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I agree with everything that’s been said in here pushing back against Israel’s crazed critics and defending its right to defend itself. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this operation is going to “discredit” Hamas, as some conservatives hope, much or at all. Yes, Hamas ultimately is responsible for the conflict. But when an Israeli shell kills your family or your neighbor’s family, most people aren’t going to think it through enough to blame Hamas, they are going to direct their hatred and their desire for revenge at Israel. That’s why probably the most that realistically can be hoped for from this operation is a diminishment of Hamas’ capabilities. Achieving more than that would require holding territory and engaging in classic counter-insurgency operations, including providing services to win over the population. Israel’s not going to do that, and it doesn’t seem the PA is capable of it. Extremist groups like Hamas can indeed be marginalized and defeated. We did it with the Mahdi army in Iraq. But we held territory, worked to win hearts and minds, and–perhaps most importantly–had an Iraqi government pulling in the same direction, which politically isolated Sadr and convinced people his nationalism was cover for thuggery and mayhem. By this standard, Israel is 0-3. I hope I’m wrong and the sheer military beating Hamas is taking undermines its political standing, or the PA steps up, but, alas, it doesn’t seem likely.


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