Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Gaza campaign so far

A view from Israel

The first stages were done by the air force, in a pattern first used by the Americans in Iraq in January 1991, but adapted to the conditions of Gaza. The first stage was to kill as many Hamas men as possible, in as many sites as possible. The goal was to throw Hamas into immediate confusion and never allow it to recuperate. Hundreds of dead and many hundreds of wounded - the majority not innocent bystanders, of course - taxing the hospitals, sowing panic and demoralization or at least its potential, disrupting any type of public order, forcing the leadership underground, hopefully severing some of their command and control capabilities.

On the second day we also destroyed some of their tunnels, effectively cutting off, or at least significantly reducing, their logistic hinterland.

By the third day the initial wave of airborne successes had been achieved, and David Grossman, assuming we were still in 2006, called for a halt: the air force had done its best, and from here on there wasn't much left for it to do other than rearrange the rubble and kill civilians. Better to call it a victory and stop. In hindsight, arguably this may have been true by the end of the first week, but it wasn't true on the third day. On days 3 through 7, the air force did something many of us hadn't thought of: it pulverized the middle level of the Hamas fighting machine. The head had been confused frightened and forced underground on day one; the fighting units, to the extent Hamas has them, and the 15,000-some armed men, were mostly unscathed. During those days, however, their immediate hinterland was targeted and apparently seriously hit. These were the dozens of homes of senior Haman figures pulverized, mostly while they were empty of people but still full of weapons. And tunnels. By destroying them, the IDF seriously crimped the ability of the Hamas units to function except where they already were. They couldn't be moved or regrouped. They can't be resupplied. They are where they are, armed as they are, period. They cannot be relieved. They probably have intermittent connections with their commanders at best.

This was achieved with limited loss of Hamas lives, and very few of civilians. True, someday the international media will enter Gaza freely, and they'll show endless footage of destroyed buildings, but by then it won't make much difference, will it. They'll be preaching to the believers, and anyway there will be a new story, somewhere else.

The next stage of the attrition focused on the barriers to a land invasion. The myths told about this stage were endless, even in Israel, and I'm not going to repeat them, but the general idea was that Hamas had created a series of fortifications, barriers and impediments to the advance of IDF ground forces. The Hamas leadership seems to have believed this, too, witness their proclamations as recently as three days ago that the ground forces will never come because the cowardly Israelis know they'll be cut down if they ever try.

In spite of the total fog of war that first evening, it was clear within about three hours that this probably wasn't what had happened. On the contrary: the IDF forces sailed through those lines of defense with very little action, few casualties, and, one might add, not very many dead Hamas fighters, either. My explanation for this is that for an army to slow down an invader on a fortified line, it has to be an army: with training, weaponry, command and control systems, reinforcements on their way, and so on. (The Israeli failures on the Golan and Suez on October 6-7th 1973 demonstrate this, and that IDF was always much more formidable than Hamas). Hamas would never have been able to stop a concerted effort of the IDF to get in, but it expected to bloody them. The attrition of days 3-7 prevented that.

By noon after the invasion Gaza had been bisected, with powerful forces sitting on the hilltops (such as there are in Gaza), or tall rooftops, and lines of supply back to their rear echelons. Casualties can be evacuated, supplies can get in; in the rear, meanwhile, new brigades are carefully and purposefully preparing themselves for battle: the reservists. Experienced veterans of previous campaigns, who flocked to their units when called up two nights ago, irrespective of how inconvenient it was in their regular lives.

Where are we now? The next line of Hamas defense, and its main one, was always the inevitable weakness of an attacking army in an urban environment. Even the most brutal and ruthless armies invade cities at their extreme peril: think Red Army in Berlin, April 1945, taking more than 100,000 casualties (the number of dead Berliners was, of course, much higher). Keep in mind, however, that the commanders of the IDF know that; they don't need to be informed by the media. Keep in mind also that Hamas has to be hit, as explained above. Ergo, a way had to be found, and prepared, trained and prepared for.

I'm no more informed than the rest of you, but allow me to suggest what may be happening (this is pure conjecture). As described above, at this stage of attrition the Hamas men are almost on their own, perhaps in small groups. They're tired and frightened, or at least, tired and very tense. They've been under fire for ten days, most of which were filled with frustrated anticipation: even assuming they've been raring for a fight the whole time, it has been slow in coming and doesn't appear all that imminent even now. Their leaders are out of sight, their closer commanders may also be gone. They realize that the tunnel they intended to use to resupply has been bombed, nor are many reinforcements likely to come. All this would still be alright if only the IDF infantry would walk into their carefully prepared traps. But the IDF isn't doing that. Instead, it's inching forward. Its infantry seems to have excellent intelligence about each building; instead of racing forward like an elephant into a booby-mined trap, it fights for a building, kills some of the defenders but captures others, interrogates them about the other buildings on the street and only then moves forward to the next one.

