Leadership: Choices In Gaza


January 1, 2009:  Israel's attempt to halt the terrorist rocket and mortar fire, from Gaza into southern Israel, has to deal with military, and political, issues. The obvious targets, like the weapons themselves, and the men who fire them, were hit early on. But long term, there has to be a change in who runs Gaza. Even when Israel ran Gaza (before they left in August, 2005), there was terrorist violence. Hamas, and other terrorist groups, began firing the locally made Kassam rockets in late 2001. The targets were mostly Israelis inside Gaza. The Israelis pulled out of Gaza in 2005 with the understanding that the Palestinians could run the place, shut down the terrorist, and left everyone live in peace.

This did not work, mainly because the most popular politicians, like Hamas, advocated the destruction of Israel, not peaceful coexistence. This line has been pushed in Palestinian media (in Arabic, not English), education and cultural activities for decades. It is deliberate, and intended to provide a supply of young men willing to make suicidal attacks on Israel, and to make it socially difficult for their parents to complain about the loss. While it has become an article of faith among Palestinians that, despite consistent failure, they will ultimately triumph over Israel, many Palestinian leaders try to work with Israel. There was almost a peace deal in 2000, but at the last minute, the leadership was persuaded that a terror campaign against Israel would improve the terms. This proved to be another disastrous error, and now the Palestinians are split between Gaza (ruled by terrorist organization Hamas) and the West Bank (ruled by the corrupt, and inept, Fatah, the group that turned down the 2000 deal).

Thus the Israeli strategy here appears to consist of doing as much damage to Hamas as possible, and then leaving it to Fatah to try and resume running Gaza. Some in the Hamas leadership see this, which is why some Hamas leaders have opposed allowing continued rocket attacks on Israel during the recent ceasefire. Many in Hamas believe that it's best to make some kind of peace with Israel until a large supply of rockets can be stockpiled in Gaza. Then, a coordinated attack, with Hezbollah firing rockets from Lebanon, and ballistic missiles fired from Iran, would destroy Israel. Or something like that. This basic Hamas strategy is based largely on faith, not reality. But Hamas is a faith based organization, where the ends are not in dispute, only the means of getting there. Thus the Hamas "radicals" believe that fighting Israel, no matter what the odds or losses, is the way to go. The Hamas "moderates" believe in waiting until sufficient armaments and armed manpower is available, in order to do the most damage to Israel, with the best chance of victory. Most of the moderates are with the exiled Hamas leaders living in Syria, plus a few living in Gaza. Nearly all the radicals are in Gaza, and they are seeking a bloody confrontation with Israel.

Hamas as over 20,000 armed men in Gaza. Most of these are not well trained or led, and would be slaughtered by an invading Israeli ground force. But the Israelis would also suffer casualties and, most importantly for Hamas, there would be lots of civilian casualties. These would be played as innocent victims of Israeli war crimes. What Hamas does not put across in this English language media effort is their doctrine (only expressed in Arabic) of "involuntary martyrdom." In other words, civilians play a big role in defeating Israel by getting caught in the middle of the fighting and becoming dead bodies or maimed victims. Most Palestinian civilians seek to avoid this involuntary martyrdom, but Hamas gets around that by deliberately placing their facilities in residential neighborhoods, and preventing civilians from fleeing into Egypt.

While the media likes to play up pro-Hamas demonstrations in the Arab world, the Arab media, and public opinion, is quite hostile to Hamas. Not just because of the reckless and bloody minded Hamas tactics, but also because Hamas is seen as an Iranian ally. Arab governments, in particular, are wary of Iranian motives. Arabs in general have grown impatient with Palestinian ineptitude. No one (especially in the Arab world) wants to openly admit that the Israelis have made a real effort to negotiate a peace deal, but dumping on the Palestinians for negotiating in bad faith is no longer something only done in private.

Israel doesn't really want to send in ground troops, but it will take some kind of miracle to avoid that. Meanwhile, the Israeli army had been developing new tactics and weapons for an urban battle in Gaza. This has been kept quiet. Oh, Hamas knows about it, as there has been mention in the Israeli media about the new training centers, new tactics, and some of the soldiers will talk (even though ordered, for their own safety in a future conflict, to keep quiet.) But Hamas does not know the details, and that it where it is likely to get messy for them. Israel is intent on inflicting maximum casualties on Hamas, with minimal losses for the Israelis and Palestinian civilians. Thus the Israeli ground operation will be full of surprises, and casualties.

Another big unknown is how effective Fatah will be in restoring order in Gaza. This will all be stage managed, with Fatah "reluctantly" returning to govern what's left of Gaza. There will be a lot of Arab-on-Arab violence. But there has already been a lot of that in Gaza, and many Gazans are eager for an opportunity to go after Hamas.

When it's all over in a few months, Gaza will still be full of young Palestinian men willing to kill Israelis, and Palestinians who disagree with terrorism. The Palestinian media, clerics and educators will still be pushing a "destroy Israel" agenda. But as far as the Israelis are concerned, if the rockets are no longer landing in Israel, the campaign will be a success.

INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS: Students Speaking In Tongues


January 1, 2009: The U.S. Army has come up with yet another way to obtain more military personnel who can speak foreign languages. ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) students will receive an additional $100-250 a month if they study and learn a foreign language the military needs (mostly Arabic, Chinese and those spoken in Afghanistan). ROTC students attend hundreds of colleges in the United States, and have most of their college expenses paid for (including up to $500 a month for living expenses) if they graduate and successfully complete their ROTC studies (and then serve for up to four years on active duty.) The army gets about 55 percent of its officers via ROTC programs. Many students are eager to learn Arabic or Chinese, as these languages can enhance ones civilian career. More money is paid for students learning Dari and Pushtun (the languages spoken in Afghanistan, the poorest country in Asia.)

Although the U.S. military has about 17,000 troops who speak languages like Arabic, Chinese, Farsi (Iran), Urdu (Pakistan), Hindi, and Korean, there simply aren't enough for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to the new ROTC program, the Department of Defense has established the Civilian Linguist Reserve. Those who qualify (in terms of skills, and ability to get a security clearance) are paid a monthly fee to be available, in an emergency, to come work for the military. The Pentagon found a lot of American Arabic speakers during the Iraq war, because these civilians went to work for contractors, or directly for the government, to provide translation services in the United States and Iraq. Many of these interpreters are already qualified for the Civilian Linguist Reserve.

Even though it's easy enough to hire locals as translators, there are shortcomings to that approach. It didn't take U.S. troops long to realize that the most dangerous intelligence job in Iraq was that of interpreter. Another way to get Arabic interpreters is to hire them from other Arab nations. The money is attractive, and many linguists in nearby Arab nations have learned the Iraqi dialect in order to get these jobs. There is also a feeling that Iraq will soon present many economic opportunities, providing less dangerous work for non-Iraqis who understand the Iraqi dialect. Some Arabic speaking Americans, after one tour in Iraq, have comes back to help with screening English speaking Arabs applying for interpreters. To attract the needed number of interpreters, many of the supervisory and screening personnel are hired via contractors. That way, these people, who are in short supply, can be offered enough money to induce them to take on this work.

The Department of Defense can get enough interpreters for Iraq and Afghanistan operations, but only by hiring a lot of foreigners. This is risky from a security point of view. Terrorist groups, and hostile governments, can get to these foreign interpreters eventually, and find out a lot about American intelligence techniques. This is a long term price to pay, in order to deal with the short term interpreter shortage. Thus having more American officers who speak these languages is a major advantage on the battlefield.



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