Monday, April 06, 2009

Happy anniversary maybe

A week late the New York Times has a Memo from Cairo, For Egypt, Promise of 1979 Peace Still Unfulfilled. Of course the article is mostly reported through the prism of how little Egypt has gained from the Camp David Accords.

But mention of the anniversary also served as a reminder of promises unfulfilled. Egyptians were told that the treaty would lead to a comprehensive peace, and it did not. They were told that it would allow the government to focus on political, social and economic development, instead of war. But they still live in an authoritarian state, defined for many by poverty.

Egyptians were told that the treaty would give them a voice to advocate for the Palestinians. But few see it as having turned out that way.

That Egypt regained all the territory it lost during the Six Day War is acknowledged, but almost as a footnote. (Israel Matzav noted that Egypt viewed the regaining of the territory the main reason for the treaty.)

The most interesting aspect of the report is that the reporter notes the generational difference in attitudes towards the treaty with Israel - older people generally support it; younger people don't.

Still no effort is made to show how the official attitudes towards Israel shape the popular views. It would appear that the "cold peace" is the result of official hostility towards Israel. Which begs the question, what exactly does the United States benefit from the billions of dollars it's invested in Egypt over the past thirty years?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

Fodder for the Internationals: Home destruction is legal

Oh, this ruling is going to get the ISM peace creeps into a tizzy.

The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court denied a restitution claim filed by the family of the suicide bomber who carried out the 2001 attack on the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem.

The family demanded monetary compensation from the State for razing their house, in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Izz al-Din Shuheil al-Masri blew himself up in the middle of the Sbarro restaurant on August 9, 2001. The deadly attack, which included a 70kilogram (15-pound) explosives belt rigged with nails, nuts and bolts, claimed the lives of 15 people, including seven children, and left 130 wounded.

Judge Yoel Tsur, presiding over the hearing, ruled Monday that razing and sealing off of terrorists' homes was a legal act of war. Tsur cited a Supreme Court ruling stating that such an act could be used as a measure of deterrence and that it complies with international law.
And I don't really care. You know what this case really proves? How well the security fence is working. Attacks like the Sbarro bombings used to come at the rate, sometimes, of two a day. Children were being ripped apart by metal shrapnel on a regular basis.

Now, Hamas and its terrorist brethren have no other way to murder children than to do it with weapons that can't kill and wound 145 people at one blow. Not that that stops them from targeting children.

The fence is working.

What lessons does the Israel-Hezbollah war hold for the United States?

According to the Washington Post the U.S. Army is looking at the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah to determine how the United States should focus its own armed forces:

Since then, the Defense Department has dispatched as many as a dozen teams to interview Israeli officers who fought against Hezbollah. The Army and Marine Corps have sponsored a series of multimillion-dollar war games to test how U.S. forces might fare against a similar foe. "I've organized five major games in the last two years, and all of them have focused on Hezbollah," said Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico.

A big reason that the 34-day war is drawing such fevered attention is that it highlights a rift among military leaders: Some want to change the U.S. military so that it is better prepared for wars like the ones it is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, while others worry that such a shift would leave the United States vulnerable to a more conventional foe.

I thought that the American experiences in Iraq have taught the importance of counter-insurgency operations. But are these two approaches mutually exclusive?

Interestingly, the article doesn't mention anything about the role of the media in the war. Nor does it mention if the American military has contacted Gen. Yaacov Amidror, (.pdf) who seems to take a contrary position to the assumptions mentioned in the report.

The adoption of two erroneous assumptions – that terror is more determined and
resilient than the democratic state and that victory is always a matter of the mind and
not a product of coercive physical measures – has induced many to believe that there is
no military method to cope with terror in order to vanquish it. These kinds of assertions
have become more common in much of the discourse concerning Israel’s war with
Hizbullah in 2006 and the war of the U.S.-led coalition against insurgent forces in Iraq.
History – even the history of the State of Israel – proves that this contention is seriously

As Daniel Pipes explains:
Victory over insurgencies is possible, Amidror argues, but they do not come easily. Unlike the emphasis on size of forces and arsenals in traditional wars, he postulates four conditions of a mostly political nature required to defeat insurgencies. Two of them concern the state, where the national leadership must:

* Understand and accept the political and public relations challenge involved in battling insurgents.
* Appreciate the vital role of intelligence, invest in it, and require the military to use it effectively.

Another two conditions concern counterterrorist operations, which must:

* Isolate terrorists from the non-terrorist civilian population.
* Control and isolate the territories where terrorists live and fight.

If these guidelines are successfully followed, the result will not be a signing ceremony and a victory parade but something more subtle – what Amidror calls "sufficient victory" but I would call "sufficient control." By this, he means a result "that does not produce many years of tranquility, but rather achieves only a ‘repressed quiet,' requiring the investment of continuous effort to preserve it."

Politically this can be difficult. So the question remains if Western powers have the capacity to maintain a military force sufficient to control an insurgency indefinitely. But declaring a war over after a month clearly will leave the conventional force "defeated." Clearly, even according to Gen. Amidror, perceptions are important.

