"Polls opened shortly after dawn after a step-by-step security clampdown across the country, including traffic bans in central Baghdad and other major cities and closure of border crossings and airports. Voting ended 11 hours later with no reports of major violence, though voters at some polling stations complained that their names did not appear on lists. Balloting was extended for one hour to accommodate voters.
Officials said counting would begin Sunday with preliminary results are not expected before Tuesday." Yahoo News
With voting completed in the Iraq provincial election and results not yet announced I reckon that this is an appropriate time to speculate on the outcome and the implications for the future of Iraq and the US effort there. pl
We are fortunate to have received this short essay by Brigadier FB Ali on the subject of the kind of strategy that the US should adopt in Afghanistan.
I particularly share the author's conviction that the insurrection in Afhganistan is not simply a contest between the Taliban, and Al-Qaida on the one hand and the forces of democratic modernization and centralization on the other. The war is much more complex a phenomenon than that.
Will a large increase in American resources prove a panacea for Afghanistan or is something more subtle and more suited to Afghanistan what is needed?
"CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta should consider a bipartisan review of intelligence collection concerning Tehran. Since the Obama administration is reviewing policy options toward the Islamic republic, it would seem sensible to know what Langley's actions have produced. Policy built on weak intelligence and analysis obviously isn't a good idea. " Gerecht
Reuel, like nearly all CIA alumni, continues to instinctively believe that the CIA IS the intelligence community. Such old think" is pathetically out of date in a world in which Admiral Blair made it very clear at his installation ceremony that Leon Panetta will be one of his several subordinates.
But, this is clealy a case of "mind over matter." Blair does not mind and the "ancien regime" of CIA nostalgics do not matterr.
Nevertheless, Reuel has a good idea. There is little that is as important as the truth about Iran. The Israelis have one view of things and the US intelligence community has another. Reuel undoubtedly prefers the Israeli view.
Admiral Blair, not Panetta, would be wise to order just such a review as Gerecht suggests.
What should it be called? Ah. Perhaps "National Intelligence Estimate - Iran" would be a good title. pl
I am at a loss to understand this happening. While not being able to view the content of the ad at this time, I have heard and read reporting that running such appeals is a tradition at the BBC. It appears to be yet another marginalization of Palestinians as a people, as humans. If the ad was itself inflammatory, could it not be redone to wash any overt emotional appeal? Or has this whole issue now become so radioactive that we are asked to accept that Gazans should expect less from the West.
"A think tank founded recently by The Jewish Agency. The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute was established in 2002 by the Jewish Agency for Israel to be an independent professional policy planning think tank entrusted with the mission of promoting the identity, culture, prosperity, and continuity of the Jewish People. Every year, leaders of the Jewish world including such distinguished personalities as Dennis Ross, Shimon Peres, Natan Sharansky, Malcolm Hoenlein, Tzipi Livni, participate in JPPPI’s conferences and meetings that forecast the Jewish condition. The Institute conducts meetings, publishes reports and position papers, and produce contingency plans that help shape the future course of the global Jewish community. Wiki
This is undoubtedly a laudable institution, but is it an institution that should be the "day job" of the US presidential envoy to and for Iran? Should we be surprised if Muslims do not think Dennis Ross an unbiased American negotiator?
Dennis Ross is the Chairman of the Board of this group and a former head and present counselor of the "Washington Institute for Near East Policy." (WINEP) For those who know not, WINEP is one of a galaxy of Washington groups that exist within the orbit of AIPAC, the Zionist lobby. There are others; the "Jewish Institute for National Security," (JINSA), "Business Executives for National Security" (BENS), etc.
Today counsel to the Uighur prisoners at Guantanamo Bay made the attached request of the Obama administration that it launch the President's program to close Guantanamo by immediate release of our clients, who have been cleared by the courts and the military itself, and last September were ordered released.
As we have argued to the administration, the emptying of the Guantanamo prison cannot be achieved without the cooperation of America's allies, and that cooperation cannot be realized without America's firm leadership.
For too long this case has cried out for remedy. We are buoyed by the President's order this week. We urge him to begin the real work of implementation with this long overdue first step.
