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Israel’s victory will be Netanyahu’s downfall This war has broken his authority

'He has not been a decisive war leader.' (LEO CORREA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

'He has not been a decisive war leader.' (LEO CORREA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)


March 20, 2024   4 mins

Weeks ago, the Israeli army came up with a perfectly serviceable plan to finish the war in Gaza. Their strategy was to simultaneously push their ground forces into the remaining Rafah segment of the strip to destroy the last of Hamas, while opening a secure evacuation route to allow the displaced Palestinians to return home to Gaza City and Khan Yunis. Desperate to see an end to the fighting, the Biden White House had been privately willing to approve a limited offensive, provided that the Israelis continued to fight without the support of aerial bombing except in rare cases, and continue to be sparing with their artillery.

All was seemingly prepared; but then nothing happened. Now the war is in stasis, neither properly continuing nor adequately resolved, while yesterday Biden effectively ruled out any support for a major ground assault.

Why did Israel miss its chance? Part of it was down to the “friction” that pervades every and any war, to the great frustration of all strategists. As first articulated by Carl von Clausewitz, friction is made up of many separate impediments. Some are really trivial — like a flat tyre on the eve of a family outing — while others represent a fundamental threat to any war effort. In Israel’s case, the impediments were substantial, from supply officers claiming they needed more time to provide food and water along the evacuation route, to the open-ended delays caused by the Qataris’ negotiations over Hamas’s hostages, which have swung back and forth without resolution, and with even the Qataris losing patience with their Hamas clients. Meanwhile, there are concerns that not all the tunnels under Gaza City and Khan Yunis had been found and destroyed. Again and again when it seemed that the day had come, the finding of new tunnels caused another delay. Just this week, there was a serious fight at Al Shifa, where the first battles was fought back in October

But these are the usual travails of war, and there is another, far more significant source of friction, located at the heart of the Israeli leadership. When I asked an officer at IDF headquarters why so much time had passed with Rafah untouched, his answer was unexpectedly gnomic: “Netanyahu is not Ben Gurion.” The comparison is charged: Ben Gurion was not only Israel’s first prime minister, but its spiritual founder, midwife to a nation born under siege. When he declared independence on May 15, 1948, he triggered the invasions of four Arab states, each one better equipped than his underground Jewish militias, for whom a rifle was precious and artillery an impossible dream. With this act, Ben Gurion ignored American and British warnings that the war would end in a massacre and went it alone, demonstrating a faith in the fighting spirit of his young country and a conviction in his own powers of leadership.

These are qualities that Netanyahu sorely lacks. Netanyahu was once a very decisive politician who set Israel on the path to techno-prosperity as a revolutionary finance minister two decades ago. And he had been an equally decisive soldier, serving for five years instead of the obligatory two and a half, fighting hard in Israel’s premier commando force in dozens of combat actions. But he has not been a decisive war leader. His political trajectory is a story of declining authority, propped up by ever more marginal and objectionable elements within Israeli politics.

“His political trajectory is a story of declining authority.”

Even though this premiership is relatively new, beginning in December 2022, this is his 17th year as prime minister, a job he held twice in the past. And as a result, he is viewed by a great many Israelis — as well as politicians in the US and Europe — with that particular disgust reserved for leaders who remain in office even as their abilities wither. He has achieved this through political bargaining, forming successive coalition governments, each including more extremists than its predecessor. Proportional representation has long opened Israel’s parliament up to ultra-religious and hard-Right parties — but it takes a particularly unscrupulous prime minister to let them slip into government. And desperate to cling on, Netanyahu’s political pragmatism has devolved into pure expediency.

Netanyahu, in other words, is willing to bring any parliamentarian into government with him if that will allow him to stay in power. And that is how Israel was lumbered with its current coalition, which handed political power to figures like Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist whose jingoistic support for settlers in the West Bank borders on the messianic, and who has called for the full occupation of Gaza. Such fantasies do not have any influence over military planning — Israel’s generals are Left-of-centre if anything. But they upset the moderate majority at home and serve anti-Israel propaganda abroad, leaving Netanyahu an empty figurehead, and splintering Israel’s coalition of international support.

The slow disintegration of his political authority has therefore deprived Netanyahu of any hope of being a strong war leader. He displays no conviction or drive, subcontracting day-to-day decision making to defence minister and retired general Yoav Gallant. (Everything Netanyahu is not, Gallant has no longing for the trappings of office, and previously convalesced after his years as a naval commando by working as a lumberjack in Alaska.) And Gallant has seemingly levelled his own criticisms at Netanyahu in recent days, saying that the “ability to lead” required “three things: a commitment to the mission, personal example, and the internalization that taking responsibility is the source of authority”.

