2008/12/29

The Israel-Hamas conflict as a case study

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Israel claims to defend itself in this conflict. Well, defense or offense is very difficult to tell when a conflict is that old and both sides attacked the other one again and again since decades. Let's ignore that for a while and pretend that rockets flew into Israel and Israel responded with bombs - simple as that:

Does "self defence" really justify the response in that case?

International law would likely say yes, although it's more complicated when we don't simplify the case. Israel hasn't exactly a white vest.

Many civil codes have the principle of proportionality. You - as an individual - are allowed to defend yourself and your property - but proportionally limits this right.
You are in most countries not allowed to shoot a kid that steals apples from your tree or to kill someone who has merely beaten you slightly. You're usually also not allowed to return after an assault and kill the family of an assailant or burn his house.
Your reaction needs to be proportionate. Being under attack does NOT legalize/legitimate ANY violent reaction.
OK, that's not really favoring the Israeli position and it's pretty much the criticism that was (again) in the news. The reaction was disproportionate.
- - -
There's another problem, and that's (finally) my (afaik) original contribution to this messy subject:

Maybe you read this blog before and recall an old text about victory or defeat (or as I would call it today; "successful war and unsuccessful war").
I will apply that thought on the Israel-Hamas/Gaza conflict.

1st
Violent action can only be justified by its good effects.

2nd
A war is only legitimate if it doesn't worsen the situation for everyone, for example. Violence that worsens the situation is despicable and illegitimate.

3rd
This includes that even self-defense isn't justified if it worsens the situation even for the defender.

The U.N. charter doesn't reflect this. It allows self-defence without requiring proportionality.
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It's obvious that Israel cannot hold itself back and just show the other cheek as a strategy to undermine the power of extremists on both sides, to gain/strengthen the support of other nations and to cool the overall conflict down.

Sure, such a behavior would likely result in escalating harassment by its enemies, but disproportionate payback doesn't seem to help Israel's interests in the long term either.
They need a strategy that at can lead to an end of the misery - instead of mere revenge and killing of enemies/destruction of enemy hardware.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.:
Btw, Gaza should simply be swallowed by Egypt again in my opinion. Egypt could handle that region and its extremists. That would require an external moderator's pressure, though.

12 comments:

  1. Last is first. Egypt would rather have syphilis then deal with Gaza. Israel keeps them going with food and medical supplies and has since 1967... which is stupid on Israel's part. It's not as if Hamas is about to admit where their butter comes from. The vast majority of Gazans don't work, have no desire to work, and depend on Israel for 90 plus % of their support. Egypt doesn't want to assume this burden.

    Last summer's war against Hezballah was decried in the same terms (disproportionate... whatever that means?) and it's ended up making Israel's northern border quieter than at any time in 35 years. Israel needs to kill about another 1000 (10,000 would be better for us all) plus and they'll have peace for a while. Hamas just wants to be in power and by Israel endangering that with most Gazans their "leadership" will change quickly. This is the only legitimate war I've seen in some time.

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  2. As usual, the reason for different opinions is in what wasn't mentioned.

    Example 2006 war:
    Israel took some years worth of rocket fire during that war - the rocket fire intensity before the war was VERY small.
    It's misleading to only look at the two years after the war. You ignored the damage inflicted on Israel during the war in your assessment.

    About Egypt/Gaza: That's why I mentioned that pressure would be necessary. There's a price, and I suspect that's not very high in comparison to all the other troubles. To turn Gaza into the territory of a state that can be held accountable for offenses is the best that could happen to Israel, and Hamas would of course not remain in power in an Egyptian province.

    The attacks are not legitimate in my opinion.
    They don't really serve Israeli interest in the long term and the losses and damage (even if we only look at civilians) inflicted in Gaza seem to be much larger than the effect of Qassam harassment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportionality_(law)

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  3. I fully understand the principle but it's foolish to say that daily attacks on Ashkelon, even those that don't kill anyone, are not worth worrying about. I would not have tolerated it this long, they've practically destroyed the city and its ability to function, and a ground invasion would have been my answer. There would be no infrastructure to worry about when I left, which wouldn't be too long. Israel has done everything possible to give Hamas a state and yet they continually grind away at Israel, while using Israeli medical services and food on a daily basis.

