Beyond the Cusp

October 5, 2014

The Lessons of Carthage, a Teaching Moment for Israel

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Any serious study of military history will include the Punic Wars and the lessons which should be taken from the entire series of events and their resultant outcomes and ramifications into the future. The first peculiarity of the Punic Wars is the fact that there were three wars between two of the greatest powers of their time and definitely the strongest forces around the Mediterranean Sea. The initial Punic War was fought as Rome attempted to settle islands in the Mediterranean Sea which were already part of the Carthaginian Empire which was largely based on trade with a strong emphasis on water based trade routes. This resulted in Carthage having a very powerful naval forces which was capable of placing superior numbers of ships with skillful and experienced crews against superior ships of Rome which were only defeated due to their lesser numbers and less experienced crews. Still the Romans managed to severely damage the Carthaginian naval power. Much of the First Punic War was fought in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea with negligible land based fighting except for the battles for control of Sicily which resulted in a Roman crushing land based victory. In the interim period between the first two wars, the Romans seized the opportunity of the troubles and violent conflicts within Cartage taking not only Sicily but also seizing Sardinia and Corsica.

The Second Punic War included the one item almost everyone remembers, the crossing of the Alps with elephants by the Carthaginian General Hannibal. Hannibal’s victories across the northern lands leading to Rome were brilliant victory after victory for his forces defeating the Roman legions. The cost of these battles and the loss of his elephants and almost all of his siege equipment meant that Hannibal was unable to execute the coup de grâce by taking Rome itself. The eventual defeat of Hannibal’s armies came when the Roman Commander Quintus Fabius Maximus utilized a strategy of engagement without fighting. He would position his forces as if preparing to engage Hannibal who would organize his forces and attempt to engage at which point Quintus Fabius Maximus would retreat with his legions into the countryside. The main actual engagement by Quintus Maximus forces were reserved to inhibit and prevent any scrounging by Hannibal’s skirmishers denying Hannibal of the necessities to feed and resupply his troops with necessities which eventually forced Hannibal to retreat. Also forcing Hannibal to retreat home was an offensive by Rome by sea placing troops in Africa threatening Hannibal’s capital and homelands which assisted in his decision to give up his conquest of Rome after fifteen years of mostly success against Roman forces but never quite being able to score that final knockout as the Romans continued to field legion after legion as they were able to replace lost troops seemingly without end. Before peace was finally agreed Hannibal had fallen in battle leading to a void in the leadership of Carthage and a power struggle which forced their suing for peace which Rome accepted also being weary of war and the necessity for tending the homelands and the demands of the people for peace and restoration of order and infrastructure.

Then we come to the Third Punic and final Punic War. This was the most unequal engagement as Carthage not only never recovered fully from the Second Punic War and had also faced skirmishes with Numidian raiders during the intermediate years. Rome, in keeping the peace, was assigned by treaty as the enforcer for resolving any conflicts and had been favoring Numidia over Carthage which alienated the people of Carthage. Rome also desired to avoid any potential for conflict in the future and when it became obvious that Carthage was again building military capabilities, Rome started making increasingly difficult demands under threat of war. The final demand was for the Carthaginians to destroy Carthage the city and move it inland and away from the coast ending their naval capabilities. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Carthage refused and Rome had their war to end all Carthage wars. Rome defeated Carthage after a three year siege of the city of Carthage before finally breaching the city walls. The reputed result according to some descriptions from poetic history described the ruins or the city of Carthage was there was no stone or brick left standing upon another and the lands surrounding the city for miles was salted and unable to be productive for the future. Needless to say, the destruction of Carthage was complete and Carthage remained silent through the rest of history and is a suburb of Tunis, Tunisia.

