Vae Victus

Classical Musings on a Modern World - Politics, Military Analysis, Dog Training, and More

Location: Chicago, IL

I am a consultant from chicago where I live with my wife, our dog, and two cats

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today's post concerns the recent Israeli retreat from Gaza. While this has been a hotly debated move by Sharon, it reflects, in my opinion, a positive view of Bush and the War on Terror. What I mean by that statement is that Sharon would never have pulled back from the Gaza if he did not think that the US was making progress in the WOT and if he did not trust Bush to support him if (and when) the Palestinian attempt to push the envelope.

Tactically, this move has several near term implications. One, it moves the Israeli defense back to a maintainable, realistic front outside of the Gaza, instead of attempting to maintain defenses amidst an overpowering Palestinian population majority. This seems consistent with Sharon's move toward a separation of the Palestinian and the Israeli people.

However, on the down side, it does give the Palestinians new routes for the importation of guns and weapons. Yet, I counter that the Palestinians already have ample access to guns and weapons - not to mention more than ample funding from their supporters in the Middle East and in Europe.

Overall, I think the tactical results are somewhat mixed and, in my mind, a wash.

The strategic changes because of this move are what I find to be significant. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not one that lives in a vacuum, nor is it one that can be solved solely by the two parties concerned. Instead, it has become an international conflict - due to financial support for the Palestinians and for Palestinian terror coming from other states in the Middle East (and indirectly from European sources and even the UN), and due to the US's longstanding involvement in the conflict.

So, the strategic implications of the retreat from Gaza are ones that will have international implications, and Sharon's long term goal from this move is international, not local. The Israelis will never be able to end the conflict without first ending the international support for the Palestinians - international support that is less concerned with a Palestinian state and more concerned with the end of Israel. Unlike Jordan which was quite comfortable with killing and driving the Palestinians out of their territory, the Israelis have never been able to support such atrocities. Instead, they have allowed themselves to be pushed into fighting a low-level guerrilla war throughout most of the past 20 years. Unless they decided to conduct the war differently (a political and ethical non-starter), they have to force the Palestinians to realize that they have to deal with Israel as a sovereign entity, and that they can no longer count on the international support for their terrorist endeavors.

Pulling out of Gaza is an important part of this effort. Europe, despite their tepid support for the WOT, is starting to come to terms with the fact that they have a serious problem within their borders. The bombings in London and Spain along with the murder of the director in Holland are graphic reminders of the type of terrorism that they have supported in recent years - with the hope that the terror would be conducted elsewhere. Even France and Germany are starting to work to crack down on the radicals within their borders.

Leaving Gaza to the Palestinians means that the Palestinians get a de facto state of their own. It will be up to them to prove whether or not they can govern in a peaceful, constructive manner. If they do so, then the Sharon's move will have paid off. He will have a separate, but peaceful Palestinian state next door to Israel. That, however, is an unlikely outcome. Given the level of influence that Hamas has on the Palestinian state, it is likely that they will war with the more peaceful elements in Palestine and maybe even with the more warlike elements in a power struggle to determine the fate. Almost inevitably, one or more of these groups will attempt to gain support through a large scale attack on Israel.

If and when this happens, Sharon will have placed himself in a political position to take more drastic attempts to defeat Hamas (or any other leaders that threaten Israel). If it is a war involving other states, I imagine that Israel would be reluctantly happy as they would likely make short work of any force the Syrians or Egyptians would bring to such a war - however unlikely it is for the Egyptians to jeopardize their US funding by such a foolish move.

This is dependent upon the Europeans staying out of the conflict when it is clear that it was precipitated by the Palestinians. The US could in such circumstances give silent aid and support as well. All the situation does for Israel is give them sufficient political cover to do what needs to be done.

Why are the circumstances ripe for this sort of move? First, it is important to Sharon that someone like Bush is President. A weaker leader in the US, or one less committed to the WOT would have made it untenable for Sharon to risk such a move. Instead of retaliation for attacks, Sharon would have been pushed to accept more resolutions and more talks serving only to embolden the Palestinian aggressions.

Second, the very success of the WOT has made the retreat from Gaza possible. Saudi Arabia has been moving swiftly and harshly to crack down on terrorists in their country, while that hasn't shown a confirmed lowering of support and funding for the Palestinians, it can't help but take its toll over time. The overall success and improvement in Iraq - leading them down the path toward being an Islamic republic is another beneficial sign. Jordan and Egypt have both made moves to make themselves more open - and Egypt has even scheduled something of an open election for the coming year. I doubt that Egypt would consider such a move without the pressure of their people seeing that democracy can be implemented in the Middle east.

While this is a very complex situation and there are still great dangers in Israel's position, I see the current situation as an overall benefit to Israel, and as something indicating greater progress on the WOT than our media would have us believe.


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