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Gaza and Hamastan: Lessons (Not) Learned

Seth Liebsohn's latest requires your sober attention today.

Now is the time to take a history lesson about democracies withdrawing from lands tyrants lick their lips over. Again. The lesson no longer need be from the 1930s, or even the 1970s — when a forced U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia resulted in killing fields and slaughter. The lesson can easily enough be 2005, when Israel left Gaza. The world wanted Israel out of Gaza, just as so many now want us out of Iraq. Israel left Gaza, and the void was filled — but not by the laying of tracks for the Peace Train. Within two years, Iranian Hamas took over from Arafatian Fatah. Where many of us once warned that Fatah's rule of Gaza would create another Libya in the Middle East, our warnings went unheeded, and, at the same time, the warnings were not alarmist enough: A new Iranian state in the Middle East is now in charge. Nice work. At long last, might we now absorb the lesson?

Iran now has two firm front-line positions against Israel: Lebanon (via Hizballah) in the North, and Gaza (via Hamas) in the South. If there is any move on Israel this summer or fall, rest assured the North-South tandem will act in overt concert.


And you talk about me being fixated on Vietnam!!! If you're going to war to win a truce----don't even bother.

As for Gaza, that is a prime example of a miscalculation. Sharon, in an attempt to bolster Abbas in the upcoming elections, withdrew from Gaza. Unfortunately, it didn't work and Hamas received sufficient votes to force a coalition government and now a split government.

Things will get very interesting this summer. With Hamas, now a pariah regime and with sufficient reason (a few rockets here and there), Israel could launch military action to restore Fatah to Gaza. But as you say, the joker in the deck is Hizballah in the north----but wait where is Unifil?!

Just to reflect a little more deeply on your comments. Yes, Iran does have a strong inluence on Hizballah in Lebanon via the common border with Syria. However, Gaza is isolated and the flow of arms is either through tunnels from Egypt or from the sea----both avenues are somewhat restricted. So all Hamas can really do is play spoiler. But like the Chinese say, A time of great danger may offer a time of grand opportunity. Can moderate Israelis and Palestinians grasp the opportunity?

Iran's main task at present is to deter the U.S. or Israel from attacking its still vulnerable nuclear assets. Keeping Israel busy on its Lebanese and Palestinian fronts will likely discourage a unilateral attack from that quarter. But the Persians must be careful with the 'dosage' they administer to the Israelis: a threat to the very existence of the little Israeli state might make them so desperate as to attack come what may. As for America, that's a different story. A lame-duck Bush is unlikely to muster the support for another "preventive" war - one that would interrupt the Persian Gulf's vital petroleum traffic, shooting up the price of gas at home. In fact, the administration is much relieved by having successfully bridged the U.S.- EU rift. Dithering, followed by a nominally nuclear Persia, are now more likely than not. In the meantime, a humanitarian crisis is arising in Gaza, one of the most overpopulated places on earth.

On the possibility of Israel lauching an unilateral first strike at Iran's nuclear infrastructure I agree is rather unlikely. However, for the US to conduct such a maneuver would not take congressional support for a "preventive war" since it would be in the form of missile strikes not involving ground troops. Bush could order it at any time though it would take a dire situation for it to occur. The interruption to petroleum supplies would be a major problem---but you can bet there are a few OPEC members who wouldn't mind seeing that happen.

Agreed, Michael.

As to a disruption in oil flow after a strike (US or Israeli), I've always been of the mind that it hurts the Iranian regime exponentially more than the US. While a significant hit to our economy, it would not be fatal. Not so for the Iranian economy and, thus, the regime.

Iran's entire economy relies on oil and gas exports. If they disrupt, oblige. Then take out gasoline refineries. Knock out their existing pipelines.

Call me buccaneer if you must, but I have less fear than most in calling such a bluff. And if it's not a bluff, it's rather unwise on their part. Either way, the result is the same.

I'm not necessarily advocating strikes at this point. But what I am saying is that the argument of not striking because the regime would then shoot us in the leg while committing suicide is a non-sequitur in my humble view.

Getting back to my first post. Remember in the Middle East one adage that is over and ever proven is, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." And so it may be as Israel and Fatah come together, so to speak, to eliminate Hamas. After the conflict in south Lebanon, Israel needs a win as much as the US needed one after Vietnam. The US chose Granada and the US showed them!!! Israel could certainly take out Hamas in Gaza, but only for a quid pro quo!

There's a wide difference between what is militarily/technically possible and what is politically possible. And the latter may be as constraining as the former. Israel "overdrew its account" with the U.S. by failing to destroy Hizbollah in Lebanon within the time interval promised.

Consequently the U.S. will now shift to reliance on a revived secular West Bank Palestinian Authority to try to balance the Iranian proxies in the area. The EU, UN and even Russia will nod approvingly. Nor within our own country are all political elements that enthusiastic about Israel or the domestic Israeli lobby.