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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Optimistic Conservative’

US Marines Off the Coast of Gaza?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Why are we sending an amphibious readiness group (ARG) with a Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) embarked to sit off the Levantine coast?

U.S. officials say it’s to be prepared for any eventuality, including the need to evacuate American citizens, as the conflict between Hamas and Israel heats up.

But let’s parse that.  Are the U.S. officials suggesting we will need to evacuate Americans from Gaza?  And if we were to do that, what exactly would be the process?  Landing Marines from the 24 MEU in Gaza?  Flying helicopters from the ARG flagship, USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), into Gaza?

Why would we do that, when Egypt and even Hamas would cooperate, if we asked, to get Americans out of Gaza through Egypt?  It’s not to Hamas’s advantage to have Americans effectively held hostage in Gaza, and both Mohammed Morsi and the Hamas leadership know that.  Even if Hamas is intransigent, Morsi knows that he will retain more political independence, and greater scope of action, if he makes sure the Americans get out.  (Remember, Hamas is not his endgame.  Morsi has his own plans for Israel and Jerusalem.  See links at the end for background.*)

Morsi would broker the evacuation of Americans in Gaza if it came to that.  Neither he nor Hamas wants the U.S. Marines in Gaza.

Neither would Israel, of course, because the presence of the U.S. Marines would effectively tie Israel’s hands in dealing with Hamas’s leadership and infrastructure.  Why would the U.S. put troops unilaterally into a local conflict being fought by one of our allies?

Israel and Gaza

Yet if we don’t envision putting Marines into Gaza, then there’s no role for the ARG/MEU in this situation.  Americans evacuated through Egypt don’t need a Navy ship or the U.S. Marines; they need a flight out on an airline or charter jet.

I note but dismiss the media reports that we are moving the ARG/MEU to the Eastern Mediterranean to facilitate the evacuation of Americans from Israel.  This purpose would assume a catastrophic widening of the conflict that is not indicated by the circumstances.  More on that in a minute.  It would also assume conditions of chaos or lockdown in Israel, in which American citizens would have no option for escape other than the use of armed U.S. Marines, whom we would apparently, in this scenario, send into … Israel?

In no case does the tool fit the problem here.  An ARG/MEU isn’t even the right tool to influence the fight from offshore, for which you want an aircraft carrier, U.S. Air Force assets, and/or cruisers or destroyers.  As far as can be determined, the Obama administration has no intention of trying to affect the fight ashore, even from a stand-off distance.  But supposing it did, the fact is that an ARG/MEU is the right tool only if you especially want to put Marines over the beach.  In terms of performing as an intelligence collection asset, moreover, while the ARG/MEU can hold its own in some ways, national assets and the other theater assets – Air Force, Navy – have significant advantages over it.

What, exactly, does the Obama administration expect here?  Does it expect Americans to come under attack and need evacuating in Egypt?  In Lebanon?  If so, why?  And why does it expect to need Marines and their Navy combatant ships to get the job done?

The choice to send the ARG/MEU to the Eastern Mediterranean, rather than sending it home to the East coast – from which it departed on 27 March – seems to be a gesture more than anything else.  I discount the possibility that Obama plans to stymie the Israelis by putting Marines in Gaza.  That would raise a howl in his own Congress.  I also discount the idea that there is any real likelihood of the Middle East “exploding” if Israel does mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

If it did explode, one ARG/MEU would be wholly inadequate to deal with the multitude of crises that would erupt.  But it’s not going to, because the governments with radical leaders – Egypt, Turkey, Iran – aren’t ready for it to explode yet.  They are not positioned to take advantage of a tumultuous crisis in which real changes could be made to the status quo.  Morsi wants to make only the changes he intends to the Egyptian relationship with Israel, and make them on his timetable; he’s not interested in being backed into anything by Hamas.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dealing with Syria, is not prepared for the conflict to expand.  Even Iran isn’t necessarily ready, not because she doesn’t have her nukes yet, but because neither Iran nor anyone else knows if the U.S. will step in to help contain the consequences, if the Gaza-Israel conflict expands across the region.  It’s one thing to plan on pushing against a U.S.-backed order.  It’s another to be uncertain what might happen to the order, if you pushed.

The radicals are in charge of governments now, and they aren’t going to let things get out of control in their own countries.  Terrorists can’t mount a militarily meaningful attack on Israel, and Morsi isn’t going to let them do it from Egypt, in any case.  Hezbollah isn’t letting them do it from Lebanon either.  Jordan certainly will not allow it.   And none of the national governments – Egypt’s, Lebanon’s, Turkey’s, Iran’s, Jordan’s, Saudi Arabia’s – sees this as the time to try to rock Israel on her heels.

