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The War Nerd / January 6, 2009

What’s going on in Gaza now is pretty easy to understand if you think a little bit about the way military trends have been going in the past century-but you also have to be willing to take a cold look at how wars work these days, when there’s no such thing as those “purely military” wars you WW II freaks dream about. (There never really was, but that’s another story.)

The Israelis attacked now because of two non-military cycles: the news cycle and the presidential cycle. This was like a war by an astrologer: the stars had to be in exactly the right position before the Apaches could start blasting and the Merkavas could roll.

The most important cycle of all is the news cycle. This war happened during international media dead week, between Christmas and New Year. Ordinary people are drunk or hungover or snowed in, and the people who matter, the media players, are off in Cancun and Phuket, soaking up rum and sun with their blackberries turned off. They’re not going to bum out their call girls watching the news from Gaza.

And the Israelis wanted a time when everybody was distracted for a simple reason: asymmetrical war isn’t pretty. That’s the same reason they won’t let camera crews into Gaza. To do this kind of war, you have to kill a lot of civilians, because the whole civilian/military distinction doesn’t really apply. If your neighbor is a mid-ranking officer in the military wing of Hamas, the best way to kill him is while he sleeps, before he can arm himself, deploy his men and maybe inflict casualties. Thanks to years of excellent intelligence on Gaza, the Israelis know exactly who’s where at pretty much any minute of any day. And they have attack helicopters hovering over it non-stop, ready to send a Hellfire missile down to take out anybody who might help organize a counterattack.

But Gaza is the most crowded slum in the world, so when you send that missile into his tenement apartment at 4 am, it’s going to kill him, but it’s also going to kill his wife, their kids (and Gaza has a huge birthrate) and half the block. That makes cold military sense but it doesn’t look good on the news.

Of course you could send troops in, the idea being they’re cleaner than missiles, but sending troops into a highrise slum full of people who hate your guts is not such a good idea if you’re worried about casualties. And like I’ve said before, the IDF has one big weakness: they don’t like to take casualties.

So naturally they did what they could to decapitate Hamas from the air first, then with artillery. Besides, the idea that raids by infantry are less bloody than air strikes is pretty dicey anyway. Troops get nervous, they start shooting, pretty soon the collateral damage bill is just as big as it would be with an air strike, only this way the raiding party suffers casualties too.

So it made perfect sense for the Israelis to step up their longterm policy of zapping Hamas cadres from the air, and to do it right now, while nobody’s watching TV.

The other cycle is more of a gamble: the presidential cycle. I can’t believe nobody’s saying the obvious here: the Israelis want to do this now, once and for all, while Bush is still in office. They know that Bush will let them do whatever they want. Bush and Cheney are literally more extreme than about half of the Israeli electorate. They’ve never objected to anything Israel wants to do except when the Israelis wanted to talk to the Syrians. As long as it involves blowing stuff up, Bush is guaranteed to be on their side.

So the planets aligned perfectly for Israel, not so much Age of Aquarius way as Zero Hour, last chance to blow up Gaza before Obama comes in.

Will Obama be more hardnosed with the Israelis? I doubt it. Why would he? You’re not supposed to say out loud that there’s a big rich Israeli lobby, but everybody knows there is. And more to the point, what’s their counterweight? Who cares about the Palestinians, even in the Arab world, never mind DC? So there’s a big net gain to any US politician who backs Israel and no reason at all to back their opponents.

So I don’t see why the Israelis are so worried about Obama. Still, a military planner’s job is to be paranoid and the Israeli staff has decided that since Bush is a sure thing and the new guy is an unknown quantity, why not do it now?

I’ll tell you something else: Obama’s people are cheering the IDF too, for the timing at least. “Dear IDF, Thank you for doing this while Bush is still around to take the heat! Signed, Barack.” That’s exactly what Obama meant when somebody asked him about Gaza and he said, “Hey, we only have one president at a time!”
That tells you something else about this operation: it’s likely to end before January 20, 2009. Obama doesn’t want his big inauguration party bummed out with pictures of dead Arab kids, so the IDF has this thing planned to end sometime in early January.

Of course planning is one thing, execution is another. The IDF planned for a quick clean fight against Hezbollah in 2006, but that’s not the way it worked out.

This time the IDF will succeed, at least in the short term, and the campaign will go according to plan. That’s my guess anyway. What we have here is Hamas getting a very hard lesson in why it’s dangerous to pretend you’re Hezbollah when you’re not.

Hezbollah fought so well last time around that everybody started getting uppity, and the Israelis didn’t like it at all. They weren’t getting respect. They couldn’t destroy Hezbollah, though; the Hezzies are too smart, too big, too well integrated with the locals in Lebanon. Hezbollah has all kinds of advantages that Hamas doesn’t have, like great strategic depth, pockets of Shia support all through Lebanon, far from the IDF’s reach (unless they tried another fullscale invasion of Lebanon, a real bad idea).

