Security Policy director for JINSA will discuss Middle East policy. Readers can send questions.
Shoshana Bryen is Security Policy Director for The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).
JINSA is "a non-profit, non-partisan and nonsectarian educational organization committed to explaining the need for a prudent national security policy for the United States, addressing the security requirements of both the United States and the State of Israel, and strengthening the strategic cooperation relationship between these two great democracies".
From May 1981 to June 1991 Bryen served as JINSA's Executive Director, presiding over the organization's growth from a small working committee on American defense to a membership organization of over 17,000 people.
For several years, Mrs. Bryen has planned and run conferences on military strategy in conjunction with the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College. Prior to joining JINSA, Mrs. Bryen was Associate Editor of "Public Opinion" magazine of the American Enterprise Institute. She has worked on Capitol Hill, taught speech communication in Washington DC colleges and universities, and has independently produced educational films.
Readers can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello Mr. Rosner,
I would like to know if the view expressed by Ms. Bryen can be seen as reflective of American opinion in general, or is it just the views of someone much more radical than most Americans. Can you, or Ms. Bryen, enlighten me please?
Thank you for an interesting dialogue.
Mr. Rosner and I might have different opinions about whether my views are reflective of American opinion in general, so he will have to answer for himself. I don't think I've expressed very radical views at all, so thank you for the opportunity to reiterate:
The government of Israel should decide what outcome it wants to achieve in negotiations or through military action before it does either. When it has its goals in order, it should pursue them, including talking to Hamas if that is what the government thinks will work.
Under no circumstance should Israel subcontract its security. It would be poor policy if the subcontractor were a friend, which is why a US-Israel defense pact would be a bad idea. It is disastrous if the subcontractor is not a friend, and in fact, if you want him to kill his friends on your behalf.
Israel should not feel guilty about the priority it puts on the security of its people as long as others actively pursue its destruction. The US government should stop trying to make an independent Palestinian state where the conditions are more likely to result in an independent terrorist training bed; it is not in the American interest. The Palestinians did not agree to the conditions President Bush set for support of their independence -- which certainly is their right -- but then it is our right to keep our money, political support and military training while we go to Plan B. (American military training for a Palestinian army is a HUGE mistake and I strongly believe any American who knows about it agrees.)
Plan B: Think about Gaza, not as a hopeless bed of anarchy, its current status -- which is why the US government ignores it when it talks about Palestine -- but as a potential city-state with a prime location between the Mediterranean and the Arab/Moslem world. Then try to get there. Hamas and Fatah are both corrupt -- morally and financially -- which does not benefit the Palestinian people. Hamas telling Palestinian children that Israelis put children in ovens is disgusting at so many levels, and so is Hamas putting children on rooftops as human shields. That last one is a violation of international law as well. The "human protective gene" operates across continents, races, time and culture -- but has broken down in Gaza. [I simply don't understand the person who said that was a racist thought.] There are Palestinian people who need rescue from their erstwhile leadership, and that rescue might take the form of an international political/military consensus, as did the defeat of the Nazis and the rescue of Bosnia.
The Arab states and Palestinian leadership are responsible for the inter-generational masses of Palestinian refugees in various Arab countries - there are none in Israel; they are citizens. The Arabs penned them up and won't let them out. The UN is complicit.
Israel has four levels of threat -- terrorist, guerrilla, non-conventional/missile and Iran, which gets its own category because it supports the other three.
Potential military action by either the US or Israel against Iran has difficulties that make both countries reluctant to take it on -- we don't have enough information, the striker will be the aggressor, the retaliation may take a devastating form -- and the media has simply concluded that it is too difficult to deal with, so it doesn't. Would that the US and Israel had the option of ignoring Iran.
Looking back over the points, I believe most Americans would find them reasonable.
Thank you for asking.
Dear Ms. Bryen,
You say the US is hoping Israel will take out the fourth threat, Iran. You are one of the rare commentators to have acknowledged this. Indeed, that seems to be the only logically consistent conclusion one can come to taking into account Iranian eschatological beliefs with the return of the 12th Imam and the recent NIE report. Why is the rest of the media mute about this incredible position of responsibility Israel has been pushed into?
