Armistice Day

After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a chance Australia might finally be at peace next Armistice Day. Most combat operations in Afghanistan will cease early next year, and we can hope that the final pullout will take place not too long after that. In my lifetime, Australia has been involved in three long wars, none of which have produced the promised results. In two of them, Iraq and Vietnam, the pretext for war was clearly fraudulent. The overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden, was plausibly justified on grounds of self-defence, but the conduct of the war, and particularly the decision to invade Iraq, ensured that the effort would end in failure, as it has done. The best that can be said about the wars of the last decade is that they have been less costly, at least in Australian lives, than was Vietnam.

What is really striking, looking at the recent past, is how much has been achieved by peaceful means. In our own region, Indonesia has been transformed from a dictatorship (generally seen as representing a long-term military threat) to a stable democracy, which has largely overcome the challenges of terrorism, religious violence, natural disasters, and the attempts of the military to retain its central role in politics and business. With the aid of Australian peacekeepers, East Timor has made a start on a difficult road out of poverty. Elsewhere in the world from Eastern Europe to South America to the Arab world, seemingly durable dictatorships have collapsed or handed over power, mostly without the intervention of foreign governments.

Saying that war should be the last resort sounds like a platitude. But it is among the most important lessons we learn from history. Those who choose war rarely achieve the outcomes they expect and usually bring disaster on themselves as well as others. War in self-defence is sometimes necessary, and there are rare occasions when outside intervention can prevent an immediate human catastrophe. Fighting wars for justice, or democracy, or national honour, or to prevent future wars is a path to ruin.

130 thoughts on “Armistice Day

  1. Point 1.

    Civil war is almost always exacerbated by foreign intervention. Though it might seem callous at first view, the best thing to do in most cases is to allow civil war belligerants to sort it out themselves. Outside interference usually increases the death and suffering.

    Point 2.

    I never could see the difference between Iraq 2 and Afghanistan. They were both unnecessary wars. Bin Laden (or one of his lieutenants) said that the US fell for the Taliban strategy when the US went to Afghanistan. His words were to the effect that “We provoke the US and they spend billions to come here and chase a few men with AK47s. This is how we will bankrupt and destroy the US.” And the US fell right into the trap.

    The Western “expeditionary” and colonial style of far-flung empire must be contrasted with Chinese “absorption” style of empire. China has been incrementally increasing its continental empire for about 2,200 years (with some intervening periods of splintering and colonial pressure).

    Now China sits back, develops and keeps its nose clean of any real conflicts while incrementally increasing its continental empire. Currently it is absorbing Tibet. In 20 or 50 years time it will be absorbing Mongolia and places along the Russian border. At the same time, China proceeds with its plan to become the manufactory of the world while US and Western industry continues its decline.

    “Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.” – Sun Tzu.

    China has no reason to love the West nor Japan after the “Century of Humiliation”.

    “The century of humiliation (simplified Chinese: ????; traditional Chinese: ????; pinyin: b?inián guóch?), also referred to as the hundred years of national humiliation, and similar permutations, refers to the period of subjugation China suffered under imperialism, both Western and Japanese.[1] Starting with the rise of modern nationalism in the 1920s, the Guomindang and Chinese Communist Party used these concepts to characterize the Chinese experience in losses of sovereignty between roughly 1839–1949.” – Wikipedia.

    China is patient and will allow us to destroy ourselves as we are doing now with market liberalism and draining expeditionary wars seeking to hold on to vanishing empire. China will quietly help us on our way.

    “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu.

  2. @Ikonoclast

    I believe the Chinese people in general and their leaders are intelligent and they know it is impossible to be the manufacturer of the world for any significant length of time because they would have to starve large numbers of their people to death in order to produce goods for foreigners with nothing in exchange.

  3. @Ernestine Gross

    As usual you are a little too cryptic for me. Perhaps you are just joking. You made the statement, “… they know it is impossible to be the manufacturer of the world for any significant length of time because they would have to starve large numbers of their people to death in order to produce goods for foreigners with nothing in exchange.”

    I am not sure that the consequence follows the predicate. There is no reason why a manufacturing nation cannot also be self-sufficient in food. (Or rather, the reasons will be other than the fact that it is a manufacturing nation.) China recently achieved or approached very closely to food self-sufficiency. There is some evidence that that position is now eroding slowly. The US (still a very significant manufacturer albeit declining relatively from its high base) is more than self-sufficient in food. In addition, export earnings from manufactures can be used to import food stuffs. How does your statement hold?

    China’s long term geostrategy is to concentrate the world’s heavy industrial manufacturing capacity in China and to remain close to self sufficient in food. Whether it can do both remains to be seen. China favours incremental expansion of its continental empire and a long range defensive war / border war strategy to support incremental expansion. It understands that the expeditionary war model and far-flung colonialism has always failed either short term or long term. Napoleon failed, the Third Reich failed and European Colonialism failed.

    What should the West do? Take a leaf out of China’s book. Incremental Western expansion is not possible in the geographic sense but consolidation and avoidance of draining conflicts is possible. Expansion must be into the humanist, scientific-technological arena. But I become too wordy.

  4. I posted this piece by Bertrand Russell on the Anzac Day thread and it is worth repeating.

    “But when the First World War broke out, I thought it was a folly and a crime on the part of every one of the Powers involved on both sides. I hoped that England might remain neutral and, when this did not happen, I continued to protest. I found myself isolated from most of my former friends and, what I minded even more, estranged from the current of the national life. I had to fall back upon sources of strength that I hardly knew myself to possess. But something that if I had been religious I should have called the Voice of God, compelled me to persist. Neither then nor later did I think all war wrong. It was that war, not all war, that I condemned.

    The Second World War I thought necessary, not because I had changed my opinions on war, but because the circumstances were different. In fact all that made the second war necessary was an outcome of the first war. We owe to the first war and its aftermath Russian Communism, Italian Fascism and German Nazism. We owe to the first war the creation of a chaotic unstable world where there is every reason to fear that the Second World War was not the last, where there is the vast horror of Russian Communism to be combated, where Germany, France and what used to be the Austro-Hungarian Empire have all fallen lower in the scale of civilization, where there is every prospect of chaos in Asia and Africa, where the prospect of vast and horrible carnage inspires daily and hourly terror. All these evils have sprung with the inevitability of Greek tragedy out of the First World War. Consider by way of contrast what would have happened if Britain had remained neutral in that war. The war would have been short. It would have ended in victory for Germany. America would not have been dragged in. Britain would have remained strong and prosperous. Germany would not have been driven into Nazism, Russia, though it would have had a revolution, would in all likelihood have not had the Communist Revolution, since it could not in a short war have been reduced to the condition of utter chaos which prevailed in 1917. The Kaiser’s Germany, although war propaganda on our side represented it as atrocious, was in fact swashbuckling and a little absurd. I had lived in the Kaiser’s Germany and I knew that progressive forces in that country were very strong and had every prospect of ultimate success. There was more freedom in the Kaiser’s Germany than there is now in any country outside Britain and Scandinavia. We were told at the time that it was a war for freedom, a war for democracy and a war against militarism. As a result of that war freedom has vastly diminished and militarism has vastly increased. As for democracy, its future is still in doubt. I cannot think that the world would now be in anything like the bad state in which it is if English neutrality in the first war had allowed a quick victory to Germany. On these grounds I have never thought that I was mistaken in the line that I took at that time. I also do not regret having attempted throughout the war years to persuade people that the Germans were less wicked than official propaganda represented them as being, for a great deal of the subsequent evil resulted from the severity of the Treaty of Versailles and this severity would not have been possible but for the moral horror with which Germany was viewed. The Second World War was a totally different matter. Very largely as a result of our follies, Nazi Germany had to be fought if human life was to remain tolerable. If the Russians seek world dominion it is to be feared that war with them will be supposed equally necessary. But all this dreadful sequence is an outcome of the mistakes of 1914 and would not have occurred if those mistakes had been avoided.”

    – from Portraits From Memory, 1956.

  5. I’m wondering if I can ever support a war again. Its not that the official case (given what we thought we knew) was without merit. Its just that these lunatics never know when to bring the kids home.

  6. @Ikonoclast

    “In addition, export earnings from manufactures can be used to import food stuffs. How does your statement hold?”

