March 23, 2009

The Petraeus Model Won’t Work for Israel

Andrew Exum, founder of the fine counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama, wrote a short piece for the New York Times in which he suggested Israelis could learn something from Americans in Iraq and make a greater effort to reduce civilian casualties during future conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon.

“[I]t may be in the best interests of the dominant military actor to adhere to rules of engagement that go beyond the laws of land warfare and international conventions,” he wrote. “The time may arrive when Israel decides that highly kinetic, enemy-centric military operations do not necessarily serve Israel’s longer-term strategic aims. Instead, Israel may want to adopt lessons learned from the United States experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and place a higher emphasis on the prevention of civilian casualties at the expense of lethality and force protection.”

Israelis already go far out of their way to reduce civilian casualties, even when doing so puts the lives of their own soldiers at risk. Nevertheless, as Exum says, the Unites States goes even further. When General David Petraeus took over as commander in Iraq, protecting civilians from insurgent and terrorist violence was made top priority. The most effective way to protect the lives of American soldiers, it was decided, was by first protecting the lives of Iraqi civilians. This, I believe, is what Exum is getting at. He’s a former U.S. Army captain in Iraq, and he knows what he’s talking about.

The Army’s new counterinsurgency manual explains why this works. “Ultimate success in COIN [counterinsurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained…These practices ensure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.”

David Kilcullen, an Australian counterinsurgency expert and advisor to General Petraeus, said something similar in an interview published in yesterday’s Washington Post when asked which lessons learned in Iraq can be applied in Afghanistan. “I would say there are three,” he said. “The first one is you’ve got to protect the population. Unless you make people feel safe, they won’t be willing to engage in unarmed politics. The second lesson is, once you’ve made people safe, you’ve got to focus on getting the population on your side and making them self-defending. And then a third lesson is, you’ve got to make a long-term commitment.”

Unfortunately, this won’t work in Gaza and Lebanon. At least it won’t work right now. Lebanese and Palestinian civilians don’t need nearly as much protection from Hezbollah and Hamas as Iraqis needed from Al Qaeda and sectarian death squads.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 23, 2009 10:54 AM
Comments

A firm grasp of the obvious here, I know, but if, as Michael suggests, Israel will always be seen by (too) many as inside Palestine then all approaches other than defensive survival on Israel's part are rendered irrelevant. Only seeing benefits to peaceful co-existence offers a shot at anything better.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 2:10 PM

http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1073243.html

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1073191.html

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072811.html

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072466.html

At what point will the gulf between documented reality and the official IDF propaganda become so great that you cease to unreflectively regurgitate the latter? Are you a serious journalist or a polemicist for the Israeli right? You can't be both. Reveal yourself.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 4:05 PM

Matt,

You're changing the subject. But since you're interested in that subject, read this. It's not as simple as you make it out to be.

I could have written about that, but I chose to write about something else instead. I'm writing a long piece about Iraq right now, and I know more about the topic I selected than the topic you selected. It seems that I know more about your preferred topic than you do, however. And that's not because I'm a "propagandist."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 4:12 PM

Are you seriously linking me to CAMERA? Are you honestly unaware that CAMERA is itself among the most notorious components of the Zionist propaganda machine? I mean, for Christ's sake, you also uncritically quote Martin Kramer making an absurd generalization about what Palestinians "think." You take yet another right-wing propagandist at his word, injecting him into your piece of "analysis" as if he represents a totally objective and reliable source. I just want you to know that as a journalist, you're a complete fraud. I've read this blog for several months now, and as a media consumer I've given you a chance, I have not attacked you personally for a while, but you time and again accept the most racist and inhumane right-wing nonsense as fact. You go on all-expenses-paid press tours arranged by the American Jewish Committee, with a bunch of guys from The Weekly Standard, and then report as if you're giving us a balanced and honest account. Just stop calling yourself a "journalist," for the sake of accuracy. You don't deserve the title.

Posted by: Matt Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 4:32 PM

I should know better than to waste time with an ideologue, but does the "documented reality" of Sderot and Israeli aid stations Hamas refused to let Gazans use, not to mention Israeli dollars in financial aid, penetrate your belief system, Matt? Probably not. Don't bother replying; I hear too much of this blind bullshit in San Francisco. It just gets to me and sometimes I need to let off steam.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 5:26 PM

Hmm, just asking Matt, do you have a blog that those who agree with you, or view the world thru your prism, might go to?

I ask because I would be surprised if your wisdom would be available here much longer.

On occasion I've been, perhaps, a bit of a dink with some of my comments here (sincere, though sometimes typed and posted too hastily), but I have not quite reached your level.

Zionist Propaganda, Right-Wing Propagandist, Fraud, Racist, Right-Wing Nonsense: I think the only buzz word you left out was NeoCon. (Still confused about what exactly a NeoCon is however; apparently there are no NeoLibs, or NeoRepubs, or NeoConservatives, etc.)

Reveal Yourself!! Don't know why, but that phrase reminds me of McC's "I have here in my hand a list..."

At least you did not state that you were cancelling your subscription :)

Thanks for the chuckle.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 5:46 PM

Don't such an ideological tool Matt. You take at face value everything that hamas or hezbollah or fatah or the pa say about Israel and dismiss anything that contradicts the arab propaganda machine.

Posted by: pacwaters Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 6:11 PM

Matt, you are absolutely hysterical. You're bitching about the fact that I linked to CAMERA and quoted Martin Kramer? Good grief. You haven't paid even the slightest attention to what was said by either. Kramer's point especially is non-controversial. Any Palestinian would tell you what he said. Don't you know anything about the Arab/Palestinian narrative? Have you ever looked at an Arabic map of the Middle East? Israel rarely appears on any of them. Almost all label Israel as "Palestine."