If they are, the Post's story unfortunately reinforces a rather inaccurate perception.
Another question is whether the U.S. military is taking the proper lessons from the Israel-Hezbollah war. Its studies have focused almost exclusively on the battle in southern Lebanon and ignored Hezbollah's ongoing role in Lebanese society as a political party and humanitarian aid group. After the battle, Hezbollah forces moved in quickly with aid and reconstruction assistance.

But as Barry Rubin points out, portraying Hezbollah as a benign political party only tells part of the story:

Yes, Hizballah is a political party but that’s where the similarity to the Labour or Conservative parties ends. The name gives it way. At least historically, the Labour party is supposed to represent workers; the Conservative party those who are either better-off or favor the historical status quo more. But Hizballah means, in Arabic, literally, the Party of God. That’s who they represent, or think they do, and their purported constituent is a bit harder to please than the trade unions and the local gentry or greengrocers.
And the Hizballah parliamentary delegation is called the Loyalty to the Resistance group. Resistance has become the codeword for the Iran-Syria-Hizballah-Hamas-Iraqi insurgent (a nice word for terrorist) bloc which seeks to promote Islamist revolution throughout the Middle East. What are they resisting? Peace and moderation. Who are they resisting? America, Israel and the West. How are they resisting? Assassinations, car-bombs, kidnappings, and suicide attacks are high on the list of favored tactics.
Of course, Hizballah like other revolutionary Islamists has social welfare programs. But the purpose of these is to build its mass base so it can seize power, and then to do all the things it wants to do .

Again, perceptions are important. Hezbollah's roles can't be ignored, but neither should they be whitewashed, which is what the reporter seems to be doing.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.

Why does the NYT publish op-eds about news stories that have already been debunked?

Phillip Weiss is concerned that the New York Times is not sufficiently anti-Israel and asks:

Why does the 'Times' only let Arabs criticize Israel?

He elucidates his point:
The reader sees Bisharat and says, Well, he would feel that way, he's Arab, and it's an ancient feud. But there are many non-Arabs who would gladly lift a pen against the oppression done in our name.

I'm sorry but has he ever read Roger Cohen or Nicholas Kristof? Or the editors of the Times? Nor should he forget that one of the most prominent anti-Israel columnists over the years was Anthony Lewis.

The op-ed in question was by one George Bisharat who cited the recently debunked charges that Israeli soldiers had engaged in war crimes. (via memeorandum) They weren't just debunked, but Ethan Bronner the Israel correspondent of the Times reported on the debunking! As Noah Pollak notes:
Except that there never was any "chilling testimony" -- there were rumors circulated by an anti-IDF activist, which were breathlessly republished by Haaretz and its American counterpart, the Times. His opening claim does, however, set an appropriately mendacious tone for the rest of the piece. Bisharat says that Israel committed six separate violations of international law during Operation Cast Lead, and the first one he cites lays the foundation for the five that follow:

Pollak also effectively refutes Bisharat's other arguments.

According to Legal Insurrection, it appears that Bisharat has a habit of manufacturing history. (h/t Israel Matzav.)

But why did the NY Times run an op-ed after one of its principal points had been refuted by its own reporting? Was running an anti-Israel op-ed that important?

Crossposted at Soccer Dad.

Slow day in the office, Mr Levy?

We, the bloggers, can allow ourselves to write (or not to write) about whatever tickles our fancy on any given day. There is no carrot at the end of the road, no fixed hours and, aside of a very few followers, no captive audience. Only other bloggers that drop by from time to time to commiserate.

It's completely different with journalists. There are schedules, editors, readers, the salary day, the presses, the stresses, the... whatever, you get the drift. So what do you do when you* are a Gideon Levy of Haaretz doubtful fame, there is a slow day in the office and, besides, due to your total lack of charm and tact, general anti-establishment tendencies and a poisoned pen, no one tells you anything for quite a long time?

Well, what you do is sit down, stir your accumulated bile and poison with your trusty pen and produce a masterpiece on a subject you don't know anything about, don't have any opinion of, but, as usual, are loath to confess to these two drawbacks. A result: a totally empty of contents and disconnected page in Haaretz titled Was Israel's reported strike in Sudan an exercise in propaganda?.

I can save my readers the need to read the article, by quoting the only two factual sentences in it:
Nobody [read Gideon Levy] knows for sure what was bombed, how much and why. Sudan, after all, is far away.
Everything else is... how to define it? No, not hearsay, Mr Levy doesn't even attempt to add some invented titillating details to his piece. Just a jamboree of bile, poison and condescending, so typical for a pathetic hack on a slow day.

(*) I don't mean you, my dear reader. Far be it from me to compare a normal human being with Gideon Levy of Haaretz. No, really...

P.S. Fresh from the press - an example of better things to do and how to do it: Urinating dog triggered argument resulting in 3 officers' deaths. See, Mr Levy, a much more respectable way for you to earn your shekels.

Cross-posted on SimplyJews