    I’d say there is a difference between becoming a major manufacturing country and becoming ‘the manufacturer of the world’.

    What are these export earnings? IOUs – paper, electronic data entries? Hard to chew I imagine.

  7. PrQ said:

    Those who choose war rarely achieve the outcomes they expect and usually bring disaster on themselves as well as others. War in self-defence is sometimes necessary, and there are rare occasions when outside intervention can prevent an immediate human catastrophe. Fighting wars for justice, or democracy, or national honour, or to prevent future wars is a path to ruin

    It’s hard to disagree, though one might add that the ruin is not always on those who proposed wars for justice, or democracy, or national honour, or to prevent future wars.

    The overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden, was plausibly justified on grounds of self-defence

    No, it wasn’t plausible. There was never any real evidence that this would buttress the defence of legitimate interests of United States citizens. It was almost entirely about “wag the dog” considerations, and to some extent an attempt to divert attention from the failings of that wacky Bush appointee for A-G — John “Born Again” Aschroft. As I’ve pointed out — there was a standing offer from Mullah Omar to hand over OBL to the ICC for examination.

    The Bush regime was not interested, for obvious reasons which I’ve outlined before. It’s likely the overturn of the Taliban regime has prejudiced the safety of westerners (and the locals there) and in other places where violent Islamism has resonance. In addition, it certainly offered a political context in which the chest-beating right winf libertarians were rendered silent as 50 shades of repressive state intervention were visited on the US population. The Islamists might “hate {our} freedom (sic)” but the Bush regime thought it almost entirely expendable — chump change in the business of a second term. Could OBL, assuming he really was a player in all this, have asked for a better President than G W Bush? Probably not.

    It’s almost always true that in practice, war is inferior to the alternatives, from the POV of the interests of working humanity and those depending on them. The working folk are always at best collateral damage in such enterprises. That war persists reminds us that society is not run in the interests of working people but rather, in the interests of a tiny elite — those popularly called the 1% — though perhaps it’s more like the 0.01%.

  8. The Fat Man And The War


    They sing of the pride of battle,
    They sing of the dogs of war,
    And the men that are slain like cattle
    On African soil afar.

    They sing of the gallant legions
    Bearing the battle’s brunt
    Out in the torrid regions
    Fighting the foe in front.

    They sing of Mauser and Maxim,
    And their doings across the foam,
    But I hear none sing of The Fat man
    Who sits at his ease at home.

    And a fat little time is coming
    When the turmoil has settled down,
    And the dogs of war are silent
    And the veldt is bare and brown.

    When the sun has licked the blood up
    And the brown earth hid the bones,
    His miners will go out seeking
    For gold and precious stones.

    Nothing he knows of fighting;
    He never was built that way;
    But the game of war is exciting,
    When the stakes worth more than the play.

    Like a ghoul from the reeking shambles
    He grubs out his filthy pelf,
    Reaping a cursed harvest
    Where he daren’t have sown himself.

    Now, this is one man’s opinion,
    And I think it is fair and right,
    If he wants the land of the Dutchman,
    Let him go like a man and fight.

    If African mines have treasure,
    And the Fat Man wants a bone,
    Let him go by himself and find it,
    Let him trek to the front alone!

  9. @Ernestine Gross

    Export earnings can be exchanged for real produce and real goods while the global trade and foreign exchange systems function. If these systems cease to function for whatever reason then large nations with large manufacturing, resource and agricultural bases are best equipped to survive in an autarkic fashion or form blocs to survive. Think of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

    China’s plan is to hollow out the industrial base of the rest of the world. Nations with no or little industrial base become powerless in geostrategic terms. I think the Chinese understand they don’t have to take the US on directly, ever. They understand the self-destructive and maladaptive nature of the late-stage US system. The US will very effectively dismantle itself without overt outside pressure.

  10. As far as war is concerned I’m a fan of the Duke Of Wellington and Reagan. I’m no fan of Clauswitz. I think that we train our people for shock warfare, have excellence in submarines, and gain the high ground in space and dogfighting. ((((I like what Mao said about digging tunnels everywhere and storing grain and I think we can work this advice in with plans to have the best infrastructure in the world.)))))))

    But if we are smart we never use these capabilities and instead our people wind up doing logistical work in support of proxy war. That is to say if someone intimidates us, sooner or later they will conflict with a third party, and here is our main warring, in that we are slowing down a potentially hegemonic power who can avoid our materiel-contributions by the simple expedient of PEACE. (Nothing wrong with peace.)

    I could imagine us training and arming the non-Pashtun Afghanis, so as to carve out a place of peace for them in territories that they don’t have much trouble holding. But I cannot handle us being there when American allies are arming goat-herders for our guys to kill by the bakers dozen.

    We’ve got to take some overall responsibility for the shape of this war. I take a paternalistic attitude towards our troops. So I’m not saying that its their fault that they are slaughtering transplanted goat-herders (essentially and as an over-simplification) by the hundreds. Its our fault. When we are no longer smashing serious weapons of war, or killing regime leadership we must come home. It is wrong for us to stay beyond those activities. Mostly it is wrong for our national interest to do so.

    It is our fault that our soldiers are dying and our fault that they are involved in killing many thousands of people who really wouldn’t have concerns beyond the next mountain range; People who are really only there to make $10 a day rather than $1 a day. This is disgraceful that we have let this continue.

  11. I’ll think I’ll mention Brakels’s axiom: If anyone thinks [nation] is following a master plan, it’s only because they don’t speak [national language]. A lack of ability that prevents them from perceiving that [nation] is just as disorganized as everywhere else.

  12. A bon mot does not a refutation make. Anyone who thinks great nations don’t utilise, or at least attempt to utilise, grand strategic and geostrategic planning has come down in the last shower. Of course, if the strategy is wrong, as is the U.S. strategy, it can be worse than doing nothing.

  13. John, I would be interested in your views on world war 2.

    the UK and France declared war on germeny because they wanted to fight Hitler before he became too strong.

  14. @Daniel

    The Vietnam war is the example par excellence but we need a little history first. The First Indochina war was fought by the Vi?t Minh to expel the French colonialists. We note in passing the extreme hypocrisy of the European powers who, on being liberated from the fascist occupation of the Third Reich, immediately re-occupied colonies liberated from the Japanese. The French returned to Indo-China and the Dutch to the “Dutch” East Indies. The French re-occupation of Vietnam was particularly brutal and quintessentially fascist in its treatment of the Vietnamese.

    Following the expulsion of the French, “Vietnam divided politically into two states, North and South Vietnam. Conflict between the two sides intensified, with heavy foreign intervention, during the Vietnam War, which ended with a North Vietnamese victory in 1975.” – Wikipedia.

    If China, Russia and the US had not interferred in what was essentially a civil war, the struggle would have been far less protracted and far fewer need have died.

    In general, it is basic logic that if one nation/ethnic group is in-fighting and two or three other big nations join in then the war becomes much bigger and many more people die. Virtually every time the West steps into these ethnic brawls, even when ostensibly doing it “to prevent genocide” it is the case that previous Western meddling (usually oppressive colonialism and the favouring of a puppet rule class) has created the divisions in the first place. It is also usually the case that the West ends up prosecuting a genocide itself as in Vietnam or doing this and creating endless rounds of violence and terror as in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Tribal Border Lands of Pakistan.

    The West should just stay out of all it. However, the real logic is that it is all about oil on the one hand and arms sales and arms profits on the other. The business model is to promote war, division, sectarian violence, insurrection, insurgency and attempted revolution and then sell arms to almost everyone on every side in the conflicts at one time or another. Extra oil is burnt, munitions are consumed and infrastructure destroyed. Re-supplying and re-building all this promotes economic activity and enriches the oligarachic war-profiteering and misery-profiteering capitalists. This is the business model.

    The shame is that we could achieve the same economic boost via aggregate demand by transferring much of the military spending to creating renewable energy infrastructure (saving the world from climate change) and to fields like medicine, education and third world aid. Educating third world women, empowering them and lifting them out of poverty would be the single most effective method of stabilising world population. Well educated women with rights and alternatives usually settle for about two children when confident the children will grow to maturity. This effect is pretty much independent of starting culture and mores.