You really haven't the slightest idea what you're banging on about. There is no point even talking to you. And your rude and obnoxious behavior just got you kicked off my blog. Take it elsewhere, and have a nice life.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 8:34 PM

Matt: time and again accept the most racist and inhumane right-wing nonsense as fact.

What the hell is this even supposed to mean? Racist? Fuck you, seriously. I take back my "have a nice life" comment above.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 8:37 PM

Seriously, check out the post on www.bloggingthecasbah.com. It's the one with the actual picture of a text message recieved by a palestinian in the West Bank, sent from the IDF. Then let's talk about Israel's moral high ground.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 10:41 PM

Rooster,

My article isn't about the moral high ground. It's about whether or not Israel will gain anything from adopting the American style of counterinsurgency in Gaza and Lebanon. I think not. I don't think Palestinians or Lebanese would gain anything either. If you have an alternate opinion, let's hear it. If you think Israelis should behave in Gaza and Lebanon as Americans have in Iraq, why?

I have a question for you, though, on your selected topic. Do you think Hamas has the moral high ground?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 23, 2009 11:21 PM

Mike,

I partly agree with your analysis. It's true that a "Patraeus" style counter-insurgency in both Palestine and Lebanon will not work, nor will invasion as we saw in the 2005 Southern Lebanon incursion by Israel. I do have a problem with assigning a moral high ground, although it remains a fact that many of the Palestinian and Lebanese groups are forged with good intentions.

I hate this quote you used in the article:

"Israelis already go far out of their way to reduce civilian casualties, even when doing so puts the lives of their own soldiers at risk."
-This I believe is not the case. They go out of their way to protect their soldiers, and minimize civilian casualities, but no more. Did you look at the post I asked you to check out on bloggingthecasbah.com? The text message is legit and that's scary.
As for Hamas and the other factions that are spanned in the refugee camps of occupied terrorties, when you undress them, they seem to be mostly nationalists under all that garb.

Yet, somehow they always manage to screw things up when they get too big for their own good. But that does not detract from their agenda or intent, which is not to destroy Israel, that would be presumptious. For them, nationalism is the key.

Israel has failed miserably with their PR campaign when it comes to Gaza, the West Bank can be arguable either direction.

As for Lebanon, I'll leave that arena to you, I'm no expert...I was only their during the last war sipping Arab coffee as Katusha rockets whizzed over my head...

And your right, Iraq is not the model for Israel to copy. Maybe they can try a little American Indian approach?

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 2:41 PM

Non Nazi "Nationalist groups" aren't comparable to terrorist groups like Hamas. Neither are geniune resistance groups who target their enemy's military infrastructure.

Groups like Hamas are in a whole different league. Philosopher Andre Glucksman said it best:

"…what do extremist ideologies like the communism or Nazism of yesteryear and the Islamism of today have in common? ...the common characteristic is nihilism."
"The root element is the attitude that anything goes, particularly when with regard to ordinary people: I can do whatever I want, without scruples...

...Wherever you go, this belligerent hubris is considered lethal. In the huts of the Amazon, young men are taught to conquer this capacity for excessive violence. You can fight together, but you cannot fight in any way that comes to hand, and you don’t set out to fight just anyone. The same idea occurs in the teachings of the Greeks, the paidera. All European education is based on the same principle."
"Indeed, all civilisations have two essential taboos in common: the taboo on ‘total sexuality’, the incest taboo, different in individual cases, but ubiquitous, and the taboo on violence. You are not allowed to succumb to ‘absolute violence’. You have to master that hubris in one way or another. In every civilisation you can find the mastering of these two absolute, destructive impulses."

Terrorism can succeed as a tactic of war but a society built on terrorism will inevitably fail. This isn't just due to the brutality of terrorism - many successful societies, like Rome, have been brutal. Terrorism isn’t just ‘brutal’, it doesn’t just accept the outpouring of self-destructive nihilistic rage, it demands it. It makes self-destructive taboo the backbone of a society.

Members of these terrorist societies are proud of the fact that they choose death while we choose life. They use their own children as human shields. This is belligerent hubris in its most extreme form.

Hamas and other terrorist societies, like the Taliban, possess the moral nadir worldwide. Israel is not comparable to these groups. China, Russia, Thailand, America, France are not comparable to Hamas. Some cannibal societies may be comparable, but otherwise, most of the world and the animal kingdom are not comparable. Packs of drooling hyenas possess the moral high ground when compared with Hamas.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 5:25 PM

The text in that bloggingthecasbah picture of the txt message makes no sense - it seems to be directed at those coming in, not those who are already in Gaza.

Posted by: rb4browns Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 5:34 PM

"their agenda or intent, which is not to destroy Israel"

Did I misread that charter? Just overly enthusiastic "nationalistic" zeal, I guess.

Anyone not wise to Hamas' agenda and tactics by now is part of the problem. Seeing what gets their attention, I'd bomb those tunnels 'til the rubble bounced.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 6:01 PM

First, to address the text, it was recieved by a Palestinian journalist living in the West Bank who works for an independent news agency, it's legit from the IDF. Secondly, I am no Hamas supporter, nor am I naive to what they have become. That being said, I was trying to make the point that most of the organizations begin with nationalistic intent. Having lived in the Middle East, as well as spending a fair amount of time in Gaza and the West Bank, I may know a thing or two about what the people go through in that region.

Not all in the West Bank and Gaza are terrorists. Hamas took control via election, and in Southern Lebanon Hezbollah supported infrastructure, hospitals, roads, security, etc. In fact, Israel many times works with those organizations to maintain control. Yes, they have the fringe elements that are out of control, and they are not ideal political organisations, in fact they are down right dubious at times, but they are not all terrorists.

same goes for the Taliban in Afganistan, they are not all the same, which is why we must work with some of them as our President Obama mentioned (and Patreaus agrees, not all Taliban are terrorists). Same goes for the organisations in Gaza and Lebanon.

