Left: Israeli tanks just prior to the invasion; photo courtesy AP
Israeli tanks and troops launched a ground invasion today to reoccupy parts of the Gaza Strip, with the Israeli military escalating its assault on the Palestinian territory. Ostensibly this is an effort to eliminate the sources of recent rocket attacks by Hamas forces, but one suspects this might simply be an excuse for the destruction of Palestinian radicals or even for territorial expansion.
The likely outcome of this ground campaign will be results similar to the 2006 Lebanon War, with Israel gaining minimal military objectives at an extremely heavy price, while civilians get slaughtered by the thousands. The Hamas fighters will wage unconventional strategies, moving from building to building as Israeli tanks and artillery destroy large sections of Gaza City in an effort to root out rocket sites.
However, the underlying cause of the conflict - Palestinian refugees and their land claims after the lousy deal the world foisted on them in 1948 - will not be addressed, and the ground campaign will have no lasting effects. That is, assuming that the Israelis are not embarrassed by the military forces of Hamas like they were by Hezbollah fighters in 2006.
And the U.S., with our declining credibility? We have little ability to bring about change at the moment, as the Israelis know that we do not have the means to force them into a position of negotiation. Moreover, despite our professed desire to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East, the U.S. is seen as hypocritical, since our response to the democratically elected Hamas government was to denounce Hamas and to greenlight Israeli efforts to undermine the political will of the Palestinians.
And let's not forget that Hezbollah might just take the opportunity to strike at Israel in the north during this campaign. The IDF has called up all reserves in anticipation of other fronts opening up, but I suspect that a combined Hamas-Hezbollah initiative would be quite the losing proposition for the Israelis (setting aside ideological differences between the two groups).
In short, the invasion will only serve to breed a new generation of Palestinian radicals, while the U.S. loses even more legitimacy in the region. Meanwhile, the Israelis will back themselves into an even deeper hole of intransigent militancy, leaving dim the prospects that peace will be achieved in the foreseeable future.
My personal assessment is that this is just the latest conflict in what appears to be the gradual descent into a major regional war. We can only hope that such a wider Middle East war does not devolve into a global conflict featuring numerous nuclear players.