Why is Israel pounding Gaza? Well, we know the official explanation, which goes something like this: if you Americans were being targeted by crude, albeit potentially lethal, rockets from, say, Mexico, on a daily basis, how would you respond? Israel, we are told, had to take on Hamas. As Barack Obama put it, while campaigning in Sderot, the Israeli response is "part of being a country." They had no choice.
This is bollocks, as everyone but the brain-dead realize. To begin with, Hamas offered a truce and had abided by the previous cease-fire, but the Israelis weren’t interested. Instead, Tel Aviv chose to unleash what the whole world sees as an appallingly disproportionate response, raining death on one of the most tightly packed urban environments on earth and launching what looks to be an invasion and reoccupation of the Gaza Strip.
Of course, any military action by the IDF against Hamas’ ragtag fighters is inherently disproportionate, given the radical imbalance in the power relationship between the two. Israel, after all, has the most effective, high-tech military machine in the region, bought and paid for by U.S. taxpayers and with no expense spared on account of that. In any case, however, many are puzzled by what seems to be an inherently doomed project. The attack will merely popularize Hamas, without changing anything, and Israel will wind up back at square one, caught in a Sisyphean nightmare of constantly re-invading the same territory, then retreating once again. But what if they don’t retreat?
The assumption that this is an overreaction to the pinpricks inflicted by Hamas is flat-out wrong: the current conflict, which is escalating rapidly, has zero to do with a few rockets lobbed over Israel’s impregnable perimeter. That was merely a pretext, and a thin one at that. Yet the exhibition of such a reckless disregard for truth and world opinion hints at the real agenda at work here and underscores the arrogance underlying it.
If we step back and look at Israel’s strategy in recent years, the Gaza reoccupation or, at least, regime-change in Hamastan makes perfect sense. Sharon’s was a tactical retreat: one small step backward, to be followed by a couple of giant steps forward. Lebanon’s recent agony was step one. The Gaza massacre is step two. The third is anyone’s guess. Syria? Lebanon, again? Kurdistan might be fun.
No one knows, of course, but the general outlines of what is going down, as we say in America, were laid out in "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm," a policy paper produced by a remarkable group of American analysts in 1996, for then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The realm being Israel, and the unique group that produced it characterized by their centrality in pushing for war with Iraq. Led by Richard Perle, the "Clean Break" group consisted of James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser.
All of these august personages, but especially Perle, can claim the dubious credit of having co-authored what the late Gen. William E. Odom ruefully referred to as the greatest military disaster in American history. While Perle is now wailing over at The National Interest that he had nothing to do with it, that it was all George W. Bush’s fault, neither history nor the gods will absolve him. He and his fellow graduates of the Scoop Jackson Academy and Finishing School for Laptop Bombardiers are so on the record as being the earliest and most vociferous advocates of regime-change throughout the Middle East, and not just Iraq, that their denials of responsibility are a veritable pastiche of mendacity. Surely they jest.
Yet they just as surely were not jesting in "A Clean Break," where the case is made that Israel is in a rut: Israel is endangered by an inability to break out of its settler-colony isolation, and, in the process, renew the Zionist project internationally. While no mention is made of the demographic time-bomb, it can be clearly heard ticking in the background. A new aggressiveness is called for, the Perle group argued, a clean break with the passivity of the past. They recommended a policy of regime-change throughout the immediate vicinity of Israel:
“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
Perle and Co. urged Netanyahu to strike out in every direction. First, go north, they advised:
“Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which Americans can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon.”
Syria is deemed the penultimate prize, a ripe apple waiting to fall from the tree. All that’s required is a little vigorous shaking. Lurking behind these dominoes, however, is Israel’s chief antagonist, Iran, the current target of the Israel lobby’s campaign to gin up yet another war in the Middle East.
All these scenarios have played out, and quite recently, in rapid succession. Reading "A Clean Break," one might almost be scanning today’s headlines. This is more than mere prescience: these are policymakers, not college professors, we’re talking about. Nearly all of them were central players in the foreign policy councils of the past administration. All are exemplars of the neoconservative network, a camarilla of pro-Israel ideologues that has wreaked such havoc in eight years that it may take 800 more before we recover.
A central pillar of neoconservative dogma is its passionate attachment as George Washington would put it to what it perceives as Israel’s national interests. "A Clean Break" contains an undertone of hostility to the U.S., which is seen as being put in an impossible position of mediating between irreconcilable foes. U.S. "intervention" in internal Israeli affairs is subtly bemoaned, and this fits in nicely with the theme of economic independence and a phasing out of economic aid although they aren’t quite ready to give up military aid until such time as Israel’s armaments supply can be assured. In any case, the clear implication of all this is to reduce U.S. influence and allow the Israelis to unleash their full military power in a bid to "shape the regional environment in ways that grant Israel the room to refocus its energies back to where they are most needed."
Elbow room or Lebensraum?
Of course, any war Israel involves itself in will drag in the United States, its principal patron and protector. In this, America is truly an empire of unique type one that has been taken hostage by one of its own satellites. That, at least, is the intention, and, so far, the plan seems to be working.
The endgame is a general war against Israel’s principal enemy in the region: Iran. The Lobby is already gearing up to make the new president miserable until he finally caves. What we have to look forward to in the next four years is lots of aggressive "diplomacy," to be followed by even more draconian economic sanctions and the looming threat of war.
Israel is following the "Clean Break" plan almost to the letter, shedding its old role as a dependent settler-colony under continuous siege. In Gaza and, be assured, throughout the Middle East Israel is asserting its new role as regional hegemon in a multi-polar world. Israel, not the U.S., is taking the initiative and leading its great ally and "protector" around by the nose, with the Lobby serving as an effective rein on any sudden spasms of self-interest.
This can only end in one way: a general war, perhaps a world war, pitting the U.S. and Israel against virtually every nation in the region in effect, the entire Muslim world. A new Hundred Years War, a molten eruption of religious conflict that reaches into every continent and smolders for generations until the last embers of hatred and memory are cooled. A century of escalating terrorism and devastating war: is this what the American people want?
Well, no, but the past eight years have been an object lesson in how easily people can be bamboozled into something they most definitely do not want. It can and doubtless will happen again. Indeed, the pattern is repeating itself with the new administration, and Obama hasn’t even taken the oath of office.
Look at Gaza and see the future. Then go out and do something about it.