CENTCOM’s Blue Sky, Red Team Talks Sense About Hezbollah, Hamas
Mark Perry has a mini-blockbuster of a story in Foreign Policy revealing that a team of CENTCOM intelligence analysts offered a report about what U.S. military policy should be toward Hezbollah and Hamas. The results are exceedingly pragmatic, sensible, and for that reason, controversial:
…Senior CENTCOM intelligence officers question the current U.S. policy of isolating and marginalizing the two movements. Instead, the Red Team recommends a mix of strategies that would integrate the two organizations into their respective political mainstreams.
…The…report calls for the integration of Hizballah into the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Hamas into the Palestinian security forces…The Red Team’s conclusion…is perhaps its most controversial finding: “The U.S. role of assistance to an integrated Lebanese defense force that includes Hizballah; and the continued training of Palestinian security forces in a Palestinian entity that includes Hamas in its government, would be more effective than providing assistance to entities — the government of Lebanon and Fatah — that represent only a part of the Lebanese and Palestinian populace respectively” (emphasis in the original). The report goes on to note that while Hizballah and Hamas “embrace staunch anti-Israel rejectionist policies,” the two groups are “pragmatic and opportunistic.”
This is going to have the Israel lobby mavens screaming bloody murder and the Republicans crying: “You see, we told you Obama couldn’t be trusted on Israel.” Probably in a day or two Admiral Mullen and Gen. Petraeus will be trying to get the horses back in the barn.
I think what will anger these folks is that the Red Team is only speaking common sense to anyone who knows anything about the politics of Lebanon and Palestine. Of course, Hezbollah and Hamas, though many of their views and policies may be anathema to some living in western democracies, represent legitimate political opinion within their respective societies. And we’ve got to stop viewing such phenomena through our own particular U.S. lens and try to understand things more in the context of the Middle East.
Here is more reason bound to give Israel apoplexy:
…The CENTCOM team directly repudiates Israel’s publicly stated view — that the two movements are incapable of change and must be confronted with force. The report says that “failing to recognize their separate grievances and objectives will result in continued failure in moderating their behavior.”
I can just see Mort Klein, Malcolm Hoenlein and Bibi foaming at the mouth and dripping with sarcasm: “Instead of fighting murderous Middle Eastern terrorists you hopeless western liberals try to “understand” them and negotiate with them.”
We should be realistic in noting that no radical shift in U.S. policy is in the offing. But the fact that senior intelligence officers at the military HQ responsible for the Middle East region is contemplating the formerly unthinkable and has leaked such a report is significant:
“There is a lot of thinking going on in the military and particularly among intelligence officers in Tampa [the site of CENTCOM headquarters] about these groups,” acknowledged a senior CENTCOM officer familiar with the report. However, he denied that senior military leaders are actively lobbying Barack Obama’s administration to forge an opening to the two organizations. “That’s probably not in the cards just yet,” he said.
It’s that “just yet” that will have Bibi and Ehud and Gaby crapping in their shorts.
The report directly contradicted the claims of the Israeli military and intelligence regarding the nature of Hezbollah:
The Red Team downplays the argument that the Lebanese Shiite group [Hezbollah] acts as a proxy for Iran. The report includes a quote from Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, stating that if Lebanon and Iran’s interests ever conflicted, his organization would favor Lebanese interests. “Hizballah’s activities increasingly reflect the movement’s needs and aspirations in Lebanon, as opposed to the interests of its Iranian backers,” the report concludes. It also criticizes Israel’s August 2006 war against Hizballah as counterproductive. “Instead of exploiting Hizballah’s independent streak … Israeli actions in Lebanon may have had the reverse effect of tightening its bonds with Iran,” the authors note.
Regarding Hamas, the Red Team notes the clearest possible reasons why Israel might want to maintain the Islamist group as its national bogeyman:
…The senior intelligence experts…ignal their unease with Israel’s anti-Hamas policies, particularly the continuing Israeli siege of Gaza…[They] note that Israel’s strategy of keeping Gaza under siege also keeps “the area on the verge of a perpetual humanitarian collapse” — a policy that the intelligence report says “may be radicalizing more people, especially the young, increasing the number of potential recruits” for the organization. The report argues that an Israeli decision to lift the siege might pave the way for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which would be “the best hope for mainstreaming Hamas.” The Red Team also claims that reconciliation with Fatah, when coupled with Hamas’s explicit renunciation of violence, would gain “widespread international support and deprive the Israelis of any legitimate justification to continue settlement building and delay statehood negotiations.”