It’s not hard to imagine who he was referring to: a man who has seemed to prioritise avoiding responsibility for October 7 over winning the war as quickly as possible. Had Israel moved when the plan was ready weeks ago, the sweep through Rafah would have been followed by the swift collapse of Hamas. Now, despite Netanyahu’s insistence that it “will happen”, it remains “several weeks” away. Who knows how far the situation will have changed by then, and how much further Biden will be driven by Obama-era White House staffers who have always objected to Israel’s war? Either way, it is likely that Biden will soon get what he most wants politically, and what so many also Israelis crave: Netanyahu’s departure from government and politics.

In Israel every war is followed by an official inquiry, in this case to explain the catastrophic failure to prevent the October 7 surprise assault. Neither the intelligence nor the internal security chief are in the firing line: each has already assumed the blame for their failure to anticipate it. That leaves Netanyahu alone to face his “ministerial responsibility”, which 80% of Israelis believe he must take. It is the same formula that forced the legendary Golda Meir’s departure from politics after the Yom Kippur war of 1973, which also started with a catastrophic surprise attack, before ending in victory. If the war ends in a month, the report should arrive by October, thereby sealing Netanyahu’s fate, and bringing a squalid era of Israeli politics to an end.


Professor Edward Luttwak is a strategist and historian known for his works on grand strategy, geoeconomics, military history, and international relations.

ELuttwak

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El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago

I’m tired of experts.
By the way, already yesterday and today people appeared on the streets of Israel working off money from Biden, Pelosi and the Democrats. I think there will be more of them in the near future.
Biden and Obama are the symbols of American decline and failure

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago

“Weeks ago, the Israeli army came up with a perfectly serviceable plan to finish the war in Gaza.”

Within weeks, that plan was shown to be fatuous. It was built on an assumption that Hamas or any of the other Palestinian groups would have no defence against the Israeli fire power and their super-duper weapons. More than once on these pages Luttwak himself extolled the virtues of the Trophy armour on their tanks. Turns out, like their defences on October 7th, the effectiveness of the IDF and their weapons has been rather oversold.

Sure the civilians of Gaza have found themselves to be defenceless against the big, bad IDF, but Hamas are a different matter entirely. a

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Surely you are not implying that the vaunted IDF, the greatest fighting force since the Waffen-SS, has come ‘unstuck’?

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago

I was talking about their weapons, but since you ask I would go further and state that an army of some ‘elite’, but predominantly reservist forces, used to sniping at and beating up stone throwers under the protection of unanswered air-power might have ideas above it’s station too. Their bulldozer drivers are second-to-none though.

Luttwak’s idea of “perfectly serviceable” would be laughable if he wasn’t taken so seriously. Although as a Neoconservative, who he is really ‘servicing’ is the key issue here – and as he’s a Neoconservative, the good of humanity isn’t high on his list. His latest peice on Ukraine (in the Telegraph I think) is drivel too.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

It seems I have may have struck a nerve with Kosher Nostra, as 14-love shows, but no matter.
I completely agree with you about Luttwak, and that dates back to 1976 and his “Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire” no less.

When I last heard, about four weeks ago now, the body count for GAZA was about 30K. Do you have any idea of the latest figure?

Just musing, but if the IDF had been in charge on so called “Bloody Sunday” I wonder how much of Londonderry would still be standing

not an awful lot I suspect.

Rob Keeley
Rob Keeley
4 months ago

Whose figure? Hamas? the UN? You trust them do you?
And ‘kosher nostra’ is just nasty.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Rob Keeley

OK what are the IDF figures then?

Guillermo Torres
Guillermo Torres
4 months ago

12k were Hamas fighters.
Looking at the respective casualty counts as a measure of proportionality isn’t the way the concept works.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
4 months ago

Hamas’s are the only ones available. The IDF haven’t produced any except to say that around 12000 terrorists had been killed.
An American statistician analysed Hamas’s numbers and concluded they were obviously made up anyway. For example it showed a regular increase in total numbers killed and the breakdown by category didn’t match events – days when large numbers of children were supposedly killed, showed that the number of women killed did not match up.

Jen Segal
Jen Segal
3 months ago
Reply to  Isabel Ward

Yes, I saw that chart. It went up in an exact linear fashion with a precise number of increases daily. Clearly made up data.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Your heroes only defense is to hide like the rats they are.

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

As opposed to the heroic IDF bravely bombing civilians from their donated jet fighters with donated bombs? They’ve so far bravely driven across a load of civilians in tanks with massively expensive armour that they’ve found they can only use sparingly because it can be defeated at short ranges by people who might be, you know, a bit brave too. Please note: My views on the facts of the relative military strengths and capabilities of each side in the conflict does not infer anything regarding what I feel of their moral decency or for the cause for which they fighting. It’s just a matter of fact.

Having said that the Israelis have decades of previous when it comes to being murderous, evil, scum. See, for example, the USS Liberty. I’d love to see a film of that with Daniel Craig in it.