  15. Cool, let’s talk some history.

    When Hitler came to power in 1933, he immediately started secretly remilitarising Germany. When he met with minimal objection he openly built up his armed forces from 1935. The other powers, being in the grip of the Great Depression, could not act against this even if they wanted to. The Nazi party was always focused on conquest in the East, with or without an alliance of Western powers. In 1938, with the Anschluss with Austria and the annexation of the Czech Sudetenland, Chamberlain realised that war was inevitable. He pushed for massive government spending in modernising the army and in early 1939 guaranteed the independence of several European nations. At this point the Germans held the strategic advantage – they had been building their army for several years more, had returned to high levels of economic growth with low unemployment, and Allied action was simply not possible due to outdated WW1 static warfare doctrine and the small size of the British army on the Continent. The German declaration of war against Poland in 1939 was a calculated gamble by Hitler and Von Ribbentrop, but this time the Allies held their ground and declared war in return. The Nazis expected the Allies to capitulate to German demands again and the fact they did not was a nasty shock.

  16. @MG42

    Well, that’s all orthodox history though incorrect in parts. Not sure what your point is.

    “The other powers, being in the grip of the Great Depression, could not act against this (German re-armament) even if they wanted to.”

    This is incorrect. Germany was in the grip of the Great Depression also. In addition, it the problem of war reparation payments from WW1 and the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler or Hitler’s Party unilaterally ceased reparations and instituted a government directed recovery of the economy. Re-armament and re-building boosted employment and aggregate demand; a classic case of counter-cyclical state spending boosting and re-vitalising the economy. The “allies” could have done this if “they wanted to” and indeed they did do it just a little tardily.

    Just as Napoleon ignored the example of the defeat of Charles XII of Sweden in his Russian invasion (complete with scorched earth tactics by the Russians and a Russian winter, the Great Frost of 1709) so too did Hitler ignore the example of Napoleon. Napoleon too faced scorched earth tactics, Moscow in flames and a bitter winter in the retreat, probably historically the worst winter since 1709. Once again the Russians used scorched earth tactics, this time against the Germans, traded space for time, brought up seemingly endless replacements and recruits from the hinterland and waited for “General Winter” to unleash his stores of snow, hail and ice.

    Fortunately for the rest of us, dictators are always betrayed in the end by their own megalomania and grandiose delusions. They always lose rationality, analytical ability and proper perspective.

    The numbers (military and civilian deaths) show that Russia did most of the heavy lifting in defeating the Third Reich. The Allied contribution to defeating Germany was on this measure a factor of 10 smaller. So much for the self-aggrandizing breast beating of the the US, UK and the Commonwealth. Russia did 9/10 ths of the heavy lifting to defeat Germany and suffered 9/10 ths of the death and sorrow. Strategically, the Allied contribution was important in the M.E. and North Africa and also in the matter of the aerial war, bombing of German production, the D-day invasion and the opening of the western front. The US and UK were prompted by the fear of Soviet Russia occupying all of central Europe and thus began the race for Berlin.

    Japan was a different issue. The Americans did the heavy lifting militarily speaking with able assistance from Australia’s jungle fighters. China and S.E. Asia suffered grievously under Japanese occupation.

  17. Hitler only increased what was being done previously.
    Remilitarisation wasn’t the main reason for Germany getting to full employment.

    Germany was always going to lose a World War. tooze makes a convincing case that the economy just could not compete.

    Perhaps a better strategy would have been to allow Hitler the Danzig corridor and then allow Germany and the USSR to wage a war which would have depleted both countries.

    no World War and no Iron curtain

  18. Of course the assumption that World War II began in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland is far from unproblematic. There is a case that it began in 1937 when Japan invaded China.

  19. @MG42


    Even in 1940 the French Army was larger than the German Army. Simple magnitude does not explain the Alled catastrophe in France in 1940.

    Germany held a tactical but not strategic advantage over Britain in 1940 by virtue of the German inability to either conquer Britain or to starve it into submission. The latent power of the British Navy enabled Britain to buy time.

    However, it is true to say that Britain almost squandered that strategic advantage by trusting too much in the ability and will of the French to resist the Germans. Only the miracle of Dunkirk saved the British war effort. If 200,000 British troops had been taken prisoner, I doubt that even Churchill could have resisted calls to surrender on terms to Hitler.

  20. Katz @24, there is an essay in Niall Ferguson’s Virtual History which discusses the counterfactual scenario of the Germans launching a seaborne offensive and occupying at least south-eastern England had they been able to mop up the BEF at Dunkirk.

  21. Interesting.

    But I think that the British Cabinet would have rebelled against any dead-ender who proposed fighting on while 200,000 Tommies kicked their heels in German stalags.

    Under those circumstances the Germans would not have found it necessary to hazard an invasion. The Germans would have been happy with a Vichy Britain.

  22. as I recall, the british and french war aims in 1939 was, in the end, a negotiated peace. I have not seen anything saying what they actually wanted.

  23. Pr Q said:

    In my lifetime, Australia has been involved in three long wars, none of which have produced the promised results. In two of them, Iraq and Vietnam, the pretext for war was clearly fraudulent. The overthrow of the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden, was plausibly justified on grounds of self-defence, but the conduct of the war, and particularly the decision to invade Iraq, ensured that the effort would end in failure, as it has done.

    This is a pretty selective view of post-WWII military history.

    I guess AUS’s close, multi-decade long and successful participation in the Cold War against Soviet Russia and Maoist China does not count as being “involved in a long war”, despite it being called a war and all and waged by means of an Arms Race. And since Pr Q was born (just) after the Korean War this also fails to make the cut, despite producing the most successful new state in post-WWII history. Oh well, (look) who’s counting.

    The Afghanistan War HAS produced “promised results” in that Al Queada-in-Afghanistan has been pretty much destroyed, the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan have not been overthrown by Islamist insurgencies and Bin Laden is dead. The Taliban is still hanging around but kind of leery about popping its head up lest it get “droned”. This is not a “failure” if you are prepared to cop a ten year wait and trillion dollar cost.

    I see that the US-UK-AUS prosecution of Iraq War I does not make the cut as a noticeable war, perhaps because it was a “short, victorious war” the dream of all Alpha-male statesmen.

    Iraq war II is to embarrassing to even mention. The Arab people are now doing for free what the US government forked out $3 trillion and maybe one million casualties to get: a Baathist free government.

    The Vietnam war was, in retrospect, worse than a crime it was a mistake. Obviously Ho’s North Vietnam should have been treated more like Tito’s Yugoslavia than Kim what’s his name’s North Korea. But the mistake was a forgiveable one given the (somewhat democratic government of) South Vietnamese’s robust opposition to a communist takeover – which was always the main justification for US intervention and NOT at all “clearly fraudulent”.

  24. Pr Q said:

    What is really striking, looking at the recent past, is how much has been achieved by peaceful means…With the aid of Australian peacekeepers, East Timor has made a start on a difficult road out of poverty. Elsewhere in the world from Eastern Europe to South America to the Arab world, seemingly durable dictatorships have collapsed or handed over power, mostly without the intervention of foreign governments.

    In the post-Cold War tree of liberty has been watered with the blood of remarkably few martyrs. I put this down to the key gender trends of post-modern liberalism: feminism (the post-modern female is disinclined to breed plentiful warriors) and financialism (the post-modern Alpha-male prefers to make money, not war).

    More generally, most of these dictatorships were formed during or after WWII in the process of militant nationalisation: defeating fascism, putting down communist insurgencies and or de-colonising the imperialists. But with the defeat of fascism, the withdrawal of imperialism and the collapse of communism the basic justification for military rule gradually disappeared.

    But its striking how many of these dictatorships in Asia, Africa & the America’s fell as a consequence of the end of the Cold War. Once the threat of a communist-backed takeover was removed the higher-status groups (and their US backers) felt confident in allowing civilian rule. So the juntas were sent packing.

    A substantial bit of credit for the West’s bloodless military victory in the Cold War should go to Ronald Reagan and “the intervention of a foreign government”. The US government’s successful prosecution of the Arms Race (which I would NOT call “peaceful means”) was critical in forcing the Soviet Union to forgo the military path to national power, thereby setting in train the peaceful disintegration of the Warsaw Pact. And this is the thanks he gets!

    You can add to that the IDF’s the total defeat or discouragement of the front-line Baathist states, which has more or less discredited the legitimacy of Baathist dictatorships throughout the Arab world. What good are all these generals in power if they can’t beat Israel and wind up lining their own pockets with the oil wealth?

