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11 January 2008


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Sidney O. Smith III

“Harper’s” analysis mentioned above in this thread certainly appears apropos, especially if you plug it into a template based upon the following assumptions, or if your prefer, rebuttable presumptions.

One, all evidence continues to indicate that the GOI intends to launch a strike against Iran -- a “low yield” strike perhaps reminiscent of the Wurmser option. Two, all evidence suggests that such a strike will expose the USM personnel deployed in Iraq to a much greater risk of suffering higher casualty rates. Three, an Israeli strike against Iran will greatly hamper US military objectives in Iraq, as the odds increase exponentially that Shia militia in southern Iraq will disrupt, if not sever, the Baghdad to Basra supply line. Four, no evidence suggests that the GOI places a priority on the safety of the USM personnel in Iraq, or anywhere for that matter.

Harper’s analysis confirms and strengthens these assumptions, thus making them more difficult to “rebut”. Additionally, Harper’s profile of Ehud Barak is consistent with that given to us by the Israeli Ran HaCohen in this report.

So it is reasonable to ask: what is the first loyalty of the “fool” on this errand? Is it with the USM in Iraq or is it with those who desire a military strike against Iran, thus exposing the USM to greater risks ? These are basic questions, if I may so say. And the fool’s errand proffers evidence that certainly suggests that he is rejecting the conclusions of the NIE for those of another nation. And these intentions, if manifested, will increase the number of American body bags.

Logic would seem to suggest that the USG’s number one priority would be to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran until the objectives of the USM in Iraq are satisfied and the USM personnel are completely safeguarded. I am yet to see any evidence coming from Bush or the Cheney wing that this is one of their concerns and objectives. To be blunt: one would hope that the commander in chief would do some serious finger pointing and say, “if you take one step that endangers our boys and girls in the USM and, most particularly, in Iraq, then you will have hell to pay.” But no…nothing.

It is unfortunate but due to the neoconservative agenda, one could certainly argue that at this point in history the interest of the GOI and the USM are mutually exclusive. Maybe that will change once the power of the neoconservatives wanes and their ideology -- also known as infantile “creative destruction” -- hopefully ends up in the “dustpin” of history. (And, it does make one wonder if Rabbi Teitelbaum and his Hasidic followers were not right all along, not to mention the famous 2003 interview of the Martin Van Creveld.)

So the fool’s errand surely makes one point clear: the historical significance of the NIE will only increase with time. Why? The answer is manifold but I want to suggest one for consideration that does not receive much attention. If Israel attacks Iran, the blowback is going to fragment the US even more. Odds increase that we will see chaos and the furies. Increasingly people will question the legitimacy of the USG due to the lies of Bush and the Cheney wing.

The NIE represents what Sun Tzu calls “a sovereign imbued with the moral law.” Nothing could be more important. It is the summit of Sun Tzu’s worldview. So the NIE, if a domestic crisis does incur, will give the USG legitimacy where none can be found elsewhere.

Due to Harper’s analysis, one conclusion is drawn. The intelligence community may need to continue to leave a historical record that it opposes the fool and his errands. Such an historical record, such as the NIE, will not only allow future historians to excommunicate Bush and Cheney from the American experience, it may help the USG survive their stupidity.

A mere analogy for consideration: it sure would help if the President’s Daily Brief made it clear that that an Israeli attack on Iran would undermine US national security interests, both home and abroad. It would create the necessary historical record, as it places the president under notice. And, if he ignores the PDG and then supports an attack on Iran at this time in history , it will establish that he is a fool, as he refuses to act on behalf of the USM in Iraq as well as, more generally, the interests of the people of the US and the world.

Babak Makkinejad


Thank you for your email.

I understand your point regarding details of Dr. Afrasiabi's article. Consider it as part of the usual propaganda of each side - sort of like Fox News vs. Aljazeera.

David Habakkuk

Sidney Smith,

I presume that the Martin van Creveld interview you are referring to is that in the Dutch magazine Elsevier in January 2003 (available at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1154.htm.)

