22 August 2014

Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed

The Underrated Saudi Connection
by PATRICK COCKBURN, Counterpunch, AUGUST 21, 2014
There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the U.S. is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The U.S. would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.
But U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis.  It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.
The reality of U.S. policy is to support the government of Iraq, but not Syria, against ISIS. But one reason that group has been able to grow so strong in Iraq is that it can draw on its resources and fighters in Syria. Not everything that went wrong in Iraq was the fault of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as has now become the political and media consensus in the West. Iraqi politicians have been telling me for the last two years that foreign backing for the Sunni revolt in Syria would inevitably destabilize their country as well.  This has now happened.
By continuing these contradictory policies in two countries, the U.S. has ensured that ISIS can reinforce its fighters in Iraq from Syria and vice versa. So far, Washington has been successful in escaping blame for the rise of ISIS by putting all the blame on the Iraqi government. In fact, it has created a situation in which ISIS can survive and may well flourish.
Using the al-Qa’ida Label
The sharp increase in the strength and reach of jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq has generally been unacknowledged until recently by politicians and media in the West. A primary reason for this is that Western governments and their security forces narrowly define the jihadist threat as those forces directly controlled by al-Qa‘ida central or “core” al-Qa‘ida. This enables them to present a much more cheerful picture of their successes in the so-called war on terror than the situation on the ground warrants.
In fact, the idea that the only jihadis to be worried about are those with the official blessing of al-Qa‘ida is na├»ve and self-deceiving. It ignores the fact, for instance, that ISIS has been criticized by the al-Qa‘ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for its excessive violence and sectarianism. After talking to a range of Syrian jihadi rebels not directly affiliated with al-Qa‘ida in southeast Turkey earlier this year, a source told me that “without exception they all expressed enthusiasm for the 9/11 attacks and hoped the same thing would happen in Europe as well as the U.S.”
Jihadi groups ideologically close to al-Qa‘ida have been relabeled as moderate if their actions are deemed supportive of U.S. policy aims. In Syria, the Americans backed a plan by Saudi Arabia to build up a “Southern Front” based in Jordan that would be hostile to the Assad government in Damascus, and simultaneously hostile to al-Qa‘ida-type rebels in the north and east.