    East Timor could not have been properly liberated without the the insistence and assistance of the US DoD which sent a Marine aircraft carrier to back up INTERFET. This militaristic fact seems to have been flushed down a memory hole.

    Finally, lets not forget economic sanctions, which did their bit in getting rid of Apartheid and also look like they might cause the Ayatollah’s a bit of grief, if the rial tanks even further.

    In general the chicks should get the lion’s share of the credit for the decline in militancy. Post-modern girls just want to have fun and war ain’t much fun.

  25. South Vietnam never had an election that could remotely be called “democratic”.

    All SVN’s presidents were puppets or clients of the US.

    SVN never established an effective system of taxation.

    SVN’s armed forces were legendary for their corruption, unreliability and pusillanimity.

  26. @Katz did north vietnam have free elections?

    Vietnamese resistance to outside domination was just, as was the resistance of South Vietnam to the invasion from the North.

  27. Katz @ #31 said:

    South Vietnam never had an election that could remotely be called “democratic”.
    All SVN’s presidents were puppets or clients of the US.
    SVN never established an effective system of taxation.
    SVN’s armed forces were legendary for their corruption, unreliability and pusillanimity.

    Ha! Just when I feel I am getting old and my memory is fading along comes Katz to bring the past back to life with his wind-up doll repetition of Farrago talking points c mid 1970s. Preserved in aspic for the satirical enjoyment of future generations.

    SVN at least had competitive political parties, NVN, err…not so much.
    ARVN suffered about 250,000 combat deaths over a period of 20 years fighting. Thats more than 20,000 per annum out of a typical field strength of several hundred thousand. Thats close to a 10% fatality rate per annum. Hardly “pusillanimity”.

  28. It seems to me that looking back at those three wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq) the only common point is that the US dragged Australia into them and asked for sacrifices. It is about time that Australia stands on its own and makes decisions not because “America is our friend”, but because something is in our national interest. If we dig enough truth, even the fight in Afghanistan is not justified as Mr. Quiggin suggests: Taliban was the group armed and trained by CIA to fight a holy war against the soviets. Al Qaeda (even if not directly armed by CIA) was just a natural child to this marriage. Now Australia is asked to clean up the mess that Americans made by sacrificing soldiers and money.

    What’s even more troubling, the US is dragging Australia into its war practices with China. Stationing more troops and carries in Australia does not help our security and increases the chance of another Iraq-like conflict.

    Question: Why do we need the US military presence in Australia?
    Answer: Because China might attack us.
    Question: Why would China want to attack us?
    Answer: Because we are hosting the American military.

    Anyway, hoping Australia does not get involved in any other wild adventure.

  29. Strocchers, clearly too much Knopfelmacher is bad for the neurones.

    The US inflicted heavy, though self-evidently sustainable, casualties on Communist forces.

    The SVN forces were much less impressive.

    Trouble with the US forces, by 1969, they were so drug addled, they couldn’t find their own fundamental with two hands.

    The Communists could run for office in the South in the 1960s because they would have been killed. However, in the 1950s, even Eisenhower admitted that Communists would have won a fair election.

  30. The North Atlantic island of South Vietnam was completely justified in resisting invasion by the South Pacific island of North Vietnam.

  31. But seriously…

    North Vietnam and South Vietnam were not like the Israelis and Palestinians today, nor like the Serbs and the Croats, nor like the Sinhalese and the Tamils, nor even like the Flemings and Walloons or the English and the Scots.

    The state of South Vietnam was not the product of an authentic, popular South Vietnamese national movement expressing the distinct national identity and national aspirations of a South Vietnamese people. It was an entirely artificial creation of Cold War geopolitics.

    Ask yourselves: is there, and has there ever been, a South Vietnamese independence/autonomy movement, today or at any time since 1975?

  32. For that matter, if the Japanese imperialists had made it as far as the Brisbane-Perth line in the 1940s, would we not snort derisively at Japanese claims of the justice of subsequent Queensland “resistance” to south-eastern Australian “aggression”?

  33. Yep, the actual status of the government of South Vietnam was established by the fact the Bob Menzies neglected to inform It that Australia had resolved to send troops to save it!

  34. Jack, I was around in the 60s as well. My recollection of events in and about Vietnam accords with Katz’ and Bring back Birdy’s rather than yours. I think your memory is failing you.

  35. “After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s a chance Australia might finally be at peace next Armistice Day”

    Looking less likely now that Israel has started indiscriminate slaughter in Gaza, again.

  36. Bring Back Birdy at Catallaxy:

    “Ask yourselves: is there, and has there ever been, a South Vietnamese independence/autonomy movement, today or at any time since 1975?”

    Paul, the truth is more complicated than you suggest. There is certainly still an affinity for the South and you see it in the Vietnamese trading strips in Melbourne when South Vietnamese flags line the streets on commemorative occasions. A couple of months ago I attended a Vietnamese festival at Sandown Park in Springvale, Melbourne with my Vietnamese wife. Australian Vietnam veterans were there and were being lauded over a loud speaker as heroes while folk young and old were lining up to have their photos taken with them. Interestingly, many Vietnam vets have Vietnamese wives and even speak Vietnamese.

    Nonetheless, I think opposition to communism and the poverty with which it is associated is stronger than the affinity for the old South. Since Vietnam (unofficially) embraced capitalism the economy is going gangbusters and consequently hostility towards the Hanoi regime has greatly reduced. Today you will even see young Vietnamese on facebook use the national communist flag as their moniker. Such a display of acceptance of the current reality would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

  37. @Megan missing word: I sure it was an oversight on your part to also NOT condemn Hamas for firing 100 missiles into Israel this week randomly at civilians.

  38. No oversight.

    I was talking about the nuclear-armed, multi-billion dollar US funded and armed war machine attacking Gaza.

    I didn’t “condemn” anything. I observed that Australia is now far more likely to be still involved in war this time next year.

    Sadly, this killing has just claimed 3 Israelis as well as the 30 or so Palestinians killed today.

    You keep playing your games, scoring your points, jumping at strawmen and so on – the rest of the world is moving on.

  39. Israel has a simple option if it wants peace. Accept the 1967 borders. Dismantle the wall or move it onto their territory. Give the Palestinians East Jerusalem. Dismantle the illegal settlements. End the blockade.

  40. @Megan Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. it was who Hamas chose to keep fighting – Hamas prolonged the war. there would be peace immediately if Hamas accepted the status quo.

    Fran, why is the blockade important? the map shows that gaza has a border with Egypt too.

  41. Given the turn the discussion has taken, I think it is worthwhile considering the views of an international law expert, Professor Gerry Simpson, speaking in 2010 about the Israel-Palestine conflict in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.


    I have spent large parts of my adult life examining and discussing controversial, apparently intractable, conflicts. About four years ago, I spent a week training young lawyers from the former Yugoslavia in a town called Palic near the Hungarian border. The idea was to bring together Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats from all around the region to discuss war crimes and international humanitarian law. Needless to say, with the Balkan Wars so fresh in everyone’s mind, I expected things to be contentious, perhaps even vitriolic. In fact, everyone got along well. We touched on potentially electrifying incidents: on Srebrenica, on Sarajevo, on Kosovo. There was disagreement, some of it sharp but all of it expressed in language that was respectful and moderate in tone. I relaxed. Then, on the final day, someone mentioned The Lebanon. The room exploded (to some extent, and for the first time, along ethnic lines). These young Yugoslavs reconciled – perhaps even at ease – in discussing war crimes in Bosnia, became apoplectic when talking about Israel and the Middle East.

    And I have experienced this repeatedly. A course at the LSE on crimes against humanity proceeds without incident. Suddenly, we are discussing the West Bank or Adolf Eichmann and the air is thick with colourful language: ‘anti-Semitic’, ‘Israeli apologist’, ‘Jewish Police State’, ‘Arab terrorists’. I should say, too, that these phrases, largely employed in lieu of deep thinking, were rarely if ever used by a generation of Israeli and Palestinian students I had the pleasure of teaching and learning from in London. For them, I suspect, too much was at stake to indulge in these sorts of empty rhetorical gestures.