What van Creveld was arguing was that the attempt to maintain control of the territories conquered in 1967 was leading to the self-destruction of Israel -- because of the essentially futile and morally corrosive nature of the kind of war it had to fight as a result. He himself clearly thought that the least worst option was to abandon the territories and build a wall 'so high, that not even a bird can fly over it', essentially along the line of the old border.

He went on to suggest that support for such a solution was crumbling among Israelis -- and that this meant that the strategic logic led naturally to the expulsion of the Palestinian population. The interviewer then asked whether the world would 'allow that kind of ethnic cleansing?' The exchange provoked by the interviewer's question went as follows:

Creveld: That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force.

Interviewer: Wouldn't Israel then become a rogue state?

Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother." I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen, before Israel goes under.

Interviewer: This isn't your own position, is it?

Creveld: Of course not. You asked me what might happen and I've laid it out. The only question is whether it is already too late for the other solution, which I support, and whether Israeli public opinion can still be convinced. I think it's too late. With each passing day the expulsion of the Palestinians grows more probable. The alternative would be the total annihilation and disintegration of Israel. What do you expect from us?

I didn't know how seriously to take this when I first read it, and still don't. Among the Fourth Generation War theorists, van Creveld is treated as a kind of demigod, but it is not clear to me whether he is entitled to the such reverence. His analysis of the situation may have been wrong, at the time it was made. And, of course, circumstances now are markedly different to those in 2003.

If however he is judged to be right, it would seem that there are three possibilities. One is the kind of ethnic cleansing, under the shadow of nuclear threats, he mentions. This would obviously make Israel even more of a strategic liability to the United States than it is now. It would also be a catastrophe for European Jews -- who would have either to repudiate Israel or find themselves tarred with the brush of association with a country threatening nuclear strikes on European cities.

The second possibility is a continuation of what van Creveld takes to be an unsustainable status quo -- the eschewing of attempts to redress increasingly unfavourable demographic balance within Palestine as a whole by population expulsion, while maintaining what he sees as an essentially self-destructive attempt to cow the Arab population into submission. According to his analysis, the nemesis of this would be a disintegrating Israel threatening a nuclear 'Samson option'. Again, Israel becomes more of a strategic liability for the U.S. -- and a massive danger to Jews outside Israel.

Accordingly, the logic of van Creveld's argument suggests that the only alternative to disaster is withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Certainly, the risks involved in any such withdrawal for Israel are very great -- but if he is right they pale into insignificance compared with the risks of the alternatives both to Israel and to Jews worldwide. If one accepts his logic, or course, it follows that a realistic American strategy animated by genuine concern both for Jews in Israel and for Jews outside it would make aid and political support for Israel conditional on withdrawal to the old borders.

Clifford Kiracofe

Interesting take on our Fool's errand, the Filipino Monkey, and shifting Gulf politics:

"....There is no need to second-guess what could be the impact of the interview on Arab opinion, specially the elite in the Middle East which respects ElBaradei as a world statesman commanding immense prestige. Tehran correctly estimated that it didn't need to add a comma to what ElBaradei said in his outspoken interview. During the talks with ElBaradei, none of the top leaders in Tehran bothered to match Bush's rhetoric. They seem to have decided that the best thing is simply to ignore the US president.

A sole exception is the main speaker at a Friday prayer meeting on January 11 in Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. The senior cleric said the Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf region knew "it would be in their best interests to be friends with powerful Iran". He expressed the hope they would be "wise enough not to let a bankrupt and helpless president decide their fate in the last year of his government, as just one more year remains of Bush's presidency and he is at the end of the line."

But short of rhetoric, Tehran has effectively undercut Bush's diplomatic moves in the region. The Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday the first session of an Iran-Kuwait joint commission will be held in Tehran this week at the level of the foreign ministers. The deep irony cannot be lost on the region. Bush will still be in the region when the foreign minister of one of Washington's key allies in the region will be visiting Tehran, breaking fresh ground for cooperation with Iran. ...."

Babak Makkinejad

David Habakkuk:

Israel is already a target of nuclear retaliation by a number of other nuclear weapons states; and they are aware of it.

