...from Gary Anderson, blogging at Small Wars Journal, on "Preparing for the Next Battle of Gaza."
In his piece, Mr. Anderson (a noted expert on counter-insurgency operations), outlines how the U.S. and Israel--with assistance from our friends in the Arab world--can prepare Fatah security forces for re-taking Gaza.
Many of his ideas make great sense; entrust the actual training to the Jordanians, Egyptians and other Arab military professionals. As Mr. Anderson observes, they have a vested interest in ridding Gaza of its current, terrorist rulers. Their participation also removes our "fingerprints" from the operation, so Fatah won't appear as proxies of the U.S.--or even worse--the Israelis. Anderson also believes that Arab trainers would be more successful in creating a Fatah force that is more rooted in their culture and practices.
Anderson believes it will take "at least a year" to prepare Fatah units for the battle, and in the interim, their leadership must embrace "real reform and transparency." And those requirements may represent the biggest flaws in his proposal.
First of all, how do you reform a "movement" that is thoroughly corrupt and rotten to the core? As we've noted in the past, Fatah lost the 2006 election to Hamas largely because it squandered the trust--and treasury--of the Palestinian people. The "willingness of the secular and relatively sophisticated Gaza Palestinians" (Mr. Anderson's term) to vote for rule by a radical terror organization is a damning indictment of Fatah and it's so-called leadership. Anderson describes Fatah's required "reform movement" as "a big if." That may be the understatement of the decade.
Mr. Anderson also seems to assume that Hamas will squander its leadership opportunity. We share that sentiment, but we're not convinced it will actually happen. First, there's the very low bar established by Yasser Arafat and his successors. After 40 years of empty promises and inaction by Fatah, even a modest level of services from Hamas will create a measure of support for the terrorists.
Secondly, Hamas is proving increasingly adept at manipulating western leaders and the media, as evidenced by the carefully-orchestrated "release" of BBC Correspondent Alan Johnston. It's no accident that Hamas secured his freedom after their takeover of Gaza, ushering in a new era of "law and order" in the territory. Such "accomplishments" will be trumpeted by Hamas apologists in the west (hellooo, Mr. Carter), who will lobby for a dual-track policy in Gaza, and tacit recognition of the terrorist government.
Finally, if all else fails, Hamas is not above "stealing" the next round of Palestinian elections, just as Fatah (ahem) managed the electoral process in the past. Even if more Palestinians become dissatisfied with their terror rulers, the thugs of Hamas have proven methods for handling dissent. Those highly-publicized executions of Fatah fighters during the recent takeover served two purposes, eliminating an immediate (and obvious) threat, and sending a clear message to the rest of Gaza: oppose us at your own peril.
As Mr. Anderson writes, re-making Fatah into a force that can win the political and military battles--in only a year's time--is a very tall order indeed, and possibly, the only viable option for stopping Hamas. We've suggested a more radical approach for the Gaza problem, but there's no stomach in Western (or Middle Eastern) capitals for letting the Israelis clear the area, returning it Egyptian control, and slowly grooming a new generation of honest--and accountable--Palestinian leaders.
The approach described by Mr. Anderson is the one most likely to be adopted in Washington, Cairo, Riyadh, Amman, Tel Aviv and the West Bank. But it's also an option that's best employed with a back-up plan. We've put all of our eggs in the Fatah basket in the past, and the results have been disappointing at best. Every breakthrough (like the 1994 Peace Treaty) has bene followed by monumental setbacks, with Fatah resorting to its time-tested tactics of corruption and terror. Now, we're heading down the same path again. Why should the outcome be any different?