    So, when Professor Gaita asked me to give the opening lecture in this series, my response was an uneasy affirmative. Why speak when, say, Edward Said and Amos Oz have already spoken? And, of course, Israel-Palestine, or Israel-Gaza, is a subject with almost religious power in our society. One can be wrong about Somalia or Aceh or Mexico but with Israel, mistakes are blasphemies not misjudgements. Why then, is Israel different? Why not a public lecture series on Guatemala (a genocide was conducted there in the 1980s without anyone taking much notice) or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (four million dead in six years in war between a state and non-state actor)? What is it that makes everyone a specialist on Israel-Palestine and a generalist on everything else?

    We are certainly more attentive to the nuances of this conflict than some others. Something – a colonial reflex, a biblical atavism, a seventy-year-old wound, a form of identification – makes Europeans and Australians approach Israel differently, some holding it to higher standards, others uncritically applauding its every act of violence.
    And we also approach the Palestinians differently. For my generation, the PLO, perhaps along with the Basque separatists operating in Guernica, were the first terrorists or the first self-determination movement or both. Theirs was romantic national struggle and atrocious terror at the same time. And they were everywhere but nowhere. A student came to me once, and said that she’d gone home to look for Palestine on the map, after class, but found it wasn’t there.

    So let me continue on a hopeful note. Maybe, Israel-Palestine can teach us that there are nuances, that politics has to be the art of manoeuvring between two apparently incommensurable political goals. That history counts. That words like ‘terrorism’ (applied by some Israelis to virtually all Palestinian resistance) and ‘genocidal’ (the term used by the Arab League Report on Gaza to describe aspects of the Israeli attack) might not be that useful as shorthand for describing activity in the political realm, and that violence and terror are not naturally occurring acts but human creations capable of being ended by humans.

    And this is a plea to relinquish three ways of thinking about Gaza. In the first, people throw up their hands and say, ‘Well, they hate each other. What can you do?’ This is nihilistic, lazy, and inaccurate. The second involves a pre-emptive pessimism: ‘what a disaster. This is a point of no return.’ But the apparent point of no return has been reached so often. I remember back in the late 1980s people were saying that it couldn’t get worse. After all, Palestinians were throwing stones at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in Gaza and the West Bank in 1987. Looking back, we can see that these moments of disaster and no return were actually openings into different political future had different choices been made. And third, most difficult to give up, is the thinking of loyalists who can see only the violence wrought by one side or the other.

    G. Simpson (2010), ‘Death in Gaza’ in R. Gaita (ed.), Gaza: Morality, Law and Politics, UWA Publishing: Crawley.

  42. I might add that my Facebook friends span the spectrum of opinion on the politics of the Eastern Mediterranean, so my wall is decked out with harrowing pictures of dead, injured and terrorised civilians on both sides.

  43. @Fran Barlow Hamas has a simple option if it wants peace. Accept the current borders. Destroy all missiles and stop further imports of military hardware into Gaza. End all threats against Israel’s territorial integrity and security. Punish all attacks from within Gaza against civilians.

  44. Israel has a simple option if it wants peace. Accept the 1967 borders. Destroy all missiles, cluster bombs, white phosphorous & stop further imports and manufacture of military hardware in Israel. End all threats against Gaza’s territorial integrity and security including ending the blockade of its seas, skies and borders. Punish all attacks from outside Gaza against civillians whether by citizens or the military.

  45. Fran: “Israel has a simple option if it wants peace … “.

    Megan: “Israel has a simple option if it wants peace … ”

    The Hamas Charter explicitly calls for the complete elimination of Israel and its absorption into Palestine. The 1967 borders are completely rejected. The Charter also approvingly quotes an Hadith that calls for the killing of all Jews on the “Day of Judgement”.

    Simple options are the conceit of simple minds.

  46. The ‘Hamas Charter’ was 1988.

    It has repeatedly said, for many years, that it would accept the 1967 borders.

    People with simple minds shouldn’t quote clones.

    It just makes them look very, stupid. And simple.

  47. The Hamas Charter hasn’t been reneged and as you must surely be aware, new Hamas members must agree to abide by it..

    From Haaretz May 11, 2011:

    “Hamas would be willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, a leader of the militant group, Mahmoud Zahar, told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an on Wednesday, adding, however, that Hamas would never recognize Israel since such a move would counter the group’s aim to “liberate” all of Palestine.”

    The Hamas position is contradictory and not coincidentally coincides with a push for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood. Until Hamas renounces the genocidal and racist aspects of its Charter, recognises Israel, genuinely agrees to the 1967 borders, accepts democracy and rejects terrorism, Israeli citizens will have good reason not to trust it.

    On the other hand, the Israelis will have to disband all settlements in the OT and end the Gaza blockade.

    Since there are absolutely no grounds for trust and neither side has much incentive to move first, there is no simple solution outside the puerile minds of the keyboard chattering classes.

  48. Logging on to Facebook this morning I find that one of my friends has posted a “shrinking Israel” map and another has posted a “shrinking Palestine” map, to go with the pictures of bombed out buildings in Gaza City and Sderot, and the bloodied children of both nations. All this is strengthening my resolve to identify the actually or potentially pro-peace, democratic parties and movements amongst both the Israelis and Palestinians, and practically assist them in their respective political contests against the chauvinists and religious fundamentalists.

  49. @Megan Why are borders in 1861, 1919, 1945, 1948, 1956 or 1967 or any other time morally superior?

    Palestinian revanchism is a recipe for endless wars. Revanchism is the desire to reverse territorial losses:
    • A return of German revanchism would plunge Europe back into war as germany marched to reclaim Western Poland and the Sudetenland lost after the massive ethic cleansing in 1945 and the moving of Poland 1/3rd to the left after Potsdam.

    • The Balkans and Eastern Europe would be plunged into war to revise the 1945 and the 1919 boundaries.

    • Irish Revanchism over Northern Ireland led to war from 1922 onwards.

  50. Jim, to be fair, and to understand what’s going on, you also need to acknowledge that “Greater Israel” revanchism is a problem, as manifested in the extremist settler movement and the unwillingness ot the Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu government to take the peace process seriously.

  51. Israel refused to negotiate in good faith about the disposition of the OT long before Hamas even existed.

    It would be a test as to whether Israel is a full-fledged parliamentary democracy, there may come a time when the population of Israel could use its democratic rights to expunge the Jewish identity of the nation from its Basic Law, to wit this provision passed as recently as 1992:

    Purpose 1. The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect human dignity and liberty, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

    Presumably, before 1992, legally Israel was not a Jewish state. By extension, therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that Israel reverse that process of zionification.

    After all, Arabs comprise more than 20% of the citizenry of Israel and that proportion is increasing.

  52. @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy The claims for a Greater Israel is an example of irredentism, which advocates the annexation of territories because of a common ethnicity or prior historical possession, actual or alleged.

    The Irish constitution claimed all of Ireland, which only stirred the pot. The Irish and maybe the Italian constitutions give a special place to the Catholic Church. established churches are not unknown in England and in Northern Europe.

    Peace process presupposes that what is at stake is divisible. Israel is in an existential fight – the existence of a Jewish state, and that outcome is indivisible.

    When the Palestinian Authority was established, did the firing of missiles stop?

  53. @Katz if Israel refused to negotiate in good faith about the disposition of the OT long before Hamas even existed, how did the Palestinian Authority coming into being?

    Hamas has had enought control of Gaza to negotiate truces with Israel in the past.

    p.s. the relevant wikis says that there are official state religions in Denmark (Church of Denmark), Greece (Church of Greece), Malta (Catholic Church) and England (Church of England). Until 2000, the Church of Sweden was the state church of Sweden. Norway, Finland and Iceland also have a state church of sorts.

    Argentina, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, the Philippines, Portugal and Spain give a special recognition to the Catholic church in their constitutions without making it the state religion.

    All of these countries have freedom of religion as does Israel.

  54. How is the existence of the PA proof of the “good faith” of Israel?

    The “Jewish State” provision isn’t only a religious issue. It is an ethno-racial provision that guarantees certain individuals “the right of return”. Does being a Catholic guarantee right of return to Malta?

  55. Jim Rose @21 writes:

    Peace process presupposes that what is at stake is divisible. Israel is in an existential fight – the existence of a Jewish state, and that outcome is indivisible.