So for more than two years now Israel has had to put up with Hezbollah sitting just over its northern border with a smug little grin on its hairy face, strutting on the rep it made back in 2006-and there’s not much the IDF can do about it.

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Add your own

  • 1. Rubaggio  |  January 6th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Finally, an article that is as morally ambiguous as this whole war is. I am sick of articles saying that Israelis have the right to do this war…that Hamas brought it on themselves and it is not Israels fault…that Israel has no right to exist in the first place…blah blah blah. There is no moral high ground in war, especially a war as asymmetrical as this one. This is two sides BOTH with their backs against the wall with the perception of no real options other than widescale murder. Both sides can create their own internal logic, but neither side is justified, and neither side will be vindicated in the end.

    Cheers Gary. Yours is the only writing style cold and callous enough to call this war what it is.

  • 2. Eddie  |  January 6th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Finally Gary.

    Have been waiting for this post for a while.

    In my opinion the whole campaign is a terrible mistake for two reasons.

    #1. The Israelies are giving Hamas a big lesson, but not the one they want. The lesson thought is Fighting IDF 101. You clearly have to many amateurs in the the organization. They have the heart but not the brains. This lesson will bring them to there senses and force them to change leadership. The IDF will cull some of them, others will try a strategy and fail and the most stupid of them will martyr themselves. In any case what will be left are the elite. Without the idiots running the show and a massive inflow of new recruits willing to sacrifice themselves Hamas 2.0 will be a considerable tougher opponent then the current gang. Bowing down and accepting Israel as their masters is not even an option. Human beings do not work that way.

    #2. The probability that Israel will win the propaganda war is highly unlikely. Reality is simply too obvious to spin. What will be remembered is small state, blockaded, starved, bombed the shit out of invaded and then left. You cannot become a hero by massacring the week.

    The best Israel can hope for is a few years lull in the rocket attacks while the new crazies are sharpening their weapons and their strategy.

  • 3. wengler  |  January 6th, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Decimation is actually derived from the practice of killing every tenth man, usually deployed by the Romans on their armies that fared poorly in battle. I think you are more accurately describing annihilation, what the Romans finally did to Carthage.

    I think the answer is that Israel can’t destroy Gaza. And I don’t mean politically can’t, though that would be a consideration, I mean physically can’t. The ancient world was a much less crowded place. Israel could take out all their big artillery pieces and start blasting away, but it would not successfully kill enough people to empty the land. Kinetic warfare has certain limits. Nuclear weapons can’t be used that close to Israel. Starvation is probably the only way they can kill off enough people, but the last time Israel tried that the Arabs poured over the border into Egypt.

    Israel has elections coming up in February too. The last thing the Kadima Party wanted was for Netanyahu to go around visiting Sderot and Ashkelon and other places that were in danger of largely harmless rocket attacks and grandstand that the Jewish people weren’t being kept safe.

    In all, the IDF are going to kill a bunch of people, proclaim themselves victors and probably camp out north of Gaza city for awhile where their old settlements are. It really doesn’t change the equation much at all, as ‘senior Hamas commanders’ are probably a dime a dozen, just like Number 3 al-Qaeda guys. The rocket attacks might fall off for a little while, but the only way Israel will be able to stop them for any sustained period is if they become the Gaza police force, something that I think the IDF does not want its conscripts to do. Fighting gnats with sledgehammers…again.

  • 4. jonny.m  |  January 7th, 2009 at 11:22 am

    If the Israelis do lay a smackdown on Hamas, what keeps Hezbollah & their buddies from stepping in & organizing the remnants into a proxy fighting force?

  • 5. Ryoki  |  January 7th, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Good read as usual.

    Was kinda hoping you’d do a column about the coolest guerilla force in the world – the LTTE, who appear to have been getting their asses kicked for the last couple of weeks – next, but oh well maybe next time eh.

  • 6. johnsmith4  |  January 7th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    jonny.m, Hezbollah is a northern Shia group doing pretty well and doing a pretty good job hiding from Mossad, while Hamas is a southern Sunni one in dire straits and which seems to be under very close and accurate Israeli surveillance. I’m guessing Hezbollah won’t want to get involved with Hamas, even if they can transfer money, guns, medicine, food, and expertise across or around Israel. On the other hand, Hamas is arguably already getting medicine, food, and money, and using some of the money on guns, from anyone who’s against Israel, including Lebanon and Hezbollah, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, maybe Iran, and US Muslims from all over. And of course when I say guns I mean weapons generally– guns, ammo, rockets, high explosive, detonators, binoculars, sniper scopes, and so forth.

  • 7. math0ne  |  January 7th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    This is some top notch journalism. I really enjoyed it!

