Sunday, November 25. 2012
Some scattered links I collected over the previous week:
John Cassidy: Gaza: More Funerals, More Questions: A thoughtful
piece putting the small picture in big picture context.
As is often the case in Israel, some of the most enlightening commentary
is coming from former intelligence officers and members of the armed
forces, who have learned the hard way the limits of military action.
Writing in Monday's Financial Times, Efraim Halevy, the former
head of Mossad, noted that the operation, although militarily successful,
could have unanticipated and negative effects, such as strengthening Hamas'
standing in the Arab world and causing unrest in countries friendly to
Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan. If it doesn't want to become increasingly
isolated, Israel will have to "contribute to an Egyptian-crafted and
American-supported formula for the region," Halevy wrote. And moreover:
"Israel will have to do what no government has done before: determine a
comprehensive strategy on the future of Gaza and its 2m inhabitants."
It's worth noting that these are issues that didn't need a war to
discover, and can't be fixed by war -- although some people evidently
need to be reminded of war's futility before they're willing to move
on and do something constructive. The Israeli exes are always a good
case in point: invariably, they rose through the ranks by being hawks,
only to discover by their retirement that they hadn't accomplished a
Helena Cobban: West Point Military Historian Denies the Net Value
of a Decade of War: Cites a
New York Times piece by Elisabeth Bumiller on Col. Gian Gentile,
a name I've run across in several books on Iraq. Bumiller writes:
Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used
in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the troop-heavy, time-intensive, expensive
doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools
and government -- is dead.
Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a
decade in two wars.
"Not much," Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point's
military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in
Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. "Certainly
not worth the effort. In my view."
Colonel Gentile, long a critic of counterinsurgency, represents
one side of the divide at West Point. On the other is Col. Michael
J. Meese, the head of the academy's influential social sciences
department and a top adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad and
Kabul when General Petraeus commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[ . . . ]
The debate at West Point mirrors one under way in the armed forces
as a whole as the United States withdraws without clear victory from
Afghanistan and as the results in Iraq remain ambiguous at best. (On
the ABC News program "This Week" on Sunday, the defense secretary,
Leon E. Panetta, called the Taliban "resilient" after 10 and a half
years of war.)
But at West Point the debate is personal, and a decade of statistics --
more than 6,000 American service members dead in Iraq and Afghanistan
and more than $1 trillion spent -- hit home.
[ . . . ]
In Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal so aggressively pushed
the doctrine when he was the top commander there that troops complained
they had to hold their firepower. General Petraeus issued guidelines
that clarified that troops had the right to self-defense when he took
over, but by then counterinsurgency had attracted powerful critics,
chief among them Mr. Biden and veteran military officers who denigrated
it as armed nation building.
When Mr. Obama announced last June that he would withdraw by the end
of this summer the 30,000 additional troops he sent to Afghanistan --
earlier than the military wanted or expected -- the doctrine seemed to
be on life support. General Petraeus has since become director of the
Central Intelligence Agency, where his mission is covertly killing the
enemy, not winning the people.
Cobban, of course, didn't have to do the math to figure out that
the "war on terror" wasn't worth it. It never is. Cobban talks more
about Syria and Iran: countries that the US threatened to invade from
Iraq in 2003, and which are still in the warmongers' planning book.
Elsewhere, she's trying to raise money to get Gareth Porter to
write what promises to be an important book on Iran: Manufactured
Crisis: The Secret History of the Iranian Nuclear Scare. She
Obama Admin Willfully Blind on Gaza Crisis?.
Juan Cole: Top Ten Steps That Are Necessary for Lasting Gaza-Israeli
Peace (or, Good Luck!): Most of this is basic and should not be
controversial. I would emphasize that every Palestinian should be a
citizen with full and equal rights wherever he or she resides. If,
in any given locale, Israel does not offer such citizenship, that
locale should be completely independent of Israel, with a democracy
established there and freedom to trade and travel with the rest of
the world. And while, as a practical matter, I think it is Israel's
choice what to keep and what to discard, a Palestinian state in the
West Bank must be contiguous, have external borders, and control of
its own air space in order to be completely independent, so not just
any arbitrary whim would work there. (Return to the 1967 borders
would work, and is preferable for many other reasons.) Also, it is
important to recognize that whoever wins elections in Palestine
should be absolved of any past "terrorist" associations. Indeed,
that's pretty much the norm throughout the world, where there have
been many leaders of independence movements who were once branded
terrorists but wound up as respectable heads of state -- Menachem
Begin and Yitzhak Shamir are two who somehow come to mind.
Cole's blog, by the way, has numerous pieces since this one on
Egyptian President Morsi's executive power grab, which instantly
turned him from the hero of the Gaze cease fire to anti-democratic
demon. It certainly looks like he overreached, but bear in mind
that thus far the only targets of Morsi's efforts have been residual
elements of the Mubarak dictatorship.