    A peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has to start from the premise that there are two nations with a stake in the issue, both of which have the right to national-self-determination in independent nation-states. The question then becomes one of negotiating borders, security arrangements, etc., recognising that given the circumstances of the issue the eventual outcome will be partial justice for both nations, and an improvement on what currently exists, but will not be what partisans on both sides would regard as complete justice.

  56. Katz, many European countries and now I think Australia base citizenship on decent rather than birth. Many ethnic Germans who had lived in Eastern Europe returned to Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. A nephew recently secured Italian citizenship by decent.

    Repatriation laws in many countries to enable their Diasporas to return to their kin-states. Armenia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Spain, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey are examples

    Do the generous immigration policies in Sweden for the Swedish Diaspora make the last European country to practice eugenics an apartheid state as well?


  57. And in a democracy, all these laws can be changed if they offend the majority.

    That was my original point.

    Only anti-democratic principles would prevent a change in any law enacted in a democratic manner.

  58. Katz, many European countries and now I think Australia base citizenship on decent rather than birth.

    And many Palestinians claim citizenship of Israel by virtue of both birth and descent. Yet their demands are rejected by the State of Israel.

    Indeed, a large number of these claimants have title to property within the boundaries of Israel. These titles are identical to the titles held by Jewish inhabitants acquired under the Ottoman Empire. Yet the State of Israel recognised those titles only if they were held by Jews.

    Is this consistent?

    Where is your respect for the rights of property?

  59. @SarahSalibi
    Israel targeted Jabalya refugee camp which is one of the most crowded areas in #Gaza. I still can hear ambulances rushing to the place.

    And Gaza is about 4 times the population density of Hong Kong.

    Union Aid Abroad ?@apheda
    News just in: violence in Gaza impacts our Palestinian partner MA’AN with a family member killed in Jabalia www DOT facebook DOT com/UnionAidAbroadAPHEDA …

    Union Aid Abroad ?@apheda
    News just in: violence in Gaza impacts our Palestinian partner MA’AN with a family member killed in Jabalia www DOT facebook DOT com/UnionAidAbroadAPHEDA …

  60. @Fran Barlow Have you just discovered now that terrorists routinely intermingle with civilians using them as shields?

    Why did Hamas and Gaza militias commit war crimes under the Geneva conventions by intermingling with civilians and by “locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas”?

    Does Hamas and the other Gaza militias wear uniforms, carry their weapons openly and operate their missiles out of military bases set apart from civilian areas in Gaza?

  61. Gaza is one of the most densely populated places in the world Jim. The missiles have a 50 mile maximum range. There is no place to launch them from in Gaza that is not densely populated. They also have no air cover. They can only play the cards they have.

    They are in occupied territory and so some of the usual rules of war don’t apply.

    Now personally, I regard the launching of missiles against non-military targets, or the launching of missiles which one cannot be accurately controlled, to be ethically wrong, as well as futile.

    That said, there’s no evidence that missiles fired from Gaza by any group are in any significant way germane to the way Israel conducts policy. There are perverse incentives for Israel to keep the conflict going.

    And as things stand, there’s really no incentive for those in Gaza firing missiles to stop either. If you imagine your life can neither get much worse nor get measurably better, there’s not a lot of reason to choose another course.

  62. Fran, in the photo at shows what appear to be vacant fields a few hundred metres way. the missiles could have been based and fired from these fields and not from where they commited a war crime.

    the laws of war are universal. A lot of world war 1 & 2 was fought in occupied France. many wars follow invasions so much of the war is fought in occupied parts of the invaded country.

  63. Jim may not be aware of the Godwin – but comparing Nazi occupied France (along with the natural connotation of Resistance fighters using means more foul than fair against their oppressors) with Israeli occupied Gaza is quite apt.

  64. Further, Jim you may want to read up on forth generation warfare in order to avoid your ‘battleship’ being sunk by an Obama like ‘Horses and Bayonet’ jab. If you do want to ‘defend’ the hawkish Israeli position please do so intelligently. The situation is much more complex and glib comparisons or rambling faux arguments do not do the spilled blood on both sides justice.

    “This blood could have been spared. Those who made the decision must be judged by the voters, but to my regret they will get more votes because of this..”

  65. When it comes to the raison d’être of international humanitarian law, a stout ignorance infects the progressive Left.

    The purpose of international humanitarian law is to ensure strict differentiation between civilians and combatants. The requirement of international humanitarian law to carry weapons openly, dress in a uniform etc. is to ensure combatants are easy to distinguish from afar so troops do not get trigger happy around civilians areas and refugee columns.

    This is the fundamental purpose of international humanitarian law: saving civilians from the fighting. In return for legal protections from the hostilities, civilians are strictly forbidden from engaging in hostilities.

    The severest of punishments are allowed for spies, saboteurs, infiltrators, francs-tireurs and guerrillas. Not carrying weapons openly and not dressing in a military uniform that is recognisable from a distance is a self-inflicted death sentence.

    Two criteria from a just war are “serious prospects of success” and “the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”. Neither applies to the firing of missiles from the Gaza in Israel after the 2005 unilateral disengagement.

    p.s the google map at shows that much of Gaza is rural – ideal for Hamas military bases away from civilian centres as required by the laws of war.

  66. Progressive left, you mean as opposed to sclerotic right? You should stop looking for reds under the keyboard, it freezes up the neocortex.

    I can think of one freedom fighter or guerilla, who was charged of the capital crimes of sabotage and crimes which were equivalent to treason. He narrowly escaped the gallows and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as President.

    “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
    Moshe Dayan

  67. The computer generated Jim Rose draws an imaginary line in the sand and declares those not on his/her side to be of the ‘progressive left’

    Presumably the obverse is ‘regressive right’.

  68. Ootz, is there any possible peace agreement acceptable to a majority of Israelis and Palestinians? See on how the “Blackmailer’s Paradox” in game theory is happening in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    At each stage of negotiation, the Arabs present impossible, unacceptable starting positions. They act sure of themselves to create credibility and make it clear to Israel that there is no chance of their backing down. Israel agrees to a few of these blackmailing demands because otherwise she will leave the room empty handed. the war goes on.

    For there to be peace, Israel must start talking about the “painful concessions” it will require of the Palestinians. Only then will both sides negotiate because they know that Israel is willing to walk away for a long time unless it gets reasonable offers that will be binding and acceptable to a majority of Israelis and Palestinians

    Robert Aumann argues that “If you are ready for war, you will not need to fight. If you cry ‘peace, peace,’ you will end up fighting… What brings war is that you signal weakness and concessions”

  69. Golda Meir quotes:

    “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” (Statement to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., 1957)

    “When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.” (Statement at a Press Conference in London, 1969)

    Here we are in 2012, occupied Palestine is smaller than it has ever been. Israel has killed orders of magnitude more Palestinians than Israelis have been killed. Israel is illegally armed with nuclear weapons (WMD).

    It has regularly targeted children with conventional and chemical weapons. Israeli civillians frequently shoot Palestinian children with the full protection of the Israeli police/military.

    A large delegation of Australian media have quietly been in Israel (at the hospitality of AIJAC) since before this latest blow-up began. Coincidentally, they were in Sderot just in time to see a crappy missile pop. They are still there but hardly any of them are filing reports.

    Tonight I saw a ‘Tweet’ from one of them, safely whisked away to Tel-Aviv where they can only get the Israeli side of the story. Australians will be pleased to know that News Ltd & Fairfax journalists (and presumably ABC) are tonight having a “beer detente” in the bosom of Israel enjoying, no doubt civilised, hospitality instead of telling us what’s going on.

    Nice, snug, cosy, matey.

  70. @Megan Israel did not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Hamas, which runs Gaza, uses civilians as human shields, which is a war crime.

  71. Fran: “There is no place to launch them from in Gaza that is not densely populated.”

    One-third of Gaza is irrigated farmland and there is also much unirrigated rural land. If you check satellite maps of Gaza you’ll see this for yourself.

    Sure, the Palestinians are getting the rough end of the pineapple right now but I think it’s fairly obvious that if the Palestinians had the upper hand, they would simply exterminate the Jews. The Hamas Charter, which Megan dishonestly suggested is defunct, doesn’t pull any punches.

