Aug 07 2009

Jihad interrupted

Category: Fatah,Hamas,Islam,Israel,middle east,national security,Palestineharmonicminer @ 9:03 am

One of our very best reporters, Michael Totten, reports that Culture War Replaces Missile War

Hezbollah launched thousands of Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel and forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee south toward Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. South Lebanon was punished much more thoroughly than Northern Israel, but the Palestinians in Gaza nevertheless took Hezbollah’s Baghdad Bob–style boasts of “divine victory” seriously. Hamas ramped up its own rocket war until fed-up Israelis gave Gaza the South Lebanon treatment this past December and January.

Hamas is a bit slower to learn than was Hezbollah, but seven long months after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, the rockets out of Gaza have finally stopped. Israelis will no longer put up with indiscriminate attacks on their houses and schools. Many Palestinians in Gaza have likewise had their fill of Hamas’s self-destructive campaign of “resistance.”

The New York Times reports that Hamas has decided to wage a “culture war” instead of a rocket war because, as one leader put it, “the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break.”

Movies, plays, art exhibitions, and poems are Hamas’s new weapons. Hamas supporters, though, aren’t the only Palestinians in Gaza using art as a weapon. Said al-Bettar skewers Hamas every night at Gaza City’s Shawa cultural center in his popular play The Women of Gaza and the Patience of Job. “We were the victims of a big lie,” he says about the doctrine of armed “resistance.”

The Israeli intelligence official I spoke to deserves some credit for predicting the replacement of terrorist war with missile war. Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already fired rockets at Israel, but they hadn’t fired many, and neither the recent Gaza war nor the Second Lebanon War had yet started.

Since then a pattern has emerged that should be obvious to anybody with eyes to see, whether they’re an intelligence official or not. After Israeli soldiers withdraw from occupied territory, Israeli civilians are shot at with rockets from inside that territory. Another pattern has just been made clear. After Israelis shoot back, the rockets stop flying.

It has been years since Hezbollah has dared to fire rockets at Israel or start anything else on the border. Hamas no longer dares to fire rockets at Israel either.

Israelis remain under pressure to withdraw from the West Bank. They almost certainly will withdraw from most of the West Bank eventually. Few, though, are in the mood to do so right now since they were shot at from Gaza and Lebanon after they withdrew from those places. They see the pattern even if others don’t.

It’s possible, of course, that West Bank Palestinians will never fire a significant number of rockets, if any, at Israel. They seem more sensible in general than Gazans. Hamas leaders in Gaza also talk to Hamas leaders in Ramallah, Nablus, and Hebron. I think it’s safe to say that the West Bank isn’t hearing any “divine victory” nonsense from Gaza right now.

Then again, Gazans proved themselves incapable of learning from Hezbollah’s mistakes. And the New York Times says Hamas wants to acquire longer-range missiles. So who knows?

This much, though, is all but certain: if a rocket war erupts between Israel and the West Bank, Israelis will respond as they did in Gaza and Lebanon. The jury is still out on whether the Arab world has learned the recent relevant lessons, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that Israelis have. Rocket war doesn’t work, but the military solution to rocket war does.

This phrase, “The jury is still out on whether the Arab world has learned the recent relevant lessons,” is the core of the matter. Islamic warriors have always had the notion that somehow they were blessed by Allah and absolutely guaranteed to win at some point, as long as they just didn’t give up.  Islamic military teaching allows for “peace treaties,” of a sort, but makes it clear that, when fighting the infidel, they are to be used only to rest, rearm, and get ready to go at it again.

For my part, I am glad that Hamas is making bad plays instead of bombs, if indeed that is the case.  But what I know is that Islamic war fighters have a LONG memory.  They take the long view.  They are willing to wait a generation or more for the right time to strike.

And there’s this:  “Gazans proved themselves incapable of learning from Hezbollah’s mistakes.”  In Islamic understanding, proof of whether Allah was with you in war is simple, and has nothing whatsoever to do with some kind of Augustinian-style concept of just war.  The proof is if you win.  If you don’t win, Allah was not with you.  Simple.  So Gazans could not learn from Hezbollah’s mistakes for a simple reason: they assumed that Allah was not with Hezbollah (Iranian proxies) but would be with the Gazans.  Think of Sunnis figuring that, of course, Allah would not bless the efforts of those misguided Shiites.

So the Gazans had to find out for themselves, the hard way, that Allah wasn’t blessing their war either.  Not this year, at least.

But two things to remember:

1)  Neither Hezbollah nor Hamas have given up forever.   Their entire world view simply does not make room for permanent peace and adjustment to new conditions.  Jihad is forever.  It’s just delayed, sometimes.  Jihad interrupted.

2)  Iran and other Islamic powers, by virtue of their continued existence, will learn nothing from the defeat of any OTHER Islamic power.  I’m not talking about “secular” Islamic states, which use Islam to mollify a believing populace, but are themselves essentially cynical in their pursuit of power, such as Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, or even Syria.  Syria and Libya can both be seen to have pulled back from the brink of what they perceived as their own possible destruction.  And even Syria is still trying to make trouble occasionally….  but carefully, carefully.  The big problems are Iran, and possibly Pakistan (if the extremists succeed in a takeover…  Pakistan is a really hard one to figure out), as well as Saudi Arabia (which funds more terrorism-at-a-distance than anyone, directly and indirectly).

Do you get from this that the immediate threat is Iran?  If you do, you’re probably right.  And the point:  Iran’s ruling mullahs will learn nothing from the defeat of any other Islamic entity.

The longer term threat, even if we deal successfully with Iran (or Israel does it for us) has to be Pakistan, or, worse yet, an alliance of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  An axis like that, controlled by Wahabist fundamentalists, would have money and LOTS of nukes.  That means that we MUST win in Afghanistan, defined as removing the pressure on Pakistan from Islamic extremists.  If Pakistan stays controlled by cynical, relatively secular powers, we win.  If Pakistan is taken over by a wave of Islamic extremism (as opposed to the expanding middle class now growing in the cities), we’ll have a huge problem, in the form of as many as 70 nuclear weapons in the hands of whackos with direct terrorist ties.

So stabilizing Afghanistan is our goal, and will be our contribution to Pakistani stability.

Given that Obama has abdicated any responsibility to deal with iran, we’d better hope that Israel does, and soon.  There are, of course, people who disagree.  (Being anti-Israel creates strange bedfellows, doesn’t it?)  I find it likely, however, that Israel’s intelligence estimates on the real state of the Iranian nuclear bomb program are better than anyone else’s.  And they have a stake in the accuracy of those estimates that is shared by no one else.

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