Sunday, December 28, 2008

Israel: War Crime as the Only "Winning" Strategy. It's tempting to view Israel as starting a Friedmanesque war to make Hamas "Suck. On. This." But the Israelis aren't quite as stupid as American warmongers.

At least not yet.

Instead, the Israelis have a two point preference schedule in relation to Hamas. What Israel most prefers is to intimidate Hamas into acting as an agent of the Israeli government in the Gaza strip. That's what they think they have with Abbas and Fatah on the West Bank. But, the Israelis have not been able to accomplish this goal with Hamas. As a result, the Israelis moved to Plan B and have decided to attack Gaza with the dual aim of taking out the Hamas government infrastructure and collectively punishing the Palestinian population for its support of Hamas.

As Glenn Greenwald emphasizes, collective punishment is a war crime.

I don't see how the Israelis can succeed with this. It's easy to bomb government buildings, kill militants, and target prominent activists. If the Israelis launch a ground offensive, they'll probably capture a significant percentage of the Hamas leadership.

But so what? What's most likely to happen is that the Israelis will launch a ground assault that will destroy part of the Hamas political infrastructure with the rest of Hamas reasserting control as the Palestinians dig out of the rubble.

That can only be called victory if Israel acknowledges that the collective punishment of knocking out the government infrastructure, destroying the economy, and killing a lot of civilians was the main goal of the attack. In this sense, the Israelis might claim that they want to keep the Palestinians digging out of the rubble as a way to distract them from attacking Israel.

Call that the Grozny approach.

But if that's the case, the Israelis are just war criminals in the same way that the U. S. has been engaged in on-going war crimes in Iraq.

But it's still likely to be counter-productive. Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns, and Money (and the Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky) argues that Hamas sought to trigger the Israeli attacks as a way for them to take over the West Bank from Fatah.

There's also the possibility that the Israelis could get bogged down in Gaza City the same way that they got bogged down in Lebanon during the 2006 war.

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