Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the bizarre logic of war

So the Israelis have spent allowing a 3-hour window every day for humanitarian convoys to come into the Gaza Strip. According to John Ging at UNRWA, some 90 trucks are entering the Strip as I write this. But if you think about it, this is kind of like saying: "OK, for the next 3 hours we'll let you stock up on water and fuel and supplies, lick your wounds... and then we'll keep trying to kill you."

At this point, the Israeli military offensive seems to have passed peak success, and further action will yield less military success, higher civilian casualties, and quagmire. According to various sources I've been reading this morning, over 90,000 Gazans have fled their homes. (At least 40,000 are hiding out in UN schools, says Ging.) Estimates put the death toll at close to a thousand, at least a third of whom are children. I think that when more children are dying than soldiers or fighters, the war has become pointless. (This is what ultimately happened with Israel's Lebanon offensive.)

In an ethnonationalist war of this sort, it is especially essential to define a specific, achievable military objective. Saying "we will bomb them until we win" is amazingly backward, as it just inflames nationalist passions on both sides and guarantees an escalation and eternal continuation of the conflict. This goes for Israel, which doesn't seem to understand how much popular support Hamas and Hezbollah gain during these wars, but it goes doubly for Hamas, whose completely futile rocket fire has instilled fear, completely crippled the possibility of Israeli withdrawal from its West Bank settlements, and allowed hardliners like Benjamin Netanyahu to become ascendant, hardliners who will have no qualms about crushing Palestinian resistance, collateral damage be damned.

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