And to address Mary's point, I recall from History class a story of a small group of individuals (called militias by themselves) labeled as terrorists at one time by the British no less (Hint: Remember the American Revolution, French, and the whole American Indian chapter?) Nationalists dear, nationalists.

I do believe that Israel can achieve peace with its neighbors one day, if they take the right approach. But it is not helpful to quarentine a population in order to control the fringe elements. It only polarizes the moderates towards the radical elements.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 8:56 PM

Mary and Paul S., you might want to read this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/weekinreview/22BRONNER.html?_r=5&em

Let me know what you think after you read it. Totten, what do you say?

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 9:02 PM

What I've heard General Petraeus say repeatedly is that irreconcilables---the key concept---must be split off and contained, driven out or killed; unwilling to compromise, they're simply too dangerous otherwise. When Hamas' charter---and their subsequent actions (second key concept)---reflect commitment to peaceful co-existence I'll continue this discussion.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 10:56 PM

Paul S,

here is a quote from The Mitchell Report, you might want to read the whole thing:

"Despite their long history and close proximity, some Israelis and Palestinians seem not to fully appreciate each other’s concerns. Some Israelis appear not to comprehend the humiliation and frustration that Palestinians must endure every day as a result of living with the continuing effects of occupation, sustained by the presence of Israeli military forces and settlements in their midst, or the determination of the Palestinians to achieve independence and genuine self-determination. Some Palestinians appear not to comprehend the extent to which terrorism creates fear among the Israeli people and undermines their belief in the possibility of co-existence, or the determination of the GOI to do whatever is necessary to protect its people.

Fear, hate, anger, and frustration have risen on both sides. The greatest danger of all that the culture of peace, nurtured over the past decade is being shattered. In its place there is a growing sense of futility and despair, and a growing resort to violence.

Two proud people share a land and a destiny. Their competing claims and religious differences have led to a grinding, demoralizing, dehumanizing conflict. They can continue in conflict or they can negotiate to find a way to live side-by-side in peace."-Sen. George Mitchell

This looks something like a return to form, as Mitchell was a Mideast troubleshooter during the early days of the Bush administration. In early 2001, he put together this report assessing how the second Palestinian intifada of 2000 came to be, and issued rather even-handed recommendations for resuming the peace process that were subsequently ignored by all parties. Maybe this time around someone will listen to his assessments.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 24, 2009 11:39 PM

The Petraeus model can't work in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, because the two sides simply hate each other too much.

I hate to look as though I'm making common cause with someone like Matt, but the meme that the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world is a myth that obscures the truth. At the highest command levels, the proper rules of engagement are surely adhered to, but at the ground level, it's a mess. Actual murder or serious, bodily injury is rare, although not unheard of. However, harassement, verbal and physical abuse, arbitrary denial of basic rights, these things happen on a daily basis. And it happens more here then it would, say, in the American army. It is part of Israeliness.

This is due to two aspects of Israeli society that are negatively reinforcing. The first is hatred of Arabs. Sorry to say it folks, but it's the truth. It's not nice to pick on particular ethnic groups, but you have a lot of Jews from desperately poor, Oriental backgrounds, or that come from rough places in Russia or the Caucasus, and for them abusing Arabs is one of the perks of being in the army. And there are plenty of children from nice, Ashkenazi families that do it too. One could argue that after sixty years of constant warfare, and fifteen years of sickening terrorism, this hatred is understandable, if not justifiable, but whatever the case it exists.

Bigots there are everywhere, but the second, enabling factor is what we call here "balagan". It means not just chaos and disorder, but a surrender to, or acceptance of disorder as natural and unavoidable. Israeli society is interesting, in that it is hardworking and productive, but also undisciplined. Everyone thinks they're as good as anyone else, and can do whatever they want. There is no respect for authority. This obviously infects the army as well, both in the behaviour of the soldiers, and the failure of the IDF to properly police them. This is obviously not to suggest that Israelis are by their nature cruel. But the system is wildly inconsistent, and depends on the nature of the particular officer in charge on a particular day, rather than on consistently observed rules and guidelines. For me, as an American living in Israel, and with a love of Israelis that probably borders on the neurotic, the single thing I find most distressing is the failure of the army to curb the abuse of Palestinian civilians.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 12:57 AM

Mark.

"Israeli society...hardworking and productive, but also undisciplined."

I'd like to hear you (and other Israelis, please) expand on this to educate this American.

When I saw the results of the recent election, it struck me, from across the pond, as a country at odds with itself; a recipe, not just for gridlock, but, ultimately, maybe disaster.

But then, I'm a pessimist by nature.
:-)

Take care.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 2:30 AM

What a strutting, pompous fool (or rather, tool) that Rooster is.

The cellphone message he refers to was a message sent by Hamas to random Israeli cellphones during Operation Cast Lead. The 'sons' referenced are Israeli soldiers. See here:

http://blog.z-word.com/2009/01/a-text-message-from-hamas/

Seriously, Roost, did you really not consider that "a Palestinian journalist living in the West Bank who works for an independent news agency" would be highly unlikely to have his cellphone controls (seen at the bottom of the cellphone screen) set to Hebrew?

Compare and contrast how Israelis make use of cellphones - to save civillian lives:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052260.html

Posted by: Estherar Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 4:50 AM

I recall from History class a story of a small group of individuals (called militias by themselves) labeled as terrorists at one time by the British no less (Hint: Remember the American Revolution, French, and the whole American Indian chapter?) Nationalists dear, nationalists.

