Given that the United States fields the costliest, most sophisticated, and most lethal military in the history of civilization, that should be a silly question. We have enough conventional and nuclear power to crush any of our enemies many times over. Why then did we seem to bog down in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? The question is important since recently we do not seem able to translate tactical victories into long-term strategic resolutions. Why is that? What follows are some possible answers.
No--We Really Do Win Wars
Perhaps this is a poorly framed question: the United States does win its wars--if the public understands our implicit, limited strategic goals. In 1950 we wanted to push the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel and succeeded; problems arose when Gen. MacArthur and others redefined the mission as on to the Yalu in order to unite the entire Korean peninsula, a sort of Roman effort to go beyond the Rhine or Danube. Once we redefined our mission in 1951 as one more limited, we clearly won in Korea by preserving the South.
In Vietnam, the goal of establishing a viable South was achieved by 1974. Congress, not the president or the military, felt the subsequent peace-keeping commitments and air support were too costly. They allowed a renewed Northern invasion that led to a second and lost war, and then were surprised that the North Vietnamese proved to be not campus radicals but hardcore Stalinists.
Panama, Grenada, and Serbia were successful small enterprises. In the first Gulf War, the strategic aim was to oust Saddam from Kuwait--or so we said. That succeeded, though it did not solve the problem of what Saddam would in the future do with his vast oil revenues. In the second war, the mission was to remove him, birth a democracy, and then leave Iraq better than before. That more ambitious aim too succeeded--not, however, without enormous costs.
Our strategic objective in Afghanistan was to oust the Taliban and ensure that it did not return to host terrorists on Afghan soil. The former mission was done over a decade ago, the latter hinges on the Afghans themselves after we leave. We vowed to rid Libya of Gaddafi and we did--and did not exactly promise that what followed would be immediately better than what we removed. In such special pleading, the U.S. has won its wars as it has defined them. Note the great success of the Cold War that ended with the destruction of the Soviet Empire.
"Our strategic objective in Afghanistan was to oust the Taliban and ensure that it did not return to host terrorists on Afghan soil."
"These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act, and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate."
George W. Bush, Statement To Joint Session Of Congress September 20th 2001
'Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, said yesterday that he expected moderate Taliban leaders to play a crucial role in any new administration in Afghanistan, and made it clear that US military action against Osama bin Laden should be "short and targeted".
In remarks endorsed by the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, Gen Musharraf said any post-Taliban government in Kabul should be "broad-based" and "multi-ethnic". It could include the "former king Zahir Shah, political leaders, moderate Taliban leaders, elements from the Northern Alliance, tribal leaders and Afghans living outside their country", he added.'
Part 1 of analysis: Ron Ben-Yishai explains why Hamas maintains de facto Gaza truce so strictly
Regardless of how one refers to it, we have seen a sort of ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, for some eight months now, since August 2011. The group fired a few Grad rockets ...Soviet-developed 122-mm rockets, usually launched from trucks. Newer versions are reported to have a range of up to 30 km.... at Israel for the last time during the round of escalation following the terror attack near Eilat. Since then, Hamas has adhered to the rule it set for itself -- no attacks initiated against Israel. The group only responds when IDF troops cross the fence.
And so, for example, during the last round of Gazoo escalation in March, after Israel assassinated the Popular Resistance Committees' secretary general and other group activists, Hamas did not join the retaliatory attacks, but rather, sought a way to calm the tensions. Here and there we saw "private initiatives," but the Hamas establishment showed disciplined restraint.
According to recently published and apparently credible reports, Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, formed in Gazoo a special police force tasked with thwarting rocket fire by various "rogue organizations." The force has already started to operate, and according to rumors its members are adopting a firm hand and working effectively.
Meanwhile, ...back at the Alamo, Davy was counting their remaining cannon balls and not liking the results... on the civilian-economic front, we have recently seen a gradual increase in the number of trucks transporting goods and fuel from Israel into the Strip as well as Gazoo goods exported via Israel's ports.
The days of the Messiah have not yet arrived. The Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, movement constantly states that it has not renounced the "liberation of occupied land via armed struggle." Israel too has not changed its declared policy, which rejects contacts with Hamas as long as the group does not accept the principles set out by the International Quartet ... The Quartet are the UN (xylophone), the United States (alto), the European Union (soprano), and Russia (shortstop). The group was established in Madrid in 2002 by former Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, as a result of the escalating conflict in the Middle East. Tony Blair is the Quartet's current Special Envoy.... . However, today is that tomorrow you were thinking about yesterday... direct contacts are taking police in the field, among low-level officials, while indirect negotiations are occasionally held in Cairo with Egyptian mediation.
In fact, this is a classic hudna (temporary ceasefire) in line with the principles of ancient Islam. It will continue as long as Egypt, Hamas' new patron, will want it, and end once Hamas' leadership will decide that renewing the violence against Israel serves the organization's objectives more than the lull does.
