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News Gaza War Analysis

  1. Jan 6, 2009 #1


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    Though maybe I haven't looked very hard, I haven't seen much good analysis of what is going on there. What I read in the news tends to focus either on what is happening (fine for it's purpose), without analyzing what it all means.

    I realize threads like this tend to degenerate into who'se-fault-is-it battles that end up going nowhere, but what's going on there now is too important not to discuss. and I intend for this thread to be an analysis of the goals of each side and how their actions are helping/hurting those goals. I'll ask Evo to help clamp down on the tired who'se-fault-is-it thing. There is more to discuss that never gets discussed if it degenerates into that.

    There are two levels to warfare, strategic and tactical. Tactical is things like 'do I attack from the north or south and do I use the tanks or the artillery?' Strategic is 'how does this particular act help/hurt my overall goal?' In this particular conflict, ground level decisions have both tactical and strategic impacts: every little action is scrutinized.

    My main thesis here is two-fold:
    1. The two sides are both tightly managing the action due to the overlap between the tactical and strategic.
    2. Both sides are, for the most part, acting correctly insofar as their actions are properly calculated to further their goals.

    The strategic situation is very straightforward and is dominated by severl facts:

    1. The Israelis have control of some land.
    2. Hamas wants that land.
    3. Israel has vastly superior military capabilities.

    Because the Israelis have control of the land and Hamas does not have the means to extricate them, Israel is in the position of strength and their only strategic goal is peace that maintains as much of the status quo as possible. For Hamas, the statis quo is what they don't want, so they need to do whatever possible to continue hostilities. That's why the cease fire could not be renewed. And since Hamas does not have the capacity to attack Israel directly, poking at them until Israel strikes back is all they can really do. Then they have to work on generating international and domestic support for their cause.

    Now for the specifics of the current conflict...

    Hamas needs to provoke Israel and firing rockets, though they don't do much damage, do that very well. Also, by not doing much damage, they ensure any response by Israel is going to be "disproporionate". So these rocket attacks are exquisitely well calculated and coordinated: Despite some claims to the contrary, that Hamas is not in control; they are.

    Israel, as I said, would accept the status quo if there was no fighting, but since perhaps the most important function of government is to protect it's people, they must react or lose their mandate for governing. So they let the rocket attacks go as long as they could to ensure a clarity of who provoked who (in this particular case), then attacked with overwhealming force. Israel's goal is to force Hamas back into a truce - back to a peaceful status quo.

    As all invasions do, this one started with a heavy aerial bombardment. Perhaps if it had caused Hamas to back down, there would not have been an invasion, but Hamas cannot back down. Their strenghth comes from fanaticism combined with sympathy which, though contradictory, has kept them going for decades.

    Now that the war has started, neither side can back down lightly, as perception is critical to their strategic goals. Hamas, in particular, needs both foreign and domestic support and their actions are calculated to maximize the type of support they want. In 1990, Kuwait screamed for aid and played (appropriately) the role of the bullied little country. Hamas cannot do that because their power base depends on showing defiance. So they responded with "Gaza will be your cemetary". It is a very difficult game, but while they have lost-out in foreign support, they gain domestic support for fanaticism and terrorism via their strategic tactics. Hamas's tactics and their place in the strategy are then straightforward:

    1. They must continue the rocket attacks to show strenght. A cease-fire is a loss.
    2. As they are militarily outmatched, they must protect their fighters and avoid direct conflict at all costs. The best way to do that? Hide amongst civilians.
    3. Domestic fanaticism and international support require Israel to be viewed as villians. The best way to achieve that: by maximizing their own civilian casulaties.

    Yes, I am suggesting that they are purposely maximizing their own civilian casualties. High civilian casualties are critical to their strategic goal, and that goal dovetails nicely with goal #2. I won't get into it much, but their ideology also supports that type of tactic. And note what I said in my thesis: given their ideology, strategic goals, and the realities of the strategic situation, their tactics are correctly calculated to give them the best chance of success.

