Israel in 2008 and America in 2011

J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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18 Responses

  1. rj says:

    Libya is too big to fail. If we fire just one rocket, we’re on the hook for not just the revolution but also the government that follows.Report

  2. North says:

    With cast lead they had to do something. The Israeli’s had finally withdrawn from Gaza and as a result were being pelted with home made rocket fire. Since the government at the time was the same one that had withdrawn the soldiers and settlers from Gaza they had to take action about it. I agree, though, that it wasn’t a particularily impressive showing.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

      When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, Hamas declared victory, post hoc ergo propter hoc . Operation Cast Lead only dug the hole deeper: Hamas’ mouth outran its ass and the IDF gave that ass a well-deserved kicking, but it proved nothing in the long haul. When the elephants fight the grass gets trampled. Israel cannot govern Gaza but it can blockade and bomb it. Hamas can’t govern Gaza either but it can continue provoking Israel with rockets and surviving Israel’s counterstrikes.Report

      • North in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I agree BlaiseP. Yet, still, I feel that the Israeli withdrawal was the correct choice at the time. For all the conflict and fooferaw that has ensured since Sharon’s government has almost entirely untangled Israeli’s polity from the Gazan populace and that is no mean feat. If successor governments could pull a similar stunt in the West Bank and end the Gazan blockade Israel would be on an excellent course to surviving indefinitely even if her new Palestinian neighbors were belligerent and restive (though I think the result in the West Bank could be extremely positive if the current grown up Palestinian behavior there is any indication).Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

          The West Bank continues to be a sad sack. The reason it might succeed, perversely, is because the Israelis and Palestinians live cheek by jowl. Israeli soldiers have risen up, consciences stricken with guilt, to tell their individual stories of unfairness and oppression on the West Bank. Cast Lead has only produced prosecutions of IDF personnel in the same situations.

          Vanishingly few of the Palestinians are willing to stand up to tell their stories of the PLO’s and Hamas’ vicious treatment of their own subject peoples. Hamas will simply kneel someone down in the street and shoot him through the head, without benefit of trial.

          If the PLO has doffed its kaffiyeh mask, changed its name to the PA and put on a bespoke suit to appear on the talk shows, the mask may change, the face remains the same. I have no confidence in Salam Fayyad’s quixotic attempts to attenuate corruption and malfeasance in the PA, though I applaud his efforts.

          The Middle East Peace race is run in this wise: everyone starts off running. As soon as someone pulls ahead of the pack, he is shot in the back.Report

  3. BlaiseP says:

    This is a recapitulation of the Sunni uprising in Iraq in 1991. Though we’d tacitly connived with the Shiites after Gulf War 1, we did nothing when Saddam put them down. For this reason, the Shiites did not trust us when we returned for Gulf War Part Deux.

    Here’s what America ought to do: let this mess burn merrily along for a good long while until it’s burned down to coals, as we did in the Balkans. It’s far too early for a military intervention: no leadership has emerged in the anti-Qadafy camp. When that leadership appears, and it will, then we can intervene, for it will petition us for help. Until we’re invited into this struggle, we ought to stay the hell out. Clausewitz’s rule still applies, until you know what sort of war you’re fighting, stay out of it.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Ugh…. s/Sunni Uprising/Shiite uprising/gReport

    • Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Milosovec and Saddam were being assholes for about the same length of time during the same era. It seems kind of arbitrary on a strategic level that the afflicted population loved our intervention in one case and not in the other. (Which is not to say there were operation and tactical decisions that made the nature and outcome of the two operations substantially different). And I’d be at a loss to tell you who the leadership of the Kosovar opposition was without google. (otoh, I can tell who who was the purported leader of the Iraqi opposition was in 2002 – who of course wound up to be a key flaw in the plan)

      In any case it doesn’t strike me as Libya being amendable to the ‘burn down to coals model’. There isn’t the geographic interspersing of ethnic groups* that there is in either Iraq or the Balkans (or Afghanistan, or dozens of other places in the world), and also not so much such intermingling the tribes. (In general, the tribe that Qaddafi belongs to is in the west around Tripoli, and all the ones that have been historical rivals to Qaddafi’s tribe are in the east – and this is largely how the balance of forces are playing out)

      *The Berbers have their own thing, but I don’t know how much political influence or power they hold, or even whose side they are on.