So, there were American terrorist cells in Britain slaughtering English civilians? Is that your claim?

You may be trying to get people to reach some kind of a middle-ground with this sort of talk, but it doesn't seem helpful, to me.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 5:02 AM

And to address Mary's point, I recall from History class a story of a small group of individuals (called militias by themselves) labeled as terrorists at one time by the British no less (Hint: Remember the American Revolution, French, and the whole American Indian chapter?) Nationalists dear, nationalists.

As I said in the beginning of my comment, "Non Nazi "Nationalist groups" aren't comparable to terrorist groups like Hamas. Neither are genuine resistance groups who target their enemy's military infrastructure."
Poor reading skills, dear, poor reading skills.

Not all in the West Bank and Gaza are terrorists. Hamas took control via election, and in Southern Lebanon Hezbollah supported infrastructure, hospitals, roads, security, etc. In fact, Israel many times works with those organizations to maintain control. Yes, they have the fringe elements that are out of control, and they are not ideal political organisations, in fact they are down right dubious at times, but they are not all terrorists.

Not all in the German army were Nazis, but they were still our enemies - and we could not have won a war against them by working with them. Hamas and Fatah are enemy paramilitary groups. So are the Taliban. If we empower them, we lose the war.

We choose to work with the Taliban because we choose to call their supporters in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan allies. As long as we're allied with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, we will continue to lie to ourselves about the Taliban (But, you know, we're not really fooling ourselves)

I do believe that Israel can achieve peace with its neighbors one day, if they take the right approach. But it is not helpful to quarentine a population in order to control the fringe elements. It only polarizes the moderates towards the radical elements.

I agree, Israel shouldn't treat all Palestinians (and Lebanese) as if they were enemies in this war. Their real enemies are the state supporters of Hamas and Fatah - Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. They need to deal with these state supporters in the most effective way possible. The Palestinians do know that their Arab friends are willing to fight this war to the last Palestinian. They must know, at some level, that their enemies are also Israel's enemies.

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 9:18 AM

"Israeli society...hardworking and productive, but also undisciplined."

What this means is that in industry Israelis excel at original, out-of-the-box thinking, and the kind of improvisation they learn in the army. This has resulted in the amazingly vibrant, high-tech start-up culture here. And they work like crazy, like they do in Silicon Valley (and not like they do in Europe).

It means that Israelis will never excel at mass production, like Japanese or Koreans, because they don't have the patience for tedious, repetitive processes and things like quality control. It seems like a waste of time to them, and they are always trying to cut corners. They are sloppy that way.

Anyone who has looked at an English menu in an Israeli restaurant is amused by the numerous and sometimes bizarre mispellings. If they're going to take the trouble to translate the menu into English, why not take ten minutes and go over it with a dictionary? Because it's just not important to them. If you can understand it, what difference does it make whether the words are spelled correctly or not?

It is this lack of interest in proper administration that may account for lax controls in the IDF, and the placing of too much discretion in the hands of low-ranking officers.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 12:39 PM

It means that Israelis will never excel at mass production, like Japanese or Koreans, because they don't have the patience for tedious, repetitive processes and things like quality control. It seems like a waste of time to them, and they are always trying to cut corners. They are sloppy that way.

Somebody should have told Intel that!

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 1:42 PM

"Their real enemies are the state supporters..."

Seems depressingly obvious to me; attacking anywhere but the snake's head risks a nasty, maybe fatal bite for your effort. Pretending that endless "dialogue" equates with results is foolishly dangerous; it only looks like progress to the uncritical. Trying, for years now, to cinch a loop around the mullahs' neck and hold them out at a safe distance has only encouraged today's growing threats.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 3:37 PM

Ok, I guess I need to clarify a few things for the neo-cons on this website:

1) Having spent a considerable amount of time in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and a few other Middle Eastern countries, I think I may know a few insights...did I mention that I'm also a Jew.

2) Secondly, comparing the movements in those areas, such as Hamas and Fatah to Nazi's is simply a dubious and spurious connection at best.

3) I do have decent reading skills, I just choose to skip over nonsense. Especially from neo-cons who are not willing to negotiate at all.

4) Please, please, before you respond to this, read this post to see where some of the anger by the Palestinians is born:

http://bloggingthecasbah.blogspot.com/2009/03/green-line-swindleusing-concrete-to.html

Finally, I, of all people, am no supporter of terrorism, Nazism, or any type of sdistic or dubious organization. I do support the idea that both sides in the conflict have legitimate grievences and they both can acheive a common solution.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 5:41 PM

Rooster,

See if you can lose the hysteria about "neocon" boogeymen and discuss these issues like a normal person.

I also notice that you're skipping right over the fact that Blogging the Casbah is completely wrong your favorite text message. That message was sent to Israelis, not to Palestinians, and it's an old story that dates back to January. If you're going to beat up on the Israelis -- which is fine -- complain about something Israelis have actually done. Made up shit doesn not count. It's even more lame when you beat up on Israelis for something Hamas did.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 25, 2009 6:00 PM

"Somebody should have told Intel that!"

Well, you've got me there. Obviously, I'm dealing in generalities, and what's more, the generality is becoming dated as Israel becomes increasingly integrated into the world economy. The high tech sector in general is world class and above other sectors of the economy in its norms and standards.

The Intel plant in Kiryat Gat is something of an anomaly. Many high tech companies have R&D and design centers in Israel, but nobody other than Intel does manufacturing. This is more to do with security concerns than quality. Intel has always had an exceptionally strong connection to Israel. A lot of the top management are Israelis, and the Pentium 5 was designed here. They also got massive support from the Israeli government.

