Hamas and the fog of war

3 Jan

In Ukraine the fog of war is lifting, and Russian victory assured. That doesn’t mean the endgame will not be long and blood soaked. Allied victory in WW2 had been a given – Bretton Woods in July 1944 was premised on it – since January 1943, when Field Marshall Paulus disobeyed Hitler 1 and surrendered his decimated forces to the Red Army at Stalingrad. Yet on the western front the month of heaviest US losses, though a fraction of the Soviet Union’s twenty-seven million, would be April 1945.

It’s possible of course that, as Dimitry Orlov suggested in the first of my three video offerings on New Year’s Eve, conscripts sent into the meat grinder of Zelensky’s messianic delusions will shoot officers and, as trickle turns to torrent, vote with their feet. But that doesn’t happen often and, as Ukrainian units more seasoned and committed withdraw from salients 2 like Avdivka …

… the better to dig in on a shorter and more easily defended front, Germany’s dour resistance in the spring of 1945 – its retreating forces exacting a bloody toll for every inch of field, woodland and waterway conceded in Holland and western Germany – offers the likelier prognosis.

But those German infantrymen knew their war was lost. As do those Ukrainian fighters of today. That’s why I say the fog of war, near impenetrable amid the propaganda of the early weeks and months in a country whose name means “borderland”, is lifting.

Not so in the Middle East. There the air is thick with the stuff.


One of my two New Year’s Day videos was put together by Electronic Intifada, its commentary interspersed with war footage shot by small, agile Hamas units. 3 The main take-away was that Israel’s ongoing crimes of collective punishment and ethnic cleansing have created near perfect conditions for guerrilla resistance – as foretold back in October by, among other voices, Scott Ritter and Brian Berletic.

The two are united in condemning Israel and its imperial backers, and in welcoming the multi-polar world order they and I see, short of the crazies in Washington taking the thermonuclear option, as unstoppable. But their takes on Hamas diverge. Both men, who share a US Marine background, make circumstantial arguments which may not be mutually exclusive but do point in very different directions.

Brian – who, like Alexander Mercouris at the Duran, clearly views October 7 as, shall we say, unhelpful – rightly notes that footage shot by Hamas and featured by Electronic Intifada is too short and selective to support meaningful generalisation. (His own reports on the Ukraine war make exemplary use of maps – are you listening, Alexander? – to back his assessments of its progress.) That doesn’t mean Hamas isn’t effective. It clearly is, tactically at least. It doesn’t even mean that Hamas isn’t winning. Just that we can’t know. That fog’s a bitch. As for Israel’s withdrawal of units, including a much vaunted Golani Brigade which Hamas is known to have bloodied, this can be read in more ways than one. But before I get to that, let’s consider what Scott Ritter has to say.

Scott argues a different circumstantial case. What made him a household name at the turn of the century, recall, was his principled stance against the lie – local casus belli  for the second of a string of murderous wars in the middle east whose overarching legitimator was 9/11 – that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But prior to being a UN weapons inspector, he’d been a US Marine Intelligence Officer. As such he merits our attention – I put it no more strongly than that – when he says that whatever else we may think of the Hamas attack on October 7, it was one of the most brilliantly conceived and executed operations in modern military history.

This claim leads to another. It beggars belief, says Mr Ritter, that an operation months or even years in the making neglected to factor in the wholly predictable response of an Israel fronted by a man facing serious jail time – given his failure to drive through the judicial ‘reforms’ that would have opened a clear path to immunity from prosecution – the moment he leaves office. A man, moreover, flanked by elements even more criminal in his cabinet. The claim being that the said response committed the cardinal error – Clausewitz spoke of it I’m sure, if not Sun Tsu before him – of doing exactly what your enemy expects and wants you to do.

BBC website, October 17 2023. Click on the screenshot to access the article

This too lends itself to differing interpretations. One whose ease of assimilation endears it to our systemically corrupt media – though this does not of itself rule it out – is that Hamas is led by end-times zealots who chose, on behalf of those they claim to represent, a glorious finale over the life devoid of hope, dignity and freedom to which the apartheid state has condemned an entire nation. Scott begs to differ. His assertion is that Hamas has a highly intelligent – and however ruthlessly calculating, sane – leadership which knew what it was doing on October 7. It’s a circumstantial argument I grant you, and in part a circular one, but it carries weight with me. Here too I’ll put it no more strongly than that.

But I have to park this strand here. Before I get to where Scott Ritter’s argument takes us – and I can’t do that today – there’s more ground work to be done. It starts with my promised return to an alternative explanation of why the IDF have withdrawn units from Gaza.

