This is a signal characteristic of administration's behavior in foreign affairs: require the target to cede its bargaining chips as a precondition of negotiations. In the case of Iran, the "offer they must refuse" is the demand that they give up their UN guaranteed "inalienable right" to peaceful nuclear development. The administration gave Hamas an ultimatum to bare its throat to an armed and U.S. backed Israel, a move that would have been suicidal. Given the overwhelming preponderance of the Israelis' actions and rhetoric over the past three years, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that they consider genocide of a defenseless adversary to be a perfectly legitimate course of action.
And it looks like they can get away with it for at least as long as George W. Bush is in office.
Beggars and Choosers
In September 2006, both U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declared that they would not accept a Palestinian government that included the newly elected Hamas majority. The Bush administration brought pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Hamas government and Rice talked Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates into providing covert funds and training to the militant branch of the corrupt Palestinian Fatah party that been voted out of power.
Push came to shove, shove came to biff, Hamas ran Fatah out of Gaza, Israel slapped a blockade on Hamas and the rest is front page news. Israel's latest talk of agreeing to ceasefire proposal "principles" sounds like a stall stratagem. Condi says the U.S. doesn't want a ceasefire that will restore a "status quo," which means the administration wants Hamas even more outgunned than it was before. Israel is equipped to spank the militaries of three neighboring countries. Hamas is armed with rockets that it makes from steel tubes and fertilizer. Israel says that any ceasefire it agrees to will have to include a "working" arms embargo. I guess that means Gaza farmers will have to adopt closed loop fertilizing; a fitting analog of what Israel, with help from the rest of the world, has been forcing the Palestinians to do for generations.
Israel is supposedly allowing a three-hour daily window for food and other supplies to get into Gaza via "humanitarian corridors." Who do they think they're kidding? Gaza was in a long-standing crisis situation before began its aerial assault. Three hours of humanitarianism in the middle of an all out invasion won't amount to a sand ant's breakfast.
Israel will go on pounding Gaza and Condi will make sure the get to do so as long as they want to, just like she provided high cover for them during the Lebanon travesty. How long Israel keeps this up is a matter of what it hopes to accomplish.
I googled "eliminate hamas" and got 774,000 hits. A lot of people out there are rooting for the best bloodbath ever. Uber-Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu thinks Israel "ultimately" needs to remove the Hamas government from in Gaza, but doesn't know if it can be done "right now." Uh, huh. That sounds like a new entry in the Brave New World Dictionary: ul-ti-mate-ly (adverb) before January 20, 2009. Maybe.
"Eliminate Hamas" is code for something far more sinister; in the present context, it means pretty much the same as "eliminate Democrats and Republicans."
There is no wiggle space for crazy talk like "We're here to liberate the freedom loving people of Gaza from their Hamas oppressors" in this scenario. The people of Gaza put Hamas in power to free themselves from the oppression of Israel toadying Fatah. The Gaza Strip covers less than 140 square miles, and almost a million and a half Palestinians live in it. You can't separate combatants from non-combatants in that kind of situation. The canard about how Hamas "uses women and children as human shields" is the most preposterous mantra in the history of war propaganda. Hamas fighters are defending their homes from within them, and unlike some people, they can't pack mommy and the kids off to stay with relatives in Florida.
Burn, Babies, Burn!
There's also no such thing as a "precision" weapon in a theater of war like Gaza. Maybe that's why the Israelis aren't being coy about their use of cluster munitions and incendiaries.
I've witnessed dozens of debates in the past few days over whether or not these weapons are legal, and I refuse to participate. You can argue laws of armed conflict until the return of the Jedi, and it won't make a bit of difference. The Israelis are using them whether they're legal or not. The pertinent question is what the Israelis are trying to accomplish with them.
Like many weapons, clusters and incendiaries have multiple applications, but they were designed with one thing in mind. Bomblet dispensing cluster weapons are for killing people. They're okay for certain types of dispersed soft targets like fighter jets parked on a flight line, but the "AP" in APAM stands for "anti-personnel," and Hamas doesn't have any fighter jets.
Cluster munitions work great against large infantry units moving across open ground, but if the Hamas fighters were dumb enough to move across open ground in large numbers against the Israelis, the fighting would have ended really, really fast. Someone suggested to me that the Israelis may be using clusters to clear minefields. That might clear a few mines I suppose, but the unexploded munitions would create an even denser minefield than the one they were trying to clear. International organizations are still trying to clean up the cluster munitions Israel used in Lebanon and the ones we dropped on Afghanistan. Millions of the things are lolling around the world today, waiting for some kids and a mommy and a dog and a picnic basket to come along. The Israelis will leave tens of thousands of them behind for the Palestinians to remember them by.
Incendiaries are designed to start fires, like the ones they started in Dresden and Tokyo during World War II. Incendiary bombs provide night illumination and daytime smoke screens as a side effect, but seriously folks. If you're a modern army like the Israeli Defense Force and you plan a major operation for months like the IDF planned this one, and all you want to do is turn day into night and vice versa, you use non-exploding flares and emission type smoke rounds, not incendiaries; just like you don't pop off a couple of tactical nukes because you "forgot" batteries for the flashlights.
From the looks of things, Israel aims to leave the Palestinians in Gaza with what a Union colonel of the Civil War depicted as "nothing but their eyes to cry with."
America is inertly watching a nation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls our "friend and democratic ally" conduct a war of annihilation. Pressed about his lack of comment on the Gaza debacle at a January 7 news conference, President-elect Obama said that his "silence is not a consequence of lack of concern."
If I threw my dogs a bone like that they wouldn't get up to sniff at it.