  72. @Megan The International Court of Justice in Congo v. Uganda determined that for belligerent occupations to exist, “the occupying army must actually exercise its authority in the territory, and thereby supplant the authority of the sovereign government of that area”.

    The Geneva Conventions require that an army exercise “control within” the territory for there to be an occuption.

    The blockade of Gaza is not an occupation. Blockades have a long history and a separate legal status. A recent naval and air blockade was against Libya. Another was the no-fly zone over Kurdistan. UN interventions often start with blockades.

    The border of Gaza with Egypt is not controlled by Israel. Israel as part of the 2005 disengagement even withdrew from a line of control allocated to it under the Oslo accords along the Egyptian border with Gaza to stop arms smuggling

  73. It’s the Mel and Jim show!

    Mel: You are dishonest – fact.

    Jim: “The Geneva Conventions require that an army exercise “control within” the territory for there to be an occuption.” – that has to be the most straw-iest of strawmen ever to have the stamp of apologia attached to its frayed hem.

    The “Occupied Territories” are not occupied by a belligerent force because the belligerent force hasn’t successfully subjugated the occupied peoples? Genius! I nominate you for the next unelected Senator that Labor appoints because you are right up there with Bob Carr.

  74. Some people pick cherries!

    This is from the ICRC:

    “The rules of international humanitarian law relevant to occupied territories become applicable whenever territory comes under the effective control of hostile foreign armed forces, even if the occupation meets no armed resistance and there is no fighting.

    The question of “control” calls up at least two different interpretations. It could be taken to mean that a situation of occupation exists whenever a party to a conflict exercises some level of authority or control within foreign territory. So, for example, advancing troops could be considered bound by the law of occupation already during the invasion phase of hostilities. This is the approach suggested in the ICRC’s Commentary to the Fourth Geneva Convention (1958).

    An alternative and more restrictive approach would be to say that a situation of occupation exists only once a party to a conflict is in a position to exercise sufficient authority over enemy territory to enable it to discharge all of the duties imposed by the law of occupation. This approach is adopted by a number of military manuals.”

    Either way, Israel vis-a-vis Gaza ticks the boxes and is a ‘rogue state’ defying International Law.

    Put simply, they kill children for fun. They are not a force for good. They need serious help with their collective disorders. The world pities them while they pretend they are better than the world – Israel is just a sad, sad country with problems it refuses to face.

  75. @Mel

    Fran: “There is no place to launch them from in Gaza that is not densely populated.”

    OK … I’ll grant that there are some less densely populated places, but these would not be logistically feasible. If the Israelis could rely on the resistance using only non-urban land from which to launch they could target all of their surveillance on it. The missiles would be intercepted and the fighters killed on the spot. Going back to using people as bomb mules would make more sense, if one puts aside the ethical objections.

    Now as I’ve said, I don’t see that the missile strategy is either ethical or even effective in advancing their cause, but if you are going to launch missiles, you have to do it in circumstances where you think there is a rough chance of it hitting its target and the people launching them living to launch more. Without some kind of air cover, this simply isn’t feasible. With the bunker-busting bombs the IDF has (courtesy of the US) even underground is out.

    Realistically, a country composed largely of underfed children cannot confront a technologically advanced well-resourced and well-drilled military machine that controls the air and all above ground approaches to the territory and hope to win. I suspect that the Gazan missiles are expressions of their profound misery, and the hope that it will keep the attention of the world on their issue, rather than any serious belief that they will rattle the IDF.

    The only hope the Gazans have is that the US will make its support to Israel conditional upon accepting a just peace, but there’s simply no hint that this is on the horizon — missiles from Gaza or not. That would require a fundamental shift in US politics in the direction of people favouring a measure of equity. The right remains in control of the agenda.

  76. @Megan if a territory comes under the effective control of hostile foreign armed forces, even if the occupation meets no armed resistance and there is no fighting, why are all these missiles being fired? does not sound like effective control.

    you confuse an occupation with blockades and sieges. a siege is less costly that house to house fighting.

  77. I’d be interested to know what these folks who are firing inaccurate missiles in the general direction of Israel are trying to achieve and whether recent events have taken them closer to achieving it.

  78. @Katz to stay in the game. Would anyone care what Hamas was doing if it was not firing those missiles. The power to hurt gives them influence.

  79. Good question Katz, there was a certain level of transgressions on both sides for quite awhile. just check “Gaza NGO Safety Office”. However, I suspect there was a perceived opportunity for the Hawks on both sides to escalate.
    ” ….who appears to be retaliating against whom depends on when you start the clock. Most American media accounts have begun coverage of the latest rounds of violence with a Palestinian attack on Israeli soldiers on November 8. Less noticed in the coverage was that the soldiers were part of an element of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), including four tanks and an armored bulldozer, that was operating inside the Gaza Strip at the time. Exactly what those operations included is still unclear, but the IDF did later say it was “investigating” the death of an 11-year-old boy that day. Within the next three days the Palestinian Center for Human Rights documented the deaths of five more Palestinian civilians, including three children, with 52 other civilians wounded. Most of the casualties were incurred in a single Israeli attack on a playground soccer field.”

    Further, the motive of Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. ”

    And Jim, re Aumann and peace
    ” .. according to The Jerusalem Post, Aumann joined Ahi, a far-right religious Zionist party led by Effi Eitam and Yitzhak Levi. The editor of the Israeli newspaper Maariv has written that Eitam, who once called Arabs a “cancer,” is a “landgrabber” and a “kibbutznik…turned zealously religious and nationalistic…he is surrounded by an unpleasant aura of irrationality, like one who sees himself in an almost-messianic light.” Levi, for his part, is a rabbi, former Knesset member with the National Religious Party, and co-founder of the radical settlement at Elon Moreh, near Nablus. In addition to his involvement with Ahi, Aumann is a long-time member of Professors for a Strong Israel. The group’s website states that “Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and the Golan Heights are integral parts of the Land of Israel”

  80. @Ootz Playing the man rather than the ball! Is any of Aumann’s reasoning about the blackmailer’s paradox wrong? If they were, you would not have mounted a petty personal attack.

    The whole point of science is devising methods of increasing knowledge without regard to the politics of those involved.

    The social sciences relies on critical discussion to evaluate arguments. The politics and passions of social scientists are beside the point. Stigler argued that the biography of scientists has relevance only to the problems they select in light of their passions.

    Aumann is a mathematician, so maths is used to checking his game theory.

    p.s. the democrat to republican ratio in sociology departments in voter registrations is 44 to 1. Does that composition make sociology unable to say anything of value?

  81. Megan how about you tell me what I lied about. So far you’ve:

    (a) dishonestly said that peace is simple and only requires Israeli action

    (b) dishonestly implied that the Hamas Charter is defunct, and

    (c) dishonestly implied Hamas’ ambitions are limited to the 1967 borders.

  82. @Mel fair go. question (a) is too tough for a member of the appeasement Left to answer. the notion of that if you want peace, you must prepare for war is lost on them.

    Aumann argues well that the way to peace is like bargaining in a medieval bazaar. Never look too keen, and bargain long and hard. be patient.

  83. I should add that civil wars are much harder to end because the power to start fighting again is so diffuse.

  84. It is arguable that the power of Hamas resides almost exclusively in their ability to mobilise powerful Arab and Islamic opinion and more importantly action, in their cause.

    The final destination of this influence must be the White House and the US Congress. And this influence must be expressed in a threat by the US to review its policy of bankrolling Israel.

    Thus the tactics of Hamas appear to be aimed at arousing the Arab and Islamic streets. In the context of the destabilisation of the Islamic world associated with the Arab Spring, this route to pressuring the US may be more productive than before the Arab Spring. But on the other hand, Egypt, the most important Arab country from the point of view of Middle Eastern geopolitics, already has a Muslim Brotherhood government. Egyptian Islamists have therefore little left to threaten the US. Thus, the Egyptian government can’t protest to the US that the US has to do something to help Gaza, or else the Egyptian government might lose the Egyptian people. Why would the the care about the MB government?

    Therefore, it is arguable, Hamas tactics of episodic escalation, or even enthusiastic retaliation to Israeli provocation are now less productive than before the Arab Spring.

    Add the fact that with domestic shale oil the US is growing less dependant on Saudi oil, the geopolitical landscape of the region is shifting rapidly. The US is less compelled to pander to the Saudis.