Gershom Gorenberg: Israel's New Gaza Mess: Israel's strategy
of acting unilaterally, as opposed to negotiating, is inherently
unstable, in large part because it lets each side choose its own
favored narrative, whereas agreements bind both sides to a common
resolution. Case in point: Israel's unilateral withdrawal from
Gaza in 2005, which Hamas viewed as vindicating their militancy,
Fatah regarded as a step toward negotiation, and Sharon saw as a
way of simplifying the firing zone.
Of course, those talks never happened. Sharon chose a unilateral
pullout precisely to avoid peace negotiations, since they could
only succeed if Israel agreed to leave nearly all of the West Bank
as well. As he planned, disengagement squelched interest in Israel
in the Geneva Accord, the model for a peace agreement unofficially
hammered out by Palestinians and Israelis. As one of Sharon's top
advisers predicted, the disengagement put President George W. Bush's
roadmap for peace "in formaldehyde." It allowed Sharon to evade
the challenge posed by Mahmud Abbas's accession to the Palestinian
presidency: Abbas very publicly wanted (and wants) to negotiate
Palestinian independence in the West Bank and Gaza.
Sharon believed that Israel could safely leave Gaza without peace,
and without the security arrangements of a peace agreement. Israeli
military power and its control of Gaza's borders would deter
He was mistaken. What failed was not withdrawal from occupied
territory. The failure was doing so unilaterally. Abbas's unfulfilled
promise of diplomatic progress contributed to Hamas's victory over
Fatah in the 2006 legislative election. That was the first step in
the chain reaction leading to the violent split in the Palestinian
Authority, the Hamas takeover of Gaza, and all that has followed.
[ . . . ]
Dealing with Gaza, one American option is to promote rather than
block creation of a Palestinian unity government. Another is to push
to extend the indirect Israel-Hamas negotiation of recent days in
Cairo, and aim at turning Gaza into a Taiwan-style non-state: able
to claim all of Palestine as long as it does nothing about it, able
to develop free of the Israeli blockade.
MJ Rosenberg: Ugly Senate Gaza Resolution, and
Ceasefire Agreement: What It Means: The two posts mostly quote core
documents, providing a neat summary of Israel's latest Gaza war. I started
to write a post on the former, which shows how completely Congress has
given up both mind and heart to AIPAC. If you follow their subservience
through, the logical conclusion is that the US can have no foreign policy
of its own in the Middle East -- we should just let Israel call the shots.
It's not clear what exactly Obama and Clinton did in the run up to a cease
fire agreement that they graciously let Egypt take credit and blame for,
but despite some lame and embarrassing statements[*], they don't seem to
have goaded Israel on, like Bush and Rice did with Lebanon in 2006. I
don't see any winners in war, but will note that faces in Israel were
most often glum after the cease fire while those in Gaza were jubilant.
The ugly blood lust spewed by right-wing Israelis wasn't even attempted[**],
and the "significant degradation" of the rocket arsenal in Gaza was mostly
accomplished by provoking "militant" groups in Gaza to fire the rockets
harmlessly over the wall. But it wasn't really the resolve of either side
that endured or failed. The cease fire validates the new normal, which
is mostly the result of Egypt's revolution opening up the Gaza border,
putting an end to Israel's stranglehold over "the world's largest outdoor
[*] Aren't you sick of hearing about "Israel's right to defend itself,"
especially when that claim is used to justify attacking others? Rockets
from Gaza were a nuisance this year, but had killed zero Israelis until
Israel started this operation, which provoked the firing of over 1,450
rockets, resulting in six Israeli deaths -- all of which could have been
avoided by relaxing the blockade that had been strangling 1.7 million
people in Gaza. By Israel's same logic, Mexico would have been more than
justified using F-16s to bomb gun shops in Arizona and Texas.
[**] Israel killed 189 Palestinians (Israel's own stats say 177), a
senseless and totally unnecessary number -- far below the 1,417 killed
during Operation Cast Lead in 2008. Six Israelis were killed: two soldiers
and four civilians. Injuries, of course, were far more numerous. On the
last day, 21 Israelis were injured (none killed) by a bomb on a Tel Aviv
bus -- the first such bombing in eight years. Whether this bombing or
the use of more powerful, longer range Iranian rockets had any influence
on Israel's decision to agree to the cease fire is anyone's guess. Hamas
"militants" are likely to conclude that they should replenish their
missile stocks to deter future Israeli attacks -- an argument that can
be undercut by Israeli actively seeking to normalize relations with an
independent Gaza. Israel has shown no interest in any such thing -- a
stance where the "militants" on both sides reinforce each other.