The powerful but supposedly moderate Yarmouk Brigade, reportedly the planned recipient of anti-aircraft missiles from Saudi Arabia, was intended to be the leading element in this new formation. But numerous videos show that the Yarmouk Brigade has frequently fought in collaboration with JAN, the official al-Qa‘ida affiliate. Since it was likely that, in the midst of battle, these two groups would share their munitions, Washington was effectively allowing advanced weaponry to be handed over to its deadliest enemy. Iraqi officials confirm that they have captured sophisticated arms from ISIS fighters in Iraq that were originally supplied by outside powers to forces considered to be anti-al-Qa‘ida in Syria.
The name al-Qa‘ida has always been applied flexibly when identifying an enemy. In 2003 and 2004 in Iraq, as armed Iraqi opposition to the American and British-led occupation mounted, U.S. officials attributed most attacks to al-Qa‘ida, though many were carried out by nationalist and Baathist groups. Propaganda like this helped to persuade nearly 60% of U.S. voters prior to the Iraq invasion that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and those responsible for 9/11, despite the absence of any evidence for this. In Iraq itself, indeed throughout the entire Muslim world, these accusations have benefited al-Qa‘ida by exaggerating its role in the resistance to the U.S. and British occupation.
Precisely the opposite PR tactics were employed by Western governments in 2011 in Libya, where any similarity between al-Qa‘ida and the NATO-backed rebels fighting to overthrow the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was played down. Only those jihadis who had a direct operational link to the al-Qa‘ida “core” of Osama bin Laden were deemed to be dangerous. The falsity of the pretense that the anti-Gaddafi jihadis in Libya were less threatening than those in direct contact with al-Qa‘ida was forcefully, if tragically, exposed when U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by jihadi fighters in Benghazi in September 2012. These were the same fighters lauded by Western governments and media for their role in the anti-Gaddafi uprising.
Imagining al-Qa’ida as the Mafia
Al-Qa‘ida is an idea rather than an organization, and this has long been the case. For a five-year period after 1996, it did have cadres, resources, and camps in Afghanistan, but these were eliminated after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. Subsequently, al-Qa‘ida’s name became primarily a rallying cry, a set of Islamic beliefs, centering on the creation of an Islamic state, the imposition of sharia, a return to Islamic customs, the subjugation of women, and the waging of holy war against other Muslims, notably the Shia, who are considered heretics worthy of death. At the center of this doctrine for making war is an emphasis on self-sacrifice and martyrdom as a symbol of religious faith and commitment. This has resulted in using untrained but fanatical believers as suicide bombers, to devastating effect.
It has always been in the interest of the U.S. and other governments that al-Qa‘ida be viewed as having a command-and-control structure like a mini-Pentagon, or like the mafia in America. This is a comforting image for the public because organized groups, however demonic, can be tracked down and eliminated through imprisonment or death. More alarming is the reality of a movement whose adherents are self-recruited and can spring up anywhere.
Osama bin Laden’s gathering of militants, which he did not call al-Qa‘ida until after 9/11, was just one of many jihadi groups 12 years ago. But today its ideas and methods are predominant among jihadis because of the prestige and publicity it gained through the destruction of the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, and its demonization by Washington as the source of all anti-American evil. These days, there is a narrowing of differences in the beliefs of jihadis, regardless of whether or not they are formally linked to al-Qa‘ida central.
Unsurprisingly, governments prefer the fantasy picture of al-Qa‘ida because it enables them to claim victories when it succeeds in killing its better known members and allies. Often, those eliminated are given quasi-military ranks, such as “head of operations,” to enhance the significance of their demise. The culmination of this heavily publicized but largely irrelevant aspect of the “war on terror” was the killing of bin Laden in Abbottabad in Pakistan in 2011. This enabled President Obama to grandstand before the American public as the man who had presided over the hunting down of al-Qa‘ida’s leader. In practical terms, however, his death had little impact on al-Qa‘ida-type jihadi groups, whose greatest expansion has occurred subsequently.
Ignoring the Roles of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
The key decisions that enabled al-Qa‘ida to survive, and later to expand, were made in the hours immediately after 9/11. Almost every significant element in the project to crash planes into the Twin Towers and other iconic American buildings led back to Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden was a member of the Saudi elite, and his father had been a close associate of the Saudi monarch. Citing a CIA report from 2002, the official 9/11 report says that al-Qa‘ida relied for its financing on “a variety of donors and fundraisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.”
The report’s investigators repeatedly found their access limited or denied when seeking information in Saudi Arabia. Yet President George W. Bush apparently never even considered holding the Saudis responsible for what happened. An exit of senior Saudis, including bin Laden relatives, from the U.S. was facilitated by the U.S. government in the days after 9/11. Most significant, 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report about the relationship between the attackers and Saudi Arabia were cut and never published, despite a promise by President Obama to do so, on the grounds of national security.
In 2009, eight years after 9/11, a cable from the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, revealed by WikiLeaks, complained that donors in Saudi Arabia constituted the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. But despite this private admission, the U.S. and Western Europeans continued to remain indifferent to Saudi preachers whose message, spread to millions by satellite TV, YouTube, and Twitter, called for the killing of the Shia as heretics. These calls came as al-Qa‘ida bombs were slaughtering people in Shia neighborhoods in Iraq. A sub-headline in another State Department cable in the same year reads: “Saudi Arabia: Anti-Shi’ism as Foreign Policy?” Now, five years later, Saudi-supported groups have a record of extreme sectarianism against non-Sunni Muslims.
Pakistan, or rather Pakistani military intelligence in the shape of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was the other parent of al-Qa‘ida, the Taliban, and jihadi movements in general. When the Taliban was disintegrating under the weight of U.S. bombing in 2001, its forces in northern Afghanistan were trapped by anti-Taliban forces. Before they surrendered, hundreds of ISI members, military trainers, and advisers were hastily evacuated by air. Despite the clearest evidence of ISI’s sponsorship of the Taliban and jihadis in general, Washington refused to confront Pakistan, and thereby opened the way for the resurgence of the Taliban after 2003, which neither the U.S. nor NATO has been able to reverse.
The “war on terror” has failed because it did not target the jihadi movement as a whole and, above all, was not aimed at Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries that fostered jihadism as a creed and a movement. The U.S. did not do so because these countries were important American allies whom it did not want to offend. Saudi Arabia is an enormous market for American arms, and the Saudis have cultivated, and on occasion purchased, influential members of the American political establishment. Pakistan is a nuclear power with a population of 180 million and a military with close links to the Pentagon.
The spectacular resurgence of al-Qa‘ida and its offshoots has happened despite the huge expansion of American and British intelligence services and their budgets after 9/11. Since then, the U.S., closely followed by Britain, has fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and adopted procedures normally associated with police states, such as imprisonment without trial, rendition, torture, and domestic espionage. Governments wage the “war on terror” claiming that the rights of individual citizens must be sacrificed to secure the safety of all.
In the face of these controversial security measures, the movements against which they are aimed have not been defeated but rather have grown stronger. At the time of 9/11, al-Qa‘ida was a small, generally ineffectual organization; by 2014 al-Qa‘ida-type groups were numerous and powerful.
In other words, the “war on terror,” the waging of which has shaped the political landscape for so much of the world since 2001, has demonstrably failed. Until the fall of Mosul, nobody paid much attention.

