Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel Vs. Everybody Around Them

If you're paying attention to the beginning of World War III over there in the Middle East - and I'm not saying you should, though Jonathan Schwarz gives as good a reason as any to do so - I recommend adding Billmon's Whiskey Bar to your regular reading list. Here's a sampling of recent posts.
  • Failed States is clear to me that the Israelis, through their own actions (plus some help from their clueless allies in the Cheney administration) have put themselves in trap they can’t escape. They’ve reached a strategic dead end, one that doesn’t even leave them enough maneuvering room to turn and go back.

  • Punching Above Its Weight
    Hezbollah may have found the sweet spot in Fourth Generation War: It isn't a state and doesn't carry the political or defensive burdens of one, but it controls enough territory, commands enough popular loyalty and has enough allies to mount some fairly sophisticated military operations, using both conventional and nonconventional weapons. It's powerful enough to be successful -- and be seen as successful -- but not so powerful that state actors like Israel can fight it on equal terms. We may be looking at the New Model Army of the 21st century.

  • Military Hubris
    It's beginning to look as if the Israeli Defense Force (if not the entire Israeli political and military establishment) may be suffering from the same syndrome -- the disease of hubris. This isn't the army of '67, or even '73, which believed the country's survival was at stake and constantly worried that Israel's qualitative edge might be too narrow to outweigh the quantitative advantages enjoyed by its enemies. The years of U.S. largesse and bloated procurement budgets, the state-of-the-art tanks and fighters, the fascination with technology and push-button war, plus the pitiful state of the Syrian Army and Air Force -- Israel's remaining conventional front-line foes -- all appear to have infected the IDF with the arrogance and complacency that plagued the United States in Vietnam.

  • To Be Or Not To Be
    When hawkish pundits and politicians moan about Israel's "lost terrorism deterrent," this is really what they're complaining about: the decline in the Israeli public's sense of existential threat, which has made it progressively harder to maintain support for measures that at the least are cruel and degrading, and at worse constitute both de facto and de jure war crimes.

    In a war to the death, such things can be rationalized -- don't even need to be rationalized. But in a war viewed as conducted for political ends, as an instrument of policy (unilateral disengagement, smashing Hamas, keeping the Syrians cowed) they become increasingly difficult to support or tolerate.

    In the last analysis, as Max Weber liked to say, this may be the ultimate or at least underlying motive for the neocon campaign to hype the Iranian nuclear "threat." It tends to restore a sense of extreme vulnerability and fear, bringing Israeli (and American) public opinion back into line in support of the ruthless military measures needed to get Israel out of the strategic jam it finds itself in.


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