Israel’s ‘Crazy Eddie’ Theory of War
One sure way of knowing what deluded notions are running through the minds of Israeli policymakers is to follow Ethan Bronner’s reports in the N.Y. Times. The reporter sometimes teases out what’s realistic from what’s absurd; but often he just reports and leaves it to his readers to get the rest. In this report he’s done a little of both.
In the aftermath of the alleged Gaza ceasefire, Israel’s war planners are spinning like mad:
Israeli officials say, an offensive that caused average people to suffer put pressure on Hamas in real and specific ways.
“Hamas is the dominant organization in Gaza,” a top military official said in a briefing last week that was given on condition of anonymity. “They are the regime and feel very connected to the people. They do not want to lose that connection to the people.”
This is utter nonsense. Israel’s madness did precisely the opposite from putting pressure on Hamas. It turned Hamas into resistance heroes and as we’ve said here many times–just by surviving it won.
But the best and most alarming part of this article reminds me of the old New York radio and television jingle from the 1980s about the Israeli electronics retailer who slashed prices so steeply he was known as Crazy Eddie. So let’s christen this the “Crazy Eddie” theory of Israeli war:
The Israeli theory of what it tried to do here is summed up in a Hebrew phrase heard across Israel and throughout the military in the past weeks: “baal habayit hishtageya,” or “the boss has lost it.” It evokes the image of a madman who cannot be controlled.
“This phrase means that if our civilians are attacked by you, we are not going to respond in proportion but will use all means we have to cause you such damage that you will think twice in the future,” said Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser.
This of course, assumes that Gazans feel they have something to lose. In other words, Israel is making a fundamental error in its strategy. It presumes a conventional enemy who feels they have a patrimony to protect. Or as Bob Dylan sings: “When you ain’t go nothing’ you got nothin’ to lose.” And the Palestinians have nothing to lose. Thus madness is no deterrent.
It is a calculated rage. The phrase comes from business and refers to a decision by a shop owner to cut prices so drastically that he appears crazy to the consumer even though he knows he has actually made a shrewd business decision.
The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Saturday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza, especially because Israel’s antirocket attacks in previous years had been more measured.
When Hamas’s prime minister, Ismail Haniya, appeared on Hamas television from his hiding spot last Monday, he picked up on the Israeli archetype, referring in Arabic to the battle under way as “el harb el majnouna,” the mad or crazy war.
For most, of course, feeling abused like this has created deep rage at Israel.
And that rage will breed madness from the Palestinian side. Even now, schemes and plots are being hatched to take revenge. What nation expects that it can go whale on its neighbor and not pay a price?
Bronner’s next passage confirms this:
“If you want to make peace with the Palestinians, they are tired of bombs, drones and planes,” said Mohammad Abu Muhaisin, a 35-year-old resident of the southern city of Rafah who is affiliated with Fatah, the rival to Hamas that rules in the West Bank and was ejected from Gaza in June 2007. “But a guy whose child has just been killed doesn’t want peace. He wants war.”
There are, however, limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas.
There are limits to the Crazy Eddie strategic doctrine and Israel has discovered them. It should also remember that Crazy Eddie offered those low prices so long the company finally went out of business. Electronics retailers don’t seem to have a long shelf life. I hope Israel’s will be longer.
Giora Eiland provides further evidence of the delusions at the heart of Israeli military thinking:
…Eiland, the former national security adviser, noted that Israel “can destroy the infrastructure of the regime, and that is much more painful than only hitting military targets.”
“The regime will be under pressure to stop the violence and will be careful not to repeat this experience again,” he said. “Due to the terrible devastation on the ground, there will be a lot of political pressure.”
Does he really believe that a country that has virtually nothing has “infrastructure” whose loss will cause significant pain or pause to Gazans? Loss of a parliament building, police station, university–this is what Eland believes will rein in Hamas? Who is he kidding? Any Palestinian schoolboy or girl would be able to tell him there is no building more sacred to them than an idea–the idea of national freedom. How can bombs take that away from them?
What pressure will Hamas be under to “stop violence?” That presumes Gazans blame Hamas for this violence. It presumes they will hold Hamas accountable by removing them or turning their backs on them. Will that happen? Do I hear any wagers from you, my readers?
Unfortunately, the only sanity coming from the ranks of Israelis emanates from people like this who have virtually no impact on the army’s thinking:
Shlomo Brom, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a retired brigadier general, said it was wrong to consider Hamas a group of irrational fanatics.
“I have always said that Hamas is a very rational political movement,” he said. “When they use suicide bombings, for example, it is done very consciously, based on calculations of the effectiveness of these means. You see, both sides understand the value of calculated madness. That is one reason I don’t see an early end to this ongoing war.”
15 thoughts on “Israel’s ‘Crazy Eddie’ Theory of War – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Bronner’s article would seem to support UN aid agencies assertions that Israel has deliberately committed war crimes in Gaza. Let’s hope that the USA will not block attempts at an impartial investigation and an appropriate international response.