Israel could be said just fought the Third Gaza War against and answering to Hamas aggressions. The First Gaza War from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009 was also referred to as Operation Cast Lead in Israel and as the Gaza Massacre in the Arab world and by Hamas as the Battle of al-Furqan. The war was preceded by steadily increasing rocket fire into southern Israel reaching the major cities of Beersheba and Ashdod for the first time during the conflict. The war ended with an agreement partially arranged with outside assistance which included the United States. The Second Gaza War from November 14, 2012 to November 21, 2012 was called Operation Pillar of Defense (Pillar of Cloud is the literal translation) by Israel. The initial launch of the war was in response to the launch of over 100 rockets at Israel from within Gaza during a 24-hour period along with an ambush of an Israeli Jeep on the Israeli side of the Gaza fence. In both of these wars Israel was determined to have gained through military success and resulting from their military victory the Israelis gained a period of quiet from the rocket fire from within Gaza. The victory for Hamas was in media reports and propaganda war damaging Israel’s reputation across the globe. The main difference between the two sides is most stark when you understand what their respective goals are and what they are willing to sacrifice in order to attain those goals. Israel simply desires peace and quiet and an end to rockets launched into their civilian areas and attempts on infiltrations in order to murder and kidnap Israelis, either civilian or military personnel, with the kidnappings to be used to trade for the release of terrorists held in Israeli prisons with emphasis on the release of those whose crimes included the largest numbers of Israelis murdered, almost universally the Israeli casualties are civilians from these attacks which are almost never launched against the IDF. Hamas desires media coverage which paints Israel as monsters that kill indiscriminately and are willing to place as many Gazan civilians in compromised locations in order to maximize the numbers of Gazans injured and killed so that the media has pictures to transmit to the world and they complement these with press releases claiming Israelis target only civilians. The Hamas accusations ring hollow and are closer to projection of their acts onto the Israelis than it is valid and truthful but the media is largely glad to paint Israel in the worst light possible. Further, media in Gaza are subjected to censoring by Hamas minders and often threaten journalists who report damaging truths sometimes ejecting them and placing them on a ban lists never permitted to report from within Gaza in the future.

The recent conflict which actually could reignite at any moment as no peace has been signed and the two sides agreed ceasefire has recently been extended for an additional thirty days until the end of October in order that a peace can be negotiated, theoretically. The reason that such is highly unlikely is because the two sides have only been able to agree to meet towards the end of October and past performance has not indicated any great degree of agreement or cooperation between the two sides. Eventually an agreement will hopefully be reached and signed at a ceremony probably held on the East Lawn of the White House, with President Obama looming over the proceedings grinning like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland and Vice President Biden wandering around trying to decide where best to stand, while the two parties, who are to sign the agreement, taking positions as far apart as possible without appearing too obvious, eyeing each other warily wondering whether the signing can be pulled off before a disagreement or wrong move is misinterpreted and the entire signing blows up into a shouting match with both sides accusing the other of perfidy and subversion. In the present Hamas threatens repeatedly to return to firing rockets if Israel continues to refuse to meet their every demand, but at least they utilize differing intervals which makes it less predictable and removes any chance for overwhelming boredom. This also is why there are many who hold doubts as to whether the ceasefire can ever lead to an actual armistice or will we wake overly early one morning in the darkness to the sound of the Code Red sirens and the raining of rockets upon our cities renewed. We can ponder on our way to the shelters, as long as it does not interfere with our hopefully quick enough haste as we all have a varying amount of time but all of them measured in seconds, whether the resumption was something an Israeli leader or IDF commander made to the press or did Hamas’s leaders Mashal or Haniyeh just have indigestion during the night and really did not wish to suffer alone. Such a situation is just one more reason that the Israeli leadership, both the military and the politicians though it is difficult to know which should garner the majority of the blame, could and should have taken the lessons of the Punic Wars and the additional carnage, deaths, and destruction heaped on the Roman populace all because their politicians and military leaders were unwilling to take the reins and saddle up and finish what had been started once and for all as they eventually were forced to do after two additional, unnecessary and extremely destructive wars.