Guillermo Torres
Guillermo Torres
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Ok, but your view of who/what comprises each “side” is subjective. Israel is at war against multiple Iranian proxies simultaneously. Your narrative isn’t much different than the woke left on this issue. Horseshoe indeed…

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago

I’m of the non-woke left.

George K
George K
4 months ago

“ the invasions of four Arab states, each one better equipped than his underground Jewish militias, for whom a rifle was precious and artillery an impossible dream”
It’s always a pleasure to destroy another Zionist myth . According to The Arabs by Eugene Rogan: “ Jewish superiority in the battlefield was more a matter of manpower and firepower than willpower. The image of a Jewish David surrounded by a hostile Arab Goliath is not reflected in the relative size of Arab and Jewish forces. When five Arab states—Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, and Egypt—all went to war on May 15, total Arab forces did not exceed 25,000 men, whereas the Israel Defense Force (as the army of the new state was designated) numbered 35,000. In the course of the war, both the Arabs and the Israelis reinforced their troops, though the Arabs never came near to matching Israeli forces, which reached 65,000 in mid-July, and peaked at over 96,000 by December 1948”

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  George K

Did you ever asked yourself how tiny country created army up to 4 times bigger than its enemies with much bigger population?
.
Did you ever asked yourself who is Eugene Rogan? Quote:
.
Oxford prof of Islam accused as serial rapist of women & minors, Oxford’s concern is not to offend Muslim students. Eugene Rogan reminded students: “It’s not just about sexual violence. For some students it’as just another way for Europeans to gang up against a prominent muslim intellectual. We must protect Muslim students who believe and trust in him, and protect that trust”
.
You made the best choice 🙂 Almost Austere Religious Scholar Abu Bakr al Baghdadi

George K
George K
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Both references are entirely irrelevant to my remark. The myth doesn’t deal in “how” but only distorts the reality. And Eugene Rogan’s personality has even less to do with the simple facts he’s citing in his study

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  George K

My first question has a simple answer – the stakes were different, which means the level of mobilization acceptable to the population was different. This is usually called willpower. So who is distorting reality?
.
The answer to my second question is even simpler – to refer to the opinion of a person who believes that accusing an Oxford professor of Islam of serial rape is yet another way for Europeans to take up arms against a prominent Muslim intellectual is an even stronger distortion of reality, because his opinion is more than biased.
.
But if this is the norm for you, you can continue in the same way

George K
George K
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

The myth wouldn’t be a myth if it told that 100,000 strongJewish army seized Palestine from 50,000 Arab armies armed mainly with willpower. So willpower is the secondary part of the myth only when applied to the inferior numbers and poorer arms. Once one checks the actual facts( regardless of bias, it’s sheer numbers) then the myth is gone. Maybe that was still an impressive feat but it couldn’t make it to a myth.
And yes, everyone is biased that’s why we operate with numbers

Guillermo Torres
Guillermo Torres
4 months ago
Reply to  George K

“Seized Palestine”…the Jews were attacked. Arabs should have taken the UN partition, but they wanted to go double or nothing. FAFO

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

A big part of the answer to your first rhetorical challenge: With a near-blank check in USD.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

A big part of the answer to your first rhetorical challenge
.
I never knew, that Israel had a near-blank check in USD in December 1948.
Tell me this story, buddy

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

The entire country modern incarnation of the nation was started with massive US financial backing, buddy.
Incidentally, I support Israel’s modern creation, self-defense, with major Western protection and support. But not with automatic endorsement of all action or scale of action they undertake.
If Netanyahu can prosecute this war in this too-destructive and indiscriminate manner, but with full Israeli support and less foreign funding, so be it. Collecting billions from the US and UN, to then go wheresoever his ambition and whims lead him, is not acceptable.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The U.S. had a weapon embargo against booth sides in the first Israeli Arab war, so no Israel was not created on American support. Israel was armed by the Soviet Union and France, while the British empire was supporting the Arabs (many of the Arab armies was led by British officers),

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Talking of modern Zionism itself there has been huge US backing–material, rhetorical, morale-wise, money—from its very inception. Correct?
I admit I didn’t get the specificity of El Uro’s snarling challenge at first glance. I don’t mean to take anything away from Israeli valor or determination, then or now.
I suppose we can at least agree that there is huge, primary American support for this effort.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
3 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

If you are talking about US governments, so mostly not until the 60s. Truman gave rhetorical and morale-wise support, and Wilson, I think, the same but otherwise not. But there where of course sections of US society that gave it support.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Bla-bla-bla… I asked you about 1948, stupid demagogue

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

You are a rude and ranting fool, incapable of engaging in anything but a shouting match most of the time.
I asked you about America’s role–both as a nation and among individual Jewish-American donors–in the origin and ongoing support for modern Israel.
But you can’t give an inch. Perhaps that leads you to admire and support extreme, relentless measures.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

‘They’ still have, Kosher Nostra reigns supreme.

