I received a very good comment on one of my most recent posts that deserves an extended response.
The comment is as follows:
The mistake of the Bush administration was to subscribe to LBJ’s theory that “better to piss from inside the tent……………”, thinking that once Hamas had to pick up the garbage and deliver the mail, they would become more responsible, yet it turns out it just afforded them the opportunity to switch from the mafia to a thugacracy , steal much more which gives them more power to push their #1 agenda: radical Islam and Jihad. Abbas is little better and has shown time and again he is a Holocaust denier and duplicitous. If Israel has a partner in peace even remotely close to Anwar Sadat, this conflict would be settled within 6 months.
You act as if Israel has not lost thousands in their wars of defense and only desires domination. It reminds me of the German-Jewish family standing on the platform before being transported to the camps believing they can’t possibly be such monsters……. ” but, We are German.” This is a time for staying strong as much as we all long for peace.
Actually, the history of Hamas post the 2006 election (which as you correctly imply was encouraged by the Bush Administration) is mixed. Although much attention, including decidedly biased accusations against Israel, continues to focus on Operation Cast Lead, collective memory seems to forget that there was a six month ceasefire agreement signed in June, 2008 which held quite well through November, 2008 (Hamas reduced the number of rockets from about 300 in May to about 20 per month (per NYT report December 19, 2008) when the rocket fire began again. The reasons that the cease-fire broke down was an incursion by IDF troops into Gaza on November 4 to eliminate the threat of a tunnel being dug to the Israeli side of the border presumably to allow for the kidnapping of additional IDF soldiers. According to the IDF, Hamas responded with 61 rockets on November 5 aimed at Israeli civilian populations, but essentially curtailed the bombardment at noon. Obviously, each side defended its actions based upon each of their interpretation of the facts. This essentially was the beginning of the end of the cease-fire, and led to Operation Cast Lead.
My point here is not in any way to defend Hamas’ use of rocket fire indiscriminately aimed at civilians, nor to question Israel’s right to defend itself militarily (it certainly has that right), but instead it is to address two very important strategic questions: a) whether Hamas can be trusted to comply with any agreements, and b) to consider the strategic effectiveness of Operation Cast Lead.
The facts seem to indicate that Hamas can be somewhat trusted to comply with agreements. The cease-fire was enforced pretty well by Hamas leadership. Although the Hamas charter is an abhorrent document that cannot be ignored, and it is clear that there are people both inside Hamas and in other organizations like the Al Aqsa Brigade and the Islamic Brotherhood who clearly continue to seek the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Zionists anywhere in the world, the evidence provided by the cease-fire is that there are more moderate and pragmatic elements within Hamas who were strong enough to control the more radical elements. In addition to this circumstantial evidence, I have heard the same from people who have met directly with Khalid Mashaal and other Hamas leaders. My argument is that both Israel and the United States are better off supporting the moderate elements. Rejecting these moderate elements only strengthens the hands of the radical elements. That is seemingly not in Israel’s long-term best interests.
This is actually supported by evaluating the current situation post-Cast Lead. Reports indicate that there are now twice as many rockets (with both enhanced range and guidance systems) in Gaza as there were before Operation Cast Lead. Would it have been better or worse without Operation Cast Lead? No one can say. But I think that one can say that the strategic threat from Gaza is much worse today than it was in July-October, 2008 during the cease-fire. As Secretary of State Clinton said during her speech at the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference, technological developments are not necessarily on the side of the Israelis. Iron Dome is an amazing technological success. But I don’t think it is a strategic success. Why? Each Iron Dome missile reportedly costs close to $35-50,000. Each of the 40,000 Hamas’ rockets (and presumably a similar number of Hezbollah’ rockets on the Lebanon border) cost hundreds of dollars each, let alone artillery and morter shell. So, even without a nuclear weapon, Iran’s de facto control of these organizations poses a very real existential threat to Israel’s population today. I have heard all of the arguments against “linkage” and I agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of Islamic jihadism, however that it does not automatically follow that the converse is not true. That is, I think that the creation of a Palestinian state could be the biggest blow to Iran’s aim for increased hegemony in the region . (But that is an entirely separate topic).
Saad Ibrahim on the Egyptian Revolution at the CCGA: “Young People are Deciding the Fate of their Societies”
Saad Eddin Ibrahim is the real deal when it comes to the Egyptian revolution. Although his current title is the Wallerstein Distinguished Visiting Professor, Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, Drew University, what he has been through does a much better job of explaining who he is. He was put on trial in Egypt for his anti-Mubarek activities (including founding the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies), convicted twice and sentenced to seven years of hard labor. He served 15 months before being acquitted by Egypt’s highest court. He walked with a cane to the podium at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) and began to explain his take on the recent flood of revolutions in the Middle East. As he completed his formal talk, he moved to sit down in a chair for the Q&A. As he gingerly moved to seat himself, he quipped: “I used to be a marathoner; look what prison does to you.” I couldn’t tell whether it was a small joke juxtaposing his current portly appearance, or the straight truth.
In addition to talking broadly about the political history of the region, he made several interesting comments:
- The difference in this revolution: It was begun by youth, supported solely by non-violent civilians, and then the military stayed neutral and actually protected the demonstrators from the police
- This was unbelievable: He explained that the revolution really took off on Day 3 when the government shut off internet and cell phone service. Why? Up until then most of the demonstrators where under 30. When cell phone access got shut off, their parents could not reach them, so the parents went down to Tahrir Square to try to find their kids to see if they were OK. When they got there, the atmosphere was like a street fair – so they stayed! That virtually tripled participation in one day (1 child + 2 parents = 3 people)
- He commented (as have others) that he was not aware of any anti-American slogans being chanted. This was about Egyptians taking responsibility for themselves; not placing blame on someone else
- He strongly recommends that the West deal with the Muslim Brotherhood respectfully. They should be allowed to participate as long as they accept the basic premise of the democracy. If we do that, he says that it is likely that the system will develop similarly to many of the Central and Eastern European countries or Turkey. While some may be skeptical of a Muslim religious democratic party, he said that the concept is comparable to the Christian Democratic parties in Europe.
- He said that during the first few days of the demonstrations, he virtually “slept” at the White House – acting in an advisory capacity. Although Obama was criticized (and continues to be criticized) for his “passivity”, it was Ibrahim’s comment that the Administration was very concerned not to “scare” the Saudis, by appearing to drop Mubarek too quickly. The Saudis could easily interpret that as a sign of what could happen to them.
Ibrahim is in Chicago as part of a very special day of learning TOMORROW, March 9, at Northwestern: The Shifting Sands of Hegemonic Powers in the Middle East. Looks like a fabulous program – I’m sorry I won’t be able to go.