    Perhaps Germany would be willing to stand between the Jews and Hamas? Not likely. I consider you fairly reasonable Sven, but not in this case. Israel is a very small place and to raise children in the Western Negev is a dangerous and disturbing business because of these attacks. They must stop.

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  4. You don't go to war because you're annoyed and think that you "we need to do something".
    http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2007/09/we-need-to-do-something.html

    A country should only go to war because/if it's the less terrible choice than not to go to war.
    Warfare that worsens your situation (and in my estimation the current ops do so) is foolish and immoral.


    Germany bears no responsibility in this conflict and our national security cannot be served by getting involved, so I wouldn't appreciate any involvement.

    ---

    About "daily" attacks:

    Note the gap between July and November (and the low intensity in November):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Qassam_rocket_attacks_in_Israel_in_2008

    and consider this point of view:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-true-story-behind-thi_b_153825.html

    Living in Sderot is miserable for 20k Israelis, for sure. They could move, though.
    Living in Gaza Strip is more miserable for 1.5M Arabs - and they cannot move away.

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  5. Bottom line in this moronic slap-fight is this: there has never in history been a people who will return "peace for a while" in return for 1,000 or 10,000 dead. The dead will bury their dead while the living will howl for revenge and wave the bloody shirt.

    Israel has two choices. Genocide. Or endless war.

    In the old days, the days EN wishes we still lived in, the Israelis could roll up their sleeves and enjoy some real old fashioned atrocity. You know how it's done. The strong have been doing it to the weak since Cain whacked Abel. This worked for the Romans. It worked for the Normans. It worked for the Mongols and the Zulus and, well pretty much anyone else savage and ruthless enough to enjoy it. It will work for the Israelis, if they have enough barbarism in their guts to do it.

    But this isn't genocide...it barely rises to the level of serious warfare. It is just what Sven has tagged it with: the angry outburst of a gadflied society unwilling to show real guts, either by wholesale slaughter of their enemies and accepting the barbarity of their deeds, or by making peace and taking the risks that come with it.

    Frankly, as an American I'd happily wish plague on both their houses, except my country seems to think that Israel is something we need to nurture like an endangered species. I cannot for the life of me understand why: Israel may be the most useless "ally" the U.S. has ever had outside of Barbados, maybe, or Andorra.

    The Israelis remind me of the French First Empire; eternally fighting and winning but without a clue of how to win without fighting. Surrounded by implacably inept enemies, they have to fight and fight and MUST win every time. Their enemies only have to win once, although they're too freaking inept to manage that over sixty years. But, like the Corsican's empire, eventually Israel's enemies will combine successfully and kill them.

    And then we can stop having these arguments about these both of these two groups of homicidal idiots.

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  6. I don't have time to deal with all of this but promise to come back in a couple of days, or sooner If I can get away

    Sven said:
    "You don't go to war because you're annoyed and think that you "we need to do something".

    Sending missiles into my town would annoy me and I would definitely think I needed to do something. Those are emotions and thoughts but not what brought about this action for sure. The only way you'd be correct is if I was cut off in traffic and decided to ram the other car. Your blanket assertion doesn't explain anything one way or the other.

    Seven:
    "Germany bears no responsibility in this conflict and our national security cannot be served by getting involved"

    True, and the casual disinterest you feel in Pali missiles being sent into Israel screams this.

    Sven:
    ""Warfare that worsens your situation (and in my estimation the current ops do so) is foolish and immoral."

    Same arguments were used last summer. Israel has never had as much peace in the north. It's not lost on me that Hezballah is very quiet about their (sunni) brothers in Gaza.

    Sven:
    "Living in Sderot is miserable for 20k Israelis, for sure. They could move, though.
    Living in Gaza Strip is more miserable for 1.5M Arabs - and they cannot move away."