The Iron Dome factor However, today is that tomorrow you were thinking about yesterday... Hamas is not the only player in town. The large "rogue organizations," headed by Paleostinian Islamic Jihad ...created after many members of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood decided the organization was becoming too moderate. Operations were conducted out of Egypt until 1981 when the group was exiled after the liquidation of President Anwar Sadat. They worked out of Gaza until they were exiled to Lebanon in 1987, where they clove tightly to Hezbollah. In 1989 they moved to Damascus, where they remain a subsidiary of Hezbollah... in the Strip, have complied with Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason,' and Egypt's orders, but have also attempted to carry out attacks via the Sinai. Yet Hamas usually refrains from Sinai activities that anger the Egyptians.
In their talks with Gazoo groups, one of the most powerful arguments used by Hamas officials in favor of the lull is the success of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. According to a well placed source, Hamas argues that every round of fighting boosts Iron Dome's efficiency and the public pressure in Israel to acquire many more batteries. Hence, says Hamas, it would be better to minimize the fighting and accumulate very large quantities of rockets and launchers of various types. The group believes that mass fire will "flood" the Iron Dome systems and neutralize them (or at the very least, impose a heavy financial burden on Israel.)
In any case, there is almost no doubt that Hamas, always the voice of sweet reason, at this time has a strong interest in maintaining the hudna, for the following reasons:
A lull enables Hamas to improve the economic and security situation of Gazoo residents. This allows the group to boost its popularity and reinforce its rule in the Strip vis-à-vis organizations that are challenging it with Iran's assistance. The sympathy for the Gazoo government also constitutes a step towards taking over the West Bank, if and when general elections are held in the Paleostinian Authority.
The urgent need to win international and Western diplomatic recognition. Hamas needs it in order to receive more money, and also in order to make it harder for the IDF to operate. Firing rockets at Israeli citizens certainly does not promote this objective.
The main reason: The loss of support and operational bases in Syria and Iran, as well as the fear of popular unrest in Gazoo.
Iran's continued existence threatened by minorities who wish to join neighboring countries
The mass executions of members of the Kurdish, Azeri and Sunni Arab minorities in Iran -- usually on false charges of espionage, the spreading of blogs, porn, or merely posting photos online -- attest to the immense tension faced by the country's religious-military regime at this time.
As of late, Iran's TV broadcasts are replete with "admissions of guilt" by candidates for execution, "confessions" of spies and fabricated expressions of regret, against a backdrop of suspense thriller music. Aside from Syria, where a civil war is raging, there is no other state in the Middle East where the regime executes political activists so ostentatiously and lustfully.
The regime fears a return of the protests of millions against it, as was the case in 2009, so it responds wildly in order to deter the masses. "Facebook is a Zionist espionage machine," computer expert Ahmadinejad explained to his countrymen.
This regime knows that Iran is a country of minorities, where no one sect boasts a majority. The Persians themselves are below the 50% mark, and the other minorities are interested in joining neighboring countries and have no intention of supporting a regime that oppresses them.
The second-largest minority is the Azeri people, some 20 million citizens who make up about one-quarter of Iran's population, including supreme leader Ali Khamenei and opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Many Azeris would like to be annexed by neighboring Azerbaijan, their cultural homeland. Azerbaijan too views Iran's Azeri regions as areas belonging to it culturally.
And so, for example, in the 2009 Eurovision song contest, Azerbaijan presented a video of heritage sites, and to Iran's amazement the clip included a site located in Iran, the Poets Tomb (Maqbaratol Shoara) near the city of Tabriz. Tehran also claims that Azeris are helping Israel's and America's spy agencies to hit Iranian regime targets.
Sunni-Shiite tensions growing
Another large minority are the Kurds, who engage in violent festivities with the Revolutionary Guards on a daily basis. Their dream is to desert Iran and join the great Kurdish homeland, once it's established. Other minorities include the Tajik people, who wish to join Pakistain, and the Sunni Arabs, who dream of establishing a Sunni state within Iran to be called Ahwaz.
The regime in Tehran knows how soft its ethnic underbelly is; officials are aware of the danger of their country breaking up and disintegrating in case of a military clash. Every minority will work to promote its national objectives, at the expense of the Persians.
Meanwhile, ...back at the pound, Zebulon finally found just the friend he'd been looking for... Shiite-Sunni tensions within Iran are growing (some 33% of Iranians are Sunnis, including the Arabs and Kurds in the country) and expending into neighboring states. For example, an Iranian newspaper called for annexing Bahrain, ruled by a Sunni royal family, a move that outraged Sunni readers online as well as the miserable Bahraini government.
The possibility of Iranian disintegration is indeed the regime's weak link, but also its strength. All minorities realize that should the government fall, the result would be chaos and even a civil war, exactly as happened in Leb between 1975 and 1989, and as is happening in Syria at this time.
Iranian citizens are looking at Syria and seeing themselves. This is the reason why despite the oppression and their sense of disgust with the regime, they can continue to support it as a buffer between them and a vacuum entailing ethnic slaughter.
This is where the growing economic sanctions enter the picture, further unraveling the ethnic fabric. Yet here is the paradox: As the tendency to split and disintegrate will grow, it may also reinforce the notion that there is no other choice but this regime, and that if it falls, everyone would have to fall with it. After all, they have no other place to go to.
Hence, the Iranian regime's main weakness is also its main strength.