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    Middle East
     Feb 13, 2007
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US force-marches Israel over Syria
By Gabriel Kolko

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There has been a qualitative leap in military technology that makes all inherited conventional wisdom, and war as an instrument of political policy, utterly irrelevant, not just to the

United States but also to any other state that embarks upon it.

Nations should have realized this a century ago but they did not. But there have been decisive changes in balances of power, and more accurate and destructive weapons - and soon nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them - are becoming more and more available to poorer countries. Technology is moving much more rapidly than diplomatic and political resources or the will to control its inevitable consequences.

The United States should have learned its lesson in Vietnam, and its public is aware of it to a far greater extent than its politicians. The war in Iraq has reaffirmed the decisive limits of technology when fighting against enemies who are decentralized and determined. It has been extraordinarily expensive but militarily ineffective, and the US is ineluctably losing its vast undertaking.

Rivals are much more equal, and wars more protracted and expensive for those who persist in fighting them. America's ambitions for hegemony throughout the globe can now be more and more successfully challenged. Nowhere is this truer than the Middle East, where the United States' long-standing alliance with Israel, which shares its fascination with military power, has produced colossal political failures for both nations.

The ultra-modern Israel Defense Forces finally learned this in Lebanon last July, when Hezbollah rockets destroyed or seriously damaged at least 20 of its best tanks and the IDF was fought to a draw - abandoning the field of battle and losing their precious myth of invincibility. Growing demoralization well before the Lebanon war plagued Israel, and the percentage of Jews with higher academic degrees that migrated grew steadily after 2002.

Israel exports brain power to a high extent by world standards. The Lebanon war and talk - by both Israeli and by Iranian leaders - of "existential" threats to the state's very existence only gravely aggravated this defeatism and the desire to leave. At the end of January, 78% of the Israeli public were "unhappy" with their leaders for a variety of reasons.

Israeli politics has always been highly unstable by any standard, but corruption and other scandals that now plague it exceed any in its history, paralleling its loss of confidence in its military power. Alienation from the political class in Israel has never been greater, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his colleagues hope that spreading fear of an Iranian bomb will help them ride out a political storm that has seen his popularity rating plummet to a record low. But fear works both ways, frightening the people who can migrate most easily and keeping out tourists and foreign investors.

Moreover, the Israeli public's anxiety has not been lessened by reports of the efficacy of anti-missile systems that Israel has installed at great expense. The Iranians have mastered all of the technical bases of missile technology, according to Israeli experts, and although the quality and precision of its missiles may leave something to be desired, they can inflict immense damage. Israeli specialists also argue that the missile-defense shield that Israel possesses - in common with those of all other nations - is not sufficient to protect it. Syria has missiles also - not so effective as the Iranian ones, but much closer and capable of inflicting much damage if used.

Notwithstanding the apocalyptic proclamations on Iran's imminent nuclear power by Olmert's major rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, or by the prime minister himself and some of his cabinet on occasion, this hysteria is politically motivated and intended to garner public support.

Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, told the Israeli Knesset last December that diplomatic efforts were "far from being over" - and that an Iranian nuclear bomb was at least two years off. Many Israeli strategists, including Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, now regard US President George W Bush's war in Iraq as a highly destabilizing disaster for the entire region and a major boon to Iran's power, and they regret having endorsed it.

A war with Iran would be far more dangerous. Worse yet, efforts to demonize Iran have failed. Only 36% of the Jewish population of Israel polled last month thought an Iranian nuclear attack the "biggest threat" to Israel.

Serious Israeli strategists overwhelmingly believe, to cite Reuven Pedatzur in Ha'aretz last November, that "mutual assured deterrence can be forged, with a high degree of success, between Israel and Iran". Israeli strategic thinking is highly realistic. This month, a study released at a conference by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University predicted that Iran

Continued 1 2 

The 'axis of fear' is born (Feb 2, '07)

Israel mixes rhetoric with realism (Feb 1, '07)


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