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Andy, after Afghanistan and Iraq and countless counter-insurgency efforts elsewhere, I hardly think that the United States will be seen as, to use bin Laden’s phrase, a ‘weak horse’ (unless the arrival of Obama changes everything). It would be even more surprising if that’s how Islamic extremists see Israel, a country that’s always (quite rightly) taken a tough line in its own defense. If anything, Jihadi propaganda stresses (at least implicitly) Israel’s strength…

Be that as it may, you and I both agree that Israel is entitled to respond in, to use your adjective, a ‘robust’ way to the Hamas rocketings, and I can certainly agree that such an approach may well also be in US interests. All that said, the word ‘robust’ begs many questions. Retaliatory fire, carefully targeted strikes and ground invasions can each be fairly said to be ‘robust’, but they are very different responses. The more interesting question is, perhaps, to ask which is the most effective. And what we mean by effective may well differ depending on whether we are looking at this from the vantage point of Israeli or US strategic interests, interests that often overlap, but are not necessarily identical.

When it comes to the question of effectiveness, this extract from an editorial in the current issue of the Economist is worth pondering:

“Israel said at first that, much as it would like to topple Hamas, its present operation has the more limited aim of “changing reality” so that Hamas stops firing across the border. But as Israel learnt in Lebanon in 2006, this is far from easy. As with Hizbullah, Hamas’s “resistance” to Israel has made it popular and delivered it to power. It is most unlikely to bend the knee. Like Hizbullah, it will probably prefer to keep on firing no matter how hard it is hit, daring Israel to send its ground forces into a messy street fight in Gaza’s congested cities and refugee camps.”

And that is now what’s happened.


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