There was unity, well as close to unity as is possible in Israel, as over 80% of Israelis in most polls desired, many demanded, the retaking of Gaza and putting an end once and for all with Hamas and Islamic Jihad ending the raining of rockets and wars fought every two or three years. The military was tasked with drawing up sets of plans and their relative cost, projected losses, estimates of Gazan deaths, time frame for length of each scenario and whatever other particulars the Prime Minister and his inner cabinet (war cabinet) had requested or desired. The leadership of the IDF had whomever is tasked with such planning to give them their estimates and the other particulars and also a briefing on the overall strategies and conceivable ramifications likely including reactions by the United Nations, United States, European Union and the rest of the alphabet of NGOs, alliances, compacts and even individual countries and gave them a short time frame, as it is expected by the Command level officers that such plans and their respective costs and eventualities have all been worked out and hashed and rehashed a million times adjusting them to the most recent intelligence and thus all that was required was the summation briefing to be prepared. This all happened in relative quiet and without alarming the public and the briefing for the Prime Minister and his Inner Cabinet was held and everything was probably ignored as I doubt that Prime Minister Netanyahu ever actually desired or would permit the retaking of Gaza as such would cause him extreme discomfort wherever he would travel after Israel did such an, as the rest of the world believes, unthinkable act of cruelty, wretchedness and inhuman brutality. The exercise of having the IDF command work up the briefing was to be able to use that as a balm to soothe the anger and grating disbelief when the backlash came from a public that is sick to death of the repeated wars and the incessant rockets raining down in ever increasing numbers and over increasing range culminating in timeframes measured more in months than years in a crescendo of thousand rockets per week before the leadership finally releases the IDF to take the offensive and silence the rockets at least temporarily. The decision reached was that the cost in lives, equipment, world image, reputation, perception and treasure was too great to bear. The cost analysis considered by the Israeli leadership very probably did not do a cost comparison which included on the ledgers in favor of ending this revolving door of off and on wars the cost of the future wars which if the government continues to balk from responsibility and retake Gaza will continue endlessly at ever shorter intervals of calm and have costs of which eventually will come the cost we cannot bear, the end of Israel under a rain of rockets no amount of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 1, 2, 3 or whatever and any other defensive systems. Sometimes the only real defense is a completed offense and if it makes Israel unpopular and denounced, at least we will remain alive which comes before what the idiots around the world think.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad et al refuse to take the responsibility for bringing devastation down on Gaza, making the lives of innocent Gazans horridly difficult. The only crime one can hold the Gazan civilians responsible for was electing Hamas to govern their lives. They may refuse any accusation that they knowingly elected a leadership which would bring these wars down upon them with all the destruction and misery they entail, but because they continue to allow the Hamas government to rule and have not taken any actions to demand new governance they have brought this upon themselves. Where that may sound cruel, it is not as cruel as the actions of the Gazans erupting with joy whenever Hamas realizes and murders Jews to feed the overarching and wanton desire of both Hamas and the rest of the terrorists as well as the majority of Gazans to murder Jews. For Hamas this desire goes further and aims at all of the Jews wherever they reside in their desire to eradicate them starting with Israel and then to continue on that path even if it costs the lives of every civilian who has not picked up a weapon and joined Hamas or Islamic Jihad. The responsibility is as Prime Minister Netanyahu has attempted to explain to a world which does not care to listen; it is the fault of Hamas and the rest of the rocket firing terrorist entities which control Gaza by threat of death. This was demonstrated perfectly and clearly after the first lengthy ceasefire was agreed upon when Hamas executed dozens of Gazans without any trial and without making or proving any charges simply claiming that these were Gazans guilty of not supporting Hamas by collaborating with Israel. Does anybody in the world, let alone in Gaza, honestly believe that the approximately dozen members from Fatah actually were guilty of collaborating with Israel? These were victims of Hamas chosen because they chose to side with Abbas and were no more guilty of whatever crime Hamas claimed than are the Hamas members who are arrested and at times executed in the West Bank in Ramallah by Abbas and Fatah which he commands. There can never be fair and open elections as long as the only candidates running must be vetted and approved by terrorist organizations which includes the West Bank as much as it does Gaza. The last elections which were held under international supervision had Hamas receiving the majority of the votes while Fatah, or the Palestinian Authority, coming in a distant second. This was part of the reasons for the eventual coup by Hamas taking control over Gaza from the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas blocked election for the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority as he knew he would lose the election to Haniyeh and Hamas would take control and never relent and all future elections would result in larger Hamas victories. The same situation exists currently and simply because of the conflict Hamas brought down on Gaza. Where the destruction in Gaza should and would cost Hamas votes, Hamas controls Gaza and would control the vote counting, thus they win. In the West Bank Hamas is favored easily over Fatah as Hamas is now viewed as strong and Abbas as weak as he appeared to make statements which were seemingly controlled out of Washington DC and he appeared swayed by the United States and their pressures. This is partly true as his government depends on the billions of dollars they receive every year which originates in the United States though much of it takes circuitous routes to reach the Palestinian Authority while Hamas receives only indirect monies from the United States and will continue receiving these funds as they are actually diverted from UNRWA by Hamas. This is the unfortunate truth and we can expect that before any elections are held for the leadership of the Palestinian Authority either Hamas will be disallowed the right to have a candidate or Abbas will have retired to the French Riviera living comfortably on the billions he has stashed away and having a great view of the Mediterranean, something he has been denied seeing from his office in Ramallah. Just for truth in reporting, Haniyeh is a multi-millionaire and Mashal is a multi-billionaire; and who says terrorism doesn’t pay.