  • 8. CB  |  January 7th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    “Decimation is actually derived from the practice of killing every tenth man, usually deployed by the Romans on their armies that fared poorly in battle. I think you are more accurately describing annihilation, what the Romans finally did to Carthage.”

    No, decimation was the correct word choice. That’s why the very next phrase was “killing *enough* of the right people”, and why he explicitly said that the IDF would not be able to wipe out, as in annihilate Carthage-style, Hamas.

    Anyway, good article.

    I second the request for an update on the Tamil Tigers.

  • 9. Spicy Gyro  |  January 7th, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    I have to disagree on that last note about demographics being a spiral. It isn’t a spiral for Muslim dominated countries and it may not be one for the Jews in the long term. Those Sephardi Jews breed like the Muslims, but without the rapidly declining birth rates. On top of that ultra orthodox Jews have birth rates of 7 kids per woman, the highest in the world if they were a country. Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews also barely mix at all.

    What that means is the Israel of today that’s half Ashkenazi and just on the threshold of becoming a permanently conservative dominated state will in the future have a dominant Sephardi majority with a large insane ultra orthodox minority. The “secular” Jews we all know and love will ironically flee to the western countries as a result of the poverty that these Jews (and not Arabs with their steadily declining birthrates) bring too like white flight.

    What you’ll be left with is a far right country that really believes in the Old Testament bullshit literally (with NONE of the hippy Jesus peace stuff) and will convince themselves that God’s encouragement of genocide of the Canaanites to get the land really is applicable today. Even the Koran looks like a book of peace compared to the vindictive, spiteful God described in the Old Testament.

    Thank God we let the Jews do whatever they want and the secular Jews were this short sighted when they encouraged and continue to encourage these people to have kids. That way we get a country that makes Puritans and Wahhabis look open minded with hundreds of nukes.

    Say goodbye to any chance of ever finding a peace deal or a Palestinian state because the West Bank is holy territory and the birth rates mean the whack jobs can’t lose. My guess is it’ll take a few more presidential elections before the “liberal” media starts to wise up to the future Mecca on the Mediterranean.

  • 10. geo8rge  |  January 7th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    “Hezbollah fought so well last time around that everybody started getting uppity”

    Who was getting uppity? You should give examples. I really did not see Hamas acting up, in comparison to the waves of suicide bombings. Other neighbors (Egypt Jordan even Syria) were actually behaving better. Really I do not see it.

  • 11. petkov  |  January 8th, 2009 at 6:51 am

    You really should have spend some more time on reviewing some of the distant and recent past of Hamas; who they are, what they want, why they do the things they do. Your analysis of situation (as fine as it is as compared to the corporate owned media) feels incomplete without it somehow.
    And the main facts still stay the same: The Palestinians simply want ALL of their land back, land that was stolen from them by UN and given to some people who are NOT even the real Sephardi Jews of the Bible but are simply the Ashkenazi Jews. Therefore, if you want to talk about “moral ground” the Arabs have the upper hand. ALL that needs to happen is for USA to turn off their rather generous support of Israel and Israel is a goner. And I hope that to happen in MY lifetime. Then and ONLY then this bloodshed will end.

  • 12. smad  |  January 8th, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Bravo, Gary! Hit the nail on the head as usual — or shoud I say, hit the fuze on the shitty Chinese rocket aimed at Ashkelon.

    Here’s a question for the peanut gallery, though: if the Pals are the Phish groupies of the Arab world, why do they carry so much weight with the lefties at North American universities?

    I used to go to a big Canadian uni attended by tons of Jews and not many Arabs, but you couldn’t spit on campus without hitting a huge “Palestinian Apartheid Week” rally or some rich, lily-white champagne socialist from the burbs wearing a keffiyeh at the organic coffee bar in the student union.

    Why do these kids love this shit so much? Is it the classic underdog narrative? If som there’s lots of other juicy conflicts to get behind that are even juicer — DRC, Zimbabwe, etc. As everyone’s fave Jew, Jerry Seinfeld would say: “What’s the deal?”

  • 13. smad  |  January 8th, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Bravo, Gary! Hit the nail on the head as usual — or should I say, hit the fuze on the shitty Chinese rocket aimed at Ashkelon.

    Here’s a question for the peanut gallery, though: if the Pals are the Phish groupies of the Arab world, why do they carry so much weight with the lefties at North American universities?

    I used to go to a big Canadian uni attended by tons of Jews and not many Arabs, but you couldn’t spit on campus without hitting a huge “Palestinian Apartheid Week” rally or some rich, lily-white champagne socialist from the burbs wearing a keffiyeh at the organic coffee bar in the student union.

    Why do these kids love this shit so much? Is it the classic underdog narrative? If some there’s lots of other juicy conflicts to get behind that are even juicer — DRC, Zimbabwe, etc. As everyone’s fave Jew, Jerry Seinfeld would say: “What’s the deal?”