The launching of a nuclear weapon by Israel will be her last act.

In regards to the Palestinian Arabs in Israel itself - even relatively liberal Israelis want them out of Israel "...there are 22 Arab states and we only have one..."

I do not believe that the Israelis have the capability to take the world-down. America, the Far East, the sub-Continent, and the Sub-Saharan Africa will not be affected. And of course we all know that “England is eternal”! However, I think that their nuclear arsenal in a threat to Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, Levant, and the Persian Gulf.

I think van Creveld's statements were mostly hyperbole. However, I also think it quite stupid to have mentioned Rome as a possible target of Israeli nuclear weapons – for a Jew to explicitly threaten the seat of the spiritual authority of Western Christianity with annihilation is an act of utmost folly. May be the Dutch do not care about the Bishop of Rome but hundreds of millions of other human beings do.

If I were a Western statesman I would make the nuclear disarmament of Israel the top priority rather than playing space weapons games with Russia and China.



If I were a Western statesman I would make the nuclear disarmament of Israel the top priority rather than playing space weapons games with Russia and China.

And that step alone might lead to the promised land. Hope springs eternal...

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

I agree with you that there is an element of hyperbole in van Creveld's statements. But I think this comes from a kind of existential despair, rooted in a well-founded conviction that a continuation of current trends threatens a very poor future for Israel and its inhabitants.

A perhaps more temperate elaboration of my view that a U.S. government genuinely concerned for the interest of Israel (and Jews worldwide) would use 'compellence' to ensure withdrawal from the West Bank is made in a recent article in The American Prospect by Gershom Gorenberg (see http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=what_does_it_mean_to_be_the_proisrael_candidate). He also bluntly confronts the question of what supporting Israel means:

'Most critically, support for Israel does not mean support for West Bank settlement, for the Whole Land of Israel, for endless occupation. The sane, mainstream Zionist vision was and is of a democratic state with a Jewish majority, with full rights for all citizens, a country living at peace with its neighbors. (That's what the country's declaration of independence says.) Rule over the disenfranchised Palestinians of the West Bank undermines democracy. Every additional settler makes withdrawal more difficult.

'Many moderate Palestinians who only recently supported a two-state solution are despairing of the possibility of partition and are talking about demanding political rights in a single state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. One reason for the Palestinian despair is that the Bush administration talks about two states, but has done close to nothing to push that program. A one-state "solution" means the end of Israel. The conflict between the two national groups within one state is likely to look more like Bosnia in the 1990s than Belgium today.

'Israel's most basic strategic interest is a peace agreement and a withdrawal.'

It seems to me that he is right in thinking that advocates of a one-state solution -- like Tony Judt -- are naïve. Heaven knows, the two-state solution has problems enough. But the alternatives all look, in the long-term, worse. My fear is that the time for it may already have passed -- and that those of us in the West who looked on the expansion of the settlements with complacency will turn out to have been false friends of Israel who made inevitable its eventual destruction.


On the Israeli nuclear arsenal, Babak's suggestion may indeed seem utopian.

Again, however, there are real questions about where we are going to end up, if we go on along the routes on which we have been going.

A manifesto by senior NATO military officers and strategists recommends readiness to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt what is described as the 'imminent' spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

(See http://www.guardian.co.uk/nato/story/0,,2244782,00.html)

Among the many objections to the suggestion, I fear that these NATO luminaries are tying hopes of preventing nuclear threats to a strategy which will simply be unimplementable.

For one thing, what do they think would happen to communal relations in countries like Britain, if we were involved in a nuclear attack on a Muslim country?



On the Israeli nuclear arsenal, Babak's suggestion may indeed seem utopian.

I think it's utopian and utterly practical at the same time. The Israeli nuclear weapons stockpile contributes to much of what is wrong in the Middle East, and getting rid of it would help force a badly-needed clarity on that region (if not on the entire world).

