GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli planes pounded Hamas targets and rival Palestinian factions exchanged bursts of automatic weapons fire outside Gaza City's Islamic University Friday. The volatile mix of Israeli strikes and Palestinian infighting plunged Gaza deeper into chaos.First, I'm not suggesting Israel sit back and allow Hamas to lob missiles into the south (although that plan might merit a little consideration, since decades of returning fire seems doesn't seem to be doing much).
Five Palestinians were killed in a single airstrike by Israel, which said it was responding to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel -- a campaign that showed no sign of subsiding Friday. Hamas fired three rockets at the town of Sderot, where three people were injured by shrapnel and several others were treated for shock.
I want to focus on another aspect of this story, one that isn't getting much coverage. There has been, I believe, a deliberate confusion in the coverage of the Middle East, a "no forest for the trees" aspect.
When a painter paints a picture, he tries to make sure that he has as much detail as he possibly can in his landscape, to bring a sense of reality to his image. This means getting in close, and being precise.
But the painter takes a step back every so often to look at the totality of his work. Likewise, I think the United States has to do this when it comes to the Middle East, as well.
There is a strategy being deployed, of course, no matter what the underlying stimulus is. It's fairly obvious that, in an attempt to extend hegemonic influence over the Middle East, the US is trying to impose western democracy on an eastern culture. This requires, demands, the unconditional support of Israel, as well as the continued torture of Iraq as a sovereign entity.
To assume, however, the United States and her allies (such as they are) are the only combatant with a regional strategy is foolish. I believe that the Muslim world sees a strategic opportunity now to chip away at American influence in the region and destroy Israel in one fell swoop.
In this, they have an enormous advantage and a tool that America has shown little effectiveness fighting against.
The advantage is outnumbering and outflanking Americans and Israelis. Strategic positions in the region are completely controlled by Muslims, and even if by some miracle, we were to succeed in establishing a functioning democracy that treated everyone fairly in Iraq, this would not change, and it wouldn't be long after we tore down our tents that Iraq would be inundated with other armies, much like Saigon after the Vietnam war.
The tool the Muslims have, which is an outgrowth of this regional strategic advantage, is mobility.
We've seen this employed already in Iraq. Bush "surges" in Baghdad, so the insurgency maintains some constant pressure there to pin down the surge, and then opens up new attacks in Anbar, Basra, and the Kurdish territories.
If you study the Israel-Hamas/Hizbollah conflict of the past few years, this is precisely what is happening in Israel: a continual pounding of the Israeli borders, probing for weaknesses. And eventually, they will find one.
One other note about Iraq and how our failures there will effect Israel: as with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s repelled by the mujahedin, the insurgency is taking much comfort over the fact that, right now, they're running even with the vaunted American army, the greatest military force in the history of the planet.
Does anyone, in or out of the White House, not see the implications of this? I mean, it is happening already, to be sure, but what's to stop Al Qaeda and its allies (and whatever power is supplying support) from pulling the same tactics in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and the Golan Heights?
So long as no particular state can be associated with the violence and attacks, there will literally be a billion people signing up for suicide bombing runs, and planting IEDs, and firing upon Israeli civilians, because what's the United States going to do? Occupy Israel as badly as they've occupied Iraq?
I think by looking at this analysis in the harsh light of day, we can begin to grasp why there is this sense of desperation about Iraq fomenting throughout the White House: if they screw this up, if they can't find a strategy to defeat the insurgency that can be transported to Israel, then not only will they have lost Iraq, but they would go down in history as the administration that lost Israel, as well.
Ironic, considering the fact that among the neo-cons who proposed this debacle are several staunchly pro-Israel Jews...