  • 14. Khaled  |  January 8th, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Don’t underestimate Hamas, they might not be Hezbollah but they can do some damage. After all, they are also supplied by Syria and Iran although it looks like they are on their own in this one.

    What i don’t get is why they refused to renew the truce (even tho it wouldn’t have made a difference). It was obvious that this would be the best time for Israel to strike, but no matter what happens, Hamas cannot claim victory since any truce will force them to stop their stupid rocket fires which will make Israel the winner.

    It really looks like Hamas are gonna be hit real hard though. Egypt siding with Israel is a no brainer, the last thing Mubarak wants is sunni inspiration for the muslim brotherhood opposition. Syria too, would not be pleased with the MB getting stronger in egypt after Hafez Assad made his name slaughtering them in Syria. Iran’s Khamenei has forbidden iranian volunteers to go fight with Hamas, altho he was converting Hamas leaders to Shiisme recently. Iran and Syria seem very desperate to stop the fighting now.

    and since there is no way out for Hamas, the only thing they can do is kill as many Israeli as they can to at least show they are still good for something. So you can expect them to have a few surprises on the ground. They also claim to haave taken down a chopper and a few merkavas.

  • 15. geoduck  |  January 8th, 2009 at 2:20 pm


    Just a theory, but it may simply be because the Establishment is so relentlessly and in-your-face pro-Israeli, being pro-Palestinian becomes a quick, easy and painless way to “rebel.” All those other conflicts you mention, do you ever even -hear- about them in the corporate media?

  • 16. burbl  |  January 9th, 2009 at 1:26 am

    Why do these kids love this shit so much?”

    Hormones, lingering puberty, and easy money is so boooooring!

  • 17. Carpenter  |  January 9th, 2009 at 4:30 am

    I got another piece of the puzzle here:

    Turns out Israel killed four Hamas members on June 4, timed so that Americans would be focused on the presidential election. Israelis prefer their killings to be unseen and unnoticed. Turns out the Izzies repeatedly made raids into the West Bank from June to October, even killing Palestinian civilians – at a time when there was supposed to be a cease-fire. Of course Hamas would eventually fire rockets as a response, just like the Israelis hoped. Then the rockets could be used as an excuse for a full-scale invasion and a string of murders.

    The War Nerd is right – war is nothing like what you see on TV. Whether we are talking movies or the news.

  • 18. Linoleum Blownaparte  |  January 9th, 2009 at 10:39 am

    “if the Pals are the Phish groupies of the Arab world, why do they carry so much weight with the lefties at North American universities?”

    This question makes no sense. It presupposes that university lefties all think Palestinians are Phish groupies; that Hamas represents all Palestinians; that Phish groupies are suicidally pacifistic; that in being suicidally pacifistic, Phish groupies are incapable of seeing that others might not be suicidally pacifistic and finally; that “carrying weight” with a bunch of ineffectual university leftists is somehow comparable to the unwavering and unquestioning support Israel receives from the largest, most powerful military-economic force in human history.

    In short, who gives a shit if Palestinians carry weight with university leftists?

    And this tendency in the comments to ape Brecher’s writing style is seriously annoying.

  • 19. pakk  |  January 9th, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Nice piece. Not much to add.

    Urban combat can’t be clean in principle. Ok, you may send in infantry assault teams to control and impede enemy movement at key points, and thus break up the city into sectors, making urban assault a military operation, not just a bloody mess. But you can’t control a city without eventually wiping out the defenders. To do so, you need protection and firepower which only armor can deliver. But before that you need to ‘clear’ the avenues of approach, which means to level (literally, because city ruins are such a nice place to hide with an RPG) all buildings in the vicinity of the streets along which armor will advance.

    You might need unlimited time, a hell lotta determination, complete control of the media (or an ability to ignore them) and yes, some casualty tolerance to take control of a place like Gaza. The jews are not anywhere in a position – tactically and strategically – to turn Gaza’08 in a Grozny’00 despite all the Hamas military amateur-ish-ness.

    The moment the IDF withdraws, Hamas wins. In the eyes of the arab public, you lose if you retreat.

    PLO is as good as useless, they are rotten from within. Maybe Mossad need to create a brand new hamas v2.0 for the pal’s. The only problem is losing control, as was the case with hamas v1.0..

