Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel: A Nation In Decline? Discuss

Generally attention is rightly focused on Israel's many crimes in the Gaza Strip. But this editorial by Alexander Cockburn on the widely read Counterpunch.org argues that the Gaza offensive is also a sign of Israel's decline. Cockburn quotes approvingly Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, from an interview prior to the invasion, who makes the same point. It's worth quoting at length:
"But since ’82, 26 years ago, Israel has not won any war. They did not defeat the Palestinian resistance, and they did not defeat the Lebanese resistance. Since that time, Israel has not expanded but has contracted. They have withdrawn from southern Lebanon and from Gaza. These are indicators that the future is not favorable to Israel. Then today Israel, with all its military capabilities – conventional and unconventional – are not enough to guarantee Israel’s security. Today, with all these capabilities, they can’t stop a simple rocket from being launched from Gaza."

Oddly enough, from the opposite end of the spectrum, that crazed zionist wingnut Daniel Pipes suggested back in 2004 that Israel was in decline:
"In its early decades, Israel's strategic prowess was legendary, transforming a weak country into a regional powerhouse. The past decade has seen the opposite process, whereby that powerhouse reduces itself to a tempting target. "

You gotta hand it to Pipes, he was pointing out Israel's decline a couple of years before the 2006 Lebanon fiasco. And Israel's present attempt to eliminate that embarrassment hasn't changed Pipes' mind. In a January 11 editorial in the Jerusalem Post he attacks the present Gaza offensive and comes to the devastating conclusion that "no one at the upper echelons of Israel's political life articulates the imperative for victory. For this reason, I see Israel as a lost polity, one full of talent, energy, and resolve but lacking direction."
Pretty strong words.
Pipes also points to an interesting paper by Anthony Cordesman for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, entitled "Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?" Cordesman, Senator John McCain's former national security assistant and the former director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is a thoroughly mainstream, relatively high level analyst in the US state machine with a long resume. His arguments are equally stark and worth quoting at length:
"This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?
"To blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent."

The fact that there is a growing sense of unease and dismay amongst Israel's strongest supporters, even as Zionism's opponents detect important weaknesses should hearten those of us who want to see a just peace in the Middle East. It will only be through a series of defeats for Israel, on multiple levels and not just the military, that such a peace is possible.
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