Henry Siegman is a friend. His family fled from Europe to America. He is a rabbi. He was a chaplain in the US Army during and in the Korean War. He was a "freedom rider" in Mississippi in the 1960s. He has long sought a just peace for Israel and the Palestinians. That is not surprising for he is one of the just. pl
"Even Cabinet ministers who backed the attack admitted that it had not achieved anything more than yet another shaky ceasefire with an Iranian-backed group that refuses to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist.
"Hamas has not been taken out, nor will we be able to take them out," said Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the National Infrastructure Minister and veteran Labour Party politician. "Theirs is an ideology and not just a military organisation, and it will remain.”
On the right, criticism was even more scathing. “The soldiers succeeded, but the politicians failed,” said Avigdor Lieberman of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has seen its support grow since the conflict. “They didn’t let the army complete the operation. What was achieved here? Zip, nada.”
Eli Yishai, the Finance Minister and head of the ultra-Orthodox religious party Shas, said that Israel should have kept fighting until Hamas was destroyed.
“Now Hamas will rebuild its infrastructure with Iranian money and then they will resume the smuggling and continue firing at Israel. We should have finished the job – pull out the ground forces and continue striking from the air.
"We should have hit thousands more houses and reached a point in which they don't dare shoot at Israel ever again."
Mr Levy noted: “The describing of the operation as a ‘military achievement’ by the various generals and analysts who offered their take on the operation is plain ridiculous.”" Timesonline
Is the price of oil settling on a long term price of $40 a barrel? Some hard evidence is showing up. The Iranian government is setting its 2009-10 budgets on a price of $37.50. This week’s price started below $40 but March futures are in the $43/$44 range. The world recession is tracking to have an equal impact on the price of commodities.
Not being an economist, I would have assumed that consumption was in sharp decline and thus the supply and demand cycle kicked in. It appears this has been aided by the action of hedge funds as well. From Steve Austen’s blog: http://www.oil-price.net/#20080105#20080105
But when the banking industry collapsed, hedge funds had to raise cash by "deleveraging", liquidating their leveraged energy ETF positions sending the price of oil tumbling. Anecdotally shorting of banking ETFs was suspended by the US Securities Commission during that time but not shorting of energy prices, and the leverage mania soon found an escape route in utrashort oil ETFs, compounding the speed of this downward spiral. By December 2008 the oil price had collapsed 75% and frankly, who would complain about cheap gas these days?
"Hamas officials emerged from weeks in hiding on Tuesday for a defiant "victory celebration" with their supporters outside the gutted parliament building, the latest sign that Israel's three-week assault neither broke the militant Islamist group nor weakened its control of the Gaza Strip.
Entire neighborhoods and practically all government buildings are in ruin, but Hamas police officers were on the streets, assuring Palestinians that they'd rebuild the coastal territory, home to 1.5 million. Hamas operatives were also passing out cash payments to some of the thousands of families who lost their homes.
"We are here," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. "Hamas political and military leaders are with the civilians. We are with the people. This is the victory of Hamas against the occupation."
More than 1,300 Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed, and some 5,000 homes were destroyed as Israeli forces tried to cripple Hamas. " CSM
A couple of friends of Israel or perhaps actual Israelis have written to ask why I dislike their favorite country so much. They don't get it. Old Timers here can tell them that I HATE NATIONALISM. All nationalism, everywhere. Mark Twain despised organized religion and monarchy. He once wrote that mankind would only be free when "the last priest is hanged in the guts of the last king." Romantic nationalism was a new phenomenon in his day and so he did not have the opportunity to add nationalism to his list of anathemas. Patriotism is another matter. I hope that I am a patriot. Read the preface to Eli Kedourie's "Nationalism" to understand the difference. Nationalism is mere tribal loyalty and hatred of what are seen as competitor tribes. Often the tribal self-image is a pastiche of fable and propaganda. Zionism and pan-Arab nationalism are two sides of the same debased coinage of human folly.
In Gaza we have the folly of Zionist nationalism matched against the equal folly of a form of politicized Islam that embraces Palestinian nationalism.
Adults would find a workable compromise in order to make an end of the craziness of white phosphorus shellings of schools filled with refugee civilians followed by scenes of defiance that will inevitably lead to the murder of more children. Clearly, there is a scarcity of adults in the Holy Land.
I wish George Mitchell well. "Blessed are the peacemakers."
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans."
