Monday, September 8, 2014

Evaluating the ending of Operation Protective Edge

Sar Shalom

In pro-Israel circles, it has become fashionable of late to excoriate the West, and in particular Barack Obama, for pressing Israel to end Operation Protective Edge against Hamas prematurely, and to apply that cudgel against Binyamin Netanyahu as well for yielding to that pressure. A better approach would be to bare in mind the admonition from Conrad Crane and Andrew Terrill in Reconstructing Iraq, a pre-Iraq War planning document prepared at the US Army War College that was unfortunately ignored by the people who mattered, that "national objectives can often be accomplished only after the fighting has ceased." While a simple analysis would suggest that leaving Hamas in place would clear the way for Hamas to rearm and thus subsequently conduct terror operations while removing Hamas entirely is the only way to prevent this. However, as Crane and Terrill indicated, what matters more than what is accomplished during operations is what happens following operations. Even if Hamas had been fully routed, post-operations attention would be needed to assure that whoever would fill the vacuum would not acquire arms and perpetrate terror at some future date. Douglas Lovelace emphasized this in his foreward to Reconstructing Iraq with the following, "Otherwise, the success of military operations will be ephemeral, and the problems they were designed to eliminate could return or be replaced by new and more virulent difficulties."

What all this suggests is that rather than browbeating over how much of the needed objectives were achieved by Operation Protective Edge, the effort now must be on preventing Hamas from acquiring any further materiel. Unfortunately, there is not much precedent for how to prevent a determined party from acquiring weapons. Further, the international community has given little reason for confidence that doing so is even a priority, let a lone that they would be competent at doing so while the movement of materiel into Gaza absent an immediate conflict would not attract the media attention that live conflict does. Yet, monitoring is what must be done, and no accomplishment during operations could have obviated that monitoring.


  1. I simply disagree, Sar Shalom.

    And the thing of it is, it exceedingly difficult for me sitting where I am to disagree with you on this matter. I have family and friends in Israel, but my skin is not in the game and neither is that of my immediate family.

    Nonetheless, you cannot defeat the enemy until you do so.

    Until you do so, you will not have done so.

    And therefore the war goes on and the longer it goes on the more the international community will turn against our people.

    It's happening as we watch, we just need to acknowledge the obvious.

    How are things around kibbutz Nir Am?

    1. It's not just a matter of having skin in the game. It's also a matter of having military expertise to evaluate the strategic balance between Phase III objectives and Phase IV objectives, to use military lingo. Destroying Hamas would be a pyrrhic victory if a similarly motivated group were to come to power in the vacuum left by their destruction.

      The larger problem is that after previous operations, Hamas was able to fully restock and the first we heard about it was seeing the materiel put to use two years after the last operation ended. However, there is nothing that could have been done which would have lessened that challenge, although a new organization arising from a hypothetical vacuum were Hamas to be destroyed might have less advantage in that it would have to build it organization at the same time that it amasses its supplies. I'd look to military experts to answer that question.

      In the meantime, we know that Operation Protective Edge was providing fodder for The Guardian and The Independent to fan the flames of violent judeophobia. This is not to say that anything Israel did justifies their coverage, but we have to recognize that the tongue covering our expedition to get lion's milk is one that will say that we got dog's milk (a midrashic reference) with all the consequences that flow from that.

    2. There is a healthy instinct among diaspora Jews to often keep their traps shut concerning Israeli military decisions. I think that instinct is honorable due to the fact that it is Israelis, Jewish and otherwise, who will always bare the brunt. And it is Israeli kids who will fight the fight, not diaspora Jewish kids.


      What I want to know is if my original assertion is wrong.

      That is, my foremost assertion concerning the conclusion of "Protective Edge" is that it does not represent a conclusion of hostilities. Some would say it represents a hudna, I suppose. It is a kicking the can down the road.

      So, do you agree that the IDF has the military capacity to finish off Hamas and that, given their genocidal assertions, Israel has every right and reason to do so?

      "Destroying Hamas would be a pyrrhic victory if a similarly motivated group were to come to power in the vacuum left by their destruction."

      I am wary of the kind of historical analogy that I am about to offer, but I cannot even imagine if during World War II the allies decided against taking out Nazi Germany out of concern that some worse regime might arise.

      I have been hearing a lot of this kind of talk and it strikes me as an excuse to not do what is necesary.

      But, you know what, Sar Shalom? I think that I am going to shut up on this issue after this statement and, maybe, after a little chit-chat over at EOZ... because it is done.

      The decisions have been made and people will live with the consequences.

    3. "... I cannot even imagine if during World War II the allies decided against taking out Nazi Germany out of concern that some worse regime might arise."

      The analogy that would be closer to my suggestion would be that the Allies should not have deposed the Nazi regime and then walked away. Indeed, if you factor in the "and then walked away" portion, they did not do that. In actuality, the Americans had prepared for over a year what to do after removing the Nazi regime.

      With all this said, have you come across anything by any military experts about the relative importance of Phase III and Phase IV objectives? My post on this subject is essentially drawn from military experts. One of the authors, Conrad Crane, subsequently became one of the advisers to MNF-I during the surge.