      The Libyan situation is a straight up political civil war, and will either be a long stalemate, or a relatively short (as in by the end of the year) victory for pro-Qadaffi forces. Potentially, it could be a hybrid of the two, something akin to the situation in Afghanistan just prior to 9/11, where the ruling Taliban govt had de jure control over all the territory, but the NA created large ‘no-go’ zones – this situation for Libya seems somewhat unlikely though, as there are specific oil resources and infrastructure to fight over in Libya, not just vague territory like in Afghanistan.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

        You’re right: this is a civil war. But within that war is another struggle, city versus country.

        Libya’s parallels with Afghanistan are fairly good. When Qadafy came to power, he controlled the cities but not the back country, where the dozens of tribes and clans hold sway. Qadafy lumped their leaders into one of his famous committees, alternately paying, cajoling and threatening them for their compliance, a pattern we see in KSA and Iraq as well.

        Yugoslavia began to disintegrate along ethnic lines as soon as the first shovelful of earth fell on Tito’s coffin. For my money, ethnic identity is a euphemism for tribal identity: the pattern still holds. The veneer of civilization is very thin, but it thickens up the closer you get to the market square, for the intermingling of which you speak can only happen in cities.

        The Taliban never controlled all of Afghanistan and they quarreled among themselves, for they were fundamentally not of Afghan origin. The Taliban were originally an Indian thing, for the ferocious Deobandi Islam of the Taliban began in north India and was pushed into Pakistan during partition, put to use by the Pakistani leadership as a yoke for the barely-Islamic tribes to the west.

        Pashtun is a language, not a tribe: the Pashtun are a bewildering composition of many tribes and barely speak the same language. Though nobody speaks of it much, since the American invasion, the Taliban have not waged war on the Americans as they have waged war upon the tribal leadership among the Pashtun and increasingly the Hazara, murdering their leaders in council much as our drones wait for the Taliban to assemble before we drop a JDAM on them.

        It is still too early to see how this civil war will play out in Libya. The tribes may cut their own deal with who follows Qadafy: I do not see him long remaining in power. He has always simulated madness: a useful technique to keep his enemies off balance, but he has grown old and bad for business. Let the tribes remove him, watch and see. Removing him without a viable replacement, and without buy-in from the tribes, will only recapitulate our idiocy in Iraq.Report

  4. Matty says:

    One thing worth pointing out is that what happens in Lybia is *about* Lybia not the US. I seriously doubt that the people in Benghazi, some of whom do seem to be calling for a no fly zone, are concerned about how America’s reputation will be affected.

    This said I think outside intervention is a bad idea because it could destroy whatever is left of the pro-democracy movement in the Arab world. It would allow the dictators to revert to the old narrative of defending their people against foreign agressors and potentially win back enough support to brutally suppress their own reform movements and cause more suffering than the Lybian civil war is causing.

    I’m not sure by the way how the calls for action from the Arab league factor into this.Report

    • Heidegger in reply to Matty says:

      Very good, Matty. I wholeheartedly agree. Hopefully, our days of nation-building are over, forever. I erred very badly on the Iraq war. Boy, did I. I couldn’t for a moment imagine the Iraqis would not be prostrate with happiness and gratitude at their liberation at the hands of the US and her allies. $700 billion later and the loss of 4,400+ killed, 32,000+ injured of our very best and brightest soldiers certainly tells me otherwise. I don’t for a moment question the nobility and generosity of the mission nor the incredible courage of our very brave warriors, men and women, fighting it. There aren’t enough accolades to adequately express our gratitude and love that we feel, as a nation, for these fine, fine, men and women–this is for you too, Blaise. A very sincere and heartfelt thanks for your service. You guys are the real deal–we are a nation, blessed!

      I think any future military actions should only be executed in order to administer very severe punishment to our enemies. These hell-hole, basket case countries simply aren’t worth rebuilding, especially in the unilateral way in which it is now being done. Not to mention, the very high casualties.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Heidegger says:

        I just gotta say part of me resents the gratitude. Call it survivor’s guilt or whatever. We glorify the serviceman to obfuscate the evils of the wars they fought and the lies which served as the rationale for those wars. Patriotism is not the last refuge of the scoundrel: it is the first.

