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Getting Closer to Nowhere

By Matthew Yglesias

"Getting Closer to Nowhere"

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Ehud Olmert says that Israel is now “close” to achieving its goals in Gaza. Which is nice, except nobody’s ever been able to clarify what those goals are. As hard-core anti-semite Anthony Cordesman wrote the other day:

This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?

To blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent.

I got that via the Jew-hater James Fallows. Of course it may seem unseemly to some for so many American writers to be sitting here safely on the far side of the oceans second-guessing Israeli decision-makers. And I sympathize with that. But one has to recall that we’ve involved ourselves intimately with the situation through our aid money and our diplomatic support for Israel at the UN over the years. Under the circumstances we have no choice but to second-guess when these kinds of things happen.

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