This essay is excerpted from the first chapter of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, with special thanks to his publisher, OR Books.  

18 August 2014

The Messy Side of Precision Warfare

Since the 1920s, air power theorists and technologists in the United States have been obsessed by the idea of precision bombardment of critical targets or nodes deep in the adversary's infrastructure.  From famous Norden computing bombsight of WWII to the so-called precision guided weapons launched by a network of drones today, successive generations of advocates of precision warfare have predicted that new technologies promised surgical levels of destruction that would produce revolutionary increases in both economy effort and and combat effectiveness.  It is the promise of the silver bullet or free lunch.

In January 1988, for example, a Pentagon accepted a report, Discriminant Deterrence by produced for the Secretary of Defense the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, a blue ribbon panel composed of the bluest of defense bluebloods.*  Their predictions included inter alia: 

"The precision associated with the new technologies will enable us to use conventional weapons for many of the missions once assigned to nuclear weapons.” [pg. 8] and  
"The equipment, training, uses of intelligence, and methods of operation we have developed mainly for contingencies involving massive worldwide attacks by the Soviet Union do not prepare us very well for conflicts in the Third World. Such conflicts are likely to feature terrorism, sabotage, and other "low intensity" violence. Assisting allies to respond to such violence will put a premium on the use of some of the same information technologies we find increasingly relevant for selective operations in higher intensity conflicts. The need to use force for political purposes and to discriminate between civilian and legitimate targets is even more evident here. In particular, we will need optical and electronic intelligence, communications and control, and precise delivery of weapons so as to minimize damage to noncombatants.  We will need advanced technologies for training local forces. These will be important both for obtaining local political support and support in the United States and elsewhere in the West.” [pg. 67 emphasis added]

In short, the same technologies used to deter the Soviets will enable the surgical use of force in coercive diplomacy to mold third world countries and terrorists to our will, while providing the grist to build political support at home.  

As for the promise of economy of force, suffice to say that the use of these technologies in the low intensity war on terror that began after 9-11 has now made it the second most expensive war in US history, exceeded only by WWII, but exceeding the costs of the far larger, more intense Civil War, WWI, and Viet Nam wars (after adjusting for the costs of inflation).  

As for effectiveness, every extended precision bombardment campaign conducted by the United States — i.e., WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, The First Iraq War, Kosovo, and now the War on Terror -- has been accompanied by wildly escalating target lists suggesting (1) an inability to surgically discriminate important from unimportant targets in real war or (2) frustrated expectations about the actual effectiveness attending to those targets successfully destroyed or (3) both.

The drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia represent the apotheosis of the precision surgical strike mentality so evident in prognostications of the wise men of 1988.  The obsession with critical targets may have devolved from the destruction of industrial nodes like ball bearing works in WWII to the targeted liquidation individual terrorist leaders in the war on terror, but as in all previous precision bombardment campaigns, the actual conduct of the drone war reveals a far messier reality.  Add this limited effectiveness (or worse, counter productiveness and blowback) to the theory that these surgical strikes can be combined with tit for tat coercive diplomacy and you have a indiscriminate prescription for perpetual war.

Attachment 1, introduced below, are the opening paragraphs of an outstanding report that indirectly supports these points.  It was written by Gregory D. Johnsen for Buzz Feed News, and his subject is collateral damage caused by drone strikes in Yeman.  It is impressively researched and is one of the best descriptions yet of how fatally flawed assumptions implicit the precision bombardment theories propping up the drone the war are bogging the United States from the President on  down in the mental and moral quagmire of perpetual war.  

This report is long but well worth the investment in time.  This is where thinking like that in Discriminent Deterrence takes us, because the real name of the game is shoveling money to the MICC at the expense of John Q. Average American; or as one defense expert told me, the Discriminant Deterrence report may not have been on the money as far as effectiveness and economy go, but its authors certainly understood how to get the money! 
* The members of the commission was a who’s who list of the Beltway Establishment, including: Anne Armstrong, Zbigniew Brzesinski, William P. Clark, W. Graham Caytor, Gen. Andrew Goodpastor, Adm. James Holloway, Samuel Huntington, Henry Kissinger, Joshua Lederberg, Gen. Bernard Schriever, and Gen. John Vessey. With respect to their prognostication abilities,  even a causal perusal of their 1988 report reveals the Soviet threat is portrayed as being 10 feet tall and growing, with superior capabilities in many dimensions to those of the United States.  It contained no hints of any discriminating awareness of internal problems that were then causing the Soviet Union to crumble from within, leading inevitably to its dissolution only four years later in 1991.  A more accurate threat appreciation could have been found five years earlier at far less cost by buying and reading my friend Andrew Cockburn’s, The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine (1983).

Attachment #1

Nothing Says “Sorry Our Drones Hit Your Wedding Party” Like $800,000 And Some Guns
On December 12, 2013, a drone struck and killed 12 members of a wedding party in Yemen. If the U.S., which claims the strike was clean and justified, didn’t pony up the $800,000 in cash and guns as reparations, then who did?
Gregory D. Johnsen, Buzz Feed News
Michael Hastings Fellow

