Yesterday, for the second time in five days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly refused to repeal the 1,600 units that derailed US proxy talks with the Palestinians. Today US envoy George Mitchell canceled a second trip to the region amid clashes in Jerusalem.
All President Obama managed to produce is a day of rage. No, Israel still hasn’t gotten the message, but neither has America judging by this Foreign Policy exposé.
General David Petraeus revealed little truth by himself. He exploded something to pieces, just not the White House’s policy on Israel. Comments on the story were fixated on whose bidding Petraeus is doing, the Arabs’ or Israelis’, irrelevant banter.
His bombshell scored a direct hit on US counterinsurgency, his own expertise.
Foreign Policy reports that the CENTCOM commander sent a 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing to the Pentagon in January that “stunned” Joint Chief of Staff Michael Mullen.
“The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) ‘too old, too slow... and too late.’”
What exactly stunned Mullen stunned remains a mystery. These perceptions have existed for decades, though admittedly more-so in recent years. Being stunned by the reality is impossible unless that reality has been blocked out or covered up.
The real juice flows from Petraeus’s request, sent to Mullen two days after the briefing, that the West Bank and Gaza be placed under his authority at CENTCOM. His reason: “with U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region's most troublesome conflict.”
Thus one of America’s highest ranking generals and the most public has come out of the closet. Petraeus believes in “linkage,” rejected by Dennis Ross, Obama’s special adviser on the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, and unknown, untold others in Washington.
From this juice oozes a deadly truth that America’s mechanism to wage counterinsurgency is outdated and must evolve to a maturer stage. Foreign Policy analyzes, erroneously, that the, “Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is essentially a political issue.”
Certainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political issue first, but so are Pakistan and Yemen, where US military influence runs deep, particularly Petraeus’. Blurred is the line between political and military in counterinsurgency, a lesson America has been unable to absorb quickly. Unprecedented is the time America refused to treat Israel as a counterinsurgency that affects West Asia and beyond.
The White House’s latest efforts to restart final status negotiations have been a joke, too little too late as Petraeus might say, but the last two weeks are illuminated in retrospect. Obama’s “indirect negotiations” misfired because they weren’t 100% sincere. Evidently the White House didn’t wake up by itself and start putting together a new strategy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It was jolted by Petraeus.
“The Obama administration decided it would redouble its efforts,” reports Foreign Policy, “pressing Israel once again on the settlements issue, sending Mitchell on a visit to a number of Arab capitals and dispatching Mullen for a carefully arranged meeting with the chief of the Israeli General Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi.”
“Certainly, it was thought, Israel would get the message,” but how could Israel get the message if America doesn’t either?
No new initiative was formulated on the heels of Afghanistan, only after a military power grab, and the strategy was still poorly crafted. If “indirect negotiations” were supposed to assuage Petraeus we can assume he feels even more strongly about prying Israeli policy from US politicians’ hands.
Israel lacks a unified counterinsurgency strategy to deal with the totality of Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, and Iran. Its strategy mixes conventional military operations, covert operations, and hard line politics to lackluster results.
So too does America lack a unified counterinsurgency strategy to deal with its self-professed “Global War on Terror,”
A prime cause is the lack of a mechanism to run counterinsurgency through. Kashmir, as we will detail in the near future, is one example of disparate parts competing for, and eventually clogging up, US counterinsurgency. The same flawed process has subverted US attempts to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Right now, in Pakistan and those insurgencies surrounding Israel, US counterinsurgency is developed independently by Congress, the Executive branch, the Pentagon, and lobbyist groups representing foreign governments. By competing with each other they jam the system - it’s no mystery why the output strategy is full of errors.
The real message of General Petraeus’s actions is that America needs a new round of political/military reform to calibrate to the 21st century, for the problem described and private military contractors (PMC). Wars used to be fought against enemy states; now they’re increasingly waged in friendly ones. US military personnel visit Pakistan and Yemen as frequently as civilian diplomats so it’s no surprise that Petraeus is eying the Palestinian territories.
Though his grab at the West Bank and Gaza is disturbing, merging the political and military is actually overdue and inline with what appears to be a long-term cycle of global counterinsurgency. Scary as it sounds, America is already in the process of consolidating political and military power.
This must be done through public instruments to manifest farsighted adaptation, lest the system become unstable once again from inbreeding.