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).
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else” – The Great Yogi
In analyzing and developing policies, an obvious prerequisite is defining and understanding your desired outcome: The Endgame. One of the problems that often occurs when people are talking about Israel, Palestine and the rest of the Middle East, is that they talk past each other. They almost immediately get caught up arguing facts (or myths), history, speculation, generalization, demonization, almost any damn “-ation” you can name. But often they never bother to try to understand the framework of their arguments. What is the outcome that they are looking for? How can one determine if they are right or wrong unless they know what goal they are trying to achieve.
It seems that the endgame for Israel was defined at its very birth. It goes back to the original Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel which David Ben-Gurion read aloud in the sweltering heat of the former Dizengoff home, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on 5 Iyar 5708 (May 14, 1948). The very essence of what the country stands for is contained in the 13th paragraph:
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
I don’t think there can be a clearer, more succinct ideal that any of us who love the State of Israel could set for her. And it follows from that that this should be the standard which the people of Israel and their institutions (government, the military, economic, and religious) should be measuring themselves against. And fellow Jews everywhere should be supporting Israel in reaching for that ideal.
So, in summary, when analyzing policy decisions, using this definition, the endgame is the sustenance of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.
precept [ˈpriːsɛpt]n 1. a rule or principle for action
2. a guide or rule for morals; maxim
Over the next several months, I am going to write a series of short essays – I call Precepts – explaining the framework that I use in thinking about issues – particularly when it involves war and peace. The United States is currently involved in overt military activity (“kinetic” seems to be the descriptive adjective de jour to apply here) in three different areas of the world. We see images of bombs, fire fights, burned out tanks, and wounded and killed civilians – lots of wounded and killed civilians – wherever we look – in the newspaper, on TV, on the web, on our mobile phones. And yet, we have little understanding of what, why and how we are doing what we are doing. Our leaders seem caught up in endless partisan infighting, spewing political rhetoric like odoriferous spring fertilizer. They cannot explain what our interests are (our Endgame). Instead of being forthright in explaining the importance of energy, raw materials, shipping lanes, stable governments, etc., we get all kinds of wars. Not just military warfare, but Wars on Drugs, Wars on Terror, Wars on Obesity. The term War is used so often that it has lost its true meaning. We are constantly at war – so war no longer seems to be such a terrible thing. (Obviously the best treatise on the concept of constant war was written by George Orwell. I commend you to re-read 1984. I dare say that our current global relationships bear some resemblance to that of Oceania. If you read carefully, although the visions are sometimes a bit more stark and excessive, you will see that much of the framework is recognizable. Telescreens spying on our every move? Between police cameras, security cameras and cellphone cameras, they say that you should act like everything you do is being recorded…)
All of that being said, my hope is to put together some little thought pieces that will pique your interests. Each will likely start out very short, but I reserve the right to update, revise and expand each essay until it turns into a coherent worthy statement.
The first one follows this post. It is a short note about the importance of defining one’s Endgame.