    Perhaps Hamas would be better employed seeking new ways to influence the US and also public opinion in Israel.

  85. Jim, in Game Theory it pays to recognise who the actors are. Aumann is a controversial figure, amongst other, it has been argued that he or his political allies are blackmailing themselves and adhering to irrational cultural believes.

  86. Katz, interesting analysis and that is why I think any Gaza ground invasion will end badly for all concerned. (Itried to insert link several times only to end in mod, reassemle broken link below)
    http: // blogs. timesofisrael .com /gaza-ground-invasion-will-end-badly/

  87. Katz:

    “And this influence must be expressed in a threat by the US to review its policy of bankrolling Israel.”

    I don’t see this happening. The Democrats don’t want to risk losing the Jewish vote and the Republicans know they need to escape from their white male ghetto or be pounded by shifting demographics, plus many of their chief thinkers and strategists are hawkish Jews.

    Politicians are more firmly bound by mundane electoral considerations than many folk realise.

    Frankly I don’t see a way forward and I wouldn’t be surprised if Israel at some point decides to smash the Palestinians in much the same way as the Sri Lankan Government smashed the Tamils. Thank the Gods we are safely tucked away in the back pocket of the Anglosphere.

  88. I agree with Mel that the likelihood is remote that all things being equal the US would seriously reduce its financial support for Israel, unless Israel rashly adopted the Tamil solution. The Tamils had no determined friends, whereas the Palestinians are a cause célèbre who stymie themselves by their own incompetence.

    That scenario leaves us with the Battle of the Prams inside Israel. I think that Iranian money would be better spent on child endowment inside Israel than on rinky dink rockets.

  89. Tom Schelling spent a lot of time on going to war as an emergent process: what a nation does today in a crisis affects what it can be expected to do tomorrow: “A government never knows just how committed it is to action until the occasion when its commitment is challenged.”

    Schelling argues that nations, like people, are continually engaged in demonstrations of resolve, tests of nerve, and explorations for understandings and many misunderstandings. That is why there is a genuine risk of major war not from accidents in the military machine but through a diplomatic process of commitment and escalation that is itself unpredictable.

    Getting out of a war is a process too that rests on negotiating a peace settlement that requires a credible chance that the peace will last rather than just allow the other side to regroup and rearm. That was why World War 1 was as long as it was.

    A state would think that another state’s promise not to start another war is credible only if the other state would be better off by keeping such promises not to start another war than by breaking its promise once it has rearmed.

    The siege of Gaza is much harder to end because the power to start fighting again is so diffuse across Hamas and the other militias. can anyone make peace on behalf of Gaza?

  90. @Katz

    They say they are trying to

    a) give the oppressor a taste of what life is like under occupation or that the occupiers should not sleep comfortably while the occupied do not.

    b) to remind the world that they don’t accept the annexation

    They may well be achieving those things but a) is of little beyond expressive value to them and b) doesn’t require missiles.

    As I implied above, Katz, firing missiles as they have doesn’t fit into any rational calculus and is of course not warranted. That’s easy to say of course from the comfort of a place where we don’t get text messages from people able to bomb us at will and who have declared they want us to return to the middle ages and to get as few calories as possible. We live in a place where most of us can spare a thought about what our kids will do for a living and what we might do in retirement.

    With all that free time to muse, we’ve time to reflect on the intersection of abstract ethics, questions of utility and what would be most useful. No distinct group of people has given us reason over several decades to see them as beneath our concern.

    Trying to mull over this with those for whom the reverse is the lived experience is probably not going to work all that well. Israel, had it been so minded, might have come to an accommodation in the late 1970s. Its failure to do so, driven by the unstinting backing of the US is the reason why this mess persists.

  91. Interesting article in LA Times with graphic showing range of missile types from Gaza.

    Only the Fajr-5 rockets can reach Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

    Here are two perspectives on the state of play from Gazans:

    JABALIYA, Gaza Strip — Stepping over his daughter’s mangled teddy bear and pink bedroom curtains, math teacher Hossam Dadah salvaged what he could from the wreckage of his home and said he’s had enough.

    Two of his children were hospitalized after Israeli airstrikes destroyed the three-story house next door, which was owned by a Hamas official.

    “This has to end,” said Dadah, his black hair covered with concrete dust from the explosion. Hamas should quit while it’s ahead, he said.

    Not far away in Gaza City, policeman Mohamed Abu Islam peered into the massive crater left by an Israeli strike on the city’s sports stadium and insisted that Gazans should press forward with the conflict.

    “We can’t stop now,” he said. “If Israel wants a long-term truce, this time there must be conditions that improve our lives, such as lifting the blockade on the borders and the sea.”

  92. @Fran Barlow the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel fail as a just war because “arms may not be used in a futile cause”.

    Force may be used “only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical.” Hamas uses negotiations as a delaying tactic and it will not make meaningful concessions.

    Israel, by camparison, unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza strip and prior to that, agreed to the establishment of the Palestinian authority. what did Israel get in return from Hamas for these concessions?

  93. the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel fail as a just war because “arms may not be used in a futile cause

    They plainly don’t accept that the cause is futile. In effect though, you are inviting them to accept that it is — that they must go quietly into oblivion.

    Now as I’ve said, I don’t agree that the missiles advance the cause or are ethically defensible. Giving them up doesn’t prejudice their position. It might notionally strengthen it though I find this very doubtful. In any event, even if Hamas foreswore missiles, not everyone in Gaza would.

    The reality is that peace would serve the Israeli regime very poorly, which is why they have not honoured peace deals. They are happy for the other side to use this to deem the peace deal dead. The Israelis were after all, authors of Hamas.

    They could have peace any time they wanted, but they don’t want. What they want is misery and shame for their Arab prisoners.

  94. The UK Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (November 2010):

    ‘Although there is no permanent physical Israeli presence in Gaza, given the significant control that Israel has over Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters, the UK judges that Israel retains obligations under the fourth Geneva Convention as an occupying power.’ (Hansard, 30 Nov 2010 : Column WA425).

  95. mega, you are too trusting of junior ministers.

    A territory ‘is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.’ (Art. 42 of the Hague Regulations).

    are there other occupations without having troops on the ground? name names.

    the border controls are of no moment because any country can close its borders. no fly zones and martime blockades have a separate legal history.

    The border with Egypt is not under siege by Israel.

  96. Ok, so at least one Gazan thinks that these rocket fusillades may serve to end the blockade.

    At least one element of this blockade is maintained by Egypt.

    Perhaps Hamas believes that by dramatising their antipathy toward Israel, Egypt can now (after the rise if the MB) be pressured into opening the boundary between Egypt and the GS.

    This is perhaps an achievable end.

  97. Katz, is Egypt an occupying power because it closed its border to Gaza? was this border with Gaza closed after the purported end of Egyptian occupation of Gaza in 1967?

    a clarification comes from UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which authorised military action and a no-fly zone over Libya but ruled out any “occupation” of Libyan territory. The UN considered an embargo, a no-fly zone and constant aerial bombardment not to be an “occupation.”

    Does Hamas consider the Gaza Strip to be occupied?

  98. why are people so keen to regard the Gaza Strip as occupied? Hamas would not be keen to signify such weakness.

  99. @Jim Rose

    why are people so keen to regard the Gaza Strip as occupied? Hamas would not be keen to signify such weakness.

    Contrary to the implication of some, there are no spokespeople for Hamas here. For example, I’m an atheist, a humanist and a proponent of authentic community. I find the politics of Hamas repulsive. That doesn’t change the facts on the ground though.

  100. It is worth remembering that this is not the first time we have seen the unfolding of a sequence of Palestinian (or other Arab) unguided missile attacks on Israeli territory and a subsequent massive military response by Israel. If we think back to Operation Cast Lead and its prequels in 2008-2009, the war with Hezbollah in 2006, and the Israeli-PLO exchanges which culminated in the war in Lebanon in 1982, we have over 30 years of this sort of thing to reflect on. What is evident is that these sorry sequences of events are bad all round, the missile attacks have not advanced the Palestinians’ political goals, and Israel has not been able to achieve lasting security by military means.

    What has changed, of course, is that this is the first time such a flare-up has occurred since the start of the Arab Spring.

  101. The Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai on the imposition of a “shoah” by the IDF:

    The more qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves {my emphasis}

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