian political leadership is demonstrated by their adherance to the view that:

"The Crusader kingdoms lasted under two centuries before being completely engulfed. I'm sure that most of their leadership is betting that Israel will suffer the same fate as Outremer."

It is folly to imagine that anything but absolute confrontation with the material power of Israel could shake Israel's Arab neighbors (and citizens) from this view.
The Oslo peace strategy was predicated on the assumption that after 50 years of trying to wipe Israel off the map the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world would recognize that Israel could not be dislodged and that a half a loaf deal would be better than no deal. It also assumed as so many Westerners do (perhaps another lingering after effect of Marxism) that economics really is what matters in the end. But American red state voters regularly vote against their economic interests in order to uphold their values. It seems Palestinians will take poverty now in a kind of reverse Quigley approach in order to bequeath a future generation the joys of living without Israel in the neighborhood.
The statememt: "It is folly to imagine that anything but absolute confrontation with the material power of Israel could shake Israel's Arab neighbors" is irrelevant. Arabs have already experienced the absolute preponderance of Israel several times; the War is still going on.

It is inaccurate to disregard the role of the regional states in this. The continuation of the current conflict, indefinitely, is in the interests of Lebeanon, Greece, Russia, Syria, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

In a way, the current level of conflict is also good for US, it will help exhaust Israel and thus make her more amenable to a settlement formulated by US and her partners.
I ask: Is it really true that Israel's Arab neighbours have indeed confronted the true extent of Israel's material power?

Contrast the defeat of Japan in WWII, or the defeat of the Lakota, or the defeat of the Hama uprising, or the defeat of the Ming, or the fall of Constantinople, or the fall of Carthage, with Israel's most thorough military victory, that of 1968. Consider these defeats, and you will discover that Israel hasn't yet excercised the full extent of her material power.

An essential cornerstone of "the dream palace of the Arabs" is Israel's reluctance to use "the full extent of her material power."
Israel can't do what Rome did to Carthage, and certainly not as long as it claims a certain moral sanctity because of the Holocaust.

I think that comes back to Nikolas' original point. Israel has done everything it is prepared to do and by all objective standards has "won". But it has not been enough to bring the other side to the table.

Milosevic in 1999 had the power and the will to try and expel hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians. Even in the 1948 war some Israelis were not averse to "encouraging" people to leave. But that is not an option today for the West Bank and Gaza.
>[The Oslo Accords] also assumed as so many Westerners do (perhaps another lingering after effect of Marxism) that economics really is what matters in the end. But American red state voters regularly vote against their economic interests in order to uphold their values.

I think realists would share this assumption that people tend to act in their own self-interest. And they usually do. But I'm not sure either side in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict really has been. Many of these problems are not that complicated to solve, if people really wanted to. If religious considerations didn't get in the way, I think we'd be a lot closer to a solution than we are now.
David, that is a very interesting point and very true that realism in foreign policy is predicated on acting in self-interest. But where realists can get it wrong is when they mirror-image what they think of as self-interest with what the other parties thinks of as self-interest.

Plus it seems very clear that for the Hamas leadership estrangement from the West and increased hostility from Israel means more support from the rank and file and much more aid from Gulf and Iranian sources.
This discussion reminds me of the point Michael Scheuer made in April: "No nation has a right to exist--not the United States, not Belgium, not Israel, not Saudi Arabia." People assume that a "Palestine" exists and that it has a "right" to exist. It doesn't. And Israel's "right to exist" is the same as for any other state--by the sword and by its ability to maintain itself by its own efforts and by the help of its allies. THere is no Platonic ideal forms of "Israel" and "Palestine" that exist and have some independent right of existence.
That point about "right of existence" is quite interesting, given that J. Peter Pham and Michael Krauss have a piece in the next issue of Commentary, "Why Israel Is Free to Set Its Own Borders."
david stinton wrote: "If religious considerations didn't get in the way, I think we'd be a lot closer to a solution than we are now." But don't you see; the reason for the existence of Israel is religious. A country whose national anthem speaks of the "longing in the soul of a Jew" cannot but be religious. No my friend, this is a War between Islam and Judaism.

To Anonymous 7:21 PM: I agree. Thus the War will go on.
Anonymous 6:55--I agree, but one thing to clarify, because for many Americans "religious" means someone who goes to services and observes all the precepts (and by that token many Israelis and even some Palestinians are "secular")--that this is not about private religiosity/spirituality but public religion and public "faith". And what is interesting is the mirror imaging on both sides. Hamas's declaration that "nationalism is part and parcel of religious faith" echoes the blending of faith and ethnos in Zionism.
Tony Foresta--AMEN. The EU is useless and other major powers like Russia are pursuing short-term selfish interests. And the current occupant of the White House has no "strategery" to provide real leadership.
>But don't you see; the reason for the existence of Israel is religious. A country whose national anthem speaks of the "longing in the soul of a Jew" cannot but be religious. No my friend, this is a War between Islam and Judaism.