More here



Israel, Hamas and I: "When one is bombarded with selective, nearly haphazard information about events around the globe, events that are one's only source of understanding who is doing what to whom and how is it all justified, there is not much one can do but listen very carefully and determine who is making logical mistakes - who is equivocating, who is being evasive and vague, who is being clear and answers relevant questions directly, without obfuscation. By that criterion I have to say that my provisional assessment of what is reported from the Middle East leaves me with the impression that Israel is less responsible for the recent mess than Hamas. That's as well as I can do with the immediate information at hand. Maybe more detail, more history will lead me to alter what I think about the matter but for now I am pretty sure that Hamas is the bad guy here, while Israel, as so often in history, is the victim."

Gaza is not Lebanon: "The conventional wisdom about the incursion by Israeli ground units into Gaza, mirrored in Sunday's Washington Post, is that `Israeli leaders run the risk of repeating their disastrous experience in the 2006 Lebanon war, when they suffered high casualties in ground combat with Hezbollah.' Apparently, reporters and pundits are even more prone to refighting the last war than generals: Gaza is not Lebanon; Hamas is not Hezbollah and, most critically, Israel now is not Israel in 2006. To begin with, the physical and geographical differences between southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip could hardly be greater. And while Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership were under air attack in the outskirts of Beirut in 2006, the Hamas leadership has far fewer places to hide in Gaza city and elsewhere in Gaza."

Pointless peace proposals: "Circumstances change, and so do the names of the leading players. Peace negotiators come and go, and so do the details of their agreements. But in the end, there is one aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that always remains the same: When all else has failed, you can be absolutely sure that someone, somewhere, will issue a statement calling for peace. . the trouble with all of these peace efforts, peace conferences, peace initiatives, and peace proposals is that none of them recognize the most obvious fact about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: It's not a peace process; it's a war. At least at the moment, both parties are still convinced that their central aims will be better obtained through weapons and military tactics than through negotiations of any kind."

Don't cheer Obama's "tax cuts": "Cutting, and ultimately eliminating taxes, is dear to the Libertarian's heart. After all, since taxes are expropriated under the threat of violence, they are in essence State sanctioned theft. Unfortunately, unless tax cuts are accompanied by a concurrent cut in government spending, the tax break is simply accounting magic. In a fiat currency system, if taxes are cut but spending isn't, the government covers the revenue gap by printing money, shifting the burden from direct tax collection in the present to indirect future collection in the form of inflation. (Borrowing the money is no better as it forces future taxpayers to pay not only the principle on the initial program but also interest on the bond.) This explains why I am less than enthusiastic about President-elect Obama's `American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,' although it includes over $300 billion in tax cuts. These tax cuts are not cuts at all. Taxpayers still pay for the government programs, but the cost is hidden from them."

Will Panetta turn the CIA into Obama's secret police? "In a nation already suspicious of its intelligence agencies, is it wise to appoint a former Clinton crony as Director of Central Intelligence? Well, two Democratic officials leaked the story that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former Clinton White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to run the CIA, according to Los Angeles' newsradio KNX. Panetta is a surprise pick for the post, with no experience in the intelligence world and a reputation as a `dirty-tricks' maven when he worked for President Bill Clinton."

Life in the clown-car fast lane: "Can you believe it? Barack Hussein Obama II hasn't even been inaugurated yet and he's already been interviewed by federal prosecutors in the ongoing Blago mess; he's seen Bill Richardson immolate himself rather than stand the federal grand-jury scrutiny that would have come with his appointment as Commerce Secretary; his boy Rahm Emanuel is both en pointe, having resigned the House seat that was previously warmed by Hot Rod and Dan Rostenkowski, and, apparently, on Patrick Fitzgerald's tapes too; and he's facing the prospect of the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, standing like a homunculus George Wallace in the schoolhouse door, ready to deny entrance to a black man when Roland `We Are the Senator' Burris tries to take Bambi's hardly-even-used seat tomorrow. And here we Democrats thought the Clinton administration could never be topped!"


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: