Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

So, what has Israel accomplished in Gaza with Operation Cast Lead?

with 9 comments


Things seem to have calmed down in Israel’s latest attempt to accomplish whatever it was trying to accomplish by attacking Gaza. Hamas is still around, they are more popular than ever, and they’re still shooting rockets. So, um, what was all this destruction about? Is Israel safer now? More respected? More feared? What a mess, my heart goes out to all those whose lives were ruined by this. Since the pro-Israel  commenters (here and in the media) seemed to concentrate entirely on justifications for Israel’s actions, while ignoring almost anything resembling an actual analysis of what Israel was trying to accomplish, let look at the possibilities:

Was Israel trying to conquer Gaza? Well, no. You can’t conquer what’s already yours. Gaza has been Israeli occupied territory since 1967, legally and factually. Granted Israel disputes the World Court ruling that the Israeli occupied territories are Israeli occupied territories, but since Israel routinely ignores any UN decisions or any other international decisions it doesn’t like, it’s safe to say the facts match the ruling.

Was Israel trying to kill Arabs? Well, yes and no. They weren’t trying to slaughter Arabs en masse since they could have killed tens of thousands if they wanted to. So comparisons to the Nazis and the holocaust are over the top at this point. Still, they did kill over a thousand, wounded thousands, and traumatized everyone in Gaza. Maybe mass death wasn’t Israel’s goal, but this was hardly a humanitarian intervention.

Stopping the rockets? This was Israel’s stated goal. Um, it wasn’t accomplished. Hamas and Fatah kept on firing rockets to the bitter end, and still have rockets they can fire. In fact it’s a little unclear how Israel planned to accomplish this goal. Aside from killing or driving all the Palestinians out of Gaza, the only way to accomplish this would be a massive military presence permanently occupying Gaza. It wouldn’t completely stop the rockets, it would be very expensive, and would result in their troops being attacked on a regular basis.

Preventing Hamas from re-arming? There’s even less of a chance of that being accomplished by military means. Rounding up the people in Gaza and putting them in concentration camps might do the trick, hell, that would stop the rocket fire even. They don’t seem to be bent on doing that though, it would be very expensive for one, and it would make comparisons to the Nazis perfectly reasonable.

Destroying Hamas? No chance for the reasons listed above, this is simply something that cannot be accomplished without killing almost everyone in Gaza.

So what the hell was Israel’s Operation Cast Lead all about? Since none of the stated goals was achievable by military force, something else is going on here. And the obvious first possibility is that the people who planned  this war are more or less clueless. Israel’s strategy of military action has often led to some pretty dismal results, like the creation of Hezbollah for example. In fact countries that get as militarized as Israel often lose their way when it comes to strategic thinking, everyone in Israel is ex-military and they have the most militarized society on Earth…so military solutions are applied to problems whether or not they are appropriate.  It’s certainly a possibility, even granting that the attack was “justified” somehow,  it still appears stupid and counterproductive to me.

Lastly we come to darker possibilities. Was the attack on Gaza part of a long term agenda to cow the Palestinians into passively accepting their situation, renouncing violence, and giving up their claims? Or even part of a strategy of forcing the Palestinians to abandon their homes and flee the occupied territories? There’s certainly voices in Israel calling for the later, so it can’t be ruled out as part of the equation. As for the former, history is replete with people convinced that they can force another people to accept what they would never accept for their own if the situation was reversed. Maybe evil motives weren’t consciously part of most Israelis thinking, but I don’t recall many Israelis claiming they were fighting for a peaceful two-state resolution to the problem with the Palestinians.

Which is the crux of the whole problem, is Palestine going to be one state or two? Annexing the occupied territories and giving the Palestinians Israel citizenship doesn’t seem very likely. It would destroy Israel’s identity as a “Jewish” state. Hell, some Israelis are trying to disenfranchise the tiny Arab minority that still lives in Israel, it’s not like they will welcome millions more. And if it’s to be a two state solution, Israel could have created that any time they wanted in the past 50 years, so it doesn’t seem like it’s very likely any time soon.

So here we are, another failed war by Israel as far as I can tell. Hamas is more popular than ever, and their limited military capability seems basically unchanged. Heck, they are holding victory rallies. Palestinian factions are more united, Fatah and Hamas seem to have patched up their differences. Israel is more condemned than ever in the world court of opinion. If anything Israel is less feared, they couldn’t crush Hebollah and now they have failed to crush Hamas. Other than making life more miserable for millions of Palestinians while simultaneously strengthening their will to resist, nothing has changed. This isn’t an Israeli victory, unless a world where Israel hides behind its wall while nothing but ruins, poverty, hopelessness and devastation lie outside the wall is the goal. And if that’s the goal, not only is it evil, it’s remarkably stupid and shortsighted.

