Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Denial is Not a Strategy
Caroline Glick is, as usual, devastating in her analysis of the ineffectiveness of the Israeli government in the face of the latest round of attacks by its hostile neighbors.
[And then t]here is the issue of the goal of the current campaign. As was the case last summer towards Hizbullah, today the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government has not set for itself the goal of defeating Hamas. Rather the goal of the current operations in Gaza is to send Hamas a message. Like last summer, today the government hopes that by killing a sufficient number of Hamas terrorists, it will induce the organization to stop attacking Israel.This is, in microcosm, the whole problem with the way the West is "engaging" its Islamofascist enemy: We have forgotten what war is and, perhaps, never fully grasped what it is for. The goal of a war of self-defense is to do whatever it takes to remove an enemy people as a threat. Glick hints at what could and should be done in the case of Gaza: Completely blockade it and attack it mercilessly until its people die or unconditionally surrender.
But of course, by limiting its goal in such a way, the message that Israel is sending is not that Hamas should stop attacking Israel. By refusing to fight to victory, Israel is telling Hamas that it cannot lose, which is to say, it can go on fighting forever.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the government's refusal to understand the lessons of the last war and to apply them in the current battle is that Israel has far more options for defeating its enemies in Gaza than it had in Lebanon.
Gaza is a small territory and in contrast to Lebanon, Israel has the ability to take control of ingress and egress from the area. So too, Israel's intelligence capabilities are far greater in Gaza than in Lebanon. Then too, in Gaza, the enemy Israel confronts is not as well-armed or well-trained as Hizbullah.
Aside from all that, Israel controls Gaza's economy. Israel sells Gaza its water and electricity. Were Israel to decide to stop selling water or electricity to Gaza, its enemies would be hard-pressed to function.
All of these relative advantages that Israel can bring to bear in Gaza would enable Israel to cause long lasting damage to all of its enemies operating in the area while minimizing losses to its forces and civilians. But to take proper advantage of any of its strategic and operational assets, the government must first learn the proper lessons of the last war. Its refusal to do so bodes ill for the future.
Good Luck, Coach Graham!
Rice Baseball Coach Wayne Graham first came to my attention several years ago when Rice won the College World Series. I particularly remember thinking that he was exactly the kind of crusty old man I hope to become some day, when having been ejected from one of the games for, I believe, disputing a call, a television film crew caught him watching the game from what looked like a broom closet somewhere in the stadium.
Graham, who coached at the Junior College level before taking the helm at Rice, has never had a losing season in 25 years of coaching and was honored as "Coach of the Century" by the National Junior College Athletic Association. He is thoroughly familiar with the feeder schools in Texas, and once said that he liked coaching Rice players because "they're smart". Two years ago, at the age of 68, he was signed on for another six years at Rice.
Coach Graham was in form Sunday, when my wife and I watched the final game of the regular season, which the Owls were winning handily 7-2 until they got a little sloppy defensively and let Memphis back into the game with two runs. Then a Memphis batter made a couple of funny steps after a bad pitch, and the catcher immediately started pointing at him and saying something.
The officials conferred and walked the batter, who the catcher was claiming deliberately stepped into the pitch. I have no idea whether this was a good call, but Coach Graham stormed out of the dugout to go toe to toe with one of them after the call. I think that seeing their coach sticking up for them reminded them to focus on winning the game again. That team perked up immediately afterwards, and rest of the game was basically a formality.
So why am I suddenly taking about baseball here? Well, I like this article on Graham's coaching philosophy from the Houston Chronicle preceding today's start of its Conference USA title en route, I hope, to another appearance in the College World Series.
A student of myriad subjects beyond baseball, Rice coach Wayne Graham recited a quotation to reflect the perspective that reserve players should embrace when playing time is scant and patience wears thin: "I will study and prepare and perhaps my chance will come."These aren't just platitudes for the former major leaguer. He's practicing what he preaches. What's he doing every time he gives such advice to one of his players?
That bit of wisdom, attributed to Abraham Lincoln, caused Graham to harken back to his playing days and condemn his own impatience, a condition that perhaps cost Graham a lengthier stay in the big leagues. In retrospect, Graham (who appeared in 30 games with the Phillies and Mets in 1963-64) wishes he'd have utilized this Zen-like approach, which is why he shares that perspective with his players.
"I learned it from my own experiences as a player, because if I had made myself more useful in general -- in other words tried to have a perfect attitude towards whatever my role was that day -- I'd have probably played longer in the big leagues," Graham said. "So that's where I learned it. I realized I had made some mistakes from the other angle, from being the player, so I tried to share my reasoning with the players as a player in that position." [bold added]
Not that you need it, Coach, but good luck, anyway!
Societal Evolution and Tipping Points
Bill Whittle makes some interesting points, using gaming theory (specifically, the Prisoner's Dilemma) as his point of departure, about how society in general can evolve. A glaring deficiency is that he does not discuss the role of philosophical ideas in motivating individuals, but I found it worthwhile as far as I read, which is where he started talking about something he calls "the Remnant". (HT: Rachel Lucas)
About the only thing that can be said for Islam is that it is sometimes entertaining. Little Green Footballs quotes from the Jerusalem Post:
Ezzat Attiya ... issued a fatwa, or religious edict, saying adult men could breast-feed from female work colleagues as a way to avoid breaking Islamic rules that forbid men and women from being alone together.Ooookaaaay!
In Islamic tradition, breast-feeding establishes a degree of maternal relation, even if a woman nurses a child who is not biologically hers. It means the child could not marry the nursing woman's biological children.
Attiya - the head of Al-Azhar's Department of Hadith, or teachings of the Prophet Muhammad - insisted the same would apply with adults. He argued that if a man nursed from a co-worker, it would establish a family bond between them and allow the two to work side-by-side without raising suspicion of an illicit sexual relation.
Today: Minor edits.