Guillermo Torres
Guillermo Torres
4 months ago

Something tells me you really appreciate good blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese, just a guess

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

Hard to imagine many people being upset if Netanyahu falls.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Inside or outside Israel?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Both.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

So you know more about the Israelis than they know about themselves…
Typical Dunning–Kruger effect, although I’m not sure you know what it means 🙂

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
4 months ago
Reply to  El Uro

Considering recent opinion polls from Israel, it is quite wrong to accuse him of knowing more about Israelis than themselves.

Moshe Simon
Moshe Simon
4 months ago

The Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the National Security Advisor were all negligent and irresponsible in their conduct leading up to the 7th October, and should resign when the fighting ends. Others too, both in the Government and in the Security Forces failed in their duties. As for Netanyahu’s leadership since, he is leading a country at war that is facing unprecedented hostility and malice from its enemies and purported friends. The accusations against him for his motives since Oct 8th have not been proved, and the intrigues against him by Israeli rivals harm the war effort. The personal targeting of him abroad by Biden, the EU and others is unedifying and serves only to strengthen his standing in Israel.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

In what way were they negligent?

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Is this a joke?

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

It’s not a joke. It’s a question. It seems to be an accepted narrative taken as fact with very little explanation. Rational people don’t blame Bush for 9/11…as they shouldn’t. What’s different here?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Rational people do however blame the Bush Jnr creature for the ‘crime of the century.’

.IRAQ.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago

Fair. But I still don’t get why people are dodging the question of how Netanyahu was negligent on Oct 7.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Because to do so might lead one to the infamous “Pearl Harbour “ trap, if you get my drift?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

He was negligent because it was his job to keep the people of Israel safe (something that he reinforced with his “strong man” rhetoric). Despite that, the IDF and the Mossad “dropped the ball” completely and utterly. It couldn’t have been worse if the IDF had been given the day off, and had spent it down the pub. The buck stops with Netanyahu, so that was his fault. The blood of those who died on 7th October is indelibly on Netanyahu’s hands, due to his wanton dereliction of duty.

Moshe Simon
Moshe Simon
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Here is a partial list of negligent acts and omissions:
They removed weaponry from the residents of the kibbutzim and towns near the border even as they knew that Hamas had been building a formidable armed capability.
They transferred troops from the area to Judea and Samaria for the festival of Simchat Torah, leaving it practically defenceless.
They ignored warnings from former officials that the border fence was vulnerable and easily breached.
They did not ensure that the Rapid Response Teams in the area were properly armed and sufficiently manned.
They persuaded themselves that Hamas was deterred, displaying a lack of understanding of the strategic situation and the potential of an attack to cause carnage and mayhem.
IDF intelligence commanders ignored reports from spotters that described Hamas preparations and training for attack.
They allowed the music and dance festival close to the border to take place without providing any security.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

Fair enough. I don’t have the background knowledge that you do. I’m just always skeptical when extremely high standards of vicarious liability are applied to leaders when extraordinary barbarism takes place. I have no doubt that there were lapses in judgment. There always will be but it still seems like a very unpredictable situation and hindsight is 20/20. Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe there were obvious signs?

Do you think different leadership would have prevented or mitigated the attack?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

A leader more competent and less arrogant than Netanyahu would have certainly ensured that the attack was nowhere near as bad as it was.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Buddy, you have BDS (Bibi derangement syndrome).

Moshe Simon
Moshe Simon
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

A different leader may have been more careful and taken precautions that might have cost some but would have bought a lot. There were a few voices in public life warning of the dangers, but most were silent and many were oblivious to what Hamas was capable of doing and had actually publicly stated it was going to do in some detail. Much of the criticism of Netanyahu rings somewhat hollow because of this.
There is a saying in Hebrew, Cabdehu Vechashdehu, which means Respect and be Skeptical. The leadership did not follow this advice.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

It was their job to ensure that Hamas could not do the sort of thing that they did on 7th October. They failed utterly and completely.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Ok but you’re predisposed to hate Netanyahu because he’s to the Right of your politics. I’m asking an objective question looking for a good faith answer.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
4 months ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

I’m with Netanyahu….win the war. If he retires after that, then it’s a fitting way to go. If nothing else Israeli liberals may start to understand that capitulation or appeasement means their own rape, torture and murder. And when the dust settles, Saudi and Egypt may see the logic of bringing Israel into the fold and exorcising Iran.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago

Desperate to see an end to the fighting, the Biden White House had been privately willing to approve a limited offensive, provided that the Israelis continued to fight without the support of aerial bombing except in rare cases, and continue to be sparing with their artillery.
Biden has already done something similar in Ukraine. Brilliant strategist – you can win, but before that let me tie your hands behind your back

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
4 months ago

One of the best features of the US system is the eight year limit on Presidents remaining in office. Whether President, Prime Minister, King or Dictator, politicians tend to go mad after much more than that e.g. Roosevelt, Thatcher, Louis XIV, Stalin, etc. Power and flattery are powerful drugs best taken in moderation.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

That’s a bit of a generalisation and decidedly unfair to both Lady Thatcher and probably Louis XIV.
By contrast Augustus, Philip II* and our own Elizabeth I seem to have performed well for thirty years and more.

