Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Israel is Our House (or "ישראל ביתנו')

Deeming the day of elections a better day for fun than the day after, Sara and I travelled to Haifa yesterday to have a bar-b-que with the Rubin and Kellner families. Indeed, one does not always know what to do with the day-after-election parties and many of those having day-after parties today are not those who expected to have them yesterday. Qadima, whose representative on Channel 2 claimed minutes before the polls closed that they were expecting to win all of the seats in the Knesset, fell 132 seats short of their goal. Shas, whose formal position appears to be to be bought off by anyone, is the number three party and has already been bought off by Qadima. A close fourth was a party that advertised almost exclusively in Russian and Israel's association of retired persons took as many seats as both Arab parties combined.

What will the future hold? More pullouts as Qadima and Labor bind together. Possibly fewer suicide attacks within Israel proper, but probably more Kassam and other attacks.

There is, however, a change on a larger scale that ocurred in this election. None of the leaders of the five major parties were generals or even high ranking officers in the Israeli army. If these people can put together a government, we will a see a significantly different form of regime. Whether non-military leadership will improve the country beyond what Sharon has already done remains to be seen.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bibi, melech Yisrael... rather sar otzar Yisrael... ah, the good 'ol days.

Sigh--the communists have once again taken over the country. I guess it is to hell in the proverbial handbasket-of-redistributed-wealth, again.

Friday, March 24, 2006

...and you flank from the left

So oddly enough I agree with Youssef Massad. I am ashamed to admit it, but I do. I would probably not go so far as to say that "[The US] has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel." But I would probably support his intuition, that Israel falls roughly along the U.S.'s greater foreign policy trajectory.

I guess politics makes strange bed fellows. Kinda like David Duke and John Mearsheimer ;)

Update: And apparently I am not alone (see "Strange Bedfellows").

Is it at all possible that this article was written in light of my post (as I sit here and scratch my head)?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I have received requests to express my opinion on the recent Walt-Mearsheimer paper. In short, I was hoping to find an incisive debate over the merits of strategic alliances with Israel. Instead I found that the paper glossed over the interesting aspects (devoting a pallid 2.5 pages to the "moral" component of America's support of Israel) and only ten pages in explains that the only possible reason for U.S. support must be the Israel Lobby. In the context of the article the Lobby is both loosely defined to include AIPAC, The Middle East Forum, Jews in the media, neo-Conservative scholars (who to Prof. Mearsheimer's dismay are not realists) and other ranking diplomats such as Dennis Ross. At other points it seems clear that the Lobby refers to AIPAC specifically. This everywhere-nowhere distinction is problematic to my mind because it allows for the creation of a duality in which both everyone is implicated, but yet still affords room for an Illuminati, which sits at the command center.

The article does not allow for the possibility that the Israel Lobby is compelling on its own accord. It is possible after all to have a wrong (to the minds of Walt and Mearsheimer) argument but still be convincing. The paper seems to only alot for the possibility of undue influence, but does not seriously engage the strategic arguments that the neo-Con school articulates (not to mention non-neo-Con elements of the Israel Lobby, such as Peace Now). And how "letter writing campaigns" constitute undue influence, let alone a serious mention in an article concerning lobbies, seems absurd.

I will leave it here, but I found this piece ("Duke 1, Harvard 0") helpful to point out the factual disagreements various some scholars have with the Walt-Mearsheimer piece.

Additional Thought: I just wanted to mention how I suprized I was that Mearsheimer coauthored this paper. He sits on the International Board of a Bar-Ilan think tank and, though not to his knowledge, got me my position with the JCPA. So I don't know if one could call him anti-Israel, per se.

Great Quote: "We went out of our way to say that the lobby is simply engaging in interest group politics, which is as American as apple pie." -J. Mearsheimer

I think that helps probe what is going through his head.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I hate Mishloach Manos

This should come as no surprise to those who know I refuse to give gifts even to my wife. People put a great deal of time and money into giving others foodstuffs that the others generally would not have gotten of their own accord. In theory, this might make sense for those on the receiving end except that purim culture generally demands a roughly equivalent exchange. In general most everybody ends up with food they value much less than the time and money they put into it.

I think that the manner in which this mitzvah is carried out is generally attributable to women. This is not to say that men have not made their own unique contributions to Purim culture. The drunken stupor, for instance is primarily a male contribution. As is their nature, women have forced men to participate in their time consuming prettied up candy exchange. Men, on the other hand, do not demand that women join them in drunken stupor.

I am mindful of the halachik mandate and have always complied. In Purims past, I would give to my beloved brother. (With his back to me, I whip an apple at the back of his head. Just as he turns towards me in a rage, I hammer him between the eyes with a can of pop. Good times. Good times.) For the most part I have maintained my minimal compliance. This year, Rachel forced me to give mishloach manos to the boys' teachers, but other than them, I gave to none. We did, however, assist the boys in preparing some Mishloach Manos for some relatives. I worry that in the future we may join this silly game so our children do not feel shame.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thoughts on a Sub-Conventional War

I heard Moshe (Boogie) Ya'alon speak tonight. It was mildly interesting, but as I remarked to a peer, "You Israelis make it sound so easy. Go in, kill a few Hamasniks, demolish a few houses, ve zehu." I find Israeli political intellectuals to be heavily tactical in their thinking (because of the overwhelming military culture in Israel) and very much unable to create theoretical models. But that is neither here nor there...

Ya'alon did say something which sparked my interest, however. He remarked that since '73 Israel has not fought a conventional war (and besides Iraq I, has anyone really?). It spurred me to realize that conventional war is a struggle of territory. You force the other side to say uncle by taking his land, and encroaching upon his capital. Although the Risk analogy is not perfect, it is simple. Present armed conflict, in what Ya'alon termed "sub-conventional," revolves around identity, forcing the de facto creation of Us-land and You-land. A pocket of resistance will emerge in order to define itself against its surrounding political entity (I thought better than to use the word "power").

It is in precisely this way that Israel gets screwed. In '67 Israel was like, "Ha! We won a war and captured land!" But it is in this exact period that the paradigm of military struggle shifts. Whereas in the 19th century wars to annex territory were common, I do not recall much literature about resistance fighting amongst the locals. Regions of Poland, for example, regularly moved between a variety of powers with little opposition from the locals--in this model the "two stages" of war (conquest and occupation) are one. However, beginning around 1967 these two aspects become separated. It thus becomes almost antiquated to speak of a war to annex land; if the residents of land you seize feel like creating Us-land, you are again embroiled in conflict. Since the strategy of engagement becomes completely altered, you taking the land and holding the territory become two completely different episodes.

This explains rather nicely why it is that massive military powers seem to have so many problems these days--they essentially think that the conflict of old (land war) is the same as the new war (land hold). Thus military scholars write of the well-planned Iraqi invasion, and point to the poorly executed occupation period. That is precisely wrong, however (according to Ya'alon and what I present here). The two events are not stages at all but completely separate endeavors. Thinking in these terms allows for a much better grasp of the intransigence of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as well as numerous other anti-insurgency campaigns.