I had not expected this speech. This was a workman's speech, the speech of a man impatient to get on with the serious business of the Republic. It was bony, filled with policy statements and demands for sacrifice and seriousness of purpose. He is a serious man. It would have been oh so easy for someone of his literary skill to have crafted a speech that would have sung to the ages. I expected that, something like the seductive words of the poet president he so admires. Instead, we received a manifesto that rejected the attitudes and policies of the Bush era, and insisted that the United States must redeem and save itself through hard work and a rededication to "our founding documents."
"Pat I am enclosing some photos which were just sent to me by a concerned colleague in Egypt. Perhaps SST readers will find them of interest. Also some SST readers may have more documentation which they can share.
There are a lot more pictures. Neither Cliff nor I can vouch for them. These are not the most difficult. Is this Gaza? I do not know. Who or what killed these kids? I do not know. Someone killed them. May God forgive them. pl
For the benefit of the regular readers and commenters at SST. We have now had well over three million lifetime page views on SST. That would be insignificant for one of the big, professionally staffed blogs, but this is just a committee of correspondence. pl
If I remember correctly, this outcome was predicted here.
If it was that evident, then why did Israel begin such an operation?
The Israelis have failed to humble Hamas. Rockets still arrive in Israel. This failure in their self-declared war aim will cost them dearly in the strategic contest. They are going to halt their "offensive without any sort of concession from Hamas?" I suppose that they do not want the burden of this ongoing action to be carried forward into their relations with the Obama Administration. The futility of what they have done in Gaza will be burden enough.
It is claimed by the agitpropers that Hamas is a satellite organization of Iran. If that is so, then Iran has done a poor job of supplying their Palesinian subsidiary. Where are the Iranian product improved and manufactured weapons that Hizbullah possessed in numbers in '06? Where are they? Impossible to deliver? All of them?
It would seem that political support and encouragement is one thing. Supply is another.
This summons from Mubarak indicates a need to placate the Cairo mob. No foreign inspectors on Egyptian soil? That means that Egypt will not make a serious attempt to halt smuggling into Gaza.
Not a good outcome for Israel.
Perhaps a truce with Hamas would not be a bad idea. pl
A kindly soul sent me this gem written long ago in another world of experience. The author appears to have been the military governor of at least part of Palestine under British occupation and before the Mandate. His views are his own. I suppose this piece is widely known but it was not so for me. It has a kind of Agatha Christie "feel" to it and reminds me of the painful conversation I once had with a prosperous Christian Palestinian merchant friend concerning his father and grandfather's business in Jerusalem. By the time we finished up our talk I was "wired" with enough "'ahwa turkiya" to keep me awake for days. He was in tears and begging me to take some of the old invoices and correspondence that filled the cabinets in his office. He wanted me to have them as proof of the existence of what he believed to have been a better world, one in which Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived and traded together in the Holy Land.
I have been asked to explain for the general public how it is that Hamas ("The Movement for Islamic Resistance"), A Sunni Muslim organization has come to be supported by the Shia theocracy in Iran. How this happened will be well known to many readers here, but not to others. Naturally the comments and interventions of Muslims and specialists will be welcome.
- The bar between Sunni and Shia Islam has never been as high as it seems to outsiders unfamiliar with Islamic history and the religious sciences. These two forms of the faith have existed in uneasy but endurable coexistence since the rise of Shiism as a different understanding of the meaning of the Quranic revelation.
In the first centuries of Islam there were many possible interpretations of Islam. Sufism, Kharaji separatism, Mu'tazilism, etc. These and many more contesting forms of Islam existed then and somehow managed to co-exist in mutual but not terminal animosity. As I have often insisted, Islam is an endlessly fractious religio-political conception. This is inherent in the faith because of the very way in which Sharia law is derived from scripture, practice and tradition and then accepted by bodies of believers through the process of religioususus consensus called in Arabic Ijma'. This process continues today with every large or small consensus group believing itself to be practicing true Islam. I will restrain myself from discussing Sufism here in the interest of general readability.
If the BBC is to be believed, IDF soldiers are deliberately shooting women and children in Gaza. Their TV reporting from the scene today interviewed doctors in hospitals who asked the obvious rhetorical question as to why they have children patients with multiple small arms wounds. One child had two bullets in the head. In the head, in the head, not fragments from large caliber weapons. These were small arms bullets. Israeli government spokesmen and demonstraters in New York are still "going on" about the peculiarly humane Israeli way of making war. The protestations are wearing thin. B'tselim, the Israeli human rights conscience is seeking to know whether or not these accusations of inhumanity are correct. I, for one, will accept their judgment.