I still think my basic premise is correct, that organizational control in Israel is lacking compared to other western countries, due to the history and character of the people. Self-reliance, autonomy, and decisiveness were characteristics upon which the country was founded, and the defense and economy were based on small, self-reliant units, the kibbutzim. These positive qualities have a negative expression, which is stubborness, arrogance, and the refusal to accept opposing points of view. It is this "Israeliness", in my opinion, which accounts for the poor job the IDF is doing in dealing correctly with the Palestinians under their control, and possibly worse than other western armies would do in the same circumstances.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 12:05 AM

Mark,

"organizational control in Israel is lacking compared to other western countries"

Maybe I'm too logic-centric (or just too American) in my thinking, but I've always been puzzled by Israel's political structure. It strikes me as a futile attempt to herd cats; kind of like letting everyone speak at once to see who shouts down the others. In light of your observation though about "positive qualities (having) a negative expression, which is stubborness, arrogance, and the refusal to accept opposing points of view," I guess it all makes sense---to Israelis anyway---in a kind of loopy, intuitive way.

Thanks for the education.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 1:07 AM

The Israeli system is similar to other countries in the region, like Italy, and is certainly no worse (although after MJT's description of Alitalia, I would not hold them up as a model). It is good in that it forces internal consensus, but it is bad for moving beyond this consensus. My greatest fear is that it will not be able to deliver on a two-state solution, when the time comes.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 3:45 AM

Check it out - Rooster and his friend, Abu Guerrilla, are still making excuses for that Blogging the Casbah post about the cellphone.

Truth? Who cares about the truth when it comes from the mouths of "Neocons"? ;)

Posted by: Estherar Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 3:57 AM

Rooster: I think I may know a few insights...did I mention that I'm also a Jew.

Chomsky, Richard Falk, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Neturei Karta whack-jobs, and many other pernicious and useful idiots are nominally Jewish, too. Big fucking deal. You know the saying: "you can judge a man by the company he keeps"? That applies to you, too.

You've been fisked enough by others here, but I couldn't let this one go unanswered.

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 4:06 AM

Hey, hey, hey, calm down. I'm not trying to say I hang with the likes of those cats. Although I am a good friend of Chalmers Johnson....

Ok, fair enough, you guys lambasted me pretty good, and I must admit I have learned a few things as well. I'm new at this site, go easy on me. But come on guys, are you trying to tell me that Israel is clean in all this mess over there? I was in Gaza and the West Bank, those places suck. They are not a conducve enviornment to foster anything other than angry youth, who eventually grow up to either throw rocks, or join the yellow or green headbanded marches. But so what? Well, what do we do then? Keep them locked in behind concrete where traveling from Gaza to Ramallah (which is only ten minutes by car) takes over ten hours and seems like traveling to another country? We can't have a black september like the Jordanians, and we can;t deport them all to Egypt or lebanon, they don't want them, nor do the palestinians want to go. So now what? Sound off readers. I can take it.

Sorry about all the links to the casbah Totten, and I honestly like your site, it's fun.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 8:56 AM

Since the Arabs of Palestine won't police themselves sufficiently to prevent terrorism, nor partner with Israel to do so, what "solutions" remain? A bi-national state won't work for long, because the Arabs can't resist the temptation to go on Jew-killing sprees. Israelis don't endorse the kind of genocide Arabs do in Darfur. That leaves suppression as a palliative measure, and expulsion as a permanent one. Expulsion would essentially be the completion of the original vision of the separation of post-Ottoman and post-Austrian imperial nationalities into separate territories.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 9:05 AM

By the way Totten, I promise to try an improve the casbah site, including fact checking and sourcing. By the way, Abu Guerrilla is going to be in Beruit in a month or so, he would love to have a beer with you and chat it up. Game? I'll have him email you.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 9:26 AM

By the way, has anyone here read "Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror" by Jeffrey Goldberg?

Interesting perspective from an American Jew who served as a guard at Israel's largest prison.

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 9:30 AM

Rooster: But come on guys, are you trying to tell me that Israel is clean in all this mess over there?

I certainly don't. I've complained about Israel plenty of times, especially during the 2006 war in Lebanon. The difference between me and some other critics is that I complain about things that are real.

I agree about Jeffrey Goldberg's book Prisoners, and I highly recommend that everybody hear read it. I'm frankly surprised you liked it.

I'd be happy to have a beer with your friend Abu Guerilla, but I won't be in Beirut in a month, so that's out. Where's he from?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 10:20 AM

He's from Santa Barbara, but is just finishing school here in San Diego, then he's off to Beruit for a language program sponsored by AUB.

Serously, I'm not some left liberal wacko, I'm simply a student with compassion for all people regardless of faith. I can, from time to time, recognize the truth. Fleeting moments I guess. It was a good book.

I just finished "Storm From The East: The Struggle Between the Arab World and The Christian West" by Milton Viorst. Ever read it?

I just bought Andrew Exums book This Man's Army, that's next on the list, then Rick's "The Gamble".

Any good suggestions for me?

Posted by: The Rooster Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 10:41 AM

Michael Oren's books are good. Even some Hezbollah members grudgingly admit the man knows his material.

Fiasco by Thomas Ricks is accurate, but now dated. Michael Yon's Moment of Truth in Iraq accurately picks up where it left off. I haven't read The Gamble.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 10:54 AM

You might add Bing West's "The Strongest Tribe; War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq"; on my shelf and maybe next up. His earlier work, "The Village," depicting counterinsurgency in mid-sixties Viet Nam, impressed me.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 2:43 PM

Trendy vocabulary

I hope "new" fades soon; it's another reminder of how out of fashion history's lessons are. "Moderate" (from whose perspective?) seems useless too. And I'm not a neo, post-modern, or any other hyphenated form of conservative.