Dear Mr. Andrijasevic:
The US and Israel are engaged, to some extent, in an "Alphonse and Gaston" routine. Approaching a door neither wishes to enter, each says to the other, "After you." "No, after you." And neither goes through. Both countries find a nuclear Iran unacceptable, each has reason to believe the other is better suited to taking out some part of Iran's presumed nuclear capability, and both have good reasons not to want to engage Iran militarily.
The problem looks like this: we know what Iran is doing and we know some of what it is doing secretly. But we don't know all of what Iran is doing secretly and we don't know how much of what we don't know.
This makes it hard to assign a military mission either to the Americans or the Israelis. There is no "Osirak option," meaning no single military strike against a single facility will set back the whole program. And even a whole series of air strikes against known targets will not incapacitate the country, and a ground invasion is out of the question. [Of course Iran can be incapacitated, but no sane person would advocate destroying Iran and its people pre-emptively -- although I suspect a few readers of this comment will say I advocated precisely that.]
But because any hit on Iran will -- presumably -- come before Iran has actually fired a nuclear weapon, the striker will be the aggressor, subject to a "legitimate" retaliatory strike, with capabilities up to and maybe including nuclear weapons if we have misjudged where the Iranians are on their trajectory toward acquisition.
Retaliation can take many forms. The US has more than 100,000 soldiers next door in Iraq. There are probably "sleeper" Iranian agents in the United States, ready to be activated. Israel faces retaliation directly from Iran in the form of long-range missiles, or faces Hizballah rockets or increased attack from Gaza (another thing we don't know is precisely what Iranian weaponry Hamas has smuggled into Gaza). By the way, it is likely that even if the US is the striker, Israel will bear the brunt of Iran's retaliation because Iran assumes everything is coordinated. And don't think American military planners haven't wrestled with the problem of being the cause of an Iranian strike against Israel if the US takes out some Iranian facilities. They may destroy oil fields or Saudi Arabia to destroy the world's wealth production capability -- and the world will blame the striker.
It is this conundrum that partially paralyzes Israel and the US. You are right. Logical consistency dictates that someone deal with Iran before it goes nuclear, but to do the job (even partially) is to invite destruction; not to do the job is to invite devastation.
It is complicated militarily and morally, which is why -- although the militaries of both countries are working on the problem -- the media hasn't spent any serious time on it. From the media point of view, it is better to let things take their course and complain later.
Thank you for taking the time to write.
In a report you wrote last week, you suggest that "talk of multinational forces" in Gaza is premature as "it will be impossible to define a military mission for the force".
Having said that, can you please tell us what should be the strategy for Israel/US regarding the situation in Gaza? Would you keep trying to isolate it? Topple Hamas? Let the Palestinian Authority worry about it? Engage in dialogue with the Hamas government?
Talk of a multinational force, or even Israeli military action, is premature because the civilian powers (Israeli and American) haven't determined the political outcome they want, and therefore can't order the military to pave the way - which is what militaries do. President Roosevelt called for the "total surrender" of Nazi Germany and dispatched Eisenhower to run the war. He did not decide the allies should invade Normandy.
Israel has to decide what it wants. If Israel believes negotiation would result in Hamas accepting Israel as a legitimate neighbor in its space and with its capital, then Israel should go for it. Ditto Fatah, if Israel believes Abu Mazen has an acceptable end game and can execute.
No country, however, can subcontract its security to another - even if it decides the "other" is willing and able. Israel's first obligation is to protect its own people from current and perceived future threats. Limited strikes, targeted killings, incursions all the way up to re-occupation of Gaza are legitimate responses to the continued shelling of Israel from outside. The US couldn't tolerate from Canada what Israel tolerates from Gaza, even if it was only hitting Montana.
The US, similarly, needs a new Palestine policy.
The US should revoke its political support for an independent Palestinian state because the Palestinians failed to meet the President's conditions for that support in his June 24, 2002 speech. Those goals were never accepted and certainly never met by the Palestinians. To be clear - and fair - both the US and Israel severely reduced the chances for Palestinian success.