Well yes, that's my point exactly. Israel could change if they really wanted to: it has strong historical momentum, but there aren't really that many people still here that were alive in 1948. It's not that hard to change a national anthem.
David Stinson said: "Israel could change if they really wanted to: ". I just do not believe that is either possible or probable.

On a more fundamental level, Nikolas K. Gvosdev wrote: "
How to demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians the staying power of Israel--and to make it economically worth their while to accept--I don't know how this can be down, at least right now".

This statement is the crux of our problem in US. Why should we in US care about this? We have no dog in that fight.

Best for us to do is to gradually cutoff the foreign aid to Jordan, PA, Israel, and Egypt (say over a 5 year period). We should not be involved in these intractable overseas issues that only brings more enmity to us for no concrete gain. If there are individuals here in US who have very strong feelings about those (and similar) problems overseas they could kindly remove themselves to those areas and enlist in various military forces and fight it out. But leave us, on this continent alone. We came here to avoid all that.
Sorry david stinson et al. but THIS is the reason there must be an Israel.

no one can or should deny the persecution of the jews.

but by that logic, should the gypsies get a romany homeland? Or the parsees, or the bahai? what about the kurds?

and does that mean that israel must have to have all historic territories. the bulk of armenians historical homeland is forever denied them and armenia today is but a remnant. serbs are about to lose kosovo the cradle of their civilization. both of them also experienced genocide in the 20th century.

israel has existed now for 60 years. jews around the world have free movement now, ussr is gone. at some point people have made a choice to return to israel or not. at what point does israel become a "normal" nation, where one is israeli the same way one is german or chinese?
Israel doesn't have all the 'historic' territories by any means, in fact they were prepared to accept an Israel via the Peel COmmission plan in 1936 which would have been from south of the Golan, to Tel Aviv, about 1/3 the size of today, but guess what, what has happened all along happened then... utter rejection via Haj Amin Al Husseini in this case (who a few years later allied with Hitler, formed battalions to serve under the Wehrmacht and worked successfully to have jews in Eastern Europe sent to DEATH CAMPS rather than escape alive to palestine - this giving the lie to the idea that the palestinians were simply victims who happened to be there.)

It is my contention that the antisemitism which makes Israel compulsory (not 'jewishness') is just as potent today as it ever was, just as virulent and in the case of the arabs and muslims, relgiously based (Hadiths, and perhaps the Quran). When this is GONE, ISrael will be like FRance, because for this to be gone, Hamas will lie down with doves, and they will reject the Hadiths like the "Stone and the Tree".

I believe NO political solution is possible for generations, and only generations after this disappears. Read the whole thing. This is the CASE, not the exception. Be sure to read the last para.

It would suit me fine for the Bahai to have a homeland (check in with Ahmadi-nejad on that one), and frankly I believe if there CAN be a democracy in Iraq, it's the kurds who will achieve it. And they DESERVE one.

Good discussion !

I do not have any problem with Israel or any other country existing.

I just do not think their existence, for the most part, is worth any American blood and treasure.
I'd like to again thank everyone who has been participating so far in the discussion. A blog is incomplete without conversation. On an topic that in so many other groups is debated with a good deal of polemics and vitriol, the high standard of commentary displayed here is quite refreshing and I am honored that TWR can be a host to our deliberations.

Would it have been worthwhile to have sent the M-60's in to defend Wurzburg? And get Washington whacked?

Would it have been smart to risk Frankfort KY to keep the Fulda Gap?

American troops have no business in Israel (and in fact are unwanted), but Israel has contributed just as much to our military well being as any NATO nation, and if you look at current times, more -(Arrow software for the Patriot, there's this and this .

We are involved with Israel in what has morphed into a single war (altho if a political solution WAS ever possible only the americans could make it happen). That war was really defined in the early 1950's after his american sojourn by Sayd Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Israelis are needed allies in this war, and dependable ones. More than a France, more than a W Germany, more than, if one reads the polls, even a Britain. That's because we share something with them we don't share with the other side in this conflict, and Israel's life depends on them NOT LOSING A WAR EVER. 6 million of them, 350 millions usrrounding arabs and muslims. All of whom perfectly reflect the words today of the Arab League Secretary in 1947:

Arab League Secretary Azzam Pasha on September 16, 1947. Pasha told the jews bluntly:

"The Arab world is not in a compromising mood. It's likely, Mr. Horowitz, that your plan is rational and logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational logic. Nations never concede; they fight. You won't get anything by peaceful means or compromise. You can, perhaps, get something, but only by the force of your arms. We shall try to defeat you."

Nothing is different today. We just know more.
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