Friday, August 30, 2013

30-Aug-13: Here, wherever you go is Ground Zero

Inside a crowded Jerusalem gas mask distribution
point this week [Image Source]
Now that we know [thanks to this report] that those "upgraded" gas mask kits we rushed out to get are lacking the one and only component that is effective against the very chemical materials the Syrians are believed to be using, one thing has become clear. Humor is the second most important thing we have on our side.

With that in mind, here's a rather telling piece from the highly unauthoritative Borowitz Report yesterday.

AUGUST 29, 2013
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Attempting to quell criticism of his proposal for a limited military mission in Syria, President Obama floated a more modest strategy today, saying that any U.S. action in Syria would have “no objective whatsoever.”
“Let me be clear,” he said in an interview on CNN. “Our goal will not be to effect régime change, or alter the balance of power in Syria, or bring the civil war there to an end. We will simply do something random there for one or two days and then leave.”
“I want to reassure our allies and the people of Syria that what we are about to undertake, if we undertake it at all, will have no purpose or goal,” he said. “This is consistent with U.S. foreign policy of the past.”
While Mr. Obama clearly hoped that his proposal of a brief and pointless intervention in Syria would reassure the international community, it immediately drew howls of protest from U.S. allies, who argued that two days was too open-ended a timeframe for such a mission.
That criticism led White House spokesman Jay Carney to brief reporters later in the day, arguing that the President was willing to scale down the U.S. mission to “twenty-four hours, thirty-six tops.”
“It may take twenty-four hours, but it could also take twelve,” Mr. Carney said.
“Maybe we get in there, take a look around, and get out right away. But however long it takes, one thing will not change: this mission will have no point. The President is resolute about that.”

We quoted this to friends yesterday. Not everyone realized right away what the Borowitz Report is, which is perhaps why we heard murmurs of understanding for the viewpoint outlined by the president's spokesman. This, it seems, says more about today's United States and its much diminished global standing than about New Yorker magazine.

London, June 15, 2013: Brits demonstrating against
military intervention in Syria [Image Source]
For what it's worth, our impression is there is very limited actual enthusiasm here in Israel for an American military attack on Syria. What you do encounter a lot of is widespread dismay over the policies of an American administration that sets red lines on the basis of ill-defined strategies and international alignments... and then damages its own interests still further by dithering when they're crossed. 

Yes, the US president is a consummate communicator, and his recent speeches are replete with "there is no doubt" and "we have concluded". But we (and the attentive Arab world) also heard him say this on Wednesday about American plans:
And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about – but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact on our national security over the long term and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians. [PBS Newshour, August 28, 2013]
Some other time, not now, we might try to analyze here the effect of a Western leader addressing authoritarian regimes with phrases like "we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way". Having said it and done it, did President Obama imagine he was having an impact?

The Brits? Hard to say that people here expected more spine and determination than what the UK parliament delivered last night. David Horovitz, a recovered Brit himself, has a slashing analysis in his Times of Israel today. (Highly recommended.) And in the British media, there is no shortage of signs today ["Britain has become a nation of crisp-eating surrender monkeys" for instance] that British voices too are wondering what this means for their standing, their self-respect and their place on the world stage. 

In truth, there is something quite off-putting to us about self-satisfied British soundbites coming from people who have sat by doing mostly nothing these past two years while 100,000+ people were killed (by conventional weapons and not chemicals - does that make it OK?) over the past two years. It's very clear to us that doing nothing again, as they decided to do in last night's Westminster vote, is something you are free to do when it's happening far away. But is it something to be proud of? 

The UK is considered small by those who live there, but it's almost ten times larger than all of Israel (including Judea and Samaria), and London is 3,600 kilometers (as the missile flies) from Damascus. The hundred thousand or so rockets in the hands of the terror groups funded by Syria and Iran, and deployed close enough to Israel to be able to reach any point within Israel all contribute to the sense Israelis have that, whichever spot you choose in this beautiful, beleaguered country, that's Ground Zero for someone. Ask yourself, as we do, if anyone can say for certain what those rockets - or even some tiny proportion of them - are now carrying in their payload.

London, January 28, 2012: Brits demonstrating against
military intervention in Iran [Image Source]
So over here, the focus is understandably less about perceptions, more about preparing. 

The Iranians and the Syrians have delivered updated foaming-at-the-mouth warnings in the past 24 hours of what they are about to do to us. This, recall, is not because Israel has done anything special lately. But in some parts of the Arab and Islamic worlds, it's what's considered a defensive strategy when you feel cornered by the West. The Iranian army chief of staff says his forces will leave Israel in flames [Lebanon - Daily Star]. And a widely quoted Syrian military official said yesterday that "...If Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire." [ABC News, yesterday]. 

There's nothing particularly new in the sense that Israelis need to place self-reliance ahead of other people's undertakings. So we are seeing an Iron Dome emplacement moved into the Tel Aviv area as of the early hours of this morning (Friday). Others have been placed closer to the northern borders. Gas masks are in very high demand (we'll avoid the details). And the IDF, whose leadership is obliged to tell the public it is 'ready for any eventuality', and probably is, has been canceling leave and calling some reservists up for unscheduled duty. That's something we have seen numerous times in the past. It has not always preceded actual fighting. Except when it did.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Israel is far from self sufficient.

Why bite the hand that feeds you? It is Great Britain that let you down, not the US.......not yet.