If I had to pin it down, I would say the big difference between this crisis and similar past episodes is how completely off balance the Israelis seem to be – lurching from reaction to reaction without any clear plan or strategy. The Gaza incursion was thrown together, more or less on the fly, which led to some embarrassing public squabbling within the Israeli cabinet. The attempt to decapitate Hamas’s civilian leadership by arresting the entire Palestinian cabinet smacked of improvisation, and largely failed. Hezbollah’s intervention clearly took Jerusalem by surprise, which is probably why the response has been so disproportionate: the Israelis are rather desperately trying to regain the initiative.Strategic Dead End
But it is clear to me that the Israelis, through their own actions (plus some help from their clueless allies in the Cheney administration) have put themselves in trap they can’t escape. They’ve reached a strategic dead end, one that doesn’t even leave them enough maneuvering room to turn and go back.Bilmon goes on to say that at a time Israel really needs someone to negotiate with they don't have anyone because they have destroyed or marginalized all of them.
Over at Legal Fiction publius has a similar observation.
During the Cold War, these countries were legitimate threats to all, and particularly to Israel. After all, Syria had Soviet backing. Egypt seemed like it was at least a military equivalent to Israel. And the countries combined posed a truly existential threat to Israel. Even the PLO, I hear, was once taken seriously as a military threat. But then they all got their asses kicked and the Soviet Union collapsed. And now they’re all jokes.The threat to Israel is not military but demographic.
Unfortunately, though, I think part of Israel's problem is the lingering perception that these countries aren’t jokes, but existential threats. Now, in a sense, they are (which I’ll explain in a minute). But they are not currently existential threats in the conventional military sense. And given their robust diversified economies and education rates (even among the part of the population not forced to wear beekeeper outfits all day), I doubt they’re going to be a threat anytime soon in this conventional military sense.
But the conventional military threat of the Cold War era is no longer the threat to Israel’s existence — at least not for the time being. The true threat is a demographic one. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out the implications of the relevant population growth of Jewish and non-Jewish populations (both inside and outside Israel). Maybe in 25 years, maybe in 100 years, but at some point Israel is going to have to come to terms with its neighbors. Otherwise, it loses this game in the end. (hat tip to commenter byrningman)Military might did not work against an insurgency for the french in Algeria, for the French and the Americans in Vietnam, it is not working in Iraq or Afghanistan and it will not work for Israel. This is the danger of the Likud-neocon strategy; it's always failed and they won't admit it's a failure. Fighting an insurgency by attacking civilian populations only creates more hate and more insurgents.
And simply put, Israel will never come to terms with its neighbors (nor its territories) using conventional military means. I haven’t the slightest clue how to make it happen, but the answer has to be political and has to begin with an acceptable resolution resulting in a Palestinian state. Until that situation is resolved, nothing will be resolved. Of course, non-Jewish armies aren’t going to be marching into Tel Aviv anytime soon, but the growing non-Jewish population will make life pretty miserable for Israelis for years to come if things don’t change. Israel would be wise to attempt to resolve these issues from its current position of superiority.
Anyway, the problem with the current demographic trends is that if generation after generation grows up hating Israel, Israel will lose in the end unless some part of the current dynamic changes.
Update - The clueless Moose
Marshall Wittmann proves once again he is as divorced from reality as anyone who admits they are part of the Bush/Cheney cabal.