Adam Shatz: Why Israel Didn't Win: The cease fire stopped the shooting
(for now) but didn't solve the conflict:
The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued
pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because
Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war. In 1982, it broke its
ceasefire with Arafat's PLO and invaded Lebanon, citing the attempted
assassination of its ambassador to London, even though the attack was
the work of Arafat's sworn enemy, the Iraqi agent Abu Nidal. In 1996,
during a period of relative calm, it assassinated Hamas's bomb-maker
Yahya Ayyash, the 'Engineer,' leading Hamas to strike back with a wave
of suicide attacks in Israeli cities. When, a year later, Hamas proposed
a thirty-year hudna, or truce, Binyamin Netanyahu dispatched a team of
Mossad agents to poison the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman; under
pressure from Jordan and the US, Israel was forced to provide the
antidote, and Meshaal is now the head of Hamas's political bureau --
and an ally of Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi.
Operation Pillar of Defence, Israel's latest war, began just as
Hamas was cobbling together an agreement for a long-term ceasefire.
Its military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was assassinated only hours
after he reviewed the draft proposal. [ . . . ]
Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy
in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel
had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of
the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of
Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations
of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for
Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense
of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu's desire to bolster his
martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel
Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts,
particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt:
Hamas, not Israel, has been 'normalised' by the Arab uprisings. Since
the flotilla affair, it has developed a close relationship with Turkey,
which is keen to use the Palestinian question to project its influence
in the Arab world. It also took the risk of breaking with its patrons
in Syria: earlier this year, Khaled Meshaal left Damascus for Doha,
while his number two, Mousa Abu Marzook, set himself up in Cairo.
Since then, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the Syrian uprising,
distanced itself from Iran, and found new sources of financial and
political support in Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia.
[ . . . ]
The Palestinians understand that they are no longer facing Israel
on their own: Israel, not Hamas, is the region's pariah. The Arab world
is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind
Jabotinsky's 'iron wall,' deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories,
thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its
own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal
its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict.
Stephen M Walt: The Real Lessons of L'Affaire Petraeus: Best snark
I've seen so far was on the back page of Entertainment Weekly
which proclaimed All In, Paul Broadwell's hagiography of her
paramour ex-Gen. David Petraeus, the yuckiest book title of all time.
Walt makes several good points, including that Petraeus's reputation
d for Iraq wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and that his performance
in Afghanistan came up even shorter. Also:
Second, this whole episode reminds us of the corrupt and incestual
relationship that exists throughout the national security establishment,
to include lots of people in the media and commentariat. As I've written
before, the excessive deference -- indeed, veneration -- often given the
U.S. military is not healthy, because it encourages both journalists and
academics to suck up to powerful and charismatic generals instead of
treating them as public servants who need to be aggressively challenged.
He also quotes Glenn Greenwald:
So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman
fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of
Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses,
ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her
anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly
read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any
evidence of any real crime -- at most, they had a case of "cyber-harassment"
more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of
countless of other people -- and, in large part, without the need for
any warrant from a court.
Walt also links to
Michael Hastings: The Sins of General Petraeus, who offers this:
But the warning signs about Petraeus' core dishonesty have been around
for years. Here's a brief summary: We can start with the persistent
questions critics have raised about his Bronze Star for Valor. Or that,
in 2004, during the middle of a presidential election, Petraeus wrote
an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting President Bush and
saying that the Iraq policy was working. The policy wasn't working, but
Bush repaid the general's political advocacy by giving him the top job
in the war three years later.
There's his war record in Iraq, starting when he headed up the Iraqi
security force training program in 2004. He's more or less skated on
that, including all the weapons he lost, the insane corruption, and the
fact that he essentially armed and trained what later became known as
"Iraqi death squads." On his final Iraq tour, during the so-called
"surge," he pulled off what is perhaps the most impressive con job in
recent American history. He convinced the entire Washington establishment
that we won the war.
He did it by papering over what the surge actually was: We took the
Shiites' side in a civil war, armed them to the teeth, and suckered the
Sunnis into thinking we'd help them out too. It was a brutal enterprise --
over 800 Americans died during the surge, while hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis lost their lives during a sectarian conflict that Petraeus'
policies fueled. Then he popped smoke and left the members of the Sunni
Awakening to fend for themselves. [ . . . ]
Petraeus was so convincing on Baghdad that he manipulated President
Obama into trying the same thing in Kabul. In Afghanistan, he first
underhandedly pushed the White House into escalating the war in September
2009 (calling up columnists to "box" the president in) and waged a full-on
leak campaign to undermine the White House policy process. Petraeus
famously warned his staff that the White House was "fucking" with the
The doomed Afghanistan surge would come back to bite him in the ass,
however. A year after getting the war he wanted, P4 got stuck having to
fight it himself. After Petraeus frenemy General Stanley McChrystal got
fired for trashing the White House in a story I published in Rolling
Stone, the warrior-scholar had to deploy yet again.
