Friday, July 14, 2006

Sensing a Small Double Standard

by David Bogner




I admit it is very tempting to fall into the trap of reacting to only the most current or pressing crisis. But when I look at the political and strategic landscape from 30,000 ft., instead of 300 ft., I see a very troubling trend.

In the run-up to Disengagement, I listened very closely to the arguments being offered by both sides of the issue.

On the Left was a large portion of the Israeli electorate who were ready and willing to turn a blind eye to our failure to win the slightest political capital from either the Palestinians or the international community with previous territorial concessions. This, despite assertions (that have now been confirmed by the former IDF Chief of Staff) that little or no strategic planning took place prior to Disengagement, and that a hard-right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's sudden co-opting of his political rival's agenda was conceived exclusively to provide Sharon with covering fire as he sought an escape from imminent legal woes.

On the Right were a lot of people who were willing to ignore (or even actively deny) that that a total Jewish population of less than 10,000 in Gaza, after more than 30 years of active recruitment and government incentives, was a dismal failure that could no longer be ignored. People who had actively ignored Gaza for a generation suddenly started flocking there in droves, like a spoiled child who suddenly notices a discarded toy only when his parents threaten to give it away.

At the time, I grudgingly bought into the need for some kind of strategic retrenchment based solely on the numbers issue associated with the failed settler enterprise in Gaza. But the Sharon and media steamroller that was used to surge ahead with the Disengagement seemed more intent on punishing the hapless Gaza settlers than on demonstrating any strategic benefit to the nation.

During Disengagement, many otherwise sensible people parroted Sharon and his media 'amen choir', telling me (in extremely direct terms) that Israel had to give up Gaza in order to improve our ability to respond militarily. But also in order to provide the Palestinians with autonomy over their own population, so a military option wouldn't be necessary in the future. I was also assured that this would provide Israel with significant political capital with the Palestinians (not to mention with the international community), giving us more future bargaining power should the Palestinians fail to act like partners for peace.

I remember at the time quoting the old saw that 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results'. But any suggestions by me that unilateral concessions or appeasement had never provided positive positive results with the Palestinians in the past (quite the opposite, in fact), were shunted forcefully aside as unpatriotic and dogmatically hawkish. I was assured that once we were out of Gaza, we would be better able to defend ourselves, and that even the smallest provocation from within the newly Judenrein Gaza would be dealt with swiftly, now that there would be no worry about Israeli settlers being used as proximity hostages against large-scale retaliation.

Several people even emailed me quotes from old campaign speeches of the recently beatified St. Rabin in which he called predictions of Palestinian missiles falling on Ashkelon "alarmist fear-mongering on the part of the Likud."

What seems to be lacking these days is a taking stock of lessons learned. Call it saying, "I told you so." Call it "finger-pointing". But if both sides of the political aisle were making bold claims and issuing dire warnings a year ago, it seems to me that at some point, an assessment must be made of whose predictions turned out to be correct.

In the 11 months since Disengagement, every single warning that the anti-Disengagement lobby issued has come to pass. I'm not normally so organized, but for some reason I actually took the time to write down most of the warnings that were cast aside in the blind rush to move ahead with Disengagement. Warnings that...
unilateral retreat from territory would be perceived by the Palestinians as weakness and/or surrender in the face of terror;

little or no strategic planning had gone into assuring the political and military stability of Palestinian Gaza after withdrawal;

little or no logistic planning (i.e., housing, jobs, schools, etc.) had gone into providing for the Israeli citizens who would have to be relocated from the evacuated communities;

once Gaza became PA-controlled territory the IDF would no longer have the necessary freedom-of-movement to protect Israeli communities within striking range of Palestinian infiltrators and missile crews in Gaza;

Gaza would immediately become a central base of operations for every terror group on the planet (many of whom could could not possibly care less about the wants and needs of the Palestinian people);

sophisticated weapons would flow into Gaza via Egypt, despite the good intentions and promises of international observers;

by seeming to reward terror with territorial concessions we would be pushing the Palestinian population directly into the arms of militant factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which advocate violent struggle rather than a negotiated diplomatic solution;

once the inevitable infiltrations and missile attacks began, we would end up having to re-take large swaths of Gaza at considerable risk to our soldiers, not to mention squandering the questionable political capital we may or may not have built up with the international community.
Yet, now that I have tried several times to begin such a discussion of current events with friends who, a year ago, dismissed these warnings out of hand, I am told "attacking the Palestinians won't work; it has been tried before and it has never brought results."

blink

When I ask what, in their opinion would bring results, I've been told, "I don't know, but we've gone the military route too many times with the Palestinians and it hasn't helped."

blink, blink

There seems to be a terrible double standard at work here. When the Left wants to keep fielding failed strategies and discredited theories, anyone who points out the insanity of repeating such hopelessly flawed actions (in hopes of different results) is labeled unpatriotic, or worse - a messianic war-monger. Yet, when the Right favors deploying a military solution that has, admittedly, had mixed results in the past, the Left unabashedly plays the insanity card.

I'm sorry. The world has evolved quite a bit since the days of nations having no other recourse for settling disputes except the battlefield. But we aren't so far removed from the battlefield - or even the playground - that we dare forget what an aggressive thug looks like, or how some thugs' asses just desperately need to be kicked (if for no other reason then to win a few minutes of respite).

As to those who say that this sort of out-dated, discredited thinking dooms me to repeat past failures, I say:

ring, ring

"Hello kettle? Hi. It's the pot calling. You're black!"

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