  2. In theory, most theories work out fairly well. And if they don't, just slash out another theory. Any approach that actually has any expectation of anything the Arabs can, must, should or will do are dead on arrival and not even worth the blogs they're printed on. Because after a century of being coddled and told that whatever they do whoever they murder it's all forgiven, that's actually the ethos they've adopted. Today some bright light figured out how to elevate that in terms if Koranic orthodoxy and pious fervor but that's what it is; patently immature arrogance of a child who's been told his whole life that he's a 'genius'.

    Arabs will never concede a millimeter. Not ever. They truly believe that they have the winning strategy. Even if it results in failure, they've still won because the tyrants are still in charge. Does anyone think Nasser was cowed in 1967 or Sadat in 1973 or Saddam in 1991? Of course not. And Hamas will never so much as concede there is anything to be gained in not pursuing the same exterminationist role they already have. The PLO does not actually believe it can ever be in a better position by not killing Jews. It doesn't matter if half of Hamas and the PLO is slaughtered and they're sent back a hundred years of reverse-progress. They hold to their beliefs with a religious tenacity because they really do believe it's a divine purpose that has fallen on them to fulfill: Kill the Jews and get rich doing it. There is nothing for us to gain by pretending that talking to them has any upside. Any concession is a weakness and any attempt to address atrocities is a war crime.

    But there is an upside in part, long run. And that's let them evolve into their own statelet and sit back and watch them deal with themselves the same way they deal with Jews. Let's see how they develop socially, politically, economically under psychotic anarchic fascism. Let's see foreign capital flock to Gaza when the only way to enforce a contract is to publicly execute 30 people. Let's see a polity evolve when elections are determined by throwing your opponents off the roof of a police station. To me it will look like Northern Mexico's Narco-cartels which have killed 60,000 people in last 14 years or so. If that kind of thing is acceptable to the 'world community' and they keep it on their side of the fence then I'm fine with it too.

    1. It seems to me that we are at a sort-of turning point, Trudy, but no one knows what winds we are heading into.

      Oslo is dead, that much is certain, and ultimately it was killed by the Arabs for the very simple reason that they do not want a two-state solution.

      This being the case we move on, but move on to what?

      Israel has decided that it is willing to live with an anti-Semitic theocratically-genocidal organization on its front stoop shooting rockets at it and essentially ruining a large part of the surrounding countryside.

      And who are we to argue, really?

    2. It goes back to the same old caterwauling from John Kerry et al "The status quo cannot be maintained".....

      Really? It outlived the Soviet Union, Mubarek and the Muslim Brotherhood, the entire Arab Spring, and every attempt by the EU/UN and now Obama, to crush it. Seems like the status quo is a good plan so far. The only people who seemingly predict its imminent demise are those on the losing end of it. A bit like the Arabs who, when they get throat punched over and over insist we change the rules to let them win.

      I was reading something. I forget by who, but his point was Israel should (or should have) declared war on the state of Gaza not Hamas. They should have closed the borders cut off all traffic and proceeded by fighting a war the way wars are fought. However that ends it ends like any other war between two different countries. If that results in misfortune for Gaza, oh well. If that means that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PLO get in a 3 way civil war, again, oh well.

      But the point isn't schadenfreude, it's acknowledgement that there's nothing to be done with an enemy which is implacable. We may as well be screaming at a machine. And since there is nothing to be done with them there is only what's left to do against them and then eventually in spite of them.

      What Israel attained this go-round was precisely the status quo. 70 Israelis killed, a slew of military gear used up, a few billion shekels spent. Push off the next conflagration with Hamas a few years which they will use to devolve even further into their infinite loop of squalor. Even Abbas, who was hoping Israel would crush Hamas, is left with more status quo - - and who cares?

      One thing I would propose though is for Israel to make clear to Hezbollah that the next war they are planning will be met with devastating force. None of this pick and choose and wade into the kind of hit and run ground war Hezbollah is rather good at but a strategic Armageddon that will put down Hezbollah like a mad dog.

    3. I tend to agree.

      The status quo can go on and on and on and on.

      One of the final points made by the late great Barry Rubin was that the status quo can be managed and it's better to maintain the status quo than it is to trade in for whatever chaos and blood that the EU, the UN, the US, and the PA would create.

      We need to get it through people's heads that Israel must act unilaterally.

      "Arabs will never concede a millimeter. Not ever. They truly believe that they have the winning strategy."

      And, in truth, they may be correct.

      It depends upon Jewish resolve.

      If we can shake off our vegetable torpor and recognize that the Jews of the Middle East are facing a life-and-death struggle against a much larger, irrational and genocidal foe, it might help in how we address the problem.

      We also must address the ways in which westerners advance the cause of Arab aggression against the Jews.

      Thus far, however, virtually no one is doing so.

    4. It is true that the end of Phase III has left nothing different from the status quo ante. Phase IV is what will determine if that develops into conditions for new fighting or if Hamas' fighting capabilities remain degraded.

      The western support for Arab aggression is another battlefront. That is our part.