This passage lays out in bright lines why Israel desperately does NOT want Palestinian reconciliation and does not want to end the siege or see Hamas moderate its positions. It could mean the death of the settlement movement, the death of Greater Israel, and the death of the Occupation–all of which are phenomena many Israelis refuse to live without. Not just that they believe they cannot live without them, but that if they must renounce them it would endanger the State’s existence.
There are those among Israel’s right-wing supporters who claim that Hamas is irredentist and irredeemable. That simply isn’t true. As a NY Times column today by two U.S. Mideast counter-terrorism experts points out:
…When we talked to Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas…he said that his movement could imagine a two-state “peace” (he used the term “salaam,” not just the usual “hudna”…
After reading the following passage I think I’ve discovered a few new heroes. And who’d-a-thunk I could ever view a military intelligence officer as a hero? But there you have it:
…The CENTCOM Red Team report has been read by outgoing CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus…There’s little question the report reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters — and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East….A CENTCOM senior officer told me that — so far as he knows — there is, in fact, no parallel “Blue Team” report contradicting the Red Team’s conclusion. “Well, that’s not exactly right,” this senior officer added. “The Blue Team is the Obama administration.”
When it comes to the IDF I would advise a wise Israeli political leader (perhaps an extinct species) to run as far as he or she could from what the army or military intelligence advises as far as policy is concerned. When it comes to the U.S. military I’m shocked to say I believe just the opposite. It is the political leaders who are lost in the dark and those in CENTCOM who have the freshest and most innovative approach for resolving the conflict.
The Red Team report is also especially important in light of the groundbreaking testimony of Gen. Petraeus before Congress that the lack of resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict drives the Muslim world away from us, foments hatred, fuels militancy, and ends up costing the lives of U.S. troops. That’s the truth, a truth that few policymakers at the highest levels are willing to digest (yet). Or if they are digesting it, they’re still not willing to act on the realization. When Pres. Obama gets tough on Israel, demands an end to the Gaza siege, demands Israel accept a return to 1967 borders, that’s when the lesson will have sunk in–and not before.
12 thoughts on “CENTCOM’s Blue Sky, Red Team Talks Sense About Hezbollah, Hamas – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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As Alistair Crooke said at the close of his recent article on the Middle East, “if you cannot change the region, then change the way you think about it.” This is where the IR Realists have the advantage: they look for “rational actors,” rather than good/evil ones. Hezballah has played its cards exceptionally well, turning itself into a respectable and popular political party. Hamas is not the government I would choose for the Palestinians, but I don’t get a vote there. However, given the evident sanity of Mesha’al, I suspect they would end up doing a more honest job than the corrupt Fatah (who will probably end up accepting what Arafat turned down at Camp David – and Abu Mazen will get himself assassinated for his efforts).
But this is precisely what Israel does not want in charge of anything, i.e., actors far more rational than anything you find in Israel today. Most wielders of power in the Middle East know very well that reason is hard to come by in either Israeli or American politics today, and that Obama, an essentially weak president, is hostage to some of the most irrational forces ever to inhabit the US political system. Iran knows this best, which is why it values keeping a loose cannon like Ahmadinejad front and centre: the clerics know that regularly-timed outrageous statements from him brings more and more American and Israeli lunatics out of the political woodwork.
The Red Team seems to know that it’s getting harder and harder to delegitimize those the West calls “terrorist organizations.” The only answer is to legitimize them, and give them the opportunity either to succeed legitimately or to delegitimize themselves.
Very well said, especially your last line.
I found the article about the conclusions of a CENTCOM team to be interesting. I don’t see why the US and EU should not at least consider ways to engage the Hamas and Hezbollah. I think Israel has made a mistake against its self-interests by not trying to engage the Hamas and Hezbollah several years ago.
I do have issue with the editorial comments in the blog post. It is very funny to see the CENTCOM team’s conclusions cited and approved repeatedly in the blog post apparently because they were made by military personnel. If the blogger’s attitude is that they must be correct because they are military personnel, then it follows that the various personnel up to and including Gen. McChrystal in Iraq are very correct in their reasons for disdaining Obama, Biden, and the Obama administration as a whole.
Similarly, the blog post trusts in the CENTCOM team’s conclusions based on intelligence estimates. In the same way, then obviously Mr Silverstein must believe that Bush and Cheney and the Bush administration were correct for trusting intelligence that said that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was developing WMD, and that the Iraqi people would welcome US forces. After all, if Mr Silverstein trusts the intelligence that the CENTCOM team used, then the blog writer should trust the intelligence that the Bush administration used.
I condemn results-oriented analysis (biased or prejudiced analysis that is designed to support a pre-determined or pre-decided conclusion, even if unbiased and careful analysis would lead to the opposite conclusion). I think Israel should have been talking to the Hamas and Hezbollah for several years already, at a high level (not just the indirect, informal, and usually low level contacts that it has with both groups on and off).