        The real heroes, the ones who deserve our gratitude, will never stand on a podium to receive a medal. They got theirs posthumously. Their families remember them. We who served with them remember them. They will remain forever young, beyond all harm, beyond ravages of age and the torment of memory.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Heidegger says:

        As for Iraq, it is the bitterest of ironies to realize we overthrew a secular regime to create another Islamic Republic. Food for thought.Report

      • Matty in reply to Heidegger says:

        I’m not sure if we do agree, I certainly wouldn’t use phrases like “hell hole basket case countries”. If anything I was arguing that people in these countries can and do want a better life and that it is the views and interests of those people that are relevant not the interests of the political elite in a nation thousands of miles away.

        Still if we are on the same page in being against nation building by force I’ll take that as a win.Report

  5. JohnR says:

    Eh, armchair analysis is easy – any fool can do it. All it takes is a capacity to pull out similar-looking threads from the rug and say “See! The rugs must be the same!” The similarities should never guide decision-making; it’s the differences that count. Same with the human habit of assuming that things will invariably work out for the best. Every planning session should always have the most important figure there be the one who requires a response-plan to failure of any particular aspect. “And when this fails, what do you do?” ‘Hope for the best, but plan for the worst’ seems to be just words to planners of all kinds.
    Now, Libya may or may not be past the point where outside intervention may be useful. Now that the regime has apparently got its feet back underneath it and its confidence back, the hopes of the revolutionaries may be dwindling. At this point, outside intervention may be the only hope they have (US Revolutionary War, Civil War, anyone?). The question then may be “What are the possible outcomes of US intervention, related to the level of intervention (air-only vs whole-hog) as a function of resources available?” I suspect the most likely answers are going to be unhappy ones, but I’m only a war-gamer, not a military planner. One thing I’ve learned from wargaming, though, is that over-optimism is the greatest trap. So, when you get a happy answer back, you should scrutinize it twice as closely. And “National Prestige” may be the single most stupid reason there is to commit a country’s resources to the insatiable furnace of war.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to JohnR says:

      Clausewitz asks “what sort of war are you fighting?”. Libya isn’t easily summed up: it has over 100 major tribes and clans. There’s something called the General People’s Committee in Libya, an oddly representative body. In some ways, though certainly not all, Libya under Qadfy is like Iraq under the days of Saddam. Wargaming Iraq and Libya are not all that different, right down to the outsiders’ responses. ‘Memba the no fly zones in Iraq and what a Great Success they were?

      The days of a Stalin or Mao are largely over: that sort of dictator relied on absolute control of communications and Qadafy can’t shut down his comms without endangering his own control of the situation. Shut down the talkers and he shuts down his own ability to listen.

      Here’s my guess: Qadafy’s enemies, like our enemies in Iraq, will simply melt back into the civilian population. The harder he strikes at his enemies, the more resolute that enemy will become and the less mandate he will have in the long haul.

      Qadafy, well, everyone, has been watching Iraq and especially Afghanistan. The American monkey climbed high enough to let its ass be seen: the limits of our ability to project power is now well-understood and dirt-cheap countermeasures to that power have had time to evolve.

      The EU’s a joke, they’ll rattle their ornamental sabers and do nothing publicly, as they did nothing about Lockerbie or the Munich disco bombings.

      Egypt and Libya enjoyed excellent relations while Mubarak was in power: the only minor squabble was over Libyans coming to Egypt for work and that was really one skeevy Egyptian firm screwing things up. Do not count on the Arab League to make any meaningful effort against Qadafy.

      Though the threat of Islamism is often overrated to the point of hysteria, in Libya, it is a genuine threat. Libya looks out to sea but it has a vast back yard where hardline Islam runs the show and Qadafy has taken to dragooning poor men coming out of the desert for work into his militias, as we have seen in the reporting. There’s a strong city-versus-country animus in Libya: Qadafy’s forces have leveraged it, as has Iran lately.

      Our quandary in Libya is not outside intervention: by its nature as an oil regime and our natures as oil consumers, we have been intervening trotzdem alles with the undemocratic Powers that Be, much as both sides wish it were not so. That’s our problem: no matter who comes to power in Libya, we’ll go on doing deals with them for their oil and gas. We hate Qadafy and loathe Chávez in Venezuela, but how much do we hate the equally undemocratic regimes in KSA or the nightmarish regime in Nigeria?Report