Friday, January 23, 2009


Strategy Page offers this post-operational assessment of the Israeli incursion into Gaza:

Hamas thought they were invulnerable to Israeli attack. By placing so many of their military and government facilities in densely populated residential neighborhoods, they believed any Israeli bombing or shelling would cause high, and politically unacceptable, civilian losses. But the Israelis used surprise, more precision than expected, and innovations like calling civilians in the target area and telling them to get out before the bombs hit nearby. As a result, most of the 1,300 Palestinian dead were Hamas personnel, and nearly all the damaged structures were those used by Hamas.

The Palestinians cranked up the spin machine anyway, and accused the Israelis of war crimes and genocide. But Israel responded with a media campaign featuring aerial videos of Hamas fighters setting up mortars and rockets next to schools and residential neighborhoods. This didn't stop the usual alliance of leftists, anti-Semites and Islamic radicals from calling Israel names, but the mud didn't stick nearly as much as in the past.

What dismayed Hamas the most was Israel finding the location of their officials. Even before the ceasefire took effect on the 18th, Hamas death squads were rounding up the usual suspects (members of rival Fatah, and anyone else unlucky enough to be a suspect) for torture and execution. The UN did not pay much attention to this, as it has been going on for over two years in Gaza. In that time, over 400 Fatah members have been killed by Hamas death squads, and many more Fatah (and any other Hamas rivals) tortured, wounded or jailed. Hamas apparently didn't realize that there were other ways to get target locations, besides informants on the ground. All they understood was informants...But the bombings continued.

Israel believes it has destroyed 60 percent of the 200 or so smuggling tunnels that bring weapons (particularly long range rockets for attacks on Israeli civilians) into Gaza. Israel wants Israeli or American sensors and technicians prowling the Egyptian border to detect all the tunnels, and for Egyptian border guards to destroy them. Hamas opposes this (as do many Egyptian officials, especially the ones who benefit from the bribes of the tunnel operators).

Ultimately, Hamas found that hiding their senior leadership in hospitals or orphanages offered the best protection from Israeli attack. Weapons and key items of military equipment could also be stored there. Hamas apparently exercised some restraint in the degree to which they took over these institutions for military purposes. Someone in Hamas began doing the math, and realized that, at a certain point, a hospital full of weapons and Hamas personnel stopped being a hospital to Israeli commanders, and became a prime target.

Israel believes that Hamas had about 3,000 rockets in late December, and that during the 22 day campaign, about 700 of those rockets were fired in the general direction of Israel, while Israeli air (mostly) and ground forces destroyed another 1,300. That leaves Hamas with about 1,000 rockets, and dozens of functioning smuggling tunnels to Egypt through which components for replacement rockets can be moved.

Hamas claimed that Israeli bombs and troops did $1.9 billion worth of damage. It was probably closer to a few hundred million dollars. There were only about a thousand smart bombs used, and many of these were small ones (like the new U.S. 250 pound SDB, which Israel recently received). Hamas claimed that 5,000 homes were destroyed (and 20,000 damaged), along with 16 government buildings and 20 mosques. There are about 147,000 buildings in Gaza. Israel may take another media shot at Hamas by releasing photos of what was actually destroyed, and let Hamas try to dance away from their lies. But that may not be necessary, as Hamas is already the growing target for ridicule in the Arab world. If Israel was trying to get Hamas exposed as a bunch of tyrants, genocidal liars and blowhards, they seem to have succeeded ....

Pray for the longsuffering Palestinian people who will be subjected to the same terror a year or so from now as their "leaders" rearm and prepare for yet another series of rocket attacks on Israel.


Smoking and Cancer

Studies in Massachusetts have found that smoking is responsible for more cancers than just cancers of the lung. In fact, according to this article in Science News 70% of all cancer deaths are smoking-related:

"This study provides support for the growing understanding among researchers that smoking is a cause of many more cancer deaths besides lung cancer," said lead author Bruce Leistikow, a UC Davis associate adjunct professor of public health sciences. "The full impacts of tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, have been overlooked in the rush to examine such potential cancer factors as diet and environmental contaminants. As it turns out, much of the answer was probably smoking all along."

I don't question this report, but the results seem at odds with my own personal experience. As I reflect on all the people I have known over the years who have had cancer, and the number is in the double digits, I can't think of a single one who was a smoker. It would be interesting to hear what our readers think about this. How many of the people you know who have had cancer of any kind were smokers?


Consolation Prize

Jonah Goldberg observes that just as the demise of communism was a blessing that nevertheless dissolved the glue that had long united conservatives so too might Obama's election be an event that deprives the left of one of its most powerful unifying themes - racism in America:

He has voiced an admirable disdain for the notion that academic excellence is nothing more than "acting white." His famous Father's Day speech in 2008 showed that Obama was willing to lend his voice to the effort to fight black illegitimacy and absentee fatherhood.

This puts Obama behind the two most important ingredients for black success, at least according to most conservatives: a rededication to the importance of education at an individual level, and the restoration of the black nuclear family.

At a more political level, a black president surely undermines the argument that American racism is so endemic that a system of racial quotas must remain a permanent fixture of the political and legal landscape.

Obama is most frequently compared to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. But he also has compared himself to Ronald Reagan, saying he'd like to be a similarly transformative leader, albeit from a different ideological perspective. Only time will tell how successful he will be on that front.

But the analogy may be apt in ways that he and his supporters may not fully appreciate. By hastening the end of the Cold War, Reagan took away the defining cause of the conservative movement. The right had other issues, to be sure. But anti-communism was the coalitional glue. And while principled conservatives were happy to trade a live campaign issue for a dead Soviet Union, the damage to conservative cohesion was real.

If Obama lives up to the dreams of his supporters in writing a new, post-racial chapter for America, he will have at once done more for America than any Democratic president in generations. But he also will have cut the knot holding much of the left together. As an American and as a conservative, I certainly hope that's the case. He's already made a good start of it just by getting elected.

Goldberg observes elsewhere in the same essay that Obama wasn't his first choice for president, but even so, proof that this nation has surmounted its legacy of racism isn't a bad consolation prize. Neither, I might add, is depriving the left of one of the several clubs it uses to beat Americans over the head.

Obama's election makes racism a much less plausible card to play in any of the many venues in which people are fond of playing it. It will, for example, make it much harder for the race hustlers like Al Sharpton to use white racism as an excuse for black failure.