August 12, 2006

12 Degrees of Freedom, and Still No Clue.

Stratfor has released a Special Report that doesn't even attempt to clarify anything:

The pressure on Olmert from IDF is intense. But it is also intense politically. Benyamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud, has remained virtually silent, holding off criticizing the government. He has even restrained some of his colleagues. Clearly, he does not want to destabilize the government now. Yet, at the same time, his relative steadfastness while the government tries to sort things out remains odd.

It may be odd, but it's not the oddest:

In looking at Israeli behavior -- which has become the most interesting and perplexing aspect of this conflict -- we are struck by an oddity. The Israeli leadership seems genuinely concerned about something, and it is not clear what it is. Obviously, the government doesn't want to take casualties, but this is not a political problem. The Israeli public can deal with high casualties as long as the mission -- in this case the dismantling of Hezbollah's capabilities -- is accomplished. The normal pattern of Israeli behavior is to be increasingly aggressive rather than restrained, and the government is supported.

When a government becomes uncertain, it normally reverts to established patterns. We would have expected a major invasion weeks ago, and we did expect it. Something is holding the Israelis back and it is not simply fear of casualties. The increasing confusion and even paralysis of the Israeli government could be explained simply by division and poor leadership. But we increasingly have the feeling that there is an aspect to Israeli thinking that we do not understand, some concern that is not apparent that is holding them back from doing what they would normally do.

One "oddity" after another. I don't think I've ever seen or heard of a situation where the concerns of a sovereign state were this inscrutable. Not even the Soviet Union measures up to this level of mystery, and certainly not the Kennedy administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But I have yet to see anything that runs directly counter to Simon's thesis: that this is a magnificent deception. That is, other than the obvious problem that a dramaturgical display this extensive and deceptive is totally unprecedented, and demands a level of discipline and competence that's difficult to even imagine. It seems unlikely, but what else explains all of these clues?

On the other hand the Israelis might know that Iran has some WMD capability that no one else has guessed, and be keeping wraps on such information to quell panic, or because there was a massive intelligence failure involved. What else?

The Stratfor analysis finishes with something that appears to rule out M. Simon's strategic scenario:

However, while there are those who would argue that Israel's inability to decide clearly on a path is simply cover for action, our view is that the situation has gone well beyond that. Hezbollah is not being rattled at all. The Israelis are.

In Simon's scenario the purpose of the deception isn't to "rattle" Hezbollah, it's to make them overconfident. But at this point it's difficult to see how "over" could be accurate.

Posted by Demosophist at August 12, 2006 12:43 PM