At least with actual facts everyone starts on the same page. Whether someone spins them, or just closes their eyes and ears to them, facts are left standing. They anchor and clarify a discussion's direction. Sure, (informed) opinion has value and interest, but the focus too easily skews toward emotions the more opinion takes over.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 5:02 PM

"They are not a conducive environment to foster anything other than angry youth blah blah blah..."

This is one of those mindless, endlessly repeated canards that more than anything serves to perpetuate wrong-thinking about the conflict. I've been to the west bank many times, and I've got news for you, it's not that bad. Parts of it are beautiful and many people live very well there. The occupation sucks but it's not the Warsaw Ghetto. Since the demise of Arafat it has been quiet there. Violence and terrorism are not pre-ordained.

More than anything, you stereotype Palestinians with this kind of nonsense. Here's an example of things Palestinians find to do other than rock-throwing and terrorism:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3692571,00.html

People need to get over themselves. They need to examine their glib assumptions about the situation here, whether it's that the IDF is the most moral army in the world, or that Palestinians have no choice but to grow up as suicide bombers. None of you are helping.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 11:30 PM

"But it is not helpful to quarentine a population in order to control the fringe elements."

The "fringe elements" control the whole shooting match in Gaza, moron. How stupid are you, anyway? I'll say this though, for Rooster - he proves that not all Jews are fiendishly diabolically clever.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 11:31 PM

Two cents worth: terms---and people's definitions.

Our first night in a Semantics seminar in grad school our professor asked each of us what we thought a lie was. By the end of the evening, we were surprised to learn how many different concepts people thought defined the term "lie." Similarly, I know why I think of myself as a "conservative," but so do religious, libertarian and Republican conservatives, in ways I don't relate to.

Maybe part of why our discussions produce frustration is not starting with agreed upon concepts; I can reject an idea or disagree with your view of it while still, at least, understanding what we're talking about. Too many attempts at communication are like a car spinning its wheels, going nowhere for lack of direction.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 26, 2009 11:49 PM

Wow, it only took you the first year in Grad School, in an oh so special Semantics seminar, to learn that people mean/hear different things for the same word! Amazing! Isn't Academia grand?

Hopefully you can hear the sound of sarcasm/disdain dripping.

The sad part about your comment is that you probably think you've said something worthwhile.

All the words in the world are meaningless except for how they relate to action. You shoot at me, I'll do my best to take you down. You double my taxes, I don't give a damn how you define yourself, I will do my best to remove you from office (currently thru the voting booth process, though depending upon what President Erkle and his ilk do, that may change).

Presuming that we all agree on "facts", if no action is taken then exactly what good do the "facts" do?

I do not care if the entire ME implodes as long as my country is not affected. I do not care if 100,000 people die this week in Africa due to the incompetence of its leaders, as long as my country is not affected. I do not care if 100,000 people die in Bangladesh during the next hurricane, oops, cyclone, as long as my country is not affected.

Self-centered? You betcha.

Israel is the most "successful" country in the ME, in my opinion. Other countries in the ME have the same opportunity -though they choose not to avail themselves of that opportunity. TS

Kind of funny how the physical area that is now Isreal was a wasteland until, wait, Israelie's moved there. OTHO, it only took them decades of sweat, determination and sacrifice to acieve their success. Imagine that. Kind of like the U.S.

People and countries have to take responsibility for their condition.

Poor Pals, no one loves them. Too bad they are an inept, corrupt group (remember Arafat?)

Poor Gaza (and to a lesser extent, the West Bank). Where are their Arab brethren?

Poor Beirut/Lebanon. Once the "Paris of the East", or so I've read. How is it doing now? If Lebanon wants to be a country then they have to pay the price. Tired of hearing about how the strife is due to Muslims, Christians, Hamas, Hizbhalla, Syria, Iran, yadda yadda yadda. Either Lebanon will do whatever it takes to become a viable country, or it will not. Their choice and their responsibility. Nothing says that there has to be a Lebanon.

The responsibility to keep my home, my car, my job, my family safe, my country stable and prosperous, is mine. Not the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party, not my State, not India, not Canada, ...

And, sometimes, it is a bitch and not really under my control.

So is life, sometimes.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at March 27, 2009 5:07 AM

rsnyder,

If you disagree with or dismiss my point that communication breaks down because people too often don't agree on, or even realize what concepts they're actually talking about, fine. What I see here and on too many other blogs is commentary that spins its wheels into the ground, disintegrating into emotional name calling, not exchanging facts and ideas we can learn something from.

As I said earlier, "Pretending that endless 'dialogue' equates with results is foolishly dangerous; it only looks like progress to the uncritical." I'm a big fan of John Bolton and others' warnings about the dangers of inaction concerning jihadists and their supporters. Conciliatory "diplomacy" with North Korea has driven me nuts for years, because I see they've figured out the carrot-without-sticks game and how to play it.

del has an interesting recent post elsewhere here about sharia, culture and language, along with reading suggestions.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 27, 2009 2:50 PM

rsnyder,

Last thought on this.

We've both hung out in Michael's space for a while now. ('Wish I could afford more than what I chipped in last night, Michael) If you've read even a few of my previous posts you know I'm far right of current Washington and Euro dialoguespeak thinking.

The reason I was drawn to Rudy Giuliani last year is that his ideas had gotten results on a fairly big stage. First though, he had to decide which ideas were the good ones. Lots of discussion and, most importantly, good communication involved there. Hostage negotiators, health care pros and others working to get from symptoms to results learn that speech, teleprompted or not, isn't effective communication without mental action on a listener's part. What someone then does with it is up to them.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 27, 2009 5:26 PM

Then again...

