Journal: Grand Strategy, Gaza In, Israel Out

Chuck Spinney

Linked below is a very long, but I believe critically important analysis of the blowback effects of Israel’s bloody invasion of Gaza, which began in Dec 2008 and ended days before President Obama took office.  The author, Norman Finkelstein, is the son of Holocaust survivors, and the bête noire of the worldwide Zionist establishment, especially in the United States and Israel.  He has written widely on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the contemporary politics of the Holocaust.

“Blowback” is a term coined by historian Chalmers Johnson to describe the unintended and counterproductive grand-strategic effects of aggressive strategies.  Grand strategy can be thought of as the way in which your strategic actions:

  • Pump up your own resolve and increase your country’s internal political cohesion
  • Drain away your opponent’s resolve and weaken his political cohesion
  • Reinforce commitments of your allies to your cause and and make them more empathetic to your success
  • Attract the uncommitted to your cause and make them empathetic to your success
  • Isolate your adversary and induce his allies to stop supporting him
  • End conflicts on terms on favorable terms that do not sow the seeds of future conflicts

These criteria can be thought of as guidelines for evaluating the wisdom of specific policies or actions, and blowback can be thought of as the unravelling of these criteria.  They are easy to unravel, because it is difficult to define strategies that simultaneously conform to and strengthen to all these criteria.  But that does not mean you should not try to do so. Unfortunately, this challenge becomes particularly difficult for unilateral military strategies and the coercive foreign policies, where the strategic effects of destructive military strategies can be in natural tension with the aims of grand strategy, which should be constructive over the long term.

Moreover, history has shown repeatedly that the more powerful a country is relative to its adversaries, the harder it becomes to synthesize the often conflicting criteria into a sensible grand strategy. That is because overwhelming power breeds hubris and arrogance which, in turn, carries a temptation to use that power coercively and excessively.

But lording over or dictating one's will to others breeds resentment and drives away uncommitted bystanders and can eventually alienate even the most steadfast of allies. Thus, possession of overwhelming power always increases the risk of going astray grand strategically thereby setting the stage for a continuing conflict that eventually wears you down and defeats you, even if you win the overwhelming majority  of individual battles.

With this appreciation of blowback in mind, I urge you read carefully Finkelstein’s long essay, and ask yourself, “Did Israel go too far and set itself up for a grand strategic meltdown, especially if it continues Zionist business as usual?”

Chuck Spinney

“This Time We Went Too Far”

Truth and Consequences in the Gaza Invasion

FIRST PARAGRAPH: Public outrage at the Gaza invasion did not come out of the blue but rather marked the nadir of a curve plotting a steady decline in support for Israel. As polling data of Americans and Europeans, both Gentiles and Jews, suggest, the public has become increasingly critical of Israeli policy over the past decade. The horrific images of death and destruction broadcast around the world during and after the invasion accelerated this development. “The increased and brutal frequency of war in this volatile region has shifted international opinion,” the British Financial Times editorialized one year later, “reminding Israel it is not above the law. Israel can no longer dictate the terms of debate.”
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LAST PARAGRAPH: The bonds of solidarity being forged between young Jews and Muslims opposing the occupation—the core group on many campuses consists of secular Jewish radicals and observant Muslim women—give reason for hope that a just and lasting peace may yet be achieved. After speaking on the Gaza massacre at a Canadian university, the sponsors presented me with a button reading “I ♥ GAZA.” I pinned the button to my backpack and headed for the airport. As I stood on the queue to board the plane, a passenger behind me whispered in my ear “I like your button.” Hmm, I thought, the times they are a-changing. A couple of hours later I asked the airline attendant for a cup of water. Handing me the cup he leaned over and whispered “I like your button.” Hmm, I thought, there’s something happening here.

Norman Finkelstein is author of five books, including Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Beyond Chutzpah and The Holocaust Industry, which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions. This article is a chapter from his new book “This Time We Went Too Far – Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion.”

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