    Israel also is acting appropriately for their goals. They have gone to great lengths to limit civilian casulties (I won't accept argument about that: we discussed the facts in the other thread) but they must be able to attack Hamas, so they can't completely avoid civilian casualties. The best they can do is to limit them as much as possible while highlighting Hamas's tactics (such as with the school bombing incident today where Hamas was said to be using an occupied school as a fortress).

    Israel is also surrounding Gaza city but not (yet) going into it with ground forces. In addition to increasing civilian casualties, it'll also increase Israeli casualties, both of which Israel needs to avoid. I suspect that Israel is going to move slowly now - they may slow take over the city, but it will be a long fight if they do.

    Right now, they are kind of in a stalemate. They were in one before, with the cease-fire, but now they are in one more favorable to Hamas. So Hamas will want to maintain the current situation as long as they can. The more civilians die, the more fanaticism they can breed and more foreign support they will garner. The more Israeli soldiers die, the more tired of war the Israeli populace will become. Hamas now has a bargaining chip they did not have before the war - something they can use when the inevitable next cease-fire is negotiated. Long term, that's their best course of action - and lets face it, it's working. Israel is slowly giving more and more territory back and Hamas really hasn't ever given any permanent concessions. Israel gives permanent land, Hamas gives temporary peace, lather, rinse, repeat.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 6, 2009 #2
    Oh man Russ, I've been having a facebook war with my ME friends. You wont believe the amount of garabge out there.

    Now there up in arms about the fact that the school was hit, despite the fact that HAMAS was firing rockets inside the school first, using the children as human sheilds. But to them, LOOK AT THE ISRAELIS ATTACKING SCHOOL CHILDREN!

    They are eating this propoganda hook, line and sinker.
  4. Jan 6, 2009 #3


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    I mentioned that particular incident, but didn't say much because it is tough to verify what really happened. Both sides are acutely aware of the value of propaganda. I'm not saying Israel would purposely target a school - they certainly would not - but I'm also not going to trust them completely either. The other side - it does often seem they fall exactly in with the party line, despite a long and storied history of high end propaganda.

    ...but that is a little of a digression from my purpose here.
  5. Jan 6, 2009 #4
    There is a video of them shooting of Mortars from that very same UN school back in 07. Aint nothing new here.

    Dont under estimate the brand name loyalty people from the Middle East have for palestine. They will look for any excuse to blame israel. To them, they see "40 children dead". What they dont see is, "Hamas hiding among school children".
  6. Jan 6, 2009 #5


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    Didn't know that - I was actually thinking today that Israel should be filming this war extensively, specifically for that reason.
    Oh, I certainly agree.
  7. Jan 6, 2009 #6
    I thought the situation for palestinians living in gaza were grave in general, not much access to anything really. So Hamas doesn't have much to loose do they?They have nothing really so they are doing the only things they can do, including this school incident. And the support you're talking about..everything they did, what kind of support do they have from anybody?Nothing real even from arab countries, some rockets and food. About the lands that Israel conceded, they've been called occupied territories for decades now, i guess you know why its called that.
  8. Jan 6, 2009 #7


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    I was just reading that: they were called "occupied territories" because they were occupied in the 1967 war. Until a week ago, the were completely unoccupied, yet the world community seems unwilling to change that classification. That is very strange to me and reeks of moral cowardace. Here's the article: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/01/06/israel.gaza.occupation.question/index.html

    I agree, though, that Hamas is using the only tactics at it's disposal to get what it wants. That's not a value judgement on their goals, it just means that they are cognizant of what they want, what they are doing, and what they are up against.
  9. Jan 6, 2009 #8
    We (the West) give Israel more than enough moral (and most importantly, political) support. Stop crying for more. Unoccupied? Israel had complete authority over what came in and what came out, of what flew over, and what didn't. It be nice to spit out the excuse that Israel was obliged to do so because of Hamas' threat to Israel's security. Unfortunately the truth is that Israel had begun its blockade before the electoral victory of Hamas, immediately after it withdrew its on site military personnel from the Gaza strip. Moreover, Israel was the one to first break the ceasefire when it penetrated the strip, fighting against Hamas militants, killing 6, to destroy tunnels that were allegedly "going to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers" (preemptive war anyone? :rolleyes:). Never mind that kidnapping Israeli soldiers runs contrary to Hamas' interests and demand for a truce of 10 years. Hamas began launching rockets at Israelis in retaliation to the Israelis breeching the ceasefire.