It's not like the U.S. doesn't have plenty of nuclear capability to protect Israel, including missiles that can be parked just offshore. And whether we might rain destruction on the Middle East or they might rain destruction on the Middle East will not matter to those unfortunate souls who have to clean up the mess of a nuclear attack.

Then again, I suffer from utopian tendencies, too... but one can dream, at least.

Sidney O. Smith III

David Habakkuk

Thank you for your analysis of the 03 Martin Van Creveld interview and, yes, this is the interview to which I also refer. Before I tell you my conclusion from studying this interview, I first must tell you that, although I have jettisoned the vernacular of fourth generation warfare, I have the deepest respect for the brilliance of Martin Van Creveld, if for no other reason than his prescient statement made to Forward in 05:

“For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president’s men. If convicted, they’ll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.”


Strong words indeed. And every time I read those words I am reminded of the following unpleasant thought that, at least to me, has symbolic repercussions. In 1986 the US Congress granted Natan Sharansky a Congressional Gold Medal and then in 2006 Pres. Bush awarded Sharansky a Presidential Medal of Freedom. I dare say that if instead of Sharansky, the Congress and the US President had recognized Martin Van Creveld, then the US, Israel, and the world would face better odds of peace in 08 and beyond.

I mention Sharansky because Israel increasingly has embraced his views while at the same time has rejected those of Martin Van Creveld. From what I can glean, almost all Israelis now ignore or revile Van Creveld and simply scoff at all his warnings, preferring to point instead to the past military glories of 67 as if it bestows some kind of eternal invincibility. As a result, one of the great military minds of this world has been shuffled to the sidelines as if he is some doddering old man. It’s a pity.

The lonely pessimism -- what you refered to as “existential despair” -- that permeated his 03 interview is the salient feature that jumps out to any reader of the 03 interview and it makes his comments not only remarkable but also worthy of further study. For that reason alone I think the “existential despair” reflected in this 03 interview is of monumental importance to future historians of Zionism, although I admit this idea is based upon the following assumption: Martin Van Creveld has sacrificed his life for Zionism and in many ways embodies the Zionist ideal. Surely at an earlier, and undoubtedly happier, time in his life he was full of hope for the potential of Zionism. But by 03 his outlook had transitioned to one of the deepest pessimism. It must be an agonizing experience, and one must ask what vision gives him such “existential despair”, as it may help in further strategic analysis of the Middle East.

One can only speculate but my belief is that Martin Van Creveld, unlike Sharansky and most leaders of Israel, has looked over the horizon as few have and has seen Zionism lose its center and further fragment in a cataclysm of violence. From what I can tell, he believes that the State of Israel cannot maintain the occupation and win a “fourth generation” or (to use the phraseology of Bernard Fall) a “revolutionary” war against, first, the Palestinians and, second, the Arab and Muslim world in general. Ultimately the State will collapse out of exhaustion and moral bankruptcy.

So the only option left for a two state solution is a return to the 1967 borders. And not coincidentally, he published his book, “Defending Israel”, detailing the reasons for a return to the 67 borders. But few listened and most of those that did held his views in derision. Such a lack of respect, of course, suggests hubris at work in the collective psyche of the leaders of Israel. (and, apparently, the US). They do so at great peril

The pessimism of the 03 interview makes clear that Martin Van Creveld by then had realized that any chance of a return to the 67 borders was nonexistent and therefore the chance for a viable two State solution had vanished. No doubt, the description you gave us by Gorenberg about a two State solution sounds ideal -- and one with which I agree -- but such is no longer attainable and, if anything, it now simply acts as a pretext for continuing the same policies of ethnic cleansing to which the GOI had devoted itself. The nation has turned to the zeitgeist of Sharansky who says that Jerusalem must remain undivided for all eternity. An undivided Jerusalem -- with all eyes on rebuilding the Third Temple -- is part of the shift of Zionism from a secular beginning to a more religious and orthodox kind of Zionism -- a type of Zionism the Satmar rabbis fear the most and that even Gorenberg details in his work on the settlers of the West Bank.