I have been in savage combats, and have had a hand in many more but the deliberate killing of children and women is something I have rarely seen. I have seen the VC kill Montagnard women and kids. That was the product of racial hatred on the part of the Vietnamese for these "Moi." That was a personal exception for me. Generally, fighters will walk away from the dead bodies of male adult enemies and leave the women and children to grieve and starve.
If this is different, the Israeli people need to know and to put a stop to it. pl
""They got him off the podium, brought him to another room and I spoke to him. I told him, 'You can't vote in favour of this resolution.' He said, 'Listen, I don't know about it, I didn't see it, I'm not familiar with the phrasing.'"
"He gave an order to the secretary of state and she did not vote in favour of it -- a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organised and manoeuvred for. She was left pretty shamed and abstained on a resolution she arranged," Olmert said.
Fourteen of the Security Council's 15 members supported the resolution, which has failed to halt Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip and Hamas's cross-border rocket fire." Reuters
Dear Babak what you have written is simply wrong. If Arab leaders cannot oppose Khamenei's comments publicly it is for solely political reasons i.e. the Arab street would go crazy and such leaders would be stripped of all credibility in the eyes of their own publics, since they would be perceived as American and Israeli stooges - an image they are always endeavoring to shed.
First of all, Khamenei's religious credentials are a total joke - the senior Shi'a clergy have little to no respect for him - one only has to look at the criticisms of Khamenei made by Ayatollahs Sanei, Azari-Qom, Shirazi and Montazeri to see that he has little credibility at a purely religious level - or what in the Shia world is called marja'yyat. The concept of an Ayatollah al-Uzma, or an religious scholar who is primus inter pares was itself a 18th century creation and Ayatollah Boroujerdi was the last individual to be regarded as such and he died in 1961. Even Khomeini wasn't regarded as such and he was in fact criticized at the peak of his powers by figures such as Ayatollahs Shariatmadari and Taleqani.
Since the beginning of Israel’s military operations in Gaza a great deal of ink has been spilled, and digits used up, going back and forth over the how of what Israel is doing. While it is true that the easily offended and quick to take umbrage professional defenders of all things Israel quickly got their full hissy fit going regarding questions as to what exactly it is that Israel is trying to accomplish, many much more thoughtful and deliberative individuals from left (Glenn Greenwald, Juan Cole) to right (Daniel Larison) have been more properly focusing on the how of Israel’s response to Hamas’ rocket attacks; especially if it is ethically and legally acceptable as to its proportionality. These authors, and many others online, in print, on the radio, and on TV, have all in some way raised the question or concern of proportionality. This was especially seen early on in posts and articles in Haaretz.
Even though there is no central authority that speaks for Islam, there are times and places when an authoritative Doctor of Religious Sciences (of Islam) speaks for Islam; i.e. his legal opinion becomes the de facto position of Muslims everywhere.
Ayatollah Khamenei's statement of 12/28/2008 is one such case. You can find the text @ http://english.khamenei.ir//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1022&Itemid=16. His statement characterizes the Israel-Hamas War as the analogue of the wars of the Prophet against the idol-worshippers of Mecca. With a few words, Mr. Khamenei has shaped the Muslim view of the Israel-Hamas War for years, if not decades, to come.
No Muslim political leader can challenge his statement , for doing so now will be tantamount to going against Islam. No religious leader - Shia or Sunni - will dispute his statement.
Here is Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia (a moderate according to the common US-EU usage of that term) in a speech at the opening of the 6-th (Persian) Gulf Forum on January 6th, “The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza…Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians and we seek martyrdom for God and for Palestine, following those who died in Gaza.”
In my opinion, Israel has now blundered into an implicit war with Islam. Mr. Khamenei’s statement has closed the door to any peace plan along the lines of Oslo, Taba, the Quartet, Tony Blair, etc. All that is now even theoretically possible is a Hudna – a long cease-fire. A separate Syria-Israel peace track is no longer possible since the Alawite Elders will not go against the rest of Islam by having Syria conclude a separate peace treaty with Israel.
Which brings me to my final opinion: even a Hudna will presently require the formation of a Concert of Middle East or some such.