Crazy Eddie was not an Israeli electronics retailer.
It was a local chain in the New York area that was started by a couple of guys from Brooklyn.
Actually, I wasn’t that far off. “Crazy Eddie” Antar was a Syrian Jew (and not Israeli) from Brooklyn.
Crazy Eddie and the $120 Million Ripoff
“I’m Crazy Eddie!” a goggle-eyed man screamed from the television set. “My prices are I-N-S-A-N-E!”
If you were anywhere near the East Coast in the 1980s, you undoubtedly saw those TV commercials. The raucous ads saturated the airwaves in the tri-state area and helped Crazy Eddie’s quickly become the dominant consumer electronics retailer in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
As it turned out, “Crazy” Eddie Antar, who was behind one of the twentieth century’s most infamous financial statement frauds, wasn’t crazy at all—just crooked. Indeed, the face on the tube wasn’t even his (it belonged to an actor). The real Eddie Antar didn’t have time for acting. He and members of his family were too busy engineering a $120 million rip-off. Much of the ill-gotten loot was placed in secret overseas bank accounts. Once discovered, Antar spent several years on the lam and another several behind bars. According to a senior SEC official, “This may not be the biggest [financial statement] fraud of all time, but for outrageousness, it is going to be very hard to beat.” Even though the fraud is more than a decade old, it provides vivid examples of how these crimes can be pulled off and how auditors can be deceived.
Crazy Eddie’s Nobel Prize
Wasn’t there a Nobel Prize given for this game theory? It was explained at the time as a theory of negotiation by madness, where you can win by convincing the Russians, the Nicaraguans, the blacks in the streets, or a neighbor you want to drive out of the neighborhood that no matter how self destructive the drive, the person playing that game won’t consider cost. The other “player” — the responsible one — will give more in order to stave off the madness, and you’ve won. Unless you lose to a spiralling aqccumulation of security checkpoints, inefficiencies at airports with shoe checks and other “logical” outcomes, loss of civil rights, junk politics and eventually a well earned fall via disgusted customers who won’t buy.
Or, as some German Jew once said, the Palestinians have nothing to lose but their chains. They ought to adopt “in Kamf” as their national anthem.
Eiland is not only advocating more war crimes (what else is new?), he is also displaying the tunnel vision so characteristic of militarists everywhere. Did suicide bombers and Qassam rockets bring Israel to its senses? Did Palestinian terrorism bring the Israeli public to revolt against its leaders and their pathological manichaeism and start working for an equitable, just peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians? Or is Eiland perhaps posing as a sheep in wolf’s clothes, actually hoping for more, so said revolt would come sooner (see under Marxist historical determinism)?
I’m tired of hearing about the “disproportionate” response. What would have been proportionate? The same number of missles that Hamas fired? Perhaps Israel should not aim them and shoot them off randomly as Hamas does. Maybe it would hit a military installation, maybe a school. Who cares? It would be in proportion to Hamas unprovoked attacks.
No, this war will not end hostilities, but perhaps Hamas will think twice before stirring things up again, knowing that the response will be heavy.
Mmmm, let’s see. Proportionate? How ’bout Israel launching 5,000 Qassams at Gaza with Arab aircraft flying overhead attempting to eradicate those who fired the rockets. That would be proportionate. Or, how ’bout Israel firing precisely the number of rockets into Gaza it would take to kill 13 Palestinians. THAT’S proportionate. Anything else is criminality.
You have zero evidence that this is true. What, did they a telephone survey in Gaza? I don’t think so.
Tha Gazans voted for Hamas who promised them “armed resistance, Jihad and martyrdom”. And Hamas delivered. Except for the part about resistance. I think most people expect their armed forces to protect them. That’s what I would expect from the IDF if Syrian tanks would role down the Golan on the way to my house and community. Apparently you have a different idea of what Palestinians expect. According to you, Gazans are satisfied knowing that Hamas survived. The fact that the 15,000 to 20,000 Hamas fighters did not confront the IDF but prefered to hide in their underground tunnels or throw off their unifroms and mix in with the crowd might disturb some of them. Rather than protect the Gazans, the Gazans were in the role of protecting Hamas. The resuts of the conflict speak for themselves. Few Israeli casualties, most of them self afflicted. The military arm of the Hamas exhibited nothing but cowardice and incompetence. Compare this to the war in Lebanon where Hizballah fighters atually confroned the IDF and inflicted heavy losses on its fighters including taking out quite a few Merkava tanks. How many tanks did the Hamas take out? And it’s not for lack of weapons but for lack of courage and competence. The Gazans will figure out the Haniyeh is nothing but a pompous, big mouthed fool who brought upon them nothing but sorrow and misery. I heard an interview on the radio with the doctor that lost three of his daughters. Even he said he blames Hamas for bringing the war upon them.