    I'm to believe that after 30 years of occupation, Israel finally decided to withdraw from the Gaza strip and gave the chance to the Palestinians to live happily and freely ever after, but oh geez, the terrorist nature its authority forced it to enforce a blockade? :rolleyes: C'mon.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  10. Jan 7, 2009 #9
    "Yes, the U.N. defines Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as Occupied Palestinian Territory. No, that definition hasn't changed," the spokesman replied."
    from the same article.
  11. Jan 7, 2009 #10


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    Strategically, I do not think either side are doing it right. Then again, there is an upcoming election in Israel which increases the complexity of the analysis.

    Perhaps, Hamas does not have many options as to "how to fight". After all they don't have much to fight with and no money to bargain for anything. So, probably they can't do much but try to get the support of its own people. I do not think that they can ever get real support of the neighbouring countires nor the world no matter what they do. Everyone else is too busy with its own problems, besides, the US has the veto right anyway, so it doesn't really matter whether other countries are in support or not. All are just verbal, and not sustaintial supports. Hamas more or less knows this (or behaves like they know), so they continue to do their little attacks to maintain support of their own ppl and nothing else.

    On the issue of "human shield" and getting sympathy, Israel will find it hard to win hearts and minds of the rest of the world should the body count goes up (regardless of whether it is Hamas fault or not). No one wants to see so many ppl die (me included) needlessly. Also, because Israel is perceived to be the stonger side, it then inadventently becomes the side which ppl tend to think is causing the problem. Secondly, there may even be a debate on who are the civilians and who are the militants. The situation is far from clear-cut. I don't think there are any Hamas military compounds as such for Israel to bomb, but instead, Hamas relies on smal-arm fires, rockets etc. which are portable and transported by trucks, tunnels etc (which spread throughout the cities). Also, they don't have an army, any men above 15 or so may simply take up arms and start fighting. So from civilians, they suddenly become militants, and when they had enough or need to return home to care for the kids, they may suddenly become "civilians" again. Of course there are those more "regular" militants. But really, in the chaos of war, who really have the time to check people's IDs? Besides, Israel would probably play safe and shoot first and ask question later to avoid their own casualties which is important to maintain support back home. This is not to say those guys who took up arms are genuine civilians, but I can't imagine the palestinians ppl would be welcoming the Israeli army either (they may throw stones and stuffs...). The ugly side of urban warfare: if you go into the city where civilians are located, you run the risk of killing them and losing the moral high ground.

    In effect, Israel is not just fighting the militants, it is fighting against the entire population. It may not be its intention, but it is part of the consequences. Anyway, it highlights that you cannot truly defeat your enemy by merely eliminating their army, you must win the hearts and minds of the enemy's population. Or conquest will be short-lived (see for example Sun Zi's Art of War).

    It is highly probable that a possible strategy of Israel is to use military force and fear to push the population into submission, and then Hamas will graduately lose support as people are too fearful of the continual fighting, and basically, will do anything to have the war stopped. In other words, have Hamas collapses from within and then finish the job outside.

    In any case, though, I suspect that it will be a long fight no matter what, if Israel wants to eliminate the influences of Hamas.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  12. Jan 7, 2009 #11
    So what were the tunnels for then?
    And Hamas would have no political power if it were not for the struggle against Israel. How many Finnians do you think are left?