I listened to Britt Hume interview the two Bushes on Fox News Sunday. It was less than inspiring, but informative of the mentality of these three men. At one point one of the bushes referred to the Oval Office (in which they were standing) as a "shrine of democracy."
Having spent some time in that room, I must say that it never struck me as anything other than a working office for the person who runs the Executive Branch of the federal government. This talk of "shrines" is more of the monarchical baloney that has tended to attach itself to the presidency over the course of the Republic's history. "Shrine of Democracy?" Through a connecting door is the pantry where Monica and Bill trysted and where she said she earned her "presidential kneepads." A few feet farther away is the little room where Cheney explained to Bush at lunches what is that he (Bush) really thought about things. Considering the rather limited scope of Cheney's world view, one must wonder which clever person had previously explained Cheney's opinion to Cheney. "Shrine of democracy..." Remarkable.
The BIG MOMENT for me in the interview was GW's assertion that torture a la Jack Bauer had been a good thing for the US government to employ because it had enabled the winkling out of information from "known killers," and at another point in his discourse "known criminals."
How were they "known?"
In the US scheme of things it has usually been thought that criminals and killers are "known" by virtue of having been convicted by a jury of the crimes for which they are accused. I seem to remember that this notion starts back in the time of King John of evil memory. You remember him, "Magna Carta" and all that. Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham maybe?
It would seem that this is not a meaningful discussion for GW. By that I mean a discussion of the epistemology of guilt. If you follow his logic, then the accusation of police, bureaucrats or other enemies might well be sufficient cause for one's (anyone's) imprisonment and questioning under "enhanced procedures."
Is the man really that blind to the tyranny lying close to the surface of such a notion of "knowing."
On the other hand, I and others like me who have criticized him savagely are still walking around, perhaps a little the worse for wear, but still free to criticize.
From Aviation Week, Week of January 5: China to Build Carriers
This article contains a discussion regarding the trajectory of both the decision making political process and the more practical aspects of gathering the capacity to indigenously design and build a ship that fits into Sino mission aspirations. The article addresses the steep learning curve for a military to create competencies in operating fixed wing aircraft from a carrier. It does not mention the accompanying need to create competency in operating a carrier battle group, perhaps just as daunting a skill to acquire. However, I believe you have to be impressed with the determination that China has shown to acquire skills and assets to match their geopolitical trajectory and the persistence in work to make those asset indigenously developed.
"In Damascus, Syria-based Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas, on Saturday rejected any deployment of international observers or troops in Gaza.
A statement issued by the groups after a meeting attended by Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal also rejected any security arrangement that "infringes on the right of resistance against Israeli occupation."
Palestinian security officials said some of the heaviest fighting Saturday occurred on the strategic coastal road north of Gaza City, home to 400,000 Palestinians. Israeli forces moved to within about 1 mile of the city before pulling back slightly.
While Israel has largely taken control of the road, militants operate from hidden positions in the area. The road is often used to fire rockets into Israel or attack Israeli navy boats off the Mediterranean coast.
At least 15 rockets landed in Israel, the army said. One hit an apartment building in the southern city of Ashkelon, lightly wounding two people and heavily damaging the structure.
The offensive has caused extensive damage throughout Gaza.' Yahoo News
If the Kadima Party intention was to demonstrate its toughness, stop Hamas rocketing of Israel and withdraw from the Gaza Strip before the Israeli election, then the plan is not moving along very well.
Occupation of the open areas from which Hamas usually fires its rockets has led to a predictable Hamas change in operations. Now they are firing from within the built up areas. It should be expected that if the IDF penetrates farther and farther into the city, Hamas will fall back before them firing from farther and farther west until the beach is reached. The IDF will have calculated the various ranges and I am sure have some expectation that at some points they will exceed the range capabilities of Hamas to fire into Israel. How far that might be is an interesting speculation but it is likely that to reach those points the IDF will have to be well into the city. One would hope that the operation ("Throwing Rocks" or whatever they called it) was not launched in the hope that Hamas would simply give up on firing their rockets. To expect that would have been very poor analysis based on past experience.
It is likely that the IDF will be engaged in occuaption of the Gaza Strip under hostile conditions when the Israeli election occurs. Will that favor Kadima or Likud? I do not know. pl
I was asked my opinion on this. It must be remembered that the professionals at CIA, NSA, DIA, the armed forces, etc. are the actual capability of these agencies and parts of government. Agency leadership provides vision, purpose, moral guidance, all the higher functions of management. Top leadership does not conduct operations.
