A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Aftermath: What Went Wrong?

While Israeli spokesmen are defending the flotilla raid in public fora, it's clear that the whole thing was a major botch, and the major question is: why did it go so wrong? BBC asks the question here, but members of Israel's inner security cabinet are asking the same thing. Instead of being approved by the security cabinet, which is supposed to approve such sensitive operations, it was approved by a seven-minister "forum" consisting of Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Avigdor Lieberman, Dan Meridor, Moshe Ya'alon, Eli Yishai and Benny Begin. Most of those guys are to the right of Netanyahu, with the exception of Barak. [And before somebody quibbles, maybe Meridor.]

Israel has arranged to deliver the humanitarian supplies to Gaza, trying to recover some of its rather tarnished image, but it's clear that diplomatically this was a disaster. More to the point, it was a mess militarily as well. Just days before the anniversary of the June 5, 1967 strike that disabled Arab air forces at a single blow and began Israel's most successful war, it's clear that the IDF is no longer the finely-honed instrument it once was, or at least appeared to be. Even the rightist Jerusalem Post recognizes how botched the operation was (though admittedly, their analyst complains because the commandos were under-armed and didn't take firm enough action). Not being a Wall Street Journal subscriber, I can't access the full text of neocon Max Boot's op-ed, but based on this post by Andrew Exum, I gather he ultimately concludes that Israel's over-reliance on military operations in what are sometimes complex propaganda exercises was part of the problem. (See also Exum here.) Indeed. When you have a hammer, they say every problem starts to look like a nail; when you have a strong military, it can be tempting to use military action even when it is counter-indicated. (And the US is often susceptible to the same temptation.)

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