Posted on Aug. 7, 2014, at 10:29 p.m.
Muhammad al-Tuhayf was relaxing at his house late in the afternoon on Dec. 12, 2013, when his iPhone rang. A boxy, tired-looking Yemeni shaykh with large hands and a slow voice, Tuhayf heard the news: A few miles from where he was sitting, along a rutted-out dirt track that snaked through the mountains and wadis of central Yemen, U.S. drones had fired four missiles at a convoy of vehicles. Drone strikes were nothing new in Yemen — there had been one four days earlier, another one a couple weeks before that, and a burst of eight strikes in 12 days in late July and August that had set the country on edge. But this one was different: This time the Americans had hit a wedding party. And now the government needed Tuhayf’s help.
The corpses had already started to arrive in the provincial capital of Radaa, and by the next morning angry tribesmen were lining the dead up in the street. Laid out side by side on bright blue tarps and wrapped in cheap blankets, what was left of the men looked distorted by death. Heads were thrown back at awkward angles, splattered with blood that had caked and dried in the hours since the strike. Faces that had been whole were now in pieces, missing chunks of skin and bone, and off to one side, as if he didn’t quite belong, lay a bearded man with no visible wounds.
Clustered around them in a sweaty, jostling circle, dozens of men bumped up against one another as they struggled for position and a peek at the remains. Above the crowd, swaying out over the row of bodies as he hung onto what appeared to be the back of a truck with one hand, a leathery old Yemeni screamed into the crowd. “This is a massacre,” he shouted, his arm slicing through the air. “They were a wedding party.” Dressed in a gray jacket and a dusty beige robe with prayer beads draped over his dagger, the man was shaking with fury as his voice faltered under the strain. “An American drone killed them,” he croaked with another wild gesture from his one free hand. “Look at them.”
A few miles outside of town, Tuhayf already knew what he had to do. This had happened in his backyard; he was one of the shaykhs on the ground. Only three hours south of the capital, the central government held little sway in Radaa. Like a rural sheriff in a disaster zone, he was a local authority, someone who was known and respected. And on Dec. 12, that meant acting as a first responder. Tuhayf needed to assess the situation and deal with the fallout. Every few minutes his phone went off again, the marimba ringtone sounding with yet another update. Already he was hearing reports that angry tribesmen had cut the road north. Frightened municipal employees, worried that they might be targeted, kept calling, begging for his help. So did the governor, who was three hours away at his compound in Sanaa.
It didn’t take Tuhayf long to reach a conclusion. The Americans had made a mess, and to clean it up he was going to need money and guns.
This is the other side of America’s drone program: the part that comes after the missiles fly and the cars explode, when the smoke clears and the bodies are sorted. Because it is here, at desert strike sites across the Middle East, where unsettling questions emerge about culpability and responsibility — about the value of a human life and assessing the true costs of a surgical war.
For much of the past century, the United States has gone to war with lawyers, men and women who follow the fighting, adjudicating claims of civilian casualties and dispensing cash for errors. They write reports and interview survivors. But 
  • what happens when there are no boots on the ground? 
  • When the lawyers are thousands of miles away and dependent on aerial footage that is as ambiguous as it is inconclusive? 
  • How do you determine innocence or guilt from a pre-strike video? 
  • When everyone has beards and guns, like they do in rural Yemen, can you tell the good guys from the bad? Is it even possible? 
  • And when the U.S. gets it wrong, when it kills the wrong man: What happens then? Who is accountable when a drone does the killing?

On Dec. 12, 2013, a U.S. drone carried out a strike in Yemen. Little of what happened that day is known with any degree of certainty. Most of the facts are adrift somewhere in the shadowy sea of a classified world. Identities shift and change depending on the vantage point, and what appears true thousands of feet up in the air often looks different on the ground. Following two reviews, the U.S. claims it was a clean strike and that all the dead were militants. Yemen disagrees, calling the attack a tragic mistake that killed civilians. Two countries, two conclusions. But one of them paid the families of the dead men a lot of money.
Yemen is a U.S. ally that says it approves every drone strike, but it is also so strapped for cash that the government has implemented numerous austerity measures. Either it handed out the money and guns to cover for its partner, or the U.S. privately paid money to the families of men it publicly describes as al-Qaeda while simultaneously promoting the man responsible for the strike. 

In truth, only three things are known for certain: Twelve men are dead, $800,000 in cash was delivered, and the dead can’t be both guilty and innocent …. continued

09 August 2014

The Gaza Siege and the Struggle for Palestine (Part I)

Introduction to the Struggle for Palestine (Part I) by William R. Polk

The Gaza Siege
Chuck Spinney

Siege is the oldest, most primitive, and surest form of warfare, if the besieger has the resources to sustain the  isolation of the besieged.  Therein lies the rub.  For a siege to work, the besieger must seal off the flow of material, energy, and information between the besieged and the outside world.  That takes time and resources.  The starvation requirement also makes siege the most expensive form of warfare.  Not only does a siege consume resources at prodigious rates, the “sunk cost” expenditure phenomenon locks the besieger’s mentality into the game as much as the besieged.  Moreover, the besieger’s task is complicated because necessity is the mother of invention:  The “steady-state” nature of a siege makes it relatively easy for the besieged to orient itself to the nature of the threat and evolve mitigation tactics that marginally lessen the direct effects of a siege.  The mitigation effects prolong a siege's time horizon, thereby forcing the besieger to increase his expenditures.  From time immemorial, such mitigation effects have been seen to build up the moral strength of the besieged, even when they were faced with the certainty of total defeat.  That moral effect makes it difficult for a besieger to end a siege at something less than total victory, because failure can not be hidden if the besieger leaves the battlefield without annihilating the besieged or compelling its unconditional surrender. (The moral effects of Germany's failed siege of Leningrad being a case in point illustrating both the demoralizing effect on the Germans as well as the positive moral effect on the Soviets.)