From that point of view the team that Obama has assembled looks good. Clinton, Gates, Napolitano, Jones. Blair, Panetta, Brennan, these people will make a formidable management team and a veritable sea change in leadership ability from the Dark Age through which we have just passed.
Will this team last very long? That remains to be seen. I have a hard time believing that the moneyed interests that supported Obama for president are going to accept the possibilities for policy change implicit in mot of these appointments. pl
There are a lot of rumors afloat about atrocities in the present Gaza crisis. I am compiling a list of supposed atrocities by either side. If you have anything on this. Send it to me. The usual SST rules apply. There must be real evidence. pl
As we watch the price of a barrel of oil plummet to Neolithic levels, what does that do, other than having us breathe a sigh of relief for having purchased a Ford F-350 last spring? The destabilization of three nearby countries comes to mind, all intimately tied together: Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. And it means more than a little something to us other than the potential spectacle of 3 more countries becoming governmentally dysfunctional.
Hugo Chavez is in a desperate race to get unlimited presidential terms approved before the national economy tanks in February. The oil contracts at old high prices run out in January and snap to market price in February. It is speculation as to how fast his popularity would come unglued when the treasury money reserves run out, this month, but not if it will. It’s a stone lock. If he hasn’t set himself up as president for life in a February 1 plebiscite, he better have a good exile planned out. And his mini-socialist empire will probably follow him out of Dodge. The Economist has superb writing on this and on the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Venezuela and Brazil. If this place does come apart, it will be sadly interesting to see what happens with all the new Russian weaponry that he just acquired. In any case, the seemingly limitless money that he was using to push his hate mongering agenda is going to evaporate within days.
Cuba takes it in the shorts because Hugo has taken the place of the Soviets in cash flow, propping up the rotting structure of the Cuban planned economy through his billions of dollars a month in remittances. Raul had to admit that the Cuban welfare state accounts ‘didn’t square up’ with their pension commitment and such. What happens when the Hugo’s allowance disappears, pensioners are penniless and the nation runs out of money to import food (estimated at 90% of need)? Their only major export now is ore, which has drastically dropped in value along with all other commodities. Does the government of paradise finally get really ugly with its own population when they are running on the memory of fumes? I believe this may be a positive geopolitical moment for the U.S.
Bolivia: This place is the geography/geopolitical answer to ‘name someplace we don’t have any interest in, the letter B’. The government nationalized their petroleum assets, under the tutelage of Mr. Chavez. And, surprise, this really ticked off the Brazilians, who owned a lot of that infrastructure. Counter-intuitively, perhaps, to our picture of this bloc, they are very unhappy with Hugo and his band. What started out as a love fest has turned into a ‘ditch the geek’ mentality.
So, to the earlier post comment on Chile and Brazil being our centers of interest in this part of the world: We can prosper from a new relationship with Cuba, shut down Guantanamo and save ourselves a pile of money as well as uplifting the Cuban people with nary a round being expended. While not fun to watch two other countries disintegrate, we can finally relieve ourselves of being the geopolitical ‘big daddy’ in that part of the globe by letting the emerging natural leaders begin to direct traffic on this continent and let their protectionism deal with the Chinese. It might be aggravating as the more egotistic leaders flaunt this as our weakness but the outcome nevertheless suits our national interest. I hope the President Elect and Ms. Clinton see this the same way and we can close out a somewhat tawdry chapter of pseudo imperialism with our neighbors.
"Conventional wisdom says that when Israel went into Lebanon in 2006, it lost that war. Hezbollah stood up to the mighty Israeli army; Israel could not muzzle Hezbollah's rockets. That may not be the way Hezbollah sees things, however. After the war, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he had miscalculated. He was not prepared for the fury of the Israeli attack. He apologized. Now, Hezbollah takes no role in the current war. It will be back, but it still has wounds to lick. " Richard Cohen
What a crock! Revionist history of the worst kind!
Nasrallah apologized to the LEBANESE people for having given Israel the excuse to unleash a country wide stategic bombing campaign. That campaign attempted to destroy the national will of the Lebanese to resist the intimidation that is the continuing policy of the Israelis. That policy was the keynote of the Bush Administration's effort to advance the interests of factions in Lebanon and Syria that would meekly bow to Jerusalem and Washington and accept a peace, not of equals and potential friends, but rather a peace imposed upon an "inferior race."