At some point, the democracies decided Fatah was OK, and Abu Mazen our man, despite the absence of progress on American-stated requirements. The US restarted training the Palestinian military in 2005, claiming it would fulfill the Road Map obligation to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure." There is no indication Fatah ever agreed to the mission, and it is unclear why we ever assumed the Palestinians would arrest (or kill) Palestinians on behalf of security for the people of Israel.
The US and Israel further failed the Palestinians by forcing elections between a corrupt secular terrorist organization (Fatah) and a corrupt religious terrorist organization (Hamas), while both of them agreed that the creation of Israel was a mistake. It was Hobson's choice for Palestinian voters - the guys who stole their money vs. the guys pushing an Islamic state. In neither case was the choice for peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Then the US, with active Israeli acquiescence, decided the Palestinian army would defend Fatah from Hamas. Unclear is why the continuance of Fatah was in the US interest if it is unable or unwilling or both to meet our objectives and was rejected by the voters. The Fatah army failed even more miserably against Hamas than did Fatah politicians.
The US should tell the Palestinians that the consequence is the US will no longer support political Palestinian independence (no Road Map, no Quartet), but rather will seriously support two unrelated objectives: Israeli security and Palestinian efforts to formulate a civil society that might, in the future, result in the emergence of leadership and institutions that could sustain a Palestinian state.
This would be a pro-Palestinian, rather than pro-Fatah, position.
The US could then support the emergence of Gaza as a city-state along the lines of Singapore (the history of which is instructive), and the confederation of West Bank Palestinians with Israel and Jordan - with whom they have stronger ties and more in common than they do in many cases with Gazans.
Military action at that point and pursuant to that political purpose could be used to oust Hamas and replace it with a new regime - like the defeat of the Nazis and the occupation of Germany by the allies. The military mission could be accomplished by Israel or an international coalition (including or excluding Israel), leading to political changes planned by the international community.
Gaza would need international protectorate status to impose the rule of rule of law that would permit it to capitalize on its location at the nexus of Mediterranean countries and the Arab world. The West Bank would have other options.
This will be a follow-up related to your first response. Basically what you advise for the Israeli-Palestinian front it to encourage "Palestinian efforts to formulate a civil society" - and wait. Two questions:
1. Is it realistic to expect Palestinians to formulate the necessary institutions when they live under Israeli occupation?2. And what if they don't formulate a civil society in, say, ten, twenty, thirty years? What about the danger of two-state-solution collapsing, and replaced by demands for a one-state-solution?
Until last week, I wouldn't have said, "Enough with 'Israeli occupation' guilt; Gaza isn't Auschwitz." Holocaust metaphors shouldn't come lightly. In light of the Hamas exhibition showing Israelis putting Palestinian children in ovens, however, it is no longer inappropriate to point out to Jews that there are Palestinians for whom victimization is so important that a Jewish historical touch point has been violated, inverted and perverted.
Societies on all continents, in all times, with all races, tribes and ethnicities up to and including Jews in Europe in the last century, have struggled under various forms of oppression. In most cases, the human protective gene - women and children first, shelter the young, retain your essential humanity and try to pass it on to those who will survive and have to build again - has functioned as it should.
There is no reason to believe Israeli occupation, benign in historical terms - certainly compared to Jordanian and Egyptian occupation - resulted in the disintegration of history's societal norms. Palestinian "leadership" - people for whom the revolution is all - has deliberately undermined Palestinian society. They, not Israel, are the reason tens of thousands of Palestinians live in refugee camps around the Arab world. They, not Israel, are the exploiters of their own children. What they teach and practice is not the result of occupation or "humiliation." It is a deliberate and cynical decision to exploit a key weakness of the West in pursuit of their own deeply held goals.
Why is it so hard for Westerners to understand that some people are willing to die and kill (and kill their children or see others do it) for what they believe? The present process intends to "reform" the current Palestinian leadership and induce (bribe) them to accept Israel part of historical Palestine. It is patronizing to blithely assume they can/will drop their fundamental objection to Israel?s sovereign existence, and yet we/you do it.