The reason is that they’re not ready for what could happen afterward.  Most of them don’t mind if it happens – I exclude Jordan and Saudi Arabia from this, as their monarchies would be at risk – but they want to prepare themselves and be positioned to exploit the turn of events.

Four years ago, the U.S. could have made it clear, with relatively little effort, that the status quo would be protected.  It would naturally take a little more effort now, because of the outcomes of the Arab Spring:  Mubarak gone, Hezbollah firmly in control of Lebanon, Syria in an uproar and Assad unable to govern.  But the most basic difference between November 2008 and November 2012 is that the actors in the Middle East can no longer reliably assess what the U.S. will and won’t tolerate.

Fortunately, they aren’t ready to push the status quo’s house of cards down just yet.  It still has benefits for them.  Even if Israel does mount a ground invasion of Gaza, there is no reason to expect that any kind of rioting in the region would turn into an uncontrollable conflagration.  The Middle East’s rulers don’t want it to.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative.

Israel, Hamas, PA Encounter the Paradigm Shift

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Not all the news was good today, but some of it was heartening.  In response to days of rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, and targeted attacks – with anti-tank missiles – on Israeli infantry patrols near the fence between Israel and, the IDF launched an operation on Wednesday 14 November to eliminate terrorists in Gaza and destroy weapons caches.  One of Operation Pillar of Defense’s first achievements was taking out multifarious Hamas terrorist Ahmed Jabari.

Here’s the video of the pinpoint strike on Jabari – who, it is to be remembered, is responsible for attacks over the last two decades in which dozens of Israelis were killed.  Jabari organized Hamas for the Second Intifada and for the Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007, as well as overseeing the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.  Jabari and at least three other Hamas terrorists have been killed in Pillar of Defense, which is also targeting rocket launch sites in Gaza and weapons storage facilities.

According to the IDF blog, as of the time of this writing, Iron Dome has been used to intercept 25 rockets since the operation in Gaza began.  This indicates that the rocket barrage has been extensive.  Iron Dome isn’t used to intercept rockets that will fall harmlessly in unpopulated areas, nor can it intercept shorter-range rockets with a low-altitude trajectory.   Its intercepts typically represent a small percentage of the total rockets launched.

IDF image: Hamas rocket launch site in Zeitoun, Gaza Moreover, it was reportedly confirmed that four rockets were launched into southern Israel from the Sinai Peninsula (Egyptian territory).  These rockets were probably launched by Hamas operatives, but may have been launched by other jihadis in the Sinai.

It’s too early to predict how extensive this will become, but it can be said that in the first day of Pillar of Defense, Hamas (and possibly another terrorist group) has kept firing.

Mohammed Morsi recalled his ambassador to Israel over the new military operation, and summoned Israel’s ambassador in Egypt for a dressing down.  I don’t think Morsi is prepared right now to exploit an unstable situation in Gaza and the Sinai – and in any case, he’s not interested in bolstering Hamas’s political fortunes, because he’s got his own vision for Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

A little-noted event this week tended to confirm that.  Foreign ministers from the Arab League and the European Union, meeting in Cairo this week,failed on Tuesday to offer endorsement for the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid in the UN, which Mahmoud Abbas plans to take up on 29 November.  The foreign ministers agreed that a two-state solution needs to be negotiated, but fell short of endorsing the unilateral statehood bid.

For the Arab ministers, the reluctance to endorse a bid their nations were keen on only a year ago is due to the paradigm shift in the wake of the Arab Spring, something I wrote about in August.  The “Palestinian narrative” is being sidelined, because of the new prospect of Islamized nations – e.g., Egypt – prosecuting a radical-Islamist vision involving Jerusalem.

The European ministers are a separate issue.  Some of them may have been eager to endorse the unilateral statehood bid, but the truth is that the paradigm shift has reduced its importance.  Europeans are worried about Syria, and a posture on Syria is what they agreed on in Cairo.  As long as Israel can defend herself and remain the enduring fact of her region, the most proximate concern for Europe is who gets hold of Syria.  EU bureaucrats may see Syria through a silly ideological lens, but most of the foreign ministries are undeceived about the quality of much of the Syrian opposition.  The point of working with it is pragmatic: to gain leverage by supporting it, and possibly be a moderating influence. Several of the Arab nations – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq – want the same thing the Europeans do.