Beyond the Cusp

January 5, 2014

Growing Potential Threats of Armageddon from Lebanon

Five short range unguided rockets were launched out of southern Lebanon targeting Israel. Only one rocket struck within Israel and fortunately exploded in an open field near the city of Kiryat Shmona, close to the Lebanese border. There were no casualties or damage and Israeli artillery responded striking the launch site to assure no further attacks. This follows other serious breaches of the peace which include two shooting incidents across the border by Lebanese military uniformed troops with one incident resulting in the death of an IDF soldier driving along the border area. These instigations come as reports have also claimed Hezballah has been transferring longer range rockets including Scud versions C and D, medium-range Fateh rockets produced in Iran, along with Fajr rockets and antiaircraft weapons. American intelligence has reported the smuggling of Russian anti-ship missile systems over from Syria, piece by piece, in order to avoid more Israeli airstrikes. This includes supersonic Yakhont rockets which are capable of striking both land and sea targets. There are apparently missing vital parts which according to a senior defense official, “To make it lethal, a system needs to be complete.” These reports come in addition to the estimated one thousand plus shorter range rockets Hezballah has imported from Iran since the Second Lebanon War despite United Nations assurances that such resupply would be prevented by a reinforced UNIFIL patrolling southern Lebanon and the Lebanon-Syrian border.

 

At the opening of this week’s meeting of his Cabinet, Prime Minister Netanyahu made the following statement, “We hold the Lebanese government responsible for firing that is carried out from within its territory. What is happening in Lebanon is that Hezbollah is stationing thousands of missiles and rockets in apartments, in the heart of the civilian population, and is thus perpetrating two war crimes simultaneously. It is organizing the firing at civilians, just as it did today, and it is hiding behind civilians as human shields.” He added, “This is a double war crime that is being perpetrated under the aegis of the Lebanese government and army which are not lifting a finger to prevent this arming and these crimes. We hold the Lebanese government responsible for this development.”

 

What the Prime Minister politely omitted is that the Lebanese government and its military are both largely controlled by Hezballah through their political arm. When one speaks of official Lebanese policies they are basically referring to those things the Lebanese government has been instructed to carry out in the service of Hezballah. Of course it is impolite to mention such things and people from polite political circles refrain from such accusation. Sometimes it is an advantage not having to hold to polite speaking guidelines. What is of concern is whether this apparent movement of Hezballah’s heavier weapons systems out of Syria is due to the danger posed by the Syrian civil war or because of instructions from Iran to prepare for attacks upon Israel. Such attacks might be ordered by Iran should they decide to disregard parts or all of the nuclear agreement recently hammered out and presumably to go into effect on or around January 20, 2014. Iran has often stated that they would attack Israel first should any military attack be made against them. Iranian spokespeople have stated outright that their intent was to attack Israel, if Israel struck Iran or if the United States struck Iran or if anybody struck Iran. They went on to claim that Israel would not know from where such attacks would come, be it from Iran, from Hezballah or from other Iranian assets which remained unnamed. Thus far such accusatory language which could be interpreted as a belligerent act has been rejected as bluster and for the benefit of the regime and not taken as a threat of immediate actions. Of course if the Iranian leadership continues to threaten acts of war they may find that there is a limit after which their threats will be taken as a serious call to arms.

