Israel’s Friends Aren’t Helping

In my New Atlanticist essay, “Can Israel Win?” I argue that the reflexive support of Israeli actions — and shouting down of any criticisms — by her friends in America is actually counterproductive.   She’s fighting a losing battle and continues to make the same mistakes over and over.

Enabling that conduct is decidedly unhelpful.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Terrorism, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    James – be ready for your new label as “anti-semite.” 🙂

  2. steve says:

    Did you see Lang’s analysis of the IDF? It was a real eye opener for me. Having spent 4 years enlisted and 4 years as an officer, I think he is right that the senior NCO’s, really make things work. I have to wonder if the Israelis have the basic troop make up to achieve their goals, especially if this leads to a prolonged occupation.

    I agree that blind cheerleading is not helpful. We need a realistic (pun intended) assessment of Israel’s capabilities to achieve a desired end. A realistic assessment of an achievable end game. The proportionality argument is largely a red herring. Is this war smart, what are the achievable goals, and do they have the means should be the real conversation.


  3. caj says:

    Oh yes DC Loser is right, anybody who critize Israel is automatically called and “anti-semite”!!!
    That is far from the truth though, I/we don’t agree with Israel or the US and it’s backing because it is counter productive.
    Both sides in this conflict have their own reasons as to why this conflict is so volatile and for us to only see and agree with one side is totally wrong.
    Israel are the domineering force here and they say what they will and won’t do…even with this latest required UN ceasefire backed by us they still say they are going to continue their mission!!
    So I don’t want anyone saying how they want peace when they are real aggressors in all this and we need to get really tough on them, time for this pussy footing around Israel is long gone.

  4. Norman Rogers says:

    Gee James,

    Thanks for your insightful commentary. Of course, if you say that Israel is fighting a losing battle — it must be true!

    FYI, Gaza isn’t Lebanon and Israel has learned its lessons. This operation does have clearly defined goals and a high likelihood of success (if they persevere — and they have little choice but to do so).

    1) Olmert jumped the gun in 2006. He seized on the pretext of the kidnapping raid to initiate general hostilities with the avowed intent to gain the hostages release and “to destroy Hezbollah”. And, he relied on the claims of his defense ministry (air force in control) that the air force could win the day (destroy all missiles before they could be launched) without the use of the IDF. Bad mistake. And when the IDF was finally called in it was without sufficient planning or knowledge of their enemy.

    2. This Gaza incursion has been planned for more than a year and the IDF has implemented specific training regimens to prepare its soldiers. And, the IDF and the IAF are now working together (splendidly). Witness the simultaneous destruction of hundreds of targets at the outset, catching Hamas completely by surprise.

    3. “Useful Idiots” like yourself get caught up in Hamas’s games portraying some kind of equivalence between their ineffectual (but heartfelt) attempts to kill all the Jews with Israel’s far more effective countermeasures. It ought to be painfully obvious that ALL the killings would stop if Hams stopped trying to kill Jewish babies.

    4. There isn’t any alternative open to Israel. Would you have Israel respond, rocket for rocket, with indiscriminate fire at Gaza cities? Would you howl with righteous indignation if Israel killed five in response to a rocket that merely wounded an Israeli baby? (Gaza is far more densely populated). Is this “proportionate response”? (OBTW, I believe in “proportinAL” response — I’d endeavor to kill at a ratio of 100 to one. And, if that were an insufficient deterrent, I’d escalate an order of magnitude at a time. I don’t believe I’d have to kill them all to get them to desist. But, that’s just my humble opinion.

    But Israel won’t target civilians. That’s their moral code. And they’re willing to bear the cost of this invasion with the blood of their own young men and women. Kudos to them.

    You want a simple solution to the “Palestinian Problem”? Easy! Get Egypt to reassert sovereignty over Gaza and Jordan for some parts of the West Bank. No more problems. And, it wouldn’t be all that hard to do ($3,000,000,000 reasons for Egypt to acquiesce, some smaller amount for Jordan)

    Look, Palestinians aren’t an historic ethnic or political people (they’re all Arabs — Semites). There’s no particular reason for them to have their own country and they’ve demonstrated they couldn’t run one if they had one. And Israel sits between what would be the two halves of Palestine (of course, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran have a solution for that). There’s just no likelihood of success (look at East and West Pakistan).

  5. Floyd says:

    Where was your criticism of Hamas? What should Israel’s reaction be to unrelenting attacks over a long period of time? Since her critics want to take self defense is off the table, it looks like capitulation is the only choice they endorse.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Where was your criticism of Hamas?

    Well, there’s this:

    While I’ve generally been critical of Israel’s conduct, in both this operation and their incursion into Lebanon two years ago to fight Hezbollah, I’m on their side. They’re surrounded by enemies who think nothing of strapping bombs to their own children to murder Israeli children. To me, that trumps Israel’s callous excesses in fighting back.

    But the piece isn’t about how bad Hamas is but about how Israel should go about improving their security. The current method is hurting, not helping, that cause.

  7. Heads Hamas wins, tails Israel loses.

    But seriously, exactly what is it you expect Israel to do, aside from lay down and die? Is it reasonable to expect them to rely on the goodwill of the international community?

    Say, how are things in Zimbabwe right now?

  8. James Joyner says:

    But seriously, exactly what is it you expect Israel to do, aside from lay down and die?

    The linked Reason article was more detailed. Part of it has to do with precision raids using commandos rather than an overreliance on high tech, airborne weapons. But counterterrorism, and asymmetric warfare generally, is incredibly difficult.

  9. Difficult, expensive and time-consuming. Israel may not have the disposable income, time or other resources to treat what might be regarded in some quarters as luxuries as necessities.

    I’m not necessarily advocating that what Israel is doing is right, but I understand it given the precariousness of their situation. I believe their situation is much more dire than is generally allowed for by those who advocate UN negotiated cease fires. Or sadly, in some case that fact may be very well understood.

  10. steve s says:

    Given that James Joyner’s pieces are generally sensible, one could easily get the impression that this is a center-left site. Then you read the comment sections, where commenters say things like “Whut R you sum kinda Hamas luver????” and you go ‘oh, yeah, this is actually a right-wing site.’

  11. Or sadly, in some cases that fact may be very well understood.

    What he said.

  12. John425 says:

    I think that we have to lead the cheers for Israel because so much of the MSM is so over the top in villifying Israel that if we can drown out half of the MSM’s bashing of Israel it still wouldn’t affect the volume.