Outstanding analysis from Robert D. Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security:
How do you fight unconventional, sub-state armies empowered by ideas? You undermine them subtly over time, or you crush them utterly, brutally. Israel, unable to tolerate continued rocket attacks on its people, has decided on the latter course. Our own diplomacy with Iran now rests on whether or not Israel succeeds. We need to create leverage before we can negotiate with the clerical regime, and that leverage can only come from an Israeli moral victory—one that leaves Hamas sufficiently reeling to scare even the pro-Iranian Syrians from coming to its aid. In defense of its own territorial integrity, Israel has, in effect, launched the war on the Iranian empire that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, can only have contemplated.
Dr. Kaplan correctly notes that, despite Gaza’s history as Egyptian occupied territory prior to the 1967 Six Day War, Israel’s attack on Gaza represents a strike at the western fringe of the Iranian empire. The difficulty for Israel is that it no longer engages in conventional warfare against corrupt and incompetent Arab state dictatorships, which tiny Israel nimbly outclassed, much as young David vanquished the giant Philistine warrior Goliath.
Instead, Israel’s postmodern struggles involve a poisonous yet popular fanatical ideology that operates beneath the radar of state action, yet transcends conventional national and sectarian ties. Islamist jihadists not only think globally, act locally, but they are difficult to fight. One minute they’re the Arab Street’s beloved bad-ass rocket launchers and suicide bombers. But as soon as the IDF or the mainstream media show up, as if on cue, they seamlessly morph into the inconsolable (and often uninjured) “victims” of Israel’s “disproportionate” reponse.
In my view, the Gaza attacks represent a bold decision by the Israeli government to rectify their mistakes during the unsuccessful 2006 Hezbollah offensive. In effect, they are taking a mulligan on 2006 and looking to change the result with a more aggressive approach to a similar conflict.
Of course the timing of Israel’s response to Hamas’ incessant bombings since Israel withdrew from Gaza is in large part dictated by the calendar. In addition to justifiable fears that their chances to respond to Iran’s and Hamas’ terror tactics will be circumscribed by a potentially hostile Obama Administration, given the current collapse of petroleum prices, this may be the last best chance to de-fang the Iranian beast. Once oil prices stabilize, finishing the job will be much harder.