The story du jour.
Having previously failed to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza that denies HAMAS war material and economic aid, a coalition of Islamists, Palestinian nationalists and Western Leftists used ships of Turkish registry. The IDF took the bait and blundered into an ambush where the commandos were promptly swarmed by the “peace activists”, overpowered (!) and then had to bloodily shoot their way out of a debacle.
RealClearPolitics has a better video.
Taking stock of this bit of guerrilla theater gone lethal, let’s see what the supporters of HAMAS terrorism gained:
The world is hearing a false narrative that Israel massacred unarmed peace activists.
Turkey’s ruling, authoritarian, crypto-Islamist Party has a further wedge to downgrade Turkey’s traditional military cooperation with Israel while putting political pressure on Turkish secularists and Army leaders.
Israel’s diplomatic isolation is greatly increased
Additional strain is put on the already lukewarm relationship between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government
On the moral level of war, HAMAS supporters – whose strategic objective is to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza, so that HAMAS can rebuild it’s military strength – have scored a solid triumph while the IDF have acted with all the instinctive propensity for causing self-inflicted wounds of Richard Nixon confronting the Watergate break-in.
Because Israel is powerful and democratic and its enemies, despite their viciousness and authoritarian politics, are weak, the Israelis are not held to the same moral standards by international observers (many of whom, it must be noted, begin with a strongly anti-Israel or at least, anti-Western, orientation). In a 4GW paradigm, even acting in self-defense is not enough for a strong state to play the role of “the good guy” in a globalized media environment, unless the weak side does something that is viscerally morally repulsive – ex. Abu Zarqawi ‘s extreme brutality and lust for staging ghoulish beheadings of captives on the internet.
There seems to be a stunning political-strategic tone deafness on the part of Israeli leaders in recent years. Perhaps there is a degradition of IDF tactical excellence as well. Overpowering highly trained, heavily armed, elite commandos by untrained civilians is not possible unless said commandos were sent in poorly briefed, with unworkable ROE (IMHO, this was more likely a prepared ambush than a spontaneous act). There’s no half-way method of seizing a hostile ship by force. Either you do it swiftly, while citing appropriate legal justification or you don’t and employ a different set of responses to turn the ships away in a manner that does not alienate observers.
Military force used ineffectually is as counterproductive as force used excessively. From a Boydian strategic perspective, the initiative is lost, opponents are “pumped up” while one’s own side and sympathizers are demoralized. Political irritants become inflated into disasters. HAMAS, Hezbollah, al Qaida and similar entities are not the old, state-sponsored, state-centric, PLO and they are not playing the PLO’s game.
Abu Muqawama gives the “peace flotilla” way too much benefit of the doubt here, but his analysis of how poorly the Israelis handled this situation is spot on:
One could, from the start, think a number of different things about those participating in the peace flotilla to Gaza. (Naive? Righteous? Courageous? Anti-Semitic?) But for the sake of argument, and putting ourselves in the shoes of an Israeli naval commander, let’s assume the most malevolent of motivations for the people participating in the peace flotilla. If I am in charge of doing that for the Israeli Navy, I am going to assume these people are smart and are deliberately trying to provoke a crazy response from my sailors and soldiers that will produce ready-for-television images that both isolate Israel within the international community and further raise the ire of the Arabic-speaking and Islamic worlds. I mean, that is my base assumption for what this group is trying to do. So naturally, the last thing I would want my forces to do would be to overreact, right? It’s like when your convoy gets fired on inside a crowded market: the last thing you want to do is return fire with 7.62mm, killing a bunch of civilians and giving the enemy exactly the effect he was looking for.
If something does go wrong, meanwhile, I am going to have a response ready. I am going to have my very best spokespersons on international and Israeli television. I am most certainly not going to let people like Danny Ayalon provide my government’s response, right? Because a live wire like Ayalon — who the Turks already hate, with an understandable passion — will just say something incredibly crazy like how the people in the aid flotilla were terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda. (Even if you can prove this is somehow true, everyone you need to be speaking to right now — the international community, the Turkish people, the Arabic-speaking world — is just going to think you are nuts for saying it or will roll their eyes and say, “Oh, of course he’s saying that.”)
In reality, what happened today is the Israelis got their butts handed to them. The Israeli response to this aid flotilla was a fabulous gift to Hamas and Iran. (Try to imagine, if you will, the Israelis trying to go before the U.N. Security Council to gather support for sanctions on the Iranian regime right now. They would be more likely to leave New York with sanctions on their own regime!)
George Friedman of STRATFOR ( Hat tip to Adam Elkus)
….The bid to shape global perceptions by portraying the Palestinians as victims of Israel was the first prong of a longtime two-part campaign. The second part of this campaign involved armed resistance against the Israelis. The way this resistance was carried out, from airplane hijackings to stone-throwing children to suicide bombers, interfered with the first part of the campaign, however. The Israelis could point to suicide bombings or the use of children against soldiers as symbols of Palestinian inhumanity. This in turn was used to justify conditions in Gaza. While the Palestinians had made significant inroads in placing Israel on the defensive in global public opinion, they thus consistently gave the Israelis the opportunity to turn the tables. And this is where the flotilla comes in.
The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project. As with the Zionist portrayal of the situation in 1947, the Gaza situation is far more complicated than as portrayed by the Palestinians. The moral question is also far more ambiguous. But as in 1947, when the Zionist portrayal was not intended to be a scholarly analysis of the situation but a political weapon designed to define perceptions, the Turkish flotilla was not designed to carry out a moral inquest.
Instead, the flotilla was designed to achieve two ends. The first is to divide Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. The second is to create a political crisis inside Israel between those who feel that Israel’s increasing isolation over the Gaza issue is dangerous versus those who think any weakening of resolve is dangerous.
Very interesting. Tom Barnett argues the flotilla is a Trojan horse chess move on Ankara’s part to justify Turkey’s eventual membership in the Nuclear Club:
Turkey’s deputy prime minister called the raid “a dark stain on the history of humanity.” So now Ankara has its bloody shirt, which will be used – once Tehran inevitably announces the weaponization of its nukes – to justify Turkey’s rapid reach for the same. Just like Tehran cannot openly rationalize its bid for regional supremacy vis-à-vis archrival Saudi Arabia, Turkey requires an appropriate villain for its nuclear morality play. Anybody watching the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations over the past year knew that some cause célèbre was in the works. Suddenly, if perhaps on purpose, Turkey can claim that – despite its efforts to broker a non-nuclear peace in the region (including a recent enrichment deal engineered with Brazil) – it needs its own deterrent against Israel’s nuclear arsenal, too.