    OP: I think that while they may suffer casualties (which can probably be minimized or completely avoided) Israel should stop bombing schools and hospitals. A clear statement that they will not bomb children or the sick and wounded will probably do much more for them than the bombings.
  13. Jan 7, 2009 #12
    Maybe they were built to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers. But to assume that Hamas would have proceeded with such action is groundless. What if it built it as a means of bulking up its arsenal in case of a crumbling of the ceasefire? The whole concept of preemptive war stems from the "what if we had stopped Hitler" sort of ideology. Yeah, well, it would have saved time, money and many lives. But then again, if I'm driving in my car and at an intersection I make a right turn which leads me to make an accident with a careless driver, I'm certainly not going to ponder "what if I had turned left" and decide to turn left at every intersection in the future. Hamas should have been left alone from the beginning, only if it had initiated the violence would an attack like the current one would have been justified. Had Israel opted to stop playing terrorist calling games, talked to Hamas face to face and loosened the blockade, there would be less deaths and more results.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  14. Jan 7, 2009 #13
    First off, The tunnels crossed borders. Borders that were there for a reason. Mexico just can't build tunnels into the U.S. "just in case, 50 years from now ..."

    Secondly, tunnels exactly like the ones discovered were used previously for the purpose of kidnapping Israelis.

    If Hamas would stop shoooting rockets and be peaceful for a period of time then they could be given the beneift of the doubt. Unfortunately, such is not the present condition.

    A good solution, once Israel has secured it's immediate security would be to have UN peacekeepers on the ground, in FORCE, holding Hamas responsible for EVERY single rocket fired into Israel.
  15. Jan 7, 2009 #14
    How does that work? Remember the offensive on Lebanon; it only served to strengthen the population's support for Hezbollah. The same will happen in this case. Add to that that from the point of view of many Palestinians all Israel has is 2 more weeks, until the inauguration of the new U.S. president, after which the change of American administration, they hope, will force Israel to drop the guns and come back to table with pencils and papers.
  16. Jan 7, 2009 #15
    The Israels have learned lessons from Lebannon. In this case, the Israeli's have proved their efforts to minimize collateral damage, and have the footage to back it up.

    To address your other point, Obama has made his support of Israel clear.
  17. Jan 7, 2009 #16


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    Now they are bringing in the heavyweight analysts and reporters. Now the real inside story is sure to educate us all.
    http://www.toledoonthemove.com/news/news_story.aspx?id=243329 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  18. Jan 7, 2009 #17
    According to the good book Israel is the land of milk and honey, really? Yes, it is but in the past 12,000 years the area has rapidly become a desert, as has much of North Africa. This change in climate and vegetation is your culprit, non of that silly mumbo jumbo religous bigotry crap. Food plain and simple. The Israelis want farm land, Hamas wants farm land, so something has got to give. Will come down to who has bigger guns and motivation.
  19. Jan 7, 2009 #18


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    the objective of Israel in Lebanon could be very different from that in Gaza, so that kind of comparsion may not be a good one. however, since this is just a propaganda war, and that ppl needs food to survive, it remains to be seen how long ppl will stand with Hamas when they are constantly being push to the limit right now. Put it this way, you may have your own ideals about certain issues, then hypothetically, suppose you are being starved (or water-boarded), I would say it is highly probable that no matter how much you may hate the oppressor, you may come into submission/or changing your views just for easing the current pain.
  20. Jan 7, 2009 #19
    woah :) never knew u guys talked about stuff like this on this forum :P

    anyways i never thought about the war going according to Hamas plans... but after reading everything it seems perfectly logical what they are doing.

    IMO though that just makes me side with israel more.

    i heard of a secret 'hamas' plan though one that they say will cause israel to lose soldiers and eventually the war... they talked about 'a trap' any ideas on what they might be talking about???

    As well i thought the rational behind the war was Israels nuclear plant and airport were coming within close range of new Hamas missiles and the missiles were more consistently hitting intended targets.
  21. Jan 7, 2009 #20
    Hamas has power because Israel funded them in the 90's as an alternative to Arafat and the PLO. Now all of the sudden they are enemies. You reap what you sow I suppose.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
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