Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day, 2009

Some random brain droppings on a holiday Monday (for some, not me, unfortunately)........

1) This is kind of a double-witching hour day. First of all, today is Martin Luther King Day, so I wish the best to those who are off today and have ability to observe the holiday. And, 24 hours from now, the nation will witness the inauguration of the first African-American (or biracial, if you prefer) President. Regardless of whether you voted for the man or not, it is an historic occasion. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. I didn't voted for Obama. I don't like his proposed policies. I think that he will be the most anti-Israel President this country has seen since Eisenhower in the 1950s (yes, even more than Bush 41). That said, it is in ALL of our best interests' if he succeeds and is a good President. I hope that he does well and that my worst expectations of him are not met.

2) The Israeli offensive in Gaza seems to be winding down, and let's see if Israel met its goals:
i) Goal #1: Stopping the rocket and missile attacks. Goal NOT met. Rockets are still falling on Israel, and Israel's unilateral decision to just stop its offensive. Hamas can claim that Israel accomplished nothing except to "kill civilians" (more about that below).
ii) Goal #2: Recover Gilad Shalit. He's still a prisoner. Goal NOT met.
iii) Win the PR War: Israel is being accused by such "unbiased" observers as Human Rights Watch of using phosphorous weapons on human targets (a charge refuted by the International Red Cross, hardly a friend of Israel). Israel has once again been accused of using "Disproportionate Force" (a bogus charge, but one that resonates with the left, which feels that Israel should not be permitted to defend itself anyway). Goal NOT met.
iv) Eliminate Hamas' leadership: Goal PARTIALLY met. Even the most partisan supporter of Hamas has to admit that Hamas took a punishing blow. But, even the most ardent supporter of Israel has to admit that it was anything but a fatal blow. Ismail Haniyeh still lives. Khlaled al Meshaal still lives. While Israel took out several of Hamas' leaders, the main ones are still around.
v) Avoid "Civilian Casualties": The MSM is full of reports of dead children, dead civilians, but let's look at this realistically. The death toll on the Palestinian side after the three week offensive by Israel is between (by most counts) 1000 and 1500, of who many are Hamas terrorists, and this despite the overwhelming military superiority of the IDF and Hamas' clear strategy of launching missiles, rockets and mortars from civilian areas such as schools, hospitals, and houses. What was Israel to do, not respond (lefties out there, don't bother to respond. I already know what your answer is)? So, surprisingly, I'm going to say: Goal MET.
vi) Restore Israel's deterrence factor. In order to this, Israel needed to make Hamas understand that the price to be paid for launching rockets at Israel was too high. It didn't come remotely close to doing that. Goal NOT met.
vii) Be able to declare "victory" and avoid a repeat of the Lebanon War in 2006: As indicated above, missiles were still being launched at Israel at least as of yesterday, and Hamas will certainly keep working on missiles that will eventually be able to reach Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Israel needed to be able to achieve its goals, and I might give it credit on this had Israel just once actually told the world what those goals were. It didn't, and in a quirky war in which Hamas can declare victory merely by not losing, the public's read on what happened is going to be that Israel did not win. Goal NOT met.
So, the long and the short of this war is that while Israel fought differently than it did against Hezbollah in 2006, the end result is exactly the same, in my opinion. Israel did not restore the deterrence effect it lost back in the 1990s, and now the world sees a weakened and leaderless country which is ripe for the plucking. The way this war is ending, with Israel just doing the military equivalent of taking its ball and going home, can lead to no other impression (at least on my part).

3) The collective moaning in my area over yesterday's 32-25 loss by the Philadelphia Eagles in Arizona to the Cardinals (the Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl?????) is just beginning. After watching the game, it is pretty clear to me that the Cardinals were the better team yesterday. They were better prepared, especially in the first half, when the Cardinals raced out to a 24-6 halftime lead. The team showed some character in coming back to take a 25-24 lead, but when the chips were down and the defense needed to make a stop, it didn't. It gave up an 80-yard drive that took up half the fourth quarter. It had already blown a timeout earlier in the half (more of those same idiotic clock management issues that have plagued this team for years). So, with the team down by seven points, with a little less than three minutes left in the game, two timeouts (plus the two-minute warning) left, the ball was placed in the hands of the franchise quarterback, Donovan McNabb. He came up small--his passes were erratic and while the team got a couple of first downs, the drive stalled at midfield and the game was lost. Philadelphia has now played in five of the last eight NFC title games, and it has lost four of those games, with only the loss to the Rams in 2001 coming to a team that was arguably better than it.

4) In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed the world how to get a job done. Their defense was fearsome and fearless, and they were deserving winners, 23-14, over the up-and-coming Baltimore Ravens. I don't think that the Pittsburgh can be stopped at this point, and in two weeks, the Steelers will collect their record sixth Super Bowl title. I don't even think that the game will be close. I can see a final score of 27-6, or something like that. As good as he is, Larry Fitzgerald will not get open against the Steelers' secondary the way he did yesterday against that of the Eagles. Kurt Warner will get snowed under by the Pittsburgh defensive line. The game has the potential to get ugly early, and the only chance I give Arizona is if it manages to generate some turnovers on defense.

1 comment:

bob said...

Great post.

A couple of comments on (2):
Goal iii - win the PR war. If this was a goal of the war, then Israel went about it hopelessly badly. Israel should have allowed journalists into Gaza from the start, should have been careful to avoid any situation that made any of the allegations plausible. They should have worked hard at explaining their case to the world, not relying on lame "spokespeople". They should have combined the military assault with a humanitarian assault and shown Gaza and the world that it was Hamas and not the Palestinians they were attacking. Goal not even vaguely met.

Goal v - avoid civilian casualties. I agree with your analysis that Israel was highly constrained in its choices, that the responsibility for many of the Palestinian casualties can be placed squarely on Hamas. However, the number of blunders in the Israeli "surgical" strikes ("errant" missiles etc) were unforgivable, given goal iii.

It is my belief that the Israeli leadership did not give goal iii enough thought. They were thinking about short-term Israeli electoral politics (stealing Avigdor's thunder) rather than long-term peace and security, which requires the international community to be on Israel's side.