    Where would the Jews go? We're not talking of West Texas here, we're talking about a tiny country that would fit several times over into the smallest German state.

    As for the Palis, let em eat someone else's cake. They elected Hamas, Israel (which provided job, medical care and food until 2005) left because they wanted their own state, and now they have it. Instead of making rockets they could try their hand at an economy? As far as I'm concerned they need a little starvation to improve their focus. You'll recoil at that Sven, but if this was the US (and it may well be at this time next year) you would understand the concept.

    As for the HP article, I never see any lessening of the Pali hatred unless they are killed. Every time Israel gets soft the Palis take it as an opportunity to get more aggressive. There's no sense to it.

    FDC:
    "The dead will bury their dead while the living will howl for revenge and wave the bloody shirt."

    Yes, I'm waiting for the Japanese and Germans to return any moment. Do you want a list of the reasons you're wrong?

    FDC;
    "or by making peace and taking the risks that come with it."

    You've apparently missed the last ten years of Israeli attempts to make peace and give the Pali's a state.

    Israel is weak precisely because it has us as an ally (We seem to have that affect of all of our allies). I'm all for leaving them to their own devices. The only reason this travesty has gone on for so long as we've tried to "modify" Israeli behavior as part of our bigger Grand Strategy. Stupid of Israel to be party to that.

    I'm not done. I'll try and check in but I'm going away for a couple of days. Enjoy the New Year Sven.

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  7. "Yes, I'm waiting for the Japanese and Germans to return any moment. Do you want a list of the reasons you're wrong?"

    Yes, please write that one out, I'd be intrigued. The part where Israeli armored columns tear into the heart of the West Bank and Gaza? Been there, got the T-shirt. The part where Israeli strategic bombing rips the gutsout of the Arab idustrial base? What industrial base.

    If you're going to put this much effort into being a fathead, EN, it isn't going to be worth waiting for you to be back. I already gave you the genocide option; Israel doesn't get to haul Fatah and Hamas onto the deck of whatever the Israeli equivalent of the battleship Missouri to sign the instrument of surrender. How do they "surrender"? They've already BEEN defeated militarily. They just won't lie down and die. Not for 1,000 dead. Not for 10,000 dead. 100,000 dead? Maybe. 1 million dead? Absolutely. But at that point where's the diff. between Livni and Mengele, Kadima and the NSDAP? Like I said - Israel has two choices: genocide and the old fasioned Roman/Norman/Mongol way. Or makng SERIOUS peace - not the "the last ten years of Israeli attempts to make peace and give the Pali's a state." by "giving" the Arabs 1/3rd of what was originally theirs and the worst part of it at that and planting the rest with Russian Jews. Israel's only legit. peace plan would be complete withdrawl to the 1967 Green Line. Period.

    But y'know what? I could honestly care less WHAT Israel does, so long as it does it with Israeli tanks and ammunition and funds and not American tax dollars. I'm all with you on that. Let 'em go wild for as long as they can. And they will - the Arabs are a sad act militarily and politically. But they're as numerous as rats in the back of a tenament, and eventually I suspect they'll throw out a Saladin and drive the Jews into the sea. Maybe in a hundred years or so.

    Until then the Israelis have got nothing the U.S. needs geopolitically. We need access to the strategic chokepoint at Suez - Epypt has that. We need reliable access to petroleum: Iraq, Iran, the Gulf emirates and Saudi have that.

    So, IMO, it'd be better for the U.S. to heave the Israelis over the side. If they manage to swim to political safety, good for them. If they sink, well, the Saxons and Carthaginians were good people, too, and look what happened to them. Too bad, so sad.

    And the Israelis get to get over all that "modification" to their inner Hun we've been forcing on them, and get to go all Final Solution on those irritating wrapheads. Too bad, so sad for THEM.

    The U.S. just shouldn't have a dog in this fight. Period.

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  8. I agree that they're doomed almost with certainty in the long run - over generations. There will be no Israel in 2200.
    The parallels with the crusaders are strong and numerous.

    They could prolong their stay as an almost Western nation with a Jewish majority and a Zionist ideology guiding their politics IF they used an appropriate grand strategy.

    Their policy seems to be short-sighted and almost instinctive to me. They don't use a rational grand strategy in my opinion.

    Such a rational grand strategy would strive for intact, strong bonds to Western nations and economic/fiscal sustainability.

    Their actions would not be tolerated at all if they were in the center of Europe. Look at what happened to the Serbs. The Serbs did much less than the Israelis - and stepped over the threshold of Western patience.
    The toleration of their action depends on patience, and they might hit a turning point quickly.

    Remember, patience with the Serbs ran out when Serb militia killed about 40 people on a marketplace in Sarajevo.
    Israel might overstretch Western goodwill and patience easily as well; the French dropped them already back in '67.
    An end of economic and military aid or a EU-level partial embargo would hit them badly and turn their tiny state to a path that leads downhill really fast.

    They NEED TO obey Western norms or they will eventually be dropped.
    Just like the crusaders were dropped when the interest in crusades declined in Europe.

    EN; I believe you look at this issue too much with your guts and not enough with rational analysis.

    Rather emotional topics like the Israel conflicts also provoke a selective use of information sources. People tend to reinforce their views with fitting info and ignore the conflicting info - and end up telling others that they have never seen this or that.

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  9. "They NEED TO obey Western norms or they will eventually be dropped."

    Or they need to become the Mongols of the 21st Century. Then they'll be dropped but who'll care? Their enemies will be dead or enslaved and they will be in a position to piss on their Western "allies", so they won't care either.

    From where I sit EN's talking points represent the worst of Israel: the smug insistance on being "right" coupled with the morals and manners of a murderous thug.

    IMO no nation has a "right" to exist. Peoples and nations hack out their "rights" with their hands and their brains. Israel was midwived by some despicable double-dealing, guilt-appeasing and colonial strongarming from the Western powers, but the Israelis fought for their land and won. Good for them. That's the only "right" any nation has; what it can win for itself.

    My problem is that by making Israel's policies and politics the U.S.'s policies we do no favors either to ourselves and to Israel. We tie the U.S. hand and foot to an alien Jewish theogenic state with an advanced case of siege mentality paranoia lodged on an Arab Levantine shore. And we warp Israel by lending it a monstrous "big brother" with a hyperactive military establishment and a bloated, irrational, sentimental and often foolish oligarchic "leadership" prone to making decisions based on poor information, greed, stupidity and emotion.

    So while Israel may need to butcher their way through Palestine to victory, the U.S. has and should have no such need. We can buy, bribe, threaten or co-opt the Arab peoples of the southeastern Levant better and quicker without an Israel to foul us up.

    And Israel should have to figure out how it is going to survive to 2200 without believing that there will be a Yankee sugar daddy there 24/7. That may mean diplomacy. Or it may mean butchery. But it needs to be Israel's problem and Israel's alone.

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  10. "...the morals and manners of a murderous thug."

    And let me say, for the record, that much of history has been made by people with the same morals and the same manners.

    But it is for those people to sing the praises of their goodness and piety as they butcher: "slay them all; God will recognize his own.", remember?

    I have no problem with people and nations thugging it up, if that's what it takes for them to survive. But if the're not MY nation, the only reason I have to back their butchery is if it's in my and my nation's best interests. This is not, for the reasons I explained above.

    Those of us who have no stake in their survival should be clear-eyed about what they are and what they do. Romanticizing Israel - or Palestine - does no favors for anyone not Israeli or Palestinian.

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  11. Sven said:
    "Remember, patience with the Serbs ran out when Serb militia killed about 40 people on a marketplace in Sarajevo."

    Yes, emotionalism can cloud people's judgment for sure. But cynicism is worse. Perhaps you should look at the facts. The Market bombing was a lie from the word go and the UN, EU and particularly Madelaine Halfbright/Richard Butler, all knew it was a lie... but a convenient one. In this case the EU was taking an ass fucking from a few million serbs, so the big lie was OK. That's why Euro whining about the US lies used for the invasion of Iraq are laughable and the idea of "Western Norms" is even funnier. It's more like hiding under the covers and shouting at the moon. What happened in the Balkans was classic Euro Cynicism and likely the last chance the US had to avoid the trap of tangling alliances. Who would have guessed that NATO would be used as an offensive tool? Me, for one.

    http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/bosnia2.htm
    " The "innocent victim" ploy tugs on the world's heartstrings the most effectively. Gut-wrenching pictures of guiltless dead children who moments before being gunned down by cowardly snipers were playing in safe vacant lots, noncombatants (women and elders) shot for merely crossing the street, people weaving between anti-sniper shields, sand bags, and protective UN vehicles merely to buy a loaf of bread. And, of course, most dastardly of all, the two mortar attacks in Sarajevo's Markale Market Square on February 5, 1994 and August 28, 1995. These attacks snuffed the lives of 68 and 37 unsuspecting people, respectively, and served as the catalyst for NATO retribution from the air in both cases. However, who must shoulder the responsibility for the mean streets of Sarajevo? Both the mortar attacks and the sniping incidents require closer examination.

    In an investigative report published in the October 2, 1995 edition of The Nation, David Binder penned a most fascinating and thorough summary of the inconsistencies associated with these two mortar attacks. While stating that the UN "sticks by the conclusions of its inquiry" and blames the Serbs - at least in the second incident - the author nevertheless persuasively enumerated the factors which indicated that the BSA was not responsible.

    Binder also notes support for his arguments from some American and Canadian specialists as well as (Russian) Colonel Andrei Demurenko, the Chief of Staff of the Sector Sarajevo peacekeeping unit. (According to an article in The Sunday Times (London), British and French crater analysis teams supported these same conclusions but were overruled by the UN.) No need exists to rehash all of his convincing arguments here, but primarily, they include suspicions about the firing distance, "anomalies with the (mortar) fuse," fields of observation, and trajectory difficulties.7

    If the facts force us to confront the issue that the Muslims may have conducted these operations to obtain additional sympathy and publicity for their cause, those who know Sarajevo intimately must ask the next logical question. Given the proximity of the Markale Market Square to the Presidency (Bosniac White House), who granted permission to launch these brutal and insane attacks? Surely, it almost had to have been President Alija Izetbegovic or Vice President Ejup Ganic. Both incidents deserve a thorough investigation by the International War Crimes Tribunal."



    I have respect for Israel and none for other Arabs states save the UAE, which is mostly concerned with the well being of its citizens. To put it more simply, dealing with Israel, and not supporting them, is possible. The only option with the Palis is to feed, cloth and get stuck in the eye for your trouble.

    Israel is more then capable of supporting themselves and it's interesting to note that the US tried to buy peace After Yom Kippur in 73 by giving both the Egyptians and Israel $10 billion a year. Both countries in terms of combat power were stronger at the end of 1973 than today. As Martin Van Creveld has constantly pointed out, US aid to Israel actually makes them weaker and less decisive. Cut them off for their own good and leave them to it. I have no desire to interfere in behalf of Israel or stop them from doing the Palis good. I'm willing to let it settle, just like it has with Hezballah... which btw FDC, also doesn't have an industrial base.

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  12. I agree that the IDF is apparently not even close to what it was in 1973 (and even then it wasn't as good as the reputation it gained) - it became very different as early as the late 80's.

    It's however close to impossible for a country of only eight million people to resist four hundred millions for a long time without foreign aid.
    The economic challenge is even worse than the forty years of near-total war economy of the USSR. Such a nation would end up spending its resources on the military instead of on investment. That does either lead to a slow economic erosion or (if foreign money is used to finance investment) in a terrible trade balance deficit and eroding credit worthiness/eroding currency.

    They are dependent on foreign support - and that's why they should better learn to focus on foreign relations as their grand strategy.

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