(*Spain.)

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
4 months ago

I agree it is a generalisation but I am not sure about three of your counter examples. Maggie went decidedly imperial and started talking about “we” rather than “I” in her last two years. Her early years were characterised by flexibility as well as purpose but by the time of the poll tax she was incapable of admitting error. Louis XIV impoverished France by waging endless wars for his own glorification. “L’Etat, c’est moi” points the same way. Philip II, similar story. Elizabeth, I grant you. Maybe her chronic insecurity helped keep her grounded.

But I still think that the two term limit in the US points to a good rule of thumb. Eight years are usually enough. Bibi was apparently genuinely impressive in his early years – but he has become addicted to power and is now an object of contempt because of the lengths he will go to stay in office whatever the cost to his reputation and the welfare of Israelis and their neighbours.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I seem to recall that the “Maggie has gone mad” calumny came from Scotland and was about the imposition of the Poll Tax. No Englishman I knew of believed such tosh!
Louis XIV manage to win the War of the Spanish Succession * and break the Habsburg ‘ring’ by placing a Bourbon on the Spanish throne.

He may have temporarily impoverished France but most of the belligerents were in the same position, particularly the United Provinces, but NOT off course our good selves.

Philip II may have been unable to crush the Dutch but he did manage to maintain the first Empire on which “the sun never set” against all comers.

However given the state of US politics I must agree with you that eight years is quite enough for a such relatively immature society as the USA.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
4 months ago

From this side of the Atlantic your Maggie was beginning to sound pretty bonkers; her mannerisms were becoming decidedly kabuki-esque and she had run out of ideas.
We like to apply “the duck test”: If it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck…..

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

‘She’ had a good few years left in her, but sadly was surrounded by ‘traitors’ and cowards, who eventually ‘did for her’.

And the reward for these ‘traitors’?
JOHN MAJOR!

Peter B
Peter B
4 months ago

First time I’d heard that the French “won” the War of the Spanish Succession. There were no clear and decisive winners from Louis XIV’s wars – apart, ultimately from the English – it established our naval and commerical supremacy. He created an over-centralised state with an inefficient, top-heavy aristrocracy (has there ever been a more ridiculous court than Versailles ?). It’s not surprise that within 100 years of his death it was all gone.
France continued down the path of centralisation and “picking winners” (manufacturing was centered on large royal/state-owned insituations). Even now, they struggle to kick the habit. England/Britain went down the path of private enterprise and genuine start-up businesses.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Odd am I really allowed to reply as I am no longer a member of UnHerd?

I don’t disagree with your long term view of France, but as far as the Spanish Succession goes I most certainly do.

The cardinal question was who was going to rule Spain and her Empire, a Bourbon or a Habsburg? Louis armies achieved this by thrashing the allied armies including the very large British/English contingent. In fact at one stage we had almost as many troops in Spain as John Churchill had In Flanders.

Incidentally and no one seriously denies this, under Louis France became the greatest power in Europe and considerably expanded her borders. The fact that it all collapsed 74 years after Louis died cannot be blamed on him.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 months ago

I think Maggie went mad when she sold off so many council homes without building any to replace them.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I’m not so sure. At first glance, yes, term limits seem like a good idea. The problem is there are no term limits for campaign donations or political influence or for the Congressmen who are corrupted by said influence. Much of the motivation for term limiting presidents came from powerful elites who had always opposed FDR’s New Deal policies. FDR was regarded as a traitor to his class and the elites feared another FDR who would champion the people’s interests. In the moment, I’m glad that whether Trump or Biden wins, we’ll be done with at least one of them for good after 2028, but over the longer term, I’m not sure the peoples’ interests are truly being served.

Pedro the Exile
Pedro the Exile
4 months ago

Lee Kuan Yew did a pretty good job as PM of Singapore for 31 years?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

Excellent job, but I did qualify my statement by saying “much but NOT all of the Far East


.”, did I not?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

It is easy to achieve lots when there is no opposition. Lee Kuan Yew and Louis XIV had that in common.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
4 months ago

Leaving aside the comparison of Medieval tyrants to modern Democratic elected leaders, Elizabeth I did NOT perform well for thirty years or more. Her latter reign was notably awful and the country was happy to see her go. Any serious history reveals this.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Would you care to expand on that?

