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Gaza Again

Summary:
The useful content of this post on a topic where I have no expertise is this link to a Twitter thread by Gen Mark Hertling (retired) who has a whole lot of expertise and is also very smart and reasonable. The thread is brief. I suggest reading it. I also quote one tweet here: “There will be an IDF incursion. Hamas will prove better than many expect in repelling the IDF advance. Unfortunately, I also believe the fight will last a long time, will result in thousands of casualties, and neither side will achieve their strategic objectives. 8/” I read it as implicitly asserting that “there should not be an IDF incursion, but there will be one”. I can’t help adding my non expert thoughts (those with things can do can ignore the rest of this post

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The useful content of this post on a topic where I have no expertise is this link to a Twitter thread by Gen Mark Hertling (retired) who has a whole lot of expertise and is also very smart and reasonable. The thread is brief. I suggest reading it.

I also quote one tweet here: “There will be an IDF incursion. Hamas will prove better than many expect in repelling the IDF advance. Unfortunately, I also believe the fight will last a long time, will result in thousands of casualties, and neither side will achieve their strategic objectives. 8/”

I read it as implicitly asserting that “there should not be an IDF incursion, but there will be one”. I can’t help adding my non expert thoughts (those with things can do can ignore the rest of this post and just click the link).

First I am quite sure that an IDF incursion will be strategic mistake. It will also cause the deaths of many civilians. My claim is that, even if one did not care about Palestinians civilians and cared only about Israel and Israelis one should oppose an incursion. Also arguments in opposition will be rejected, and there will be an incursion.

Briefly Israel will not achieve its strategic objectives, because they can’t be achieved with military force. The stated aim is to eliminate Hamas. Israel could destroy all Hamas infrastructure (tunnels and rockets and such). I think the costs in IDF lives would be greater than in any previous war, but they can. Then they seem to plan to leave a power vacuum (they definitely do not plan to occupy Gaza). The Hamas will rebuild. Hamas terrorists can present themselves as civilians (it’s what terrorists often do). It is clear that suffering imposed by Israel has not deterred and there is no reason to think a whole lot more will deter. It is potential costly to tie up the IDF while also provoking Hezbollah which is estimated to have 150,000 missiles and rockets.

I am pretty sure that the Biden administration is convinced of this. They are trying to convince Israel to delay the incursion . I’m pretty sure that the wish (which is not a plan) is that it be delayed forever,

I think that friends of Israel who the current Israeli government trusts (assuming there are any) have to argue for a brief focused incursion (I think no incursion at all is the best policy, so what, there is no reason for anyone to listen to me, and Israel is publicly committed to an incursion).

I think the argument has to be made by retired generals (Hertling et al) and based on US experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. I think the key point (which can be proven with evidence) is that we did not achieve are aims without local allies (the Iraqi army, the sons of Iraq, the Syrian Democratic Forces). Invading and creating a power vacuum turned out not to be such a good idea.

An armed group (Taliban, Hamas) can be totally defeated militarily and then retake power.

OK one other lesson is that local allies who are corrupt crooks like the Afghan government are worthless. This is relevant to an evaluation of my earlier proposal to work with the Palestinian National Authority, but really — who else ?

Another lesson is that one can get a whole lot done with a small amount of money. The Taliban were originally defeated by Afghans getting on the side that’s winning and not by US or UK ground forces. The Iraqi Sunni/ISIS insurgency was defeated by paying the Iraqi Sunni’s to switch sides (pure appeasement – tribute to guerrilla* fighters — and it worked).

Here I think the enemies of Hamas (who are many) should start by sending aid handled (and guarded) by groups hostile to Hamas and not identified with Israel. Hostile to Hamas implies not the ultra neutral organizations like the UNRWA, the Red Cross/Crescent, and Medicins Sans Frontiers. I say Egyptian army (not to occupy just to bring aid especially diesel).

This is, at best, a slow process, and Israeli’s are enraged (also frightened but not likely to admit it) and impatient. The approach of hitting anyone who hits Israel 10 times as hard in retaliation has failed. A new approach is needed, and trying to eliminate a terrorist organization with regular troops then a power vacuum makes no sense.

*I just had to use Google translate to find the English translation of the Italian word “guerriglia”. I should have guessed that we use the original Spanish word not the Italian translation of the originally Spanish word.

Robert Waldmann
Robert J. Waldmann is a Professor of Economics at Univeristy of Rome “Tor Vergata” and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Robert runs his personal blog and is an active contributor to Angrybear.

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