Cohen thinks that the IDF was not defeated in Lebanon? No?
- They caused the complete integration of Hizbullah into the Lebanese govenment as the dominant factor.
- They were unable to "move" the Hizbullah village defense battalions on the battlefield. (They never met the main forces of Hizbullah) The IDF's soldiers fought poorly against Hizbulah.
- The psychological effect of strategic failure and tactical stalemate on Israel's ability to maintain itself amongst a sea of enemies was devastating. The Israelis know that the logic of ths development weighs heavily on their future as a state. This operation in Gaza is as much about instilling fear of israel among the Muslims as anything else.
As I have written before, the main issue in the Middle East hangs in the balance in Gaza. Israel and its propagandists like Cohen know that. If Israel can not restore its image and self-image by dominating the outcome, then Israel's future will be permanently affected for good or ill.
The National Journal national security expert blog has an interesting and sensitive question "up" this week. They are asking if Israel is a worthwhile ally for the United States. For some reason the NJ chose to ask me and a few others of my non-friends to post responses this morning to get the ball rolling. You can see mine at the link. pl
Assuming (for the moment) that Israel is serious in its statments that the purpose of its war with Hamas is not the destruction of Hamas but rather the ending of rocket and mortar fIre into Israel, then the conclusion is inescapable that the IDF will have to occupy significant parts of the Gaza Strip indefinitely.
- The Hamasniks have a virtually inexhaustible supply of ammunition.
- The weapons can be fired from a virtually infinite number of impromptu positions.
- The Hamas habit of firing from outside the towns can be changed so that the weapons are fired from within the population centers.
- The towns will be splendid defensive terrain when they are more thoroughly "trashed." i.e. Cassino, Stalingrad, Hue, etc.
All of this adds up to a long residene for the IDF in Gaza. They now have the Golani, Givati and Paratroop brigades in Gaza backed up by some as yet unidentified armored units. Those are the best troops in the IDF. They will eventually have to be rotated out of there. Who will be next in Gaza? Forty year old reservists from the Tel Aviv suburbs? Yes. I know that the girls won't serve in combat but it is a nice picture.
Things to push your government representatives on in 2009:
1. End totalitarianism in Cuba by flooding it with American tourists, American capital, and American goods. Make all economic activity with Cuba tax and duty free for 5 years. Do these before the Chinese do them. And stay the hell out of their politics.
2. Strengthen economic and cultural ties with Brazil, Chile and Mexico. Drop the Monroe Doctrine ghosts and treat them like mature and equal partners. When the press asks idiot questions about their follies and foibles have the State Department repeat the mantra, They Are Sovereign States, you bleep. I’m open to suggestions as to what to do with the rest of the miscreants.
3. Get out of Korea. Soon. Stop treating them like children and give their students nothing USA to bitch about. They may just join the ROK army. Actually, they had better.
4. Continue to strengthen India, Japan and Australia with the kind of help they need to keep some kind of counterbalance to China’s growing ability to project power.
5. Place the anti-“Guest Worker, Earn Citizenship” crowd into Carlsbad Caverns, plug the openings with Rush Limbaugh’s fat butt and legislate sanity and reality into this mess. OK, I know I’m talking about Congress. I guess a bill to plug the openings with motor mouth could possibly be a constitutional issue.
6. Put Colin Powell in charge of a geopolitical form of the ‘Base Closing Commission’ to rationalize our international commitments. Make the process excruciatingly transparent. And keep Henry Kissinger out of the way. Ms. Albright should be a big part.
7. Recognize India as our natural ally in that region. Really work hard on our image in country. Stop worrying about their relationship with the Russians on weapons purchases. If the Bushies were doing this, well, even the proverbial blind squirrel finds a nut. Do it with more emphasis.
8. Become a world leader in radical proposals that defy ideological strictures. Example: Build an entirely new Palestine that isn’t split in half by Israel. Convince the world to make the huge financial commitment to build the infrastructure, desalinization plants, etc. that would be needed. Make everyone a deal they can’t refuse. And make Jerusalem a UN governed international city. Example: Recognize the tribal nature of the Pashtun world and create an autonomous land for them. Forget the Paki/Afghan border that is only appropriate for Mapquest. ((I am not saying these would work but I hate the bleating sheep nature of what is happening now.))