For example was there widespread support for Essex’s 1601 rebellion?

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

She was neither medieval, nor a tyrant (unless you view all predemocratic leaders as tyrants, which is anachronistic and empties the word tyrant of meaning). In what way was her latter reign awful?

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

Yes, and Stalin was probably mad from the start.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

No, Stalin was not mad, he was a psychopath.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I agree with your admittedly general point, and it’s nice to think of our embattled system as having more than one notably good feature. But I’m interested to hear how Roosevelt went mad after the 1940 election, or 1944, by which time the Allies were poised to win with a significant assist from Uncle Sam. (Truman’s “nuclear solution” was not needed; easy to say now, of course).

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Truman should have ‘dropped’ at least eight on Japan, if only to remind the Far East that the white man was still the BOSS, despite the ‘loss of face’ incurred by the loss of Singapore, the Philippines, and Pear Harbour.

As a result of his weakness and immaturity much but not all of the Far East has been a suppurating ulcer ever since.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Two was more than enough. Jesus man.
As if obliterating a whole nation in sick apocalyptic fashion would have solved anything. Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to cry out in infamy. Acknowledging that is not weakness.
Easy on the jingo jango. Your Ancient School cultural and racial chauvinism ain’t cute.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

One has “to be cruel to be kind” in this little world of ours, and the restoration of Western/White prestige was essential.
Failure to act with determination is taken as WEAKNESS in the Orient, as you should jolly well know.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
4 months ago

You are perhaps the only person I have heard state the US did not act decisively with Japan.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

If it’s not a rude question how old are you?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

I guess I just missed where the kindness part came in with you or your comment.
Is Japan an enemy today?
Regarding your poke at Mr. Israel’s possible youth: “That’s how we used to do it”, whether in 1946 or 46 AD, is nowhere near the strong or virtuous claim you seem to imagine it is.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

You obviously missed Israel’s intemperate comment directed to AD Kent Esq, so I reproduce it for you here:- “Your heroes only defense is to hide like the rats they are”.*

Doesn’t that strike even you as a rather infantile remark? It certainly did me, hence my inquiry.

I would have thought the “kindness” was obvious, a quiescent Far East and a supine China. What more could one ask for?

Do not accuse me making ‘virtuous’ or ‘strong’ claims, nothing could be further my intention or even, heaven forbid, my imagination.

(*Perhaps he has been watching far too many Clint Eastwood “Westerns “?)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Ok, I’ll let you two fight that part out. (But you don’t like “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”?).
I can’t help coming after you sometimes because you are at once so knowledgeable and capable of much more than you give in your low-and-mean mode. Please don’t act like you don’t know what I mean by that.
Sometimes you show a kinder side–not only toward your dogs–and you often entertain or surprise either way. Did you ask for all this from me? Of course not. But UnHerd BTL is still “a free country”, right?
Good luck to all of non-malevolent intent in our deeply, irrevocably interconnected world.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Of course I enjoyed the GB&U! Who can forget that final scene, ‘stolen’ off course by the incomparable Eli Wallach?

I must admit all this GAZA stuff does rather bring out the Devil in me, but as you so rightly say UH is “a free country” and long may it remain so.No hard feelings.

POSTED @ 19.02 GMT but immediately SIN BINNED for some extraordinary reason!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Cheers.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
4 months ago

Worst comment ever. Among other things the US only had the two it dropped. But that’s the least of it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Really? Others say differently.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago

As far as I am concerned, he could have dropped a couple on the Soviet Union, just to let them know what we all though of communism.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I tend to defend Truman on the decision to drop the bomb. In hindsight, maybe the A-Bomb was unnecessary and maybe it wasn’t. The Japanese had, through their rhetoric at the time, raised the possibility of arming civilians and defending the home island to the last man. If implemented, this would have meant far more casualties on both sides but particularly on an America that was weary of war. Truman and the American generals were also mindful of future conflicts with Russia. They were fearful that Stalin would enter the war in the Pacific and make territorial demands, and the longer the war dragged on, the easier it would be for Stalin to establish his influence in Manchuria, Korea, China, etc. The A-Bomb was dropped as a gambit to end the war quickly with fewer casualties through the use of psychological warfare. It’s worth noting that the fire bombing of Tokyo actually killed more people than either of the A-bombs did. The casualties weren’t the point as much as the demonstration of a power the world had not yet seen and a threat of more to come. The Japanese didn’t know we only had two bombs and that it would take years to make more, so the threat of total destruction was very real. Recall Truman’s “rain of ruin” speech. Would the Japanese have surrendered anyway? Perhaps. Hirohito was already leaning in that direction, but nobody in the US knew that. It’s all hindsight to me. Truman made a strategic call in that moment that was justified by the known facts at the time. I

