Analysis: What does U.S. have to gain, lose in Gaza?

earth-newThe first rule of wars on terror: you can’t win a war on terror. Though as we’re seeing yet again in Gaza, it’s not that the aim of a war on terror is to win the war on terror.

Even killing every last member of Hamas does little to bolster Israeli fortunes in Gaza, as the U.S. has learned for itself in Afghanistan and Iraq with its efforts to rid the earth of Al-Qaeda. The effort can be militarily successful, but with increasing success militarily comes a flip side of social and political problems that ultimately undermine the wins on the battlefield.

For every fighter taken off the battlefield in a body bag, how many more are created out of what has to be done to kill the soldier, the commander, and in the crossfire little kids, their mothers, their grandparents? That’s the first issue.

The second is related to the first in the fact that we live in an information age. Win battles in a regional war 200 years ago, 100 years ago, and it was enough that you vanquished your foe. Win a battle today, and even as the dust is settling you have to deal with Twitter and Facebook and some 24-hour news channel somewhere with footage of the wartime atrocities that you engaged in as you put the other side on the run.

The third problem is that a war on terror is by definition unwinnable because terror isn’t a nation, a people, even a band or militia; it’s a tactic, and one that can be used very effectively to turn the ability of major powers to deploy overwhelming force into at the least something of a disadvantage. As a tactic, terrorism, effective as it is, is here to stay, and so those appointing themselves to fight it have an eternal struggle on their hands, and one that they are very well aware is ultimately doomed to coming up short.

So if you can’t win a war on terror, then what does the U.S. have to gain getting involved in any other way than to act as an agent of peace in the Israel-Hamas conflict?

Especially when you consider that it doesn’t appear that neither side is even trying to win. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for one, is vowing to disarm Hamas and decapitate its leadership, but this is as much to play homeland politics as it is to actually achieve those aims, which are akin to running around a backyard knocking down anthills that will be back tomorrow in greater number.

Hamas, for its part, is playing its own domestic politics, goading Israel into firing missiles at schools and hospitals by stockpiling weapons caches nearby, then fanning up international outrage with photo and video of the carnage that ensues, the death and destruction creating more martyrs to the cause in a sickening game.

The two sides pledge to wipe the other off the planet, and are backing up their bluster with missiles and mortars. U.S. involvement needs to shift from being an active participant in helping one of the players achieve its aims toward securing a short-term cease-fire that can open the door long term toward some sort of middle ground that allows both sides to live in peace, if not harmony.

Anything short of that puts us on the wrong side of history.

– Column by Chris Graham


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