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1074678.html

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 29, 2009 4:48 AM

Isn’t the idea that 3 dimensional operations/ sans nation building won't work in Palestine slightly racist (or sectarian)?

A large part of the success in Iraq came from training and equipping of the IA, elements of the IP, and elements of the GoI civilian governance. For example I have been told that governance in An Najaf and several other governates inside Iraq is decent.

In Palestine by contrast:
1) Israelis have consistently blocked efforts to train and equip highly capable Palestinian security forces
2) Israelis and others have not done enough to improve the quality of the Palestinian education system and the quality of Palestinian civilian governance

Israel has disrupted private sector business development in Palestine by:
1) large scale and ongoing confiscation of Palestinian private property in unpredictable ways paying below market prices or nothing at all.
1a) without well defined and well enforced (through a fair, predictable, and efficient legal system) property rights, businesses and entrepreneurs cannot invest long term.
1b) because of Israeli systematic disruption of Palestinian private property rights, many businesses (such as Intel, GE, Infosys, Huawei, Suntech Power) that might consider investing because of Palestine's proximity to the Israeli business ecosystem) refuse to do business in Palestine (since they are afraid their property might be confiscated for less than market prices.)
1c) Israeli confiscation of Palestinian private property is illegal under Israeli and international law

2) Israel has built a system of roads, infrastructure and racially segregated gated communities inside the occupied territories that is not available for purchase, rent or use by Palestinian economic agents (Palestinians cannot use roads in their own country even if they are willing to pay a toll) by Palestinian businesses and workers.
2a) Doesn't this action violate anti competitive business practice laws under the Israeli and Palestinian legal code?

3) There is systematic discrimination against Palestinians who want to do business with the Israeli private sector. This includes both Palestinian Israeli citizens and Palestinians from the occupied territories
3a) These actions significantly harm both the Israeli and Palestinian economies

4) Israel refuses to have free trade, free business/process/technological collaboration, and free investment with Palestine. Israel also refuses to give work visas to highly capable Palestinian professionals and business people who want to work in and do business with Israel. These actions significantly harm the Israeli and Palestinian economies.

Because Israel is so deeply interdependent with Palestine, Israeli policies that disrupt Palestinian economic activity significantly harm Israel.

MJT, I respectfully disagree that Israel does not have the tools to facilitate Palestinian economic growth and to a lesser degree improved governance. 23% of Israeli citizens are Palestinian. These Israeli Palestinian have deep familial and cultural connections with their Palestinian brothers and sisters in the occupied territories. Aren’t they the bridge and the resource that Israel can use to facilitate economic growth and improved governance in Palestine?

Note that improved economic growth and governance in Palestine may not impact the peace process much in the short term; but that does not mean it shouldn’t be tried.

The many non Israelis who have greatly contributed to Palestinian suffering must also do their part.

On another note, can’t we all agree that new settlement construction should halt? Any Israelis who want to move to Palestine should move to desegregated Palestinian communities (buying and or renting property alongside Palestinians.) Aren’t settlements illegal under Israeli, Palestinian and international law? Since the settlements are illegal under Israeli law; and in order to help enforce Israeli law, I think that US 501© nonprofit corporations should not be allowed to use tax deductible contributions to build new settlements.

Apologies for the length of this comment.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at March 29, 2009 11:05 AM

Anand, I will make my comment short to average out yours.

The Pals Arab Muslim brothers (?) could provide $$$ to allow the the Pals to create a successful land, but alas, the Arab Muslim brothers seem to be MIA, and, the Pals choose, CHOOSE, to follow a path of continued failure.

You can probably tell that I do not sympthasize with the Pals condition or goals.

Funny how you usually blame Israel for the Pals "bad luck". At least you have been consistent.

If I could contribute to a 501C that would forcibly move the Pals to say, oh, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, I would do so. Wouldn't particularly care if my contribution was tax deductible or not.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at March 29, 2009 1:30 PM

Egypt hasn't absorbed Gaza, nor Jordan the West Bank...why? Sometimes INaction speaks louder.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 29, 2009 2:36 PM

Anand -

You seem like a person of good will, whose sympathy for Palestinians does not automatically involve hatred and vindictiveness towards Israel. It's too bad that more of Israel's so-called critics aren't like you.

On the other hand, your economic analysis seems very naive. The Arab world in general is plagued by poverty, illiteracy, and underdevelopment. There was a UN report a few years ago that reported on this woeful state of underdevelopment. It's existence among the Palestinians cannot be blamed solely or even primarily on the evils of occupation. In fact, the occupation is responsible for higher levels of literacy among Palestinians than Arabs in other countries, because of UN schools and close connection to Israel.

To claim that Intel won't invest in Palestine because of property confiscation is laughable. Palestine doesn't possess anywhere near the kind of trained workforce that Intel needs, and security there is non-existent. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's a wonder that Intel built a fab in Israel, given the security climate.

Finally, attempts at economic development and cooperation were frozen in their tracks by terrorism and the second intifada, which most people, and certainly I, blame on Arafat and the extremist groups. During the nineties a number of industrial parks were built in the border areas between Israel and Palestine (Erez in Gaza, Atarot near Ramallah) to foster economic cooperation, and they are now languishing unused. And, of course, huge sums of money slated for economic development were simply stolen by Arafat and his cronies.

Ironically, the kind of economic development you talk about is the centerpiece of the new Netanyahu government, who wants to substitute economic development for any real land concessions.

It is true that historically Israel has stifled economic development in the occupied territories, because they preferred the territories as a market for Israeli products. Many people don't know that the occupied territories is one of Israel's largest trading partners (may be the largest, for all I know) and that the currency there is the Israeli shekel. People sneered at the fact that Israel was providing electricity to Gaza while Gazans were firing missiles, but the truth is that this kind of dependence was due to Israeli policy.