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

 “It’s all hindsight to me. Truman made a strategic call in that moment that was justified by the known facts at the time”
That seems valid to me. I still think it was regrettable, with hindsight. But huge pressure on the incoming Truman and defensible claims in favor of the atomic drop, no doubt. Many more US lives would likely have been lost in the Pacific theatre without the terrible-sublime impact of Little Boy and Fat Man. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”, said Oppenheimer. And he did not say that with pride, to my ear.
I accept your nuanced framing on the whole, and I’m a general reader rather than someone deeply read in this subject.
My parenthetical statement was more of a wrinkle in my attempt to discover Alex Carnegie’s specific objection Roosevelt’s actions from 1941 onward. Most of the things that even a moderate economic conservative might object to–such as Social Security, welfare, the minimum wage, and the WPA–occurred in the 1930s, during his first two terms.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

True, having read the history and seen the movie, I’d say Oppenheimer was understandably conflicted about the situation. Still, history records the committee he led ultimately advocated the bomb’s use for basically the reasons stated. Oppenheimer was a thoughtful man who could understand both sides of an argument. Had they known how close Hirohito was to overruling his generals and abandoning the war anyway, they might have chosen differently. History doesn’t give second chances.
As to FDR, we can’t know what he would have done. His handling of the war up to that point largely consisted of him sensibly deferring to his generals on the specifics. I’m unaware of any examples of FDR mishandling the war other than the questionable decision to put Japanese Americans in camps. I’m unsure why he would be listed as an example of a reason for term limits. Most of the controversial stuff was early on as you point out. Perhaps they are simply recalling FDR’s failing health toward the end, which is understandable. He was in very poor health by his final term, but polio affected his body, not his mind or his judgement.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Well-said. Mr. Carnegie’s eventual response to the question of terms limits and megalomania struck me as quite over the top. Perhaps such views are common enough in Britain? (Hope not–wow).

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

They were the reasons stated, but as a matter of fact the bombs were dropped at about the same time as the Soviets invaded, and were sweeping across, Manchuria. In that context the ‘saving American lives’ argument is not so cut and dried – the Japanese were defeated, were being starved and no invasion was going to be taking place for months anyway – it would have been November at the earliest. The bomb dropping had less to do with the Japanese than they did the Soviets.

Cal RW
Cal RW
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

In the mid-1970’s I was in college at Cal State. We had about 30 Japanese students living in our dormitory who were studying english. One day I was speaking to several of them at dinner and I asked their views on the A-Bomb during WWII. The consensus among them was that one bomb made sense and they didn’t have any real problem with that decision. They said the second one was not necessary and should not have been used. The first one was OK.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

FDR was probably a bad choice for an example. To most Americans, I suspect he has the same aura as Churchill and suggestions that he had feet of clay will be unwelcome. Getting most of my American history from reading Gore Vidal may have warped my judgement.

That said, it is an interesting question whether a successful global level megalomaniac is mad or not. Matter of definition I suppose. The point revisionist historians seem to agree on is that Roosevelt – behind the noble and affable exterior – was a manipulative, dissembling, increasingly odd if highly successful man. But I should have picked a more clear cut case.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“Roosevelt – behind the noble and affable exterior – was a manipulative, dissembling, increasingly odd if highly successful man”.
I accept this as warranted enough, if one-sided. (I’d like to know what Eleanor really thought of him!). But did you mean to connect FDR (or Churchill?) directly to megalomania?
*Incidentally: More Americans, especially those well to the Right, openly despise FDR these days. Switch Right for Left and that’s quite true of Brits and Churchill too, I think.
Thanks for the follow-up.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What strikes me is that Roosevelt was re-elected on the basis that he would keep America out of the war then deliberately sought to manipulate both Germany and Japan into declaring war on America. After achieving his goal, he then conducted the war so as to exacerbate Britain’s financial difficulties and thus ensure that America would emerge as the world’s dominant power. A less devious individual would have stayed out of World War II; a less ambitious one likewise.

If trying to get America to emerge as the dominant superpower – and succeeding – does not qualify as successful megalomania, I am not sure what would. Perhaps successful megalomania does not count as megalomania. Maybe I am missing some medical subtlety.