  • 20. az  |  January 10th, 2009 at 7:01 am

    A few notes:
    – Any information you get out of Gaza is Hamas information. There is no unfiltered reporting from Gaza. Roll this in your head a few times.
    – What and how your preferred media outlet reports depends on it’s target audience. Remember: Media don’t sell news, they sell audiences to advertisers. An example: In my country (Germany) there is a widespread aversion to visible violence and guns. So our media will always report how horrible war is, ignoring the circumstances. I remember one instance where on primetime TV news the anchorwoman was condeming an Israeli attack on an innocent family going for a picnic, while in the back of the picture Hamas men where unloading Kassams from the back of the stricken van.
    – AFAICS Israel has done things mostly right this time:
    – A proper casus belli and international law on their side, although the UN and most nations ignore this.
    – Proper intelligence and preparation
    – Not defining a clear goal. That way it’s impossible to fail
    – They are going to great lenghts to minimize civillian deaths. The ratio of killded combatants vs. civillians is about 3:1, which compares favourably to most modern conflicts. Iraq for example is somewhere between 1:7 and 1:30.
    – Blocking of independent reporting. Israel is not getting favourably news anyway, so this is the right thing to do. Also, Hamas did this from the very beginning, so why leave the playing field to them.

  • 21. Carpenter  |  January 10th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Oops, in my post above it was of course supposed to read: “Turns out Israel killed four Hamas members on June 4, timed so that Americans would be focused on the presidential election.”

    Now, look at az’s comment. Media reporting controlled by Hamas now? Heh. I suppose the Rothsteins, Sulzbergers, Grahams et al have converted from the Talmud to the Koran?

    Comments like the one from az may seem astonishing in their audacity, but then you read something like this:

    Israel’s Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages.

    In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints.

    Doron Barkat, 29, in Jerusalem, spends long nights trawling the web to try to swing the debate Israel’s way. “When I see internet polls for or against Israel I send out a mailing list to vote for Israel,” he said. “It can be that after 15 minutes there will be 400 votes for Israel. It’s very satisfying.”

  • 22. Bob Jackson  |  January 11th, 2009 at 4:20 am


    This is bizarre.

    When John Holmes referred to “civilian casualties”, he made it quite clear that he was talking about women and children.

    He assumed all men were combatants, just as all men were not allowed to leave Fallujah before the war crime.

    Hamas is the lawfully elected government of Palestine.

    The rockets are falling on Sderot, which is largely owned by Palestinians, who were driven out at gunpoint, and never allowed back.

    If my home was invaded by a gang who refused to budge, and the police made me sit in the gutter for fifty years, I would lob stuff over the fence too.

    Israel is losing the Gaza invasion because of people like yourself, who will justify any atrocity. It’s not acceptable.

    To succeed in warfare you need moral authority. Where is it?

    Arab rulers are discredited; Obama enters office a lame duck; the US Congress are clearly feckless employees of Israel, as are the British government and the EU.

    Given the shady money behind Likud, in a few weeks the Russian Mafia will control Israel’s 200 nuclear weapons.

    Not a good position to be in, as the bottom drops out of your economy.

  • 23. Carsten Agger  |  January 11th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Nice writing; on the whole, good points. One thing, though: PLO/Fatah are done getting the upper hand. They are in power, but are on the way to be history.

    Why? Well you said it: Israel’s “allies”. They are seen as traitors, who act by violently crushing peaceful protests on behalf of Gaza. Abbas is a Quisling, and his regime is corrupt and stealing from an already impoverished people. Whatever street cred Fatah/PLO ever had, it’s long gone. They’re history.

    Which is why some nut jobs like Hamas were able to win the last elections anyway: They may be nut jobs, but they’re STAUNCH nut jobs. Spells out better that corrupt and treacherous to many people.

  • 24. Eli  |  January 12th, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Petkov: I am suspecting you don’t really know much about either Ashkenazis or Sephardis.

    While, true, Ashkenazis are, on average, “less pure” Biblical Jews than the Sephardic ones, the following article sheds decent amount of light on this issue:

    So, your alleging about Ashkenazis as somehow not being Jewish is false.

    Now, to the other point of your argument: about the U.S. aid to Israel. OK, cut the aid. But then – consider cutting aid to Palestinians. Israel started out without, by the way.

    Besides, “Palestine” is a made up country anyway, originally a Roman province. The Arabs (i.e. ex-Jews) that lived there have always been subservient to some outside power, be it the Byzantines, or Ottomans or the Brits (etc). The only time the people of the region had truly their own power was during the great kings of Israel and Judea (and I am not discuss the times of semi-nomadic Semitic Canaanites, the Moab, etc.)

    Anyway, I think your general argument is more than against the existence of Israel. By its general tone it’s more of an anti-Jewish statement. I am familiar with your last name. The sentiment people like you tend to carry sounds familiar to me, too. (Oh, and if you claim that your best friend is a Jew, that will not surprise me either – just in case.)

    Actually, in large part it is because of people like you that Zionism was born and, thus, ultimately, Israel got created. So go back to history books, Petya.