9. Put together a 2 year national service program, mandatory, from ages 18 through 20 and have young people involved live overseas for part of the time. On this point, I agree with Charlie Rangel that the loss of the draft and short military service has helped us grow isolated. Anytime I meet a young person who has done an overseas stint, even for a semester, they are changed forever in the ‘my eyes are opened’ manner.
10. Talk with anyone who wants to talk with us, without preconditions.
Would anyone like to add the list? (or tell me that I am a buffoon?
Comment: Entry by Michael Chevalier. A few comments indicating an erroneous identification of Col. Lang as the author mean I should have placed my full name, not my initials.
It is hard to see how they can profit from this effort against Hamas. They have gambled "the ranch" on this roll of the iron dice. They have never been good at long term thinking. They are too focused on their tribal enemies for that.
As I wrote previously, the "psychological weight" of Israel hangs in the balance in this effort. They must be perceived to have dominated this situation in order to emerge with at least as much deterrent "credit" as they entered it with. To do that they must force Hamas to stop firing into Israel, "not for a day, not for a month, but always." The US is peddling the IO line that the Gazans are being held prisoner by Hamas. For that to sell, there will have to be a revolt (in some form) of the Gazans against Hamas. Lastly, there must not be pictures of "brewed up" Israelis tanks being dragged out of Gaza. Better to blow them in place than have pictures like that. To achieve all this will be difficult.
We now will watch an army of reservists (the IDF) attempt to fight a war of materiel against an army of Hamas fanatics. The quality of the men will determine the outcome. pl
Condoleeza Rice came out of the West Wing this morning to announce that no cease fire at Gaza would be "acceptable" to the US unless it results in a basic change in the situation with regard to Hamas' firing into Israel.
Say what? "Acceptable" to whom? The US? Does that mean that we are a party to the war? Yes. That is what it means. pl
- From available information it appears that Israel has decided to assault areas in Gaza with ground troops. To that end the IDF has been moving forces into assembly areas near the border. Available photography shows vehicles parked administratively rather than tactically . This would indicate that the IDF does not anticipate offensive action by the Palestinians before the IDF chooses to cross the border. Some of the vehicles shown in photographs are US made 155 mm. self propelled artillery pieces. This would point to an offensive that will be heavily supported with artillery fire as was the IDF effort in south Lebanon in '06.
- Statements by Livni and Brigadier (Ret.) Hertzog indicate that Israel's goals in Gaza are essentially psychological in that they seek to demonstrate to all the Israeli capability and willingness to inflict great damage and numerous casualties in pursuit of a position of dominance in the ME region. Israel senses correctly that its image as hegemon in the eastern Mediterranean was badly eroded in the period from the Israeli evacuation of south Lebanon through the '06 war and into the present. It now seeks to restore its image of ruthlessness in pursuit of its goals. The belief persists in Israel that enemies can be made into clients through intimidation.
- There appears to be a major cleavage within the incoming Obama Administration between those who wish to continue to accept what amounts to Israeli tutelage in US Middle East policy and those who do not. The key issue leading to a division of opinion and an inevitable crisis within the administration is whether or not the United States should pursue an improvement of relations with Iran. The Israeli oriented faction among Obama's people follow Israel's lead in opposing this arguing that Iran is the functional equivalent of Nazi Germany, i.e. an unalloyed evil ruled by irrational madmen. Their opponents argue that Iran is a country like all others, a country that follows its state interests and that realizes that its interests would be served by detente with the US. This faction believes that a US/Iran relationship can be made to provide a security umbrella for Israel. The AIPAC and AEI dominated group does not accept this concept, implicitly accepting Israel's rejection of an American security guarantee as well as its rejection of the concept of nuclear deterrence.
The US armed forces and the Obama Administration to come intend to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan based on the successful strategy followed by the Petraeus team in Iraq. Presumably, Petraeus and his current study team favor this approach. Such a strategy of increased use of US conventional troops, civic action in infrastructure improvements and mobilization of local forces against the Taliban may well work. Nevertheless, this may not be the optimal strategy for the US in Afghanistan. The US armed forces are in the business of using troops against threats. Does this institutional bias influence thinking in this matter? Would it not be better to use guile rather that brute force? Is Afghanistan not a case better handled though covert political action? This is an open question. pl