Israel needs its neighbours, its neighbours don’t need Israel, at least not an Israel determined to wreak destruction on its neighbours and occupied territories at the drop of a hat. Ultimately Israel is on a road to it’s own destruction, a road it is apparently still choosing…eyes wide shut.

(The above image of a Hamas victory rally amid the ruins is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, and it’s use here in no way hinders the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit: AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus. Those do not appear to be white flags they are waving. For a long term analysis of Israel and its wars, I reiterate and recommend this link: The myth of Israel’s strategic genius.)


Written by unitedcats

January 21, 2009 at 10:49 am

Posted in History, Politics, Terrorism, War, World

Tagged with

9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Yeah, sure, Israelis are obviously clueless. No strategy, just pure luck.

    === “Israel’s action has led to dismal results, like the creation of Hezbollah” ===
    Creation of Hezbollah seems more like a desperate act. Well, it sure wasn’t a celebration of success.

    === (from linked article) “American and Israeli leaders did not recognize this important… Israel then failed to… and fell victim to one of the most successful surprise attacks in military history… The IDF eventually rallied and triumphed, BUT…” ===
    Sounds like: “Israelis were soooo much wrong. I mean, yes they won, but they were so much weaker.”

    === “And if that’s the goal, not only is it evil, it’s remarkably stupid and shortsighted.” ===
    Yes, certainly, jews are stupid and especially shortsighted, totally loosing those last 40 years.

    === “Israel needs its neighbours, its neighbours don’t need Israel” ===
    How did you come up with that one?

    I’m not saying Israelis are good, they’re more like evil. But… You once posted an article about Logical Fallacies, and now it seems you have mastered them.


    January 21, 2009 at 2:22 pm

  2. No other country in the world would have exercised the amount of restraint that Israel has shown for the past several years without responding.
    Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves to every nation the right to engage in self-defense against armed attacks. As Professor Alan Dershowitz has also noted, “The claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality — by killing more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets — is absurd. First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian. Second, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed.


    January 21, 2009 at 3:23 pm

  3. James I’m a little confused. How does penning in one and half million people into a few square miles, and then bombing the living crap out of them have to do with “combatants” being killed? Your argument would make sense if the Palestinian casualties were in fact combatants, not innocent “citizens” (oh wait Palestinians don’t get the privilege of citizenship). Please redefine your argument.

    Your second argument about the number of civilians killed vs. risk posed… again a little confused. Risk from whom? Isn’t the definition of civilian a person who poses no risk? (Although I imagine when you kill a man’s wife and children, he may be more inclined to take up arms against you in the future). Again, please redefine.


    January 21, 2009 at 11:38 pm

  4. Psycho and James are Mossad agents


    January 22, 2009 at 6:43 am

  5. Psycho’s thinking is one dimensional, one can win every battle and still lose the war. Being at constant war with your neighbours is not a viable strategy in the long run. As for James, and all who approve of Israel’s bellicosity, I have noticed that all their arguments are built around a central lattice of circular reasoning. I may have to speculate on this further. As always thanks for the comments.


    January 22, 2009 at 11:47 am

  6. I’m talking about survival – they are winning in that. As for their “losing war” and their “need for neighbours”, you forgot to put in some arguments, master. I’d love to read an article about that – how exactly, you think, their success hurts them in the long run. They are resolute, and that’s what pays – look around.

    Bellicosity – I hate people killing each other, I would kill them all :). I think both sides need the idealistic leader that will condemn (and slander) all aggresion from his own side, no matter what. There is obviously NO other (long run) way.


    January 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm

  7. @James – anyone in Israel over 16 is either in the military or part of the reserves. By the same logic that makes every male in Gaza a ‘Hamas gunman’, everyone in Israel is a combatant.

    And what would “not showing restraint” look like – the IDF lining people up a hundred at a time and shooting them in the back of the head?


    January 23, 2009 at 2:46 pm

  8. @psycho: Yes, certainly, jews are stupid and especially shortsighted, totally loosing those last 40 years.

    See, there you have it. Or at least a major portion of it: Did anyone mention Jews?


    January 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm

  9. @James: As Professor Alan Dershowitz has also noted …

    As Alan Dershowitz the famous humanitarian advocate of peace noted? That Alan Dershowitz?

    Hey, letter of the law. c.f. John Yoo.


    January 24, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: