2011/06/08

An example of outright dissonance in a security policy commentary

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An excerpt from a Foreign Policy magazine website article:

The Arabs readied to strike -- but Israel did not wait. "We will suffer many losses, but we have no other choice," explained IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin. The next morning, on June 5, Israeli jets and tanks launched a surprise attack against Egypt, destroying 204 of its planes in the first half-hour. By the end of the first morning of fighting, the Israeli Air Force had destroyed 286 of Egypt's 420 combat aircraft, 13 air bases, and 23 radar stations and anti-aircraft sites. It was the most successful single operation in aerial military history.

But, as feared, other Arab forces attacked. Enemy planes struck Israeli cities along the narrow waist, including Hadera, Netanya, Kfar Saba, and the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv; and thousands of artillery shells fired from the West Bank pummeled greater Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem. Ground forces, meanwhile, moved to encircle Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods as they did in 1948.

In six days, Israel repelled these incursions and established secure boundaries. It drove the Egyptians from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, and the Syrians, who had also opened fire, from the Golan Heights. Most significantly, Israel replaced the indefensible armistice lines by reuniting Jerusalem and capturing the West Bank from Jordan.
(my emphasis)


What do thee people to or with their brains? How does this work? Can it be avoided? How can someone sustain the cognitive dissonance of first describing in detail how something was done already and then proceed to assert it's impossible to do ... as if it was the most self-evident impossibility on earth.

How much gets the FP editor paid for being editor? Couldn't a taxi driver do the same job, possibly better? A working and awake person couldn't let such a contradiction in an article slip through, could it?


Proper and effective propaganda used to require a core of truth. Propaganda techniques seem to have advanced to a point where propaganda can float completely independent of truth and still be effective.


Propaganda is no good for policy. You better look at pro and contra with a rational, open mind. Propaganda and ideology are blinders.


S O
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10 comments:

  1. I agree with you on the somewhat unfortunate combination of wording.

    However, most people would argue that any situation that allows your densest population centres to be shelled easily--even if such a situation could be overcome with time--is hardly desirable, and even a 'victory' in such circumstances could result in substantial loss of civilian lives.

    Now, it's possible that technological advances have made this a moot point, but such would have to be demonstrated separately.

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  2. Sooo... Croatia may now annex much of Slovenia to protect Zagreb?
    Singapore can annex part of Malaysia to secure itself?
    Stalin's 1939 invasion of Finland was justified because it protected Leningrad?
    Uruguay is entitled to sink any ship in 100 km radius of Montevideo since that's now the range of naval gun shells?
    How do we decide whether Austria or Slovakia are entitled to grab land, their capitals being so close to teach other?
    Gambia may grab much of Senegal to secure its capital?


    If that's what "most people would argue" then propagandists have won.


    Meanwhile, there's reality, and reality simply states that there's no right to annex or occupy foreign soil to create a buffer zone. Instead, almost all states agreed on the UN Charter and the UN authorities clearly spelled out which borders are correct in the case of Israel.

    And yes, even dumb artillery ammunitions have now ranges of about 80 km.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9A52-4_Tornado
    Buffer zones against this would be outrageous. Everyone has to live with some degree of insecurity, and adults know that there's no perfect security in life.
    Some are born in more secure places, others in less ones - but nobody is entitled to improve his lot by harming others.

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  3. Really, SO, don't you know the IDF can do no wrong? ever?

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  4. You are now bringing up the question of legality or morality, which is not the focus of your original post. I'm not very well-versed in international law, etc., all I know is that lots of strange things happen in war, and what is considered 'legal' or not is often dependent on who was victorious.
    Feel free to add another post on this topic.

    Wrt technology, I already alluded to that in my previous comment. However, not every potential participant in a future conflict would have access to sophisticated weaponry. This is especially true for combatants of semi-official status as has happened in Gaza. Fighting off such combatants is much harder (from a political perspective) than a traditional war against 'official' opponents as any action against them invariably causes casualties of 'uninvolved' civilians, which is generally frowned upon.
    Apart from regular artillery barrages, these unofficial combatants are also involved in the occasional incursion into Israeli territory with subsequent murder.
    Denying them space to operate might actually improve defensibility. Obviously, if one were to agree on borders and then build settlements right up against them, such arguments would be untenable.

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  5. The idea that a state might have a right to occupy another state's territory in order to gain some buffer is not only legally and morally wrong; I also pointed out that it's impractical. The world would descend into many wars and permanent conflicts if that idea was accepted.


    The original post wasn't so much about the assertions of the article as about the blatant violation of logic.
    This dissonance is one of the core problems that surround Israel. There's a powerful myth about their borders that has been disproved by history decades ago.

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  6. You bring up good points, but in this case, nobody is advocating starting a new war.
    In this case, we're dealing with territory conquered in a previous war decades ago.
    If we were to reset all borders drawn as the result of wars of the previous century, Europe's cartographers would have years of work ahead of them.

    Post-war Germans understood the futility of trying to get back lost territory (the occasional loon notwithstanding).
    Acceptance of facts lets you get on with your life, push back the past, and focus on the future.

    Compared to its core territorial area, the relative amount of conquered territory that Israel has returned peacefully and without compensation is quite significant, and probably unmatched if you disregard colonial independence.
    The amounts we're talking about here are comparably tiny.

    I'm not saying there are no ulterior motives at work here. But that's a conversation for another day.

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  7. The occupation has never been recognised as constituting new borders, unlike most border changes due to warfare in the 20th century. The United Nations are still officially insisting on different (pre-67 war) borders.
    So this case is different.

    Israel's withdrawal from some conquered territories is hardly unmatched. The Sinai withdrawal was part of a peace treaty, comparable to the end of the German occupation of France in 1871 (which was much bigger), for example.

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  8. You are using a double standard in regards to Israel. You can argue all day long about whether it is moral, but that does not change the fact that "everyone does it."

    Germany is a perfect example. After its defeat it was occupied and divided in large part to prevent it from ever becoming a threat again. Even as late as 1980's people in the west (Marget Thatcher for example) were arguing against the reunification on the grounds that Germany would become too strong and be a threat again.

    Using your logic, one would argue that this fear was totally unnecessary because having defeated Germany once, the world could obviously do it again. And that very well may be true, but that is not how humans think after someone has attacked them.

    In other words, people tend to be very careful about what they give back to a formally hostile power.

    The basic problem here is that Israel was founded on very dubious grounds. You could say that its foundation was the last expression of western imperialism. But once you grant that Israel exists and it has all the same rights as any other nation, its reluctance to hand back certain pieces of real estate to hostile parties seems very rational to me.

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  9. The Israelis may prefer this or that, but the article author was attempting to convince an anglophone readership of FP that Israel's borders of 1967 are indefensible, which they weren't even at a time when Israel was on paper militarily inferior.

    The author is a propagandist who has managed to ignore the dissonance in his own article, and the editor has allowed this article to be published.

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  10. Besides; if there's a lesson from Germany, 1990 and World Wars, it's that being friends or at least cooperative with your neighbours is better than rivalry and perpetual conflict.

    Germany gave up its Eastern provinces in a 1991 treaty with Poland, recognizing the border and the fact that the territories are inhabited by Poles not Germans. Now we're allied in EU and NATO and the very idea of armed conflict between our countries isn't even material for a joke.

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