I have very low regard for Cheney, and I think he has been awful throughout his professional career (under both President Bushes, at Halliburton, in the Congress, under Nixon, etc.; I don’t say this flippantly, I can discuss Cheney’s record at each stop of his career in depth). Nevertheless, sometimes Cheney comes to the right conclusion, but for horribly wrong or horribly misguided reasons. I don’t think Mr Silverstein is horribly wrong or horribly misguided, I just think he comes to the right conclusion here (the US, EU, and Israel should all speak or at least try opening a dialogue with the Hamas and Hezbollah) with wrong and misguided reasoning. I think Mr Silverstein is engaging in selective and inconsistent reasoning, just like Cheney does in his own way, by getting excited and enthusiastic about the conclusions of a CENTCOM team, when it seems that Mr Silverstein generally is opposed to recommendation of the US military and US intelligence.
I see nothing wrong or inconsistent with being generally opposed to the views of the US military or US intelligence, but I find it highly hypocritical for someone to cite such views as authorities when convenient, and to oppose or condemn them when inconvenient.
Then again, I suppose Mr Silverstein has a blog post that I missed in which he praises McChrystal and his staff for their candor and right-minded criticism of Obama and Biden. Yes, this last line is sarcastic.
Your comments are so off-kilter it’s unbelievable. Contrary to yr narrow minded belief, there are astute, intelligent people serving in the U.S. military. They are some of those who wrote this rpt. For you to contend I have no right to value the ideas & analysis of these officers becuase many other officers brought us failed policies is just plain stupid. Are you that stupid? Why are you wasting your own & our time w. such empty-headedness??
So Mr Silverstein engages in rude, ad hominem and straw man arguments when someone disagrees with him? How unfortunate?
Nowhere do I criticize U.S. military personnel. Nowhere do I say there are not “astute, intelligent people serving in the U.S. military”. Mr Silverstein sets up a non-existent straw man who has the “narrow minded belief” that are not astute and intelligent people in the U.S. military.
Don’t believe my words here, the reader should verify for him or herself. Read what I wrote earlier. Mr Silverstein invented a straw man.
Mr Silverstein again invents a straw man with his statement “For you to contend I have no right to value the ideas & analysis of these officers becuase many other officers brought us failed policies is just plain stupid.”
Nowhere did I say Mr Silverstein has “no right” to value anything, or “no right” to say anything. I am a strong believer in freedom of speech and freedom of expression. If one wants to support or condemn President Bush or President Obama, I have no problem with that. Mr Silverstein has every right to say and write what he wants. Mr Silverstein has no obligation to allow comments on his blog. It is a disgraceful straw man argument for Mr Silverstein to imply that I want to censor some of his comments or prevent him from making them (recall that Mr Silverstein falsely claimed that I hold that he has “no right” to value certain ideas).
Mr Silverstein sinks to the level of ad hominem with his comment to me “Are you that stupid?” What an admirable person you are, Mr Silverstein. Only admirable people feel a need to ask others “Are you that stupid?” It appears that you get impatient with criticism, and then invent straw men and engage in ad hominem to lash out in response.
Mr Silverstein continues his ad hominem attacks with “Why are you wasting your own & our time w. such empty-headedness??” What maturity Mr Silverstein shows here. Yes, I mean that sarcastically.
Moreover, when it comes to “wasting . . . time”, most all blogs and other recreational reading are comparable wastes of time. Mr Silverstein’s blog does not change the world, nor do my comments or any other comments about the blog change it. Recreational and educational reading and writing of any sort is a comparable waste of time in the sense that they do not change the world. Asking people if they are “that stupid” is also a waste of time.
One can go back and reread my original comments as I suggested. I welcome any who disagree with me politely. I cannot stop those who would engage in straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks on me. I find it interesting and informative to read a variety of different views. I think reading and discussing a variety of views makes a person a more informed person (although I am not so arrogant to think that my views have any impact on the world — I am not a senior or prominent government official, nor am I a prominent non-government leader with a wide following).
As I said originally (go back to my original comment to see), I find it strange and hypocritical for Mr Silverstein to cite a CENTCOM report when I assume he would strongly dismiss the harsh criticisms that McChrystal and his staff have of Obama and Biden (after all, McChrystal and his staff are veteran, accomplished, and, by virtue of their former ranks and responsibilities, were at least well-regarded until very recently). I believe that Mr Silverstein only cites military-sourced reports that agree with his preconceptions, and he dismisses those that disagree with his preconceptions (i.e. he likes Obama and Biden, so he dismisses McChrystal and his staff, but he favors engagement with the Hamas and Hezbollah so he loves the CENTCOM report). More significantly, it is not just that Mr Silverstein agrees with CENTCOM that is the core of my comment, it is that Mr Silverstein presents the CENTCOM report as having special important and legitimacy because it was a military report. By contrast, it does not seem that Mr Silverstein views McChrystal’s and his staff’s criticisms of Obama and Biden as insightful and valid, even though McChrystal and his staff are military personnel with comparable or even better military credentials than that the CENTCOM team in question.