So the two State solution is no longer a possibility. And the one State solution is really post Zionism and, of coursed, attacked viscerally by all Zionists. The one State solution has its adherents (I believe Prof. K at sst is one of them) but a one State solution spells the end of Zionism. Zionists know this and odds are high that at least some would invoke Masada before going down that route.

So with Zionism operating within those parameters, what is the ultimate end game? If I understand the message from Martin Van Creveld’s 03 interview, ultimately it is pressing the launch buttons at Dimona.

With all due respect to Babak, such a conclusion is not hyperbole, in my view. With no chance of winning a “fourth generation” war -- as the second Lebanon war made clear -- and with a State embracing a covenant towards ethnic cleansing, the GOI to survive must shift the battle to the opposite end of the spectrum from such warfare and catapult it to a different plane. That means towards a highly conventional and technologically oriented clash of civilizations where the GOI fights like a mad dog. And, of course, at the opposite end of the spectrum from what Martin Van Creveld refers to as fourth generation warfare one finds the State temple at Dimona.

If this nightmare vision is correct, then no matter the circumstances, we see Israel in a vicious cycle spiraling downward and out of control. (Yes, I am reminded of the famous Yeats poem). If I understand the subtext of Van Creveld’s 03 interview, Zionism is unfolding into a type of ethnic nationalism that results in moral bankruptcy, regardless of what the State does. And as the ethnic cleansing continues, the State continually loses moral legitimacy. The world becomes outraged with military tactics of ethnic cleansing; the GOI recoils from the criticism and IDF strikes back harder. Round and round it goes, and with each completion of the cycle, the chance of cataclysmic violence increases. If Dimona is unleashed under these circumstances, all moral legitimacy is vanishes.

From what I can tell, this crisis of existential despair was the nightmare that Rabbi Teitelbaum warned the world. And increasingly, I see an intersection of thought among secular Jews -- such as Van Creveld and, in the US, Philip Weiss --with the warnings of Rabbi Teitelbaum. Sure, Rabbi Teitelbaum’s conclusions come from the perspective of religious devotion and intense spiritual sacrifice, but, Rabbi Teitelbaum, in all his brilliance, also looked over the horizon and perhaps saw a similar nightmare that Martin Van Creveld now sees and Philip Weiss intuitively senses due to his moral courage.

It didn’t have to be this way, at least in my view. I am painting with a broad brush, but if Zionism had followed the way of Buber instead of Jabotinsky, then the State may have gone down a different path over the past 60 years, and, as result, the IDF would have developed a different tradition of military tactics. One can only speculate of course but if Buber’s view of Zionism -- the “I” and “Thou” approach -- had prevailed, then the IDF, at some point, may have tried to develop tactics where the goal is not to burn the village in the name of Jabotinsky’s “iron wall” but, instead, attempted to win the hearts and minds. If over the past 60 years, or at least since the 70’s, the GOI and the IDF had surrounded Israel with concentric circles of hospitals and schools for the Palestinians (to out Hamas, Hamas to borrow from and adapt the phrase of “out g, the guerilla” from USM tactics in VN), then the military and the people may have emerged on the same side of the struggle. Respect the local culture and you will win. This is the way to victory according to the US military tradition and experience. But the GOI and the IDF have specifically rejected USM tactics, and odds are high the Rubicon has been crossed as the spirit of the Obed Yinon plan continues to rule the land.

So what is the message of Martin Van Creveld? If you believe that Martin Van Creveld embodies Zionism then the 03 interview suggests that Zionism is hurtling towards an experience of “existential despair”. And it is this “existential despair” that gives us an assumption upon which future strategic analysis of the Middle East should proceed. Without a return to the 67 borders, the only avenue left are the nuclear warheads of Dimona.

Babak Makkinejad

Sidney O. Smith III:

There is a saying in Persian: "When the builder the foundation stone has set skew, the wall will reach heaven skewed."

There was never a way to have Zionism with human face towards the Arabs and Muslims; the project in itself had the seeds of its current dilemma.

Anyway, Arabs would not have accepted any powerful Jewish presence in Palestine - Arab and Muslim had to be on top; so to speak.

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