    Oh, and by the way, by the same (moronic) token of appreciation, I feel it’s absolutely great that the “indigenous” Slavic population is currently being ethnically replaced by all the Muslims you have in Russia. No “true Russian [skinheads]” – no war, no problem. Feels good, huh?

  • 25. Eli  |  January 12th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    One more thing: I suspect that even if Israel were gone, war would not end. This time it would be either Lebanon, Syria, or Egypt trying to exert influence over their region (the latter trying to save Mubarak’s regime from an Iranesque-type Muslim revolution).

    The Palestinian refugees will return, making it an even bigger problem politically. There’s going to be the PLO + “ex-Isreali Arabs” vs Hamas mess (secular vs. religious). I am sure there will be plenty of other crap.

    There will never be peace in the place. Arabs are their own worst enemies.

  • 26. detso  |  January 12th, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    There’s a very tantalizing statement in the first paragraph about there never really were any “purely military” wars the WWII freaks dream about. Really ?? How so War Nerd??

    Surely the Stalin vs Hitler total war of the Eastern Front (or equally any number of other cases) was about as military as you can get – a whole bunch of tanks and troops on one side and the same on the other. Line them up then let them fight it out…

  • 27. drwoood  |  January 12th, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    You forgot a third cycle, the Israeli electoral cycle.

  • 28. az  |  January 13th, 2009 at 3:47 am

    @Bob Jackson

    As to civillian casualties: There’s no doubt that many women and children died. That’s why war is bad and you shouldn’t go to war lightly. Period.

    As to Hamas being lawfully elected: You are absolutely right, but do you really think this is a salvatory fact? Hamas has repeatedly vowed genocide. To me that means that more then half of the people killed in the Israeli attacks did vote for a genocidal party. Doesn’t that make the Gaza strip sort of a powerless Nazi Germany?

    As to the ethnic cleansing during the ’48 war and the preceding civil wars and unrests: The Jews took the land from the Kanaanites, were displaced, returned, were invaded by Greeks and Romans, were displaced again. Since then, the land was under the control of a multitude of arab and semitic tribes and also crusaders, all of which did lots of displacing at sword- and later gunpoint.
    So last century the Jews returned. Shouldn’t the Jews give back their land to the Palestinians, they in turn to the various tribes living there before, then to Romans, Greeks, Jews, Iraqies and again to the Jews?
    There’s been plenty of ethnic cleansing everywhere, and much of that not a long time ago. But for instance do we modern Europeans get all murderously about that? There’s peace in Europe because people smartened up and realized that nothing good will come of perpetual venegance. It’s time that the Palestinias do the same, realize they are abused as stooges by Syria and Iran and accept Israels existence.

    As to justifying atrocities: I’m not trying to justify anything. I’m merely highlighting a few facts. You should understand what international martial law allows and why. Attacks are allowed if the expected civilian casualties and property damage are reasonable compared to the military objectives. That leeway is given precisely to render tactics such as Hamas uses futile.
    Two examples: Firing rockets with a stray of several kilometres at cities is a war crime, bombing a sacral building in which a weapon stockpile is suspected is not, even if a hundred people die in the attack. Rembember, this is not ethics but law.

  • 29. Critic  |  January 13th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I think if the state of Israel is truly in trouble they won’t hesitate to use chemical weapons. They nearly used nukes during the Yom war and got permission to do so. Interesting that the ‘war nerd’ dosn’t seem to remember that as I think it proves this piece rather of his rather false. Chemical weapons where also used during the Iran Iraq war and to suppress the Kurd rebellion.

  • 30. P.M.Lawrence  |  January 14th, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Eli, be careful. I mean, literally, take care, specifically in the areas of intellectual enquiry. Even though there do exist anti-semites, and there do exist people with a conscious or unconscious agenda of being opposed to the very state of Israel, it can be like the saying “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me”. That is, you should check the arguments and facts offered on their merits, and not on the basis of the motivations you discern (which might even be an association of ideas on your part, and not a proper identification). The thing is, even those people – perhaps especially those people – wouldn’t hesitate to tell the truth if it served their ends; “the Devil can quote scripture”. And if you call people on their motives when they actually came to their views another way, you drive them in that direction.

    On a lighter note, I’d like to mention that the Arabs of that area, as descendants of converted Jews, are probably as ethnically “Jewish” as the Sephardim and Mizrahim – which means more so than the Ashkenazim. That’s not an assertion of a better ethnic claim, but rather shows just how empty that line of enquiry is. Finally, the fact that there hasn’t been a distinct polity in those parts for some millennia is similarly empty; it speaks more to that part of the world’s vulnerability to others fighting over it or – more often – through it, to get to the other side of one of the world’s corridors. It is a close analogue of what befell the Low Countries and Northern Italy for centuries (and Syria, the Lebanon, and Iraq, come to that) – yet, despite Dutch claims that “there is no such place as Belgium”, there are countries there now and they do indeed tap into tradition and a sense of identity that goes back much further. Culturally speaking, Flanders goes back further than Holland.