There is a post-American air to the whole series of events in the last two days.  There is no noticeable expectation that American influence will be an active factor in the unfolding of this crisis.  The US State Department posted an interesting statement on the events in Gaza, condemning Hamas but referencing no US policy stance.  It is gratifying, of course, to see State endorsing Israel’s right to self defense.  It’s not clear that the final two sentences, which form a lecture to Hamas, were worth saying.

Panetta Stonewalls House Committee Chairman McKeon on Benghazi

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

The news keeps getting worse.  The Washington Free Beacon reports today that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has  “blocked” four senior military officers from answering questions on the Benghazi attack posed by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

McKeon asked the officers to provide answers to questions about security threats by the close of business Friday…

McKeon asked each of the four officers in separate letters whether prior to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi anyone under their command had notified the State Department or other agencies about growing dangers in Libya.

He also wants to know if there were any requests to increase security in Libya for U.S. personnel. … [T]he letters to the four officers asked whether any military officers under their command had recommended “deployment of additional U.S. military forces to Libya due to the threat environment.

Other questions focused on determining if the officers were aware that officers under their command recommended increasing security in Libya prior to the deadly attack.

To your knowledge, has the Department of State or any other federal agency requested additional U.S. military forces to augment security for U.S. personnel in Libya?” McKeon asked.

Said a HASC aide:

It is nearly unprecedented that the office of the secretary of defense would prohibit a member of the uniformed military from answering direct questions posed by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Indeed.  But what, if anything, about the Benghazi incident does have a precedent – outside of the other actions of the Obama administration, such as Fast & Furious?  We have reached the point at which the cynical behavior of this administration can’t be reinterpreted or spun.  There is no honest purpose for refusing to answer these questions from the House.  If the Obama executive is running an actual investigation, we’re at day 39 now after the 9/11/12 attack, and it’s past time to have answers.  There is no excuse for the administration’s behavior.

Why would Panetta and the White House use the stonewalling tactic with the House?  Presumably because the Democrat-held Senate has given them until after the election to answer its questions.  The calculating character of this reprieve from the Senate is obvious.

Many readers probably saw Bret Baier’s Fox News special Friday night on the Benghazi attack and its aftermath (video linked here).  For those who missed Lt. Col. Andrew Wood in the recent Congressional hearing – Wood, deployed through the National Guard, led a special security team for the US missions in Libya, until the team was withdrawn earlier this year by a State Department functionary (video of his testimony here) – Baier’s interview with him brings out clearly that State decided to cut the already-inadequate security force in Libya.  Wood advocated keeping his team in place, but State decided against it – even though the Defense Department was actually paying for it.

So McKeon’s questions to the Department of Defense are right on point, and the American people are owed the answers.  There is a certain pragmatism at work on both sides of the aisle right now; Democrats want to get through the election, and Republicans are likely to take a more perfunctory approach to the Benghazi issue if Mitt Romney wins on the 6th.  The public appetite for details – at least, any details we still don’t know this point – will probably wane once the people know the Obama administration is on the way out.

The gingerly treatment of the Obama administration by the MSM on this matter is a timely reminder that the MSM are not peopled with objective journalists.  If a Republican administration were backing and filling after the Benghazi fiasco, it would find no rest anywhere.  The attacks on it would be relentless.  We may say, “And rightly so!” – but the MSM seem incapable of calibration here: either they are in a frenetic feeding frenzy, hammering their own narratives as they “cover” the activities of a Republican administration, or they are declining to cover stories that obviously matter about a Democratic administration.  Too seldom anymore do we see from them the middle ground of sober, fair-minded, carefully assembled reporting.

But the most important take-away from the Benghazi fiasco is the nakedly cynical, self-serving behavior of the Obama administration.  Four Americans were killed, in a terrorist attack on a facility that should have been protected better, but – because of decisions made by Obama’s appointees – was not.  Instead of manning up to what happened and providing the answers that are owed to the people, the administration first built a specious narrative about why the attack was launched, as if that was what mattered, and then spent weeks claiming that it was too early to answer questions on almost any aspect of the topic.

Now the administration has directed senior military officers not to answer questions from Congress.  There is no conceivable reason for this, other than to stymie progress on the House’s inquiry.

Originally published at the Optimistic Conservative.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/panetta-stonewalls-house-committee-chairman-mckeon-on-benghazi/2012/10/22/

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