Now, just in case the Palestians don’t figure it out, and vote Hamas back to power the next time they have elections, they will only be able to blame themselves for the consequences.
No, unlike you I actually read the international press and Palestinian blogs including ones from Gaza. I read the NY Time’s reporter in Gaza who tells readers the view from the Gaza street. That’s where my impression of Gaza comes from. Where does yours? Oh, that’s right you don’t have a clue what Gazans think because you frankly don’t give a shit what they think unless it fits into yr neat little conception of what you’d like them to think.
Gazans are not “most” people. They don’t live in Israel or any other “normal” country. They live in Gaza. As such they don’t expect Hamas to protect them from Israel. They expect Hamas to resist Israel. And resist they have.
I’ll allow you your smug self-satisfied view of Hamas as cowards. But Gazans don’t really care what YOU think about Hamas and how they fought. They have their own views on this. For them, the fact that Hamas survived means they succeeded. You can argue w. their perception all you want. But no one in Palestine really gives a fig what you think, nor should they.
The comparison bet. Hamas & Hezbollah is completely inapt. Hezbollah had far more advanced weapons. Could Hamas nearly sink an Israeli ship at sea as Hezbollah did? Hezbollah had far more territory fr. which to fire rockets. It had far closer relations & training opportunities fr. Iran. It had far more smuggling routes through which to secure these weapons. Considering what it had Hamas did as well as any Palestinian could expect.
Your statements about the doctor’s views are also wrong. I have quoted him here in interviews blaming Israeli leaders for the crime of murdering his children. You, on the other hand provide no quotation or proof whatsoever for what you claim you heard. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if he blames both sides. That’s what any fair-minded person would do (that leaves you out, btw).
That’s just what the rapist says when he tries to defend his crimes against the victim. They had it coming to them. It was their fault. Well, the law usually sees it otherwise just as the international community did in this case. You can’t blame the victim and satisfy anyone but your own defective conscience.
It’s nice to see a website where superficial hypocrisies are dealt with for what they are… callous indifference for the people being ground to bits by the empire’s proxies.
Well said candide!
Oh, you read a blog from Gaza. My apologies. I didn’t realize you were so in tune with the Gazan street.
Let’s recall why Hamas started this war. They wanted to renegotiate the tahadiyeh. Well, the ceasefire is back, has the siege been lifted? Have any of Hamas’ demands before they called off the tahadiyeh been met? That’s a strange kind of victory, wouldn’t you say?
And if they are victorious, why are they lying about the number of Israeli casualties? Or do you believe the Hamas numbers and think Israel is lying?
And if they were victorious, how is it they were only able to launch 7 poorly aimed missiles on the last day of the war, whereby the Hizballah were able to maintain a high number of missile attacks to the very end?
Some of what you said comparing Hamas to Hizballah is true. That explains WHY Hamas was defeated more easily than Hizballah, it does not negate the fact that Hamas was defeated. Not completely. Not enough by my reckoning. But nonetheless defeated.
And about the doctor. I never said he blamed Hamas for killing his daughters. I said he blamed Hamas for starting the war.
No need to apologize for yr ignorance of what Gazans think. And no, I read several actually. Not every day, but often enough to get a flavor of what’s going on. But what shocks me is that you would feel that you not only have an idea of what Gazans think (or should think) but wouldn’t have the least interest in knowing what these blogs were. Even if I disagreed with Gazans as you do, I’d at least want to know what they think.
It’s now all of 3 days since the ceasefire resumed & you’re prepared to say that Israel will feel under no obligation to anything more than remove its troops in order to get the ceasefire to continue? I’ve got news for you. If the siege isn’t lifted, then even this ceasefire will die an untimely death.
Since we’re talking about which side lost out on its war aims–which aims has Israel achieved? Knocked out Hamas? Nope. Stopped rocket fire? Yes, as long as Hamas feels inclined to continue the truce, which will be only so long as it thinks there’s a chance the siege might be lifted. Stopped smuggling of rockets? Temporarily, as long as Hamas sees no need to rearm itself. Earned the undying enmity of 99% of all Gazans? Yep. Boasted of its success in routing an enemy which evaporated like shadows and lost only a small percentage of its fighters? Yep.
Hamas’ claims about Israeli casualties are not reported here. I don’t know why they signify anything.
Hamas’ missiles are always poorly aimed. That’s the nature of the weaponry at their disposal. And lucky Israel is for that. But just because they launched 7 rockets doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty more to launch, nor that if Israel refuses to negotiate in good faith that there won’t be plenty more coming.
Once again, Hamas was NOT defeated. It won by surviving. Guerilla insurgents don’t have to “win” in a conventional sense. They only have to survive. That’s where your thinking is so utterly obtuse. Israel was defeated but doesn’t recognize that fact because it achieved none of the goals it set for itself. When it finally lifts the siege & begins speaking with Hamas, then it will tacitly acknowledge the utter failure of the military option.
What would Golda do?