Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ok, don't surrender

'But Israel might not get it all its own way. Hamas is unlikely to surrender. It has an ideology of resistance and martyrdom.'

Still on that tired old meme? It is now the role of the press at large, apparently, to boost the morale of our enemies by explaining how tough and warlike they are. Which they perform despite the stark failure of the 'ideology of resistance and martyrdom' to produce the predicted victories in Iraq. The predictions of quagmire didn't cease in much of the press until about halfway through 2008. Of course, you can't find them now. Now that a succession of groups of losers has lined up to be defeated by the perfectly able and competent US Army (plus odds and sods) there is a deathly hush. War in Iraq? What war?

Still, you'd have thought that such recent experience would give them pause in predicting quagmire every time a western army (and Israels army is definitely western) takes on a ragtag bunch of slightly trained losers. This will be no quagmire. Israel has learned lots of lessons from the 2006 Lebanon campaign. One of the primary tasks (not really performed in the former case) before any military op is to find out where the enemy are so they can be taken on in the best way at the best time. Israel has put up with lots of little missiles for the last six months so it could find out exactly where Hamas are. Map them out, figure out the structures, identify all the target-rich environments. Now it has pounced. Much better than Lebanon, where there were far too many unpleasant surprises.

This piece by Jeremy Bowen is quite good, a much better analysis of the situation than any of the other BBC pieces on this episode so far, so why spoil it with this boilerplate? Saying that, having spent a lot of the day reading up on this story, Mr Bowen does an excellent job of distilling out the major strands of the story so far.

One additional point. It makes sense for Israel to take out Hamas first. They are not Hezbollah, but they are Hezbollah wannabees. Hamas have very few veterans, very few well trained operatives, and only a very limited amount of highly effective weapons (according to StrategyPage). Winkling out Hamas now would leave Hezbollah in a precarious position. Egypt is pretty much on Israels side when it comes to Gaza, Jordan is nothing and Iraq has just been taught a very harsh lesson in real-politik. Syria can feel the hot breath of those 120,000 US GI's just over the way, and the Saudis really only have eyes for Iran. That leaves Hezbollah as the only truly soluble problem if Hamas bites the dust. I'd say within the next five years both H's may well cease to exist in any meaningful way...

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