To conclude, blame for lack of economic development in the territories, like the lack of a peace agreement, must be attributed primarily to Palestinian terrorism and rejectionism. Were it not for these factors, there would be an independant Palestine already, with massive amounts of aid for development.

Posted by: MarkC Author Profile Page at March 29, 2009 9:22 PM

Mark,

Media (access, filters) and Palestinian attitudes?

An off the wall free association, I know, but I remember reading, several years ago, that Iran's favorite tv show was "Bay Watch," via clandestine satellite dishes.

Now, how anyone determined this, in the absence of Neilson ratings, I always wondered.
:-)

Take care.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 29, 2009 11:29 PM

"The Pals Arab Muslim brothers (?) could provide $$$ to allow the the Pals to create a successful land, but alas, the Arab Muslim brothers seem to be MIA" The Palestinians have many enemies. One of them is Israel. Other enemies include Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria. Why would any of the lovely 3arab "brothers" help Palestine? Its not like they are on Palestine's side.

"the Pals choose, CHOOSE, to follow a path of continued failure." Pretentious comment. Israel supported Hamas in the 1970s. Israel forced Arafat on Palestine in 1993. The Palestinians didn't get to choose their leaders until Abu Mazen's election (even that election was marred by Fatah and Hamas thugs.) To this day Barghouti and other Palestinians are prevented from challenging Fatah and Hamas by their militias. You similarly cannot blame Palestinians for the terrorist groups that operate from Palestine. These terrorist groups kill many Israelis and Palestinians. Finally the Palestinians didn't choose for Israel, Egypt, Jordan and their other neighbors to mess with them.

"You can probably tell that I do not sympthasize with the Pals condition or goals." Why? Palestinian success benefits Israel, America and the world?

"Funny how you usually blame Israel for the Pals "bad luck". At least you have been consistent." I blame the "lovely neighbors" too.

"If I could contribute to a 501C that would forcibly move the Pals to say, oh, Egypt or Saudi Arabia, I would do so. Wouldn't particularly care if my contribution was tax deductible or not." That is a racist comment. Palestine belongs to the Palestinians. They have lived there for millenia. It is illegal under Israeli, Palestinian, British (from the British mandate), Ottoman and international law to forcibly deport Palestinians. Both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate legal claim to land inside Palestine.

rsnyder, are you a socialist who believes in the mass confiscation of private property?

MarkC, thanks for your comments. They deserve a line by line response. Israel isn't the only party to blame for Palestine's insecurity poor governance, poor education sytem, and sluggish private sector. The neighbors and Palestinians also deserve some blame.

Israel willingly decided to occupy Palestine 42 years ago and is accountable and responsible for security, governance and economic development in the occupied territories. {Israel, however, does not bear sole responsibility.}

"To claim that Intel won't invest in Palestine because of property confiscation is laughable. Palestine doesn't possess anywhere near the kind of trained workforce that Intel needs, and security there is non-existent."

The factors that have significantly impeded economic development in Palestine that Israel is partly responsible for are:
1) Property rights issues
2) insecurity [because Israel has blocked training the Palestinian security forces for 42 years]
3) education system
4) governance
5) infrastructure ecosystem issues

Intel wouldn't open a large facility overnight, but if the above issues were addressed, Intel could open a small outsourcing center in the occupied territories. Cadence and many other tech companies have outsourcing centers in Pakistan. If Pakistan can do it, why can't Palestine?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at March 30, 2009 12:06 AM

anand,

Your concern and willingness to be fair is admirable, but I think I'm hearing the helpless victims' perspective I hear so often from Americans on the left, to whom my question always is, where and how must people take responsibility for their own destiny? (Whose life is it, after all?)

It seems overwhelmingly obvious to me that, were Palestinians, through the voices of their chosen leaders, ever willing to commit to peaceful co-existence, they would be showered with assistance in response. And what they did with it would then be up to them.

This mess has been going on all my life (I was born in 1947,) so I understand rsynder's and others concluding---for reasons that have nothing to do with race---to hell with them. Live in peace or die; their lives, their choices.

Many of us carry a sadness with us about this (or we'd ignore it), that only those living it can resolve.

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at March 30, 2009 1:15 AM

There's some accuracy in observation in this analysis, but I think the conclusions don't fully consider their own implications.

The Petraeus model assumes COIN, but the principles behind it aren't, or shouldn't be, reserved for that situation alone. They incorporate a real understanding of 4th-generation warfare (which sort of also demonstrates how the whole 'generations' thing is not quite accurate, but that's another topic) Israel would be well served to make strenuous and creative efforts to apply those principles to the current environment (examples could be gathered of its attempt to do that, but not enough) - because the "kill people & break things" approach doesn't hold out much hope.

"Waiting for the other dude to surrender" is not a political strategy vis-a-vis the Palestinians, and Israel desperately needs one. Or, to be kind, a different one.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at March 30, 2009 4:45 AM

Anand, how many times did your good friends the Pals vote Arafat into office? Lifetime sinecure wouldn't you say?

BTW, where are the hundreds of millions of dollars that Mr. A. accumulated? Must have been those darned people such as I that took it. You know, being a racist and all, don'tcha know.

Poor Pals, they've just never had a chance.

Sorry, not playing in your sandbox.

Posted by: rsnyder Author Profile Page at April 2, 2009 12:36 AM

I just sent you a little token of appreciation. Sorry it could not have been more, but times are difficult and the purse is starving.

Your work is more than admirable. Along with Michael Yon, you bring clarity to the oft-muddled practice of journalism.

Posted by: NoesisNoeseos Author Profile Page at April 11, 2009 6:44 PM
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