  • 31. Tam  |  January 14th, 2009 at 5:02 am

    What’s going on in Gaza is for the most part pretty grim but one of the few amusing side effects of this confict is that it’s caused Peak Oil guru James Howard Kunstler to completely lose the plot.

    Who’d have thought him saying ‘Hamas is playing the crybaby card: “… what’d we do to deserve this…?” Well, you fucking fired a bunch rockets into Israel. Did you ever hear of cause-and-effect?’ would upset so many people?

    Go to

    for some of the best asshole vs asshole debate you’ll see on the internet.

  • 32. fajensen  |  January 15th, 2009 at 2:58 am

    Starvation is probably the only way they can kill off enough people, but the last time Israel tried that the Arabs poured over the border into Egypt.

    So? That they run instead of dying is not a problem, but THE time-honored solution:

    After the Palestinians run, the IDF close the border and make sure they do not come back.

    After a few generations the Palestinian people/tribe will entirely be gone; instead there may be a lot of Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians and whatnot that do not like Israel very much. Normality is restored.

    Most, if not ALL of the states in Europe, were made by the victorious army driving away the loosing tribe(s) and nicking their land (and women – if they look like they could work).

    Why should the Middle East be the only place in time and space where people have their disagreements worked out by a UN committee?

  • 33. j  |  January 16th, 2009 at 7:14 am

    “…there are no good options in the long term.”

    When there were good options for the people of Israel? Never. Yet we are still here and attacking.

    Demography is significant in winning elections or selling TV space. It is meaningless in real wars. Francisco Pizarro attacked and defeated the Inca empire with 167 men. The War Nerd is forms his idea of war through TV reporting, which are formatted like TV popularity contests. We are fighting a real war and our problem is how to make it look like a dumb popularity contest. We will think something.

  • 34. Turk 182  |  January 16th, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Spicy Gyro:

    I agree with 99% of your assessment of the Israeli situation. I should know, I lived there for four years.

    However, the large religious groups that breed so fervently DO NOT JOIN THE MILITARY. They are mostly, in fact, anti-Zionist. It’s a huge contention in Israeli society about these ultra-orthodox who receive such a huge share of gov’t subsidy, yet do not serve. It would take another two generations to change their teachings against Zionism.

    So, as you point out with the current birth rates, Israel doesn’t have much of a chance to remain even slightly “secular,” and by that I’m sure we mean pluralistic and modern.

  • 35. Stacy  |  January 16th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    I love a war in which God is on everybody’s side…Oh what a lovely war!

  • 36. sparc5  |  January 16th, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Well War Nerd,
    It looks like your predictions were off. The rockets aren’t slowing down, and Hammas is going to have an easier time then ever recruiting new militants. I think it’s Hammas teaching Israel the lesson. Did you notice the white phosphor and the DIME bombs?

  • 37. AliBaba  |  January 17th, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Boycott israeli web 2.0 apps:

    Sorry young entrepreneurs but blame your government.

  • 38. or  |  January 17th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    dont you understand ?!
    hamas dont give a shit about the pepole
    all he want is to get the jews out of there and get all israel
    the probleme is that they have only AKs And kasa rockets to fire on civilons ><
    Or they bomb there children in buss =\
    Dam stupid arabs thing that there God asking them to kill everyone that he is not islam |:

  • 39. !sparc5  |  January 17th, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Well sparc5, it looks like you were off.

  • 40. Matt  |  January 17th, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Kill the Arabs!

  • 41. Eli  |  January 18th, 2009 at 11:58 am

    P.M. Lawrence – I am careful, indeed, and I recommend *you* to be careful, too.

    Your comment shows utter lack of understanding, which forces me to re-explain myself (as I think there is just too many people like you, or more ignorant, out there).

    So, your first paragraph is some pompous pretend-philosophical-context-giving comment about me revealing that Petkov is just another Slavic anti-semite (and I’ve known these personally).

    Basically, I was speaking Petkov’s language; and I am against cutting American aid to Israel for several reasons: 1) Israel is the only normal country among the sea of fundamentalist apes; 2) the Jewish people need ways to deal with threats to its survival (Israel will survive even without aid – but will have to resort to much more serious means of defense, because limited funds require drastic and primitive measures (and the “Palestinians” will be the ones ultimately to suffer)); 3) Israel is an important military, political and cultural ally of America.

    Your “lighter note” is also not interesting, and *completely* misleading.

