“You have to, therefore, destroy them,” Petraeus said. Israel cannot allow Hamas to reconstitute as a militant group and it also must dismantle the group’s political wing, he argued, adding that military force alone won’t accomplish that goal.
“But there are some big ideas missing,” Petraeus said. “You can’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency.” The Hamas challenge echoes what U.S. forces faced in Iraq and Israel should take a similar approach, he said.
“The campaign should be a counterinsurgency campaign,” Petraeus said. “Don’t clear and go on. Clear, hold and build.”
I cannot write intelligently about General Petraeus’ military skills, but anyone who touts “Nation Building” as a strategy after 20+ years of data that show it is a pathetic, expensive, and most of all bloody failure is immediately suspect as a thinker. I do know that he did not comport himself well in his personal life, and his handling of sensitive material may have been flawed. It is also entirely possible that the prosecution and conviction for that behavior was politically based, but that is the risk one takes!
Does he not see that trying to manipulate a recalcitrant society into a pie-in-the-sky Jeffersonian democracy is doomed to failure? Counter-insurgency leads to favoring one clan over another, which leads inexorably to all sorts of ridiculous alignments and alliances that cannot last once the occupying power is removed from the equation.
But the concept of nation building in Gaza is even more laughable. The two successes of the last 80 years — Japan and Germany — were the happy result of many influences, none of which exist in Gaza….yet. The Germans and Japanese were both regimented people with respect for authority. They were also thoroughly cowed by the might of the Allied war effort, and they knew, deep in their bones and their psyches that they and their ideologies had been destroyed. In addition, there was essentially one actor who held power, and that power was absolute.
Gaza satisfies none of those prerequisites for nation-building success. The Gazans are a corrupt population without any significant work ethic, without a cohesive society larger than Family and Clan, and their respect for authority rests primarily on the exercise of brutality, and not the political and social structure that buttresses authority in the West. Israel has not yet cowed the Gazans, although the sea change in Israeli political and military doctrine may very well change that dynamic.
But the biggest initial difference will be the chaos of a rebuilding effort. Israel will not have the final say in the construction of a civil society in Gaza. The controlling power will be the United States and its “partners” at the UN and in the Arab world. The effort will be a horrific mess of competing interests, corruption, a fierce fight (led by the UN) to return to the status quo ante bellum, and untold billions of American dollars lost in the miasma.
The ultimate difference of course is militant Islam. Its goal is the creation of a caliphate, and that drive will not be diminished by some wet dream of a Gazan Singapore, which is a fairy tale anyway. The Gazans had autonomy when Israel withdrew in 2005. What did they do with their freedom?