Tuesday, December 30, 2008


"Under Frederick the Great, Prussia had begun to assume a place among the major powers, although her size and population were barely a quarter as large as that of the others. Frederick's fame as a general, the wisdom and economy of his administration, and the strength and skill of his army were the tools with which he operated. Nevertheless, shrewd and skillful policies were required to maintain this artificially elevated position....But fishing in troubled waters is a dangerous business, which must be combined with great strength and firmness of purpose; for unless others fear us they will never allow themselves to be outwitted with impunity. Prussia's psychological ascendency gradually disappeared after Frederick's death, until in the end nothing was left but the prestige of an army that excelled in all military virtues".

Carl von Clausewitz, "Observations on Prussia in Her Great Catastrophe," (1823-1825).

"Bonaparte wanted to conduct and conclude the war in Russia as he had conducted and concluded all of his campaigns. To begin with decisive blows and to employ the advantages he gained from them to achieve further decisive battles, always placing his winnings on the next card until the bank was broken---that was his way, and it must be said that he owed the tremendous success that he had achieved only to this way; his degree of success was scarcely conceivable by any othe means".
Carl von Clausewitz, "The Campaign of 1812 in Russia," (1823-1825).

"The need for realism in assessing the ability to use airpower. At a tactical level, Israel placed reliance on air power that cannot be compared to the way the US has used air power in the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, but which repeated many of the miscalculations about the ability of strategic bombing to achieve decisive political and military effects that characterized at least some of the strategic air and interdiction campaign in the Gulf War in 2001. These limits to airpower are as old as, Douhet but they are lessons that military forces seem to have to constant relearn. There are other lessons more unique to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict that may serve as a warning of the shape of things come in Afghanistan and Iraq, or in future conflicts. One was how ineffective most IAF close air support sorties were in dealing with a Hezbollah that could take advantage of tunnels, sheltered buildings, and well-prepared concealment".

Anthony Cordesman, "The Lessons of the Israel-Hezbollah War: A briefing," 12 March 2008 in www.csis.org

"C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute."

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord attributed comment on Bonaparte's murder of the Duc d'Enghien in 1804.

The Israeli strike on the Hamas-ruled enclave of Gaza has entered its fourth day as I write these words. According to reuters close to 400 are known to have been killed in this military offensive(see: "Israel presses on with Gaza attacks," in www.uk.reuters.com). Many if not necessarily most of the dead probably civilians. And, while 400 killed, is an evil by any means, particularly during the current season of the year, betwixt Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany, it is not say the second coming of say the siege of Petersburg [Leningrad] or the firebombing of Toyko during the Second World War. And, of course in all honesty I myself personally have no love lost for the leadership of Hamas: they are unfortunately like most Islamicist political groupings in the Near and Middle East, made up for the most part of ignorant and stupid fanatics. Collectively they have all earned many a year in the salt mines of antiquity. Unfortunately, we are not in antiquity, hence we cannot collectively banish them, the way that the Romans banished the Jews from Palestine after the Second Jewish Rebellion in the 133-135 Anno Domini...

With that being understood one hopes, by my more intelligent readers. We come down not to questions of partiality for one particular nationality or the other (viz, the fact that I prefer on a personal level Jews to Arabs is irrelevent for this exercise), but merely a utilitarian question: will Israel's current tactics (I refuse to dignify them by characterizing them as a 'strategy') gain her what she wants: id est., the political destruction or silencing of Hamas as well as the shutting down of rocket attacks on Southern Israel from Gaza? Unfortunately from what I can see at this time, and, without claiming to be privy to all of the potential moves in the Israeli playbook, there does not appear to be much chance that the current Israeli operations, no matter how skillfully conducted will gain her what she claims to want. As I pointed out in my last entry, unless Israel is willing to completely level and depopulate the entirety of the Gaza Strip, there will always be places that Hamas operatives will be able to hold out and use as shields in order to launch rocket attacks onto Israel proper. Thankfully, Tel Aviv, shows no signs of any willingness to employ such tactics. Which means that we are back to the very same air-based strategy that worked so badly in the Lebanon back in 2006. As the American military specialist Anthony Cordesman has noted:

"There are other lessons more unique to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict that may serve as a warning of the shape of things come in Afghanistan and Iraq, or in future conflicts. One was how ineffective most IAF close air support sorties were in dealing with a Hezbollah that could take advantage of tunnels, sheltered buildings, and well-prepared concealment".

I might perhaps be wrong, but as far as I am aware of, the IDF has not demonstrated any new tactics to deal with the same problem which it will no doubt encounter in the Gaza Strip in the coming days. Which again brings us back to the same dilemma that Tel Aviv faced in the Lebanon War of 2006: that while by far the greatest native military power in the Levant and probably in the region as a whole, Israel appears incapable of adapting its military power to uses which enable it to derive solid political gains from its victories (on Israel's military strength as compared to say its closest rival, Syria, see: "The Israeli-Syrian conventional military balance," in www.csis.org) . Instead steadily since the first Lebanon War (1982-1984), Tel Aviv seems afflicted with a sort of military Bonapartism, in which it assumes that mere military force and success of the same, will afford itself political successes. Unfortunately, if the same did not work for Bonaparte in Russia circa 1812 and Spain in 1809, there is scant chance that it will work in the contemporary Near East. The upshot is that I am afraid that however 'successful' the Israeli military campaign can be said to be, it will not produce the political results that its authors so dearly want. Id est., in the absence of victory it will produce defeat. A political defeat which will not only second its defeat in the Lebanon War of 2006, but, by virtue of it being a second defeat, top it. Which it will also have the result of dragging into this political mire, not only Tel Aviv, but, the current regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as well as of course the USA. Do we really want and need all this?


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