    Actually, I misstated myself. In fact, overwhelming majority of Arabs in the region *are not* descendants of those Biblical Jews (only the ones living in Hebron, Samaria & Nablus are). The Arabs living there *now* are actually relative newcomers (many of whom came during the Ottomans from Syria and Jordan – being more related to Aramaic etc. tribes, some of which aren’t even Semitic). Interestingly most of Arabs living there *can’t* claim that they are descendants of the Arabs that lived there since (even) Crusaders’ or the Caliphate times – the territory had been vacated and re-populated over many of these centuries – and for various reasons – which is a big reason of why “Palestinian” is a made-up concept.

    There are even some Yemeni Bedouins living there (who are nice folks really), whose ancestors don’t go back more than a century in Israel.

    Mizrahim are not genetically Jewish. Most of them are uncultured Moroccan Berbers, who converted to Judaism a long while back and brought to Israel by overzealous founders. Only Sephards and Ashkenazis are true genetic Jews. Stating what you just stated shows that you have no idea what the hell you are blubbering about.

    The “Palestinian identity” truly only started after the Six Day War – before that, they were just Arabs.

    There is *much* more facts to state, but I’ve got no time (nor appropriate audience).

  • 42. Eli  |  January 18th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Small correction: “Mizrahi” is too broad of a term. I suppose, it’s more correct to say that only a certain part of them – but not the Moroccans – can claim to be related genetically to the Jews of the Bible.

  • 43. internet anti-Zionists  |  January 18th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    What it looks like now is that (1) Hamas, especially the rockety part, was untouched, [seriously Gary, remember the wave of missile assassinations Israel did that was supposed to decapitate Hamas, what was that 2005?] (2) us anonymous internet anti-Zionists have our work fabulously gloriously simplified in trying to explain to people just how inhuman the inherent perpetual victims with the finest air force in the sky really are, and (3) Xymph said Israel’s goal was to stop a possible looming peace under Obama by making the Gazans too bitter to think and that appears to have worked. Peace is very very bad, it means losing land, something Israel’s wierdo leadership is happy to sacrifice soldiers for.

  • 44. Tam  |  January 19th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I was going to respond to Eli but then realised it’s so preposterous and dementedly stupid that he must be an anti-Zionist troll determined to show Israel in it’s worst possible light. So, Eli, close but no cigar, you anti Semitic scum!

  • 45. capt  |  January 21st, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Congrats Gary. You called it. When I first read your piece after it was posted, I forwarded it to colleagues who felt it rang true. I think you hit the mark with these two articles.

    I suspect Hamas has been marginalized for the time being, regardless of the post-cease fire chest thumping and perceived victimization, at least until Israel can take the temperature of the Obama administration. What I don’t know is the long-term propaganda cost of the shelling of the UN compound, two UN sponsored schools, and the killing of Dr. Az A-Din Abu al-Ayash’s daughters. These four actions may have undercut all of Israel’s tactical and strategic gains in the past month.

  • 46. Eli  |  January 21st, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Tam – haha! You’re Petkov, right? You can’t respond, because you have nothing of substance to say, you ignorant prick.

  • 47. Badtux  |  January 21st, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Eli forgot to call the Palestinians cockroaches, that’s the only thing missing from his racist screed.

    I’m most impressed by Gary’s prediction that the Israeli offensive would turn into a pumpkin on Inauguration Day. Sure enough, the IDF declares victory and goes home. Meanwhile, hundreds of Hamas criminals responsible for firing rockets at Israel cheer, maybe a dozen of the criminals got killed, the rest were all innocent teachers and postmen and street cops and women and chldren and such not involved in the war crime of shooting rockets at Israel. So it turns out this was all just a cynical election stunt by Israeli pols after all. But hey, let’s just ignore those 1,000+ innocents killed to improve the electoral chances of Anybody But Likud, it’s not like they’re *real* people, they’re just untermenschen, unseemly mud people, right? Right?!

    And the criminals — on both sides of the Gaza border — rejoice. Bah.

  • 48. barak-without-a-c  |  February 16th, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Factual correction:

    > But Gaza is the most crowded
    > slum in the world …

    (a) Gaza has about half the population density of Tel Aviv.

    (b) See those pictures of crowds in Gaza, with kids etc? They are wearing ok clothes, nice shoes, look well fed, etc.

    Might not be the best place in the world to live (especially if you’re on a Hamas hit list) but it is a fair site better than most.

  • 49. Jack Boot  |  March 2nd, 2009 at 8:05 am

    Interesting article, as usual.

    Trying to crush guerrillas/terrorists with conventional forces is akin to swatting a swarm of bees with a sledgehammer – fatiguing and futile.

    A better approach by far is targetted assassination: Smile; you’re on Hellfire camera!

  • 50. SA  |  April 17th, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    On the confrontment between Eli (42) and Tam (44), I think Tam is the honest side. Eli is talking a bit funny, he tries to show that he is a Jew but it looks like there is something hidden under there.

    Eli, you do not even mention the Romaniotes Jews oldest Jews, older even than Sephardic Jews.

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