A case can certainly be made for the claim that, in its instinctual wrath and hubris – and under pressure not only from its most fascistic elements but from a public demanding to know why Netanyahu’s central claim to legitimacy, his hawkishness, had failed to protect that public – the regime grossly overestimated its ability to swiftly crush the authors of October 7. Its flagrantly criminal response having outraged the world, piled further humiliation on a DC desperate for a face saving out from Ukraine, and given Joe Biden the lowest ever ratings for a US president in an election year, Austin, Blinken and Sullivan have told Netanyahu to dial things down or else. That’s a hypothetical I’ll return to in the next post of this series, Hezbollah and the fog of war.

In the meantime let me sketch out an alternative reason, not that it precludes the one just given, for the IDF’s partial withdrawal from Gaza. In doing so we’ll face into the one thing which does stand out, in super HD, from the fog of war – Iran, as ultimate target of Washington’s regime change project for the Middle East.

Are those withdrawn units needed for a strike on Hezbollah in southern Lebanon? The potential of that  to draw in Iran is a wet dream for Netanyahu. Not because the IDF could prevail in a two front war against Hamas and the better equipped and experienced Hezbollah, far less Iran, but because Neocon insistence on the need to TAKE OUT IRAN NOW might then carry the day in a Washington at present divided on the matter.

Click on screenshot to access. Bolton is not the only Iran hawk to have been a Vietnam draft dodger .

It’s not that Washington is divided on Iran threatening US and Israeli dominance of the region. Just that both Beltway and Knesset are divided on how best to respond to that perceived threat. But to see how this division is currently playing out, we need to consider the nature not only of Hezbollah but of the Houthis – or as the latter prefer, Ansar Allah.

Both are subjects for another day.

* * *

  1. General Paulus was promoted to Field Marshall by Hitler precisely to forestall, since no German officer of that rank had ever capitulated, the surrender whose permission Paulus had thrice requested, citing the appalling conditions and hopeless situation of what was left of the armies under his command. So Volodymyr Zelensky isn’t the first Commander in Chief to be in the grip of messianic delusion!
  2. One of the most hellish examples of a salient – a bulge at the front, exposed on three sides to enemy fire – was Ypres in WW1. Its third and final battle, Passchendaele, saw the war’s highest death count, at over half a million. Though often depicted as futile, that is an assessment informed by ground taken and lost. As such it foreshadows one of many miscalculations NATO made in its proxy war on Russia. German losses at Passchendaele were lower than Britain’s and France’s, but less easily replaced – no colonials to recruit – and by that fact a major influence on the war’s final outcome. Like Ukraine, WW1 was a war not of territorial gain but attrition. The horrors of both notwithstanding, the macabre arithmetic was – and is – decisive. Even were Zelensky to get his requested billions in materiel – spoiler alert: he won’t – and even if they didn’t disappear down a black hole of Kiev corruption – they would – no amount of money or arms can conjure new soldiers into existence.
  3. For current purposes all references to ‘Hamas’ are shorthand for its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

9 Replies to “Hamas and the fog of war

  1. I too find the different takes of Brian and Scott interesting. The former sees Hamas as very much playing into Israeli hands and scuppering the Abraham Accords – which he views as supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state. The latter views 7 October as a way of putting the issue of a Palestinian state back front and centre – rescuing it from the oblivion to which said Accords would cast it.

    As for how the IDF is doing – it is doing a fine job of devastating Gaza and killing Palestinians. I suspect it is doing less well at eliminating Hamas fighters. The allies found bombed cities and towns much more difficult to take control of in WW2 – a fact that must have known to the IDF.

    I think your suggestion that IDF withdrawals from Gaza may be in preparation for upping the conflict with Hezbolla has legs. Israel must be making the calculus that regional escalation is the only way forward – and so far their Arab opponents have done a good job of avoiding doing what Israel wants / expects.

    Good work Phil – your blogging remains much appreciated.

  2. Its certainly a ‘pea souper’ out there.

    For sure it is difficult to imagine those in the Washington beltway who have an unimpeachable track record of not giving a FF what anyone thinks about them and what they do – they are ‘history’s actors’ after all – suddenly doing a 180 degree turn (360 degrees in Anna Baerbock mathematics) by telling their rottweiler in the Near East to wear a muzzle because the optics are looking bad for the election. After all, both party’s are on board with the Deep State programme.*

    Yet, for the widening out of the conflict commencing with tackling Hezbollah in Lebenon – as an obvious prelude to taking on Iran – to have any legs requires that any such escalation play by the Zionist entity is backed by at least Washington if not the rest of the Collective West ‘Garden’. Because, having previously had their arses handed to them by Hezbollah it does not seem feasible for the Israeli regime to manage such a project on its own.