 

The other tactical problem which has been recognized is that Hezballah has placed their longer range rockets in various and separate locations which would require an extensive and particularly destructive air campaign to render them inoperable. Additionally, as pointed out be Prime Minister Netanyahu, Hezballah has distributed their shorter range rockets to occupy most of southern Lebanon placing them within apartment buildings, homes, schools and other buildings which are considered safeguarded by military convention thus posing as a criminal act. This is not a concern which Hezballah will be troubled over as their plan is to be able to accuse Israel of attacking civilian targets and buildings which are supposedly protected under the conventions of war. They will ignore the fact that by placing military positions such as rocket stores and launching facilities in these areas they have rendered their protections void placing the civilians in harm’s way.

 

An unfortunate reality is that much of the world media is very likely to repeat these accusations that Israel intentionally attacks civilian targets such as apartments, hospitals, schools and private residences with at most a singular reference to the fact that they were in reality concealed military targets being used to launch attacks upon Israel targeting mostly Israeli civilians as well as military. And then there will be the obligatory condemnation from the United Nations General Assembly and numerous human rights and other agencies empowered by the United Nations which will also be reported for months after the initial reports as these hearings when it concerns Israel become a regular part scheduled into every meeting. The United Nations Human Rights Council has it in their bylaws that each meeting is to first, before discussing the actual reason behind the meeting, there must be a report and condemnation of Israel for human rights offensives whether there has been any reported simply as a part of their doing their business. I am sure there are numerous NGOs which have a similar agenda. About all that can be added after that is let us hope that there never comes the day that the Iranian threats become fact and the conflagration which will ensue begins. That will be a very sad day and may be the beginning of a conflict which might easily mushroom beyond imagination, especially if the promises from the P5+1 that they have corralled the Iranian nuclear program such that it is impossible for them to produce nuclear weapons turns out to be an empty promise full of sound and fury but lacking validity or force of intents. Imagining the potential results of Iran arming Hezballah with even one nuclear weapon is the source of horrid nightmares. May that day never arise.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 13, 2012

How Many Rockets Before the World Understands?

Yesterday my article referred to the one hundred and fifty rockets and mortars which had been launched into Israeli residential, business, retail, and other civilian areas. None of the targets of the barrage were aimed at any military targets. There were even mortars fired at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in the early morning in hopes to kill Israelis who would be organizing the aid convoys into Gaza with food, medical supplies and numerous other necessities which are transported daily to insure that the civilian population of Gaza does not suffer from the conflict. Despite needing to delay the transfer until the mortar fire ebbed, the aid was still transited into Gaza where Hamas officials take charge to distribute as they see fit in cooperation with UNRWA officials (many of which are actually Hamas representatives placed there at Hamas insistence). The barrages continue with totals still exceeding fifty sorties a day.

 

Late each afternoon on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday transmissions on Egyptian Al-Arabiya television network claimed a ceasefire was imminent and that Hamas had petitioned Israel to join in an end to the violence. Despite the façade of a willingness to curtail the rocket and mortar assault on Israeli citizens, the firings of rockets and mortars have not abated and continue at an unprecedented rate of fire. It should be noted that once again the rate of fire and the sheer volume of sorties per day during this latest assault on the south of Israel has exceeded any of the previous escalations. Pilots have reported that the terror launching teams have been surrounding themselves with civilians, often children, to shield themselves from Israeli targeting while they setup and prepare their potentially deadly launchings. Hamas making hollow claims of innocence and inability to directly control these terror strikes placing the blame for the violence upon Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and other residing terror groups ring hollow. This plethora of terror entities which populate Gaza often claim to be acting as independent wings outside of Hamas control yet take their marching orders from the leaders of the Hamas military wing. There is no space between Hamas and these terror proxies just as no difference exists in reality between the military and political wings of Hamas yet the world cooperates with these terror entities by supporting these differences which exist where there is no difference.