The latest Gaza War may be a watershed in the Arab - Israeli conflict in the sense that there is a growing world wide revulsion at Israel’s thuggish behaviour.  Israel may be winning tactically, but is losing grand- strategically   This is due in large part to modern communications technologies that make it impossible for Israel to stem the flow of information describing the horrific effects of its brutal actions in Gaza. In short, communications technology has made Gaza a leaky siege in terms of the flow of information.  Even in the United States, recent polls hint that a sea change of attitudes may lie in the offing, with a majority of younger Americans being more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.  Hamas, the besieged fighting force, has staked out a position that has captured the moral high ground — i.e. the Gaza blockade must end, so its people can live normal lives that interact with the world.  Hamas will find it difficult to back away from from this goal.  By putting up a feisty defense, its fighters are becoming gallant heroes to the committed Gazans and Arabs in general, and more importantly, to the uncommitted peoples around around the world.  The fact that Netanyahu recently felt compelled to ask US lawmakers for help in fending off Palestinian claims that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza is an indicator of how this shifting moral balance is affecting the mentality of the besieger.  Netanyahu, ironically, seems concerned that Israel is fast assuming the role of the Romans at Masada and Hamas the role of the martyred Israelites and apparently fears who will live longer in the popular imagination. 

Or consider the tunnels.  With its portrayal of Palestinian tunnels being an existential threat, Israel is both revealing the ingenuity of Palestinian mitigation tactics and exhibiting signs of the kind of hysterical desperation that has effected besiegers from time immemorial: Israel is now consuming resources at a rate that cannot be sustained, yet its only option in searching for a key to victory is to escalate the general level of  barbarity, because the expenditures to date are not having the predicted effect. But escalation requires an expenditure of even more resources that can only be justified by portraying Hamas and Gazans generally as something less than human. (The revolting pictures of Israelis in Siderot gleefully watching the bombing of Gaza illustrates where this mentality leads.) Here again, given the nature of modern communications, all the world is watching.  Moreover, in this particular case, the only way for Israel to obtain the resources is to increase its poisonous intrusion into U.S. domestic politics in a way that becomes more repulsive to more and more American citizens who see the pictures and videos of Gaza.   

In short, the Gaza war is creating a very dangerous, increasingly desperate, unstable situation.  And, because war gains a life of its own, this war can escalate along unpredictable pathways.  Will the Gaza siege, for example, spill over into the West Bank by triggering a 3rd Intifada that threatens Israeli settlements?  Will Israel feel compelled to Annex Area C  because its time window for doing so is perceived to be running out?  Bear in mind, Israel already completely controls Area C which comprises 60% of the land in the West Bank and, by driving Palestinians out of Area C, settlers now outnumber Palestinians.  Moreover, Area C provides Israel with access to water in the West Bank aquifer that supplies one third of Israel's water needs.  So, while no one can predict the future, the Gaza siege has increased the potential for a truly bloody, dehumanizing escalation. 

Such an evolution would convert the West Bank into a multitude of disconnected, parched mini-Gazas, sealed off and under permanent siege by Israel, as can be seen in the attached UN map — the 'tan' areas are those now under some degree of Palestinian control.

How can this all end?  Multiple sieges in perpetuity? Ethnic cleansing? Genocide?

There are no easy answers to these questions.  At the very least, a lasting solution will require wise statesmanship heretofore lacking by world leaders, backed up by informed and determined citizens who understand the historical roots of this never ending intensifying crisis. 

For readers interested in learning more about those roots, this link will take you to Part I of The Struggle for Palestine.  This is the first part of a three part series analyzing those roots.  This is a work in progress, and I will distribute Parts II and III  as they become available.  The Struggle for Palestine as been written by my good friend and well-known historian William R. Polk    He has specialized in the Middle East for over 50 years in academia and government.  The essay is long (10,000 words), but as you will see, the Gaza Crisis has very deep roots indeed.  I urge you to read it.