The best Israel and the US have been able to do is isolate Abu Mazen and Salim Fayyed from their own people and prop them up. They agree for now because the US pays and Israel protects them. The collapse of Fatah in Gaza in the absence of the IDF is telling.
The creation of a Palestinian state in part of the territory is not what Hamas or Fatah expect in the long term (individual Palestinians may want other things, but they have little voice). The goal is Palestine where they say it is and control of Jerusalem, or war; and war has its benefits, which accounts for the fact that the second intifada followed PM Barak?s offer of almost all and almost everything.
The split-state model is unworkable. It is not a two-state solution because as Pakistan shows, a country in non-contiguous parts is unsustainable; Bangladesh was inevitable. Ditto Karabakh. Three states wedged between the Jordan and the Sea become increasingly likely and increasingly less sustainable.
I don't expect Palestinians to create the sort of multi-party democracy that Israel, Canada, Taiwan, the US and a few others have done. Although one should ask why it is any less reasonable than expecting Russian and Polish socialists, coupled with the remnants of Nazi Europe and refugees of the Arab/Moslem world to have created one.
But if one believes there remains a group of "moderate Palestinians," they need rescue as surely as the Germans needed rescue from Hitler. And if you don't like the analogy - I don't - try the Serbian people needing rescue from Milosovic to stop the bloodletting in the Balkans and return to Europe.
The concept of ten, twenty, thirty years of continuing stalemate is silly ? Hamas is busily constructing the means to hit larger population centers in Israel, export the capability to the West Bank and wrest it from Fatah.
I reiterate - if there is a deal to be had with Hamas, go for it now before Hamas gets stronger. But if Hamas is not and will not become party to a negotiated settlement with the Israel under terms Israel can live with, the only answer is the reoccupation of territory and the reinstitution of rules to protect those who need protection - Israeli and Palestinian.
Dear Ms. Bryen,
Your description of the strategic environment is tempting, but somewhat misleading. Israel might be able to deal with the Palestinins without a peace agreement, but if you add to that Hezbollah and Iran and maybe Syria you need to change your calculations. That's why Rabin wanted to take advantage and use the narrow window of opportunity.
My question is this: if Israel defeats Hamas and even has some understanding with Syria - how can it deal with the threat of nuclear Iran?
Thank you for your interesting comments,
Dear Mr. Rosenblatt:
Thank you for the kind words and taking the time to write.
Iran is at the root of all three places/organizations you mentioned - it is the puppet master, arms supplier and ultimate protector of Hizballah, Syria and Hamas (which is an oddity that most people have overlooked, since Iran is Shiite and Hamas is Sunni. It puts lie to the notion that Sunnis and Shiites won't work together; they do if they have a common enemy).
One reason I don't believe Israel can make a deal with Hamas, or even Fatah, is that the Palestinians are not independent actors and it defies reason to think that as long as Saudi Arabia and Iran are opposed to the legitimation of Israel in the region, smaller, dependent groups can stand up and say, "Never mind Iran. Never mind Saudi Arabia. I, Hamas (or I, Fatah) have decided Israel is a legitimate country and should have 'secure and recognized borders free from threats or acts of force.' (UN Res. 242)" Not going to happen.
Israel has to think on multiple levels because that's where the threat is.First is to protect the citizens on a day-to-day basis from the internal circle of threats, ie, terrorism and rockets from Gaza.
Second is a guerrilla force (Hizballah) located inside another country. Guerrillas are different from terrorists, which is one reason Israel had so much difficulty fighting in Lebanon in 2006.
Third is non-conventional threats emanating from Syria, ie, chemical and biological weapons, longer range missiles.
Fourth is the strategic threat from Iran.
Israel cannot ignore any of them. And solving one, or pushing it back into its box, will not eliminate the others - unless Israel takes aim at the fourth level, which is highly unlikely in the current atmosphere. Therefore, Israel simply has to keep sticking fingers in the dike of the other three and hope the US will take out the fourth. Unfortunately, the US is hoping Israel will take out the fourth.
I didn't disagree with Rabin in his time and context, but we are long past 1993 and all the indicators are that his idea did not stand the test of time.
Thank you again for writing,Shoshana
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