 

Meanwhile, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton and Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-Moon have issued statements condemning the new round of violence and demanded that Israel and Hamas take steps to end the cycle of violence. They had no condemnation for Hamas for initiating the violence and appeared to hold Israel as an equal aggressor for having the chutzpah to defend themselves. They made no note of the fact that while Israel was striking at actual combatants and other military targets such as weapons warehouses and rocket manufacturing shops, Hamas was intentionally targeting civilian locations and had actually struck the play area of an Israeli school. Thankfully, the school was closed due to the danger posed by the rocker and mortar barrages as also most stores, businesses and everything else in southern Israel has had to shut down for the duration. At what point does the world condemn the terrorists instead of equalizing the terrorist assaults with Israeli defense of their citizenry.

 

What will it take for the world to take off the blinders and the clouded glasses and see and speak the truth about the facts concerning Hamas, Gaza, and Israel? Gaza has been completely cleansed of Jews since August of 2005 as demanded by the Palestinian leadership as they implement their apartheid rules which demand the cleansing of Jews from their lands. The Palestinians in Gaza have been under Palestinian rule since then free of any influence from the Israeli government. As far as the naval embargo is concerned, this was implemented after Hamas took complete control over Gaza in a violent coup overthrowing the Palestinian Authority and dedicated themselves to the complete destruction of Israel. Israel implemented the blockade in order to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza to be used against the Israeli public, especially heavy weapons and more sophisticated weapon systems. The blockade has been deemed as legal by the United Nations and found to be based on valid concerns under the Law of the Sea Treaty and International Law. In place of free access into Gaza, Israel has continuously shipped tons of food, medicines, medical supplies, general items, clothing and lately even building material despite being fully aware that some will be diverted for Hamas military use such as bunkers.

 

Even if one includes the so-called “West Bank”, more honestly in historically referenced as Samaria and Judea, one would find that virtually ninety-five percent of the Palestinian population lives in areas completely under Palestinian Authority rule, control, security, laws, and supported by Palestinian Authority tax revenues with complete autonomy. The areas under either shared control between Israel and the Palestinian Authority contains the remaining five percent of the Palestinian population. Much of these areas are under Palestinian Authority legal control and shared security control as much of these areas are utilized by Israeli citizens in daily commutes. The settlements which are the presumed overwhelming presence which is an impassable obstacle to peace consist of less than fifteen percent of the land in the disputed areas. Where in this does a valid raison d’etre exist for the independent entity of Gaza which is fully ruled by Hamas and is free of any Israeli presence, no Jews, no roadblocks, no checkpoints within its borders, no Israel presence beyond the aid trucks carrying supplies each morning, for the rocket and mortar assault upon Israeli citizens by the Hamas military entity? Without any valid cause, then when will the world condemn Hamas for their brutality and transgression of International Law? Hamas has once again viciously and without provocation committed acts of war against Israel and the world wants Israel to display restraint and just allow these attacks upon her people. No other country would be requested or would actually commit to stand down from such a vile act of aggression. Enough with the double standard and enough with the world shrugging and being frivolous in their attitude when it is merely Jewish lives. The world has committed such sins for over three thousand years and it is time for Jews to be granted the right to live equal to anybody else. And finally, to the Jewish People, enough with allowing the world to look upon and treat Jews as sacrificial lambs before whatever evil rises in the world as has been the history from the Pharaohs to the Babylonians, the Persians, the Syriac Greeks, Romans, Christian Europeans, Muslim Caliphs, and the Nazis. No More and Never Again must be defended and proudly proclaimed for all who wish to minimize the plights of Jews casting it off as it is simply only the Jews and not something one need be bothered over. Time to make all of the world bother over the Jews, even one sole Jew must be proclaimed and protected and that must start with actions by the leadership of Israel. Time to say, “Enough!”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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