The Afghan war was a loser, always was, and always would be --
Petraeus made horrible deals with guys like Abdul Razzik and the other
Afghan gangsters and killed a bunch of people who didnít need to be
killed. And none of it mattered, or made a dent in his reputation.
This was the tour where Broadwell joined him at headquarters, and it's
not so shocking that he'd need to find some solace, somewhere, to get
that daily horror show out of his mind.
My first guess was that the affair was just one more aspect of
Petraeus' cultivation of the press -- although it did make me wonder
what Thomas Ricks got out of him. Walt also links to
Robert Wright: The Real David Petraeus Scandal, which focuses
more on Petraeus' tenure at the CIA:
The militarization of the CIA raises various questions. For example,
if the CIA is psychologically invested in a particular form of warfare --
and derives part of its budget from that kind of warfare -- can it be
trusted to impartially assess the consequences, both positive and
negative, direct and indirect? [ . . . ]
What's wrong with this opaqueness? For starters, you'd think that
in a democracy the people would be entitled to know how exactly their
tax dollars are being used to kill people -- especially people in
countries we're not at war with. But there's also a more pragmatic
reason to want more transparency.
These drone strikes are a radical departure from America's
traditional use of violence in pursuit of national security. In
contrast to things like invading or bombing a country as part of
some well-defined and plausibly finite campaign, our drone strike
program is diffuse and, by all appearances, endless. Every month,
God knows how many people are killed in the name of the US in any
of several countries, and God knows how many of these people were
actually militants, or how many of the actual militants were actual
threats to the US, or how much hatred the strikes are generating
or how much of that hatred will eventually morph into anti-American
terrorism. It might behoove us, before we accept this nauseating
spectacle as a permanent feature of life, to fill in as many of
these blanks as possible. You can't do that in the dark.
[ . . . ]
The vision implicit in this program is of an America whose great
calling is to lead the world into a future of chaos and lawlessness.
This prospect was vividly highlighted when, a bit more than a year
ago, Obama had David Petraeus turn in his stars so he could move to
the CIA and keep fighting wars. There have been other military men who
headed the CIA, but never has there been one whose move to Langley
brought so much continuity with what he was doing before he went there.
The circumstances of Petraeus's departure from the CIA are a little
alarming; you'd rather your chief spy not be reckless. But the circumstances
of his arrival at the CIA a year ago were more troubling. Yet no alarm
was sounded that was anywhere near as loud as the hubbub surrounding
Petraeus now. That's scandalous.
Also, a few links for further study:
Gershon Baskin: Israel's Shortsighted Assassination: Hamas military
chief, Ahmed Al-Jabari, the person who negotiated the Gilad Shalit deal:
can't have people like that running free; they night negotiate with you
again, and then where would you be? Of course, the title could have
referred to nearly any of Israel's assassinations. One of the most
short-sighted was when Shimon Peres ordered the murder of Yahya Ayyash
(a previous Hamas military commander, one of a neverending supply) in
1996, triggering a series of reprisal attacks that cost Peres his job.
But then Peres wouldn't have been Prime Minister at the time but for
another Israeli assassination, the one that killed Yitzhak Rabin, and
with him the Oslo Accords Peace Process.
Brad DeLong: The Morgenthau Plan and the Marshall Plan: How to
rebuild (or wreck) post-WWII Germany.
Brad DeLong: Somehow I Think that They Are Still in Kansas, Toto:
An outsider's analysis of what's happening in Kansas politically --
some useful comments here, especially from "Kansas Jack"; I wanted to
do a whole post on this, but never got to it -- partly because I only
have minor quibbles.
Michelle Goldberg: The Obama-Bashing Book Bonanza: On Dinesh
D'Souza's Obama's America, and the market for histrionic
Obama-bashing books. Goldberg also has a review of Robert O. Self:
The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s,
Self has set himself an ambitious goal in his new book: to explain why,
ever since the 1960s, battles over sex, gender and the meaning of family
have become inextricable from battles over the size and scope of the
government. For conservative activists since the '80s, the defense of
the autonomous, idealized nuclear family "was intimately linked to the
way they also sought to limit government interference in the private
market," Self writes. "These stories are not often told together.
Questions of gender, sex, and family have been isolated as part of the
'culture war' -- a struggle that has been seen as tangential to the
politics of equality, power, and money."
Jim Lobe: Israel Ranked World's Most Militarised Nation:
As ranked by Bonn International Centre for Conversion (BICC).
Looks like US was underrated at 29 (China 82, India 71, Iran
34) -- seems to be a bias toward small countries (Greece 14,
Jordan 5), not that Israel didn't win fair and square. (North
Korea, which might have been a rival, was disqualified.)
Oded Na'aman: Is Gaza Outside Israel?: Quotes from the book
Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies From the Occupied
Territories, 2000-2010 (Metropolitan Books).