    And it is here where some difficulties arise. The Ukraine situation is not simply a matter of lack of human resource meat to feed into the Russian grinder. It is not even a matter of money. The funds Biden wants to give out which are being held up by the Washington legislature could be released tomorrow and make no difference whatsoever because you can’t fight a war by throwing bits of printed paper at the enemy. You need serious ordnance in serious amounts.

    The de-industialised post-modernist ‘Garden’ does not have the capacity to produce not only the required quantity of ordnance for Ukraine it also does not have the wherewithal to produce anything of the required quality of munitions to succeed. And not just in Ukraine but also in the Near East where expensive half million dollar rockets which are in short supply – due to the total absence of both industrial capacity and gorm on the part of the elites – are used to shoot down $5,000 home produced rockets fired by people who do know their arse from a hole in the ground.

    As the much lauded ‘Prosperity Guardian’ flotilla dies an inglorious death and the Gerald Ford is withdrawn from the theatre the question arises – just as it does in Ukraine – as to what the American’s actually have to back up Israel in such an escalation scenario? When the Ukraine project has failed due to lack of the military means to continue – not just in manpower but also in weapons of sufficient quantity and quality which the ‘Garden’ is no longer capable of producing – the evidence that such backing of an escalatory play by Israel will fare any better – or even get off the starting block – seems somewhat sparse.

    And we have not even touched on the flawed contextual background as to why this is so. A context articulated cogently by Swiss Colonel Jacque Baud quoted by Larry Johnson today….


    ….who observes:

    “The reason the Russians are better than the West in Ukraine is that they see the conflict as a process; whereas we see it as a series of separate actions. The Russians see events as a film. We see them as photographs. They see the forest, while we focus on the trees. That is why we place the start of the conflict on February 24, 2022, or the start of the Palestinian conflict on October 7, 2023. We ignore the contexts that bother us and wage conflicts we do not understand. That is why we lose our wars…”

    An observation valid in the Near East just as much as it is in Ukraine.

    * Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic and across the West are largely bought and paid for regardless of nominal party rosette. To the extent that they should all be forced to dress in the same way as Formula 1 racing drivers – covered in patches of the logo’s of all the lobbyist’s who are paying and sponsoring them.

    • Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic and across the West are largely bought and paid for regardless of nominal party rosette. To the extent that they should all be forced to dress in the same way as Formula 1 racing drivers – covered in patches of the logo’s of all the lobbyist’s who are paying and sponsoring them.

      Splendid idea! And more generally, spot on comment.

      I agree that any rational calculations would ensure that the USA kept out of any region wide war provoked by Israel, most likely on its northern border. This makes such an escalation unlikely – especially in a US election year with an American people fed up of their rulers’ wars thousands of miles from home – but doesn’t, alas, categorically rule it out given (a) how well organised the crazy end of DC’s crazies have proved themselves, and (b) their sense that their window of opportunity may be closing. A Trump back in the Oval Office, this time more savvy re deep state manouvres and with a more decisive stop the wars-and-fix-America mandate, doesn’t automatically diminish their chances of getting their war on Iran – but does make it uncertain for reasons I’ll explore in the next post in this series.

      Again, great comment. Thanks.

  3. Great stuff – as are the above comments, thanks. But you’ll never get Mercouris to use maps in his analyses. As he’s said a thousand times: his poor eyesight means he finds them virtually impossible to read.

  4. re your quote from SSS at the top, I just ran across this: I wrote it (fwiw which is clearly not much) in 2011

    Resolution 1973, clearly passed under false pretences, called for a No Fly Zone over Libya. This was to prevent Libyan forces from bombing civilians in Benghazi. NATO has interpreted-twisted would be a more accurate term- this to be permission to engage in regime change.

    This war is clearly a war of aggression and a crime. It is unjustified in every sense. It has one merit which is that it exposes to the world the hypocrisy, greed and disregard for law, honour or decent behaviour which is now the badge of the ‘western alliance.’..

    My guess is that it was to give NATO enough rope to consummate its desire to hang itself in the sight of a disgusted international opinion, that China and Russia refrained from vetoing 1973.

    I guessed wrong- there really appears to be no bottom either to Imperial hypocrisy or the capacity of electorates to swallow examples of it.

    Steve is right – great stuff, great comments (Scott is right too.) Happy New Year to all in the South Riding.

    • To you too bevin. Yorkshire’s Ridings have gone though, and in any case Steve (York based if memory serves) would have been in the North Riding while Bryan, Dave and YT (all three of us in Sheffield or thereabouts) would have been on the cusp of the West Riding.

      There never was a South Riding. You’ve been in Canada too long, my friend.

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