I have long believed that the EU, US and Israel should all in their own ways and for their own reasons engage with the Hamas and Hezbollah. I find nothing new or noteworthy in the CENTCOM team report. As I said in my earlier post, simply because the CENTCOM team was a military team does not make it more valid, since, after all, it was various military teams (and non-military teams) that gave such horribly wrong advice and policy recommendations in the lead up to the Iraq War. In principle, the CENTCOM team recommendation is neither more nor less valid because it comes from a military source. Mr Silverstein implicitly argues that the CENTCOM team report is more valid because it is from a military source, yet, when convenient, I believe that Mr Silverstein has on numerous occasions dismissed military sources precisely because they are military sources.
I have nothing against people who support or opposed Bush (43) or Obama. I voted against Bush twice, and I have a very negative view of his presidency. I voted for Obama, and I intend to vote for him again. I have nothing against the US military. I have enough personal and family experience in and with the U.S. military to know that it is like any other government organization: It has many (I think these people are the majority of the U.S. military) very hard working, patriotic and noble people, it has some people who think of being in the U.S. military as just being a job that pays the bills and it (unfortunately) has some bad people (just like there are bad people in any group) who go against the spirit and letter of what the U.S. military is supposed to do.
If someone generally disagrees with the Democratic or Republican parties (or any other group) or the U.S. military, I see nothing wrong with that. But, I find it hypocritical and usually insincerely self-serving when someone who generally disagrees with a group then cites that group for support on a viewpoint (because it usually seems the person is engage in results-oriented analysis, and the person is just citing the group he or she generally disagrees with in order to tweak those who would normally disagree with the person).
Will Mr Silverstein respond by asking me if I am stupid? Will Mr Silverstein respond by setting up more straw men? Will Mr Silverstein respond by hiding my response and not posting it? I don’t know, but it would be very funny (in an ironic way) if Mr Silverstein chose not to post this response, even after Mr Silverstein wrongly and falsely accused me of “contend[ing]” that he “ha[s] no right to value the ideas” of certain people. Does Mr Silverstein think I have a “right” to (politely and respectfully) respond on his web site to his straw man and ad hominem attacks on me? Time will tell.
There’s simply not enough time in the day to read this puerile nonsense. You’ll be moderated in future. Your contributions to this thread have ended. You may contribute to other threads if you wish. If you try to publish again in this thread your comment will not be published.
You have a bad case of logohrrea. Pls. don’t inflict it on us.
I think we should give up the dream of ever having an American administration put actual pressure on Israel to end the occupation, as long as the military “aid” to Israel continues. Contrary to popular view, I don’t think the American administration is “weak” in regards to Israel, and I don’t think Israel or the Israeli Lobby are the ones calling the shots, although it’s very convenient for the US administration to make it seem that way.
As long as the US keeps subsidizing its weapons industry through “aid” to Israel and Egypt there’s not going to be peace in the middle east, and there’s not going to be sensible US policy in the middle east. There’s no real interest for those calling the shots in the US administration and the very strong military industrial complex lobby there, in ever resolving the conflict in the middle east. But why not blame it solely on the Israeli lobby. Sure, the Americans’ hearts are in the right place… they’re just too weak to act. That seems like nonsense to me.
What you as American citizens (as opposed to Israeli citizens, who should protest their own government) should do, is put pressure on your own government to stop the military aid to the region. That’s the only thing that can start a positive process that can eventually lead to peace in the middle east. As long as the US is involved in the region in the way that it is, nothing good is going to happen. The cold war was one of the main reasons for the Arab-Israeli wars in the past, and US interests in the region are one of the main reasons for our continuing inability to achieve peace.
“puerile”, “logohrrea”, and “stupid”.
Good God, Mr Silverstein, you love to throw around invective and insults at people who politely comment on your blog. It also reinforces the old adage that people who are insecure feel a need to hurl invective and insult others.
My sympathies to the people who have to deal with you on a regular basis.
I don’t treat everyone that way. Just people like you.
And of course I am not concerned that the comment is “moderated”, since as the moderator, you, Mr Silverstein, will be sure to read the comment.
I find you and yr behavior objectionable. If you persist I won’t read anything you write becauase you won’t comment here at all, moderated or not.
This was really weird! You wonder what his point was. (Simply a desire to be read?)