Obviously, Britain gained more from American support than it lost and – after America declared war – Hitler launched the Final Solution thus turning WW2 into a moral crusade but I don’t think these points alter my diagnosis.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Your take has veered into counterfactual history and weird speculation. A perspective wherein the reality of Hitler and Hirohito doesn’t “change your diagnosis”. Way to psychopathologize a man from an safe distance.
Nor does the cumulative result of decades of American ascension and expanded influence, beginning in the 19th century, count as some megalomaniacal project of Roosevelt alone.
I don’t know what world you look back upon that makes staying out of WWII much of a choice for the US with western Europe engulfed and Canada already at war just to the north.
“Sought to manipulate both Germany and Japan into declaring war on America”. A very skewed claim. I suppose he caused Pearl Harbor too? Or what–celebrated his chance to go war-mad given his world swallowing ambitions, that you somehow emphasize over those of Hitler, or even the waning British Empire? You even suggest that Hitler was somehow pressed by Roosevelt into his genocidal project against Jews.
How much European territory did the US claim post-victory?
You have a lot of pointed ideas about Roosevelt, some of them extreme or ill-founded. I admit I’ve become a bit defensive now, in the face of your revisionist hatchet job.
*Your failure to find anything statesmanlike or admirable in a cripple who helped lead a successful war effort–not provoke a war for selfish reasons–leads to a probable diagnosis of dismissive cynicism.
**Churchill too. The Allied powers could scarcely have asked for two better men under the circumstances, their ambition and egotism notwithstanding. (Let’s leave Josef aside).
***I faintly remember when this started with general agreement.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Sorry to have triggered you. Actually, I was not attempting a comprehensive “revisionist hatchet job” but merely a focussed comment on the dangers of individuals staying in power too long since power is both corrupting of judgement and highly addictive. If I deleted “megalomania” and replaced it with “growing unscrupulousness and intolerance in pursuit of ever widening goals” would you find that more acceptable?

Overall, I would say Roosevelt had a very positive effect on the world even if his methods were frequently dishonest and unscrupulous. I have never thought that good men are necessary to produce good results. The opposite, if anything. Lincoln, FDR, Eisenhower and many of the bestPresidents were dissembling and manipulative. Wilson and Carter were not. I have always thought one of the dumbest injunctions in the Bible is “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

I suspect the moral is that national heroes should be left to each nationality to debunk. The British should point out the flaws of Churchill, the Indians those of Gandhi and Americans – and only Americans – those of George Washington, Lincoln and FDR. Alternatively, perhaps I should stop treating the novels of Gore Vidal as gospel.

Anyway, apologies for setting you off.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

No problem. Mine for responding in the first flush of pique.
‘If I deleted “megalomania” and replaced it with “growing unscrupulousness and intolerance in pursuit of ever widening goals” would you find that more acceptable?’…
YES! I take megalomania to be an intense and sweeping claim, applicable to people like Julius Caesar, Charlemagne (still largely admirable in my annotated book), and Mao. I’ll accept you didn’t intend it that way. I’m even vaguely triggered by the 1980s song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. (Not me, Tears for Fears).
I’ll not permit myself to get all riled up again, but it seems a bit harsh to select your least favorite blossom (fruit?) from the Sermon on the Mount–one of the very best sustained and condensed appeals of all time, in my conventional opinion. But I see your point, to a degree. I do think fruits are central to and inseparable from the equation. However, humans don’t have a global enough knowledge and understanding to judge all the fruits, let alone across all Posterity.
To my mind “If your right eye offend you, pluck it out and cast it from you” is a line I’d like to cast out of the text or at least see reworded. I do think we can attribute more figurative and even nuanced intent to some of the sayings of Jesus–and the authors of Genesis and Gilgamesh, etc. More than we hear from biblical literalists of today.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”–that one strikes a resonant note with me. Even so: the whole world? 😉
Perhaps you’re right about national heroes. I’ll still criticize Ferdinand Marcos to a Filipino immigrant I’m playing cards and drinking beer with at a casino, but it doesn’t didn’t work out well. Over here it’s become rather unfashionable to find upside in figure like Washington or Jefferson–usually for one obvious and valid reason: their slaves. But I’d be way more willing to hear a fellow Yank–especially of African descent–do (what I see as) a hatchet job, than I would a Briton, or one of my Canadian relatives.
Ever seen the 2019 documentary film, The Best of Enemies, about the fraught, love-to-hate connection of Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley?
Cheers.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I have certainly seen the TV debate between Vidal and Buckley during some Presidential campaign. I like enormously his historical novels but not his modern satires. In person – as in the debate – he was too catty for my taste.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

For mine too. I still recommend the 2015 film whose correct title is Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

*(calmer) reply quarantined (historical megalomaniacs?) for the time being. Cheers.

Chris Whybrow
Chris Whybrow
4 months ago

“All we need to do is get rid of Netanyahu and then Israel will be a perfect utopia!” This is probably the most naive thing I have ever read. Israel’s flaws are baked into its very structure as a state. Every Israeli prime minister has been someone like Netanyahu, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

Menachem Begin probably being the worst, and that from a very strong field, it must be said.

As at 15.22 the score is 7-1.
That’s an awful lot lot of support from the ‘chosen ones’ for a notorious psychopath.

Rachel White
Rachel White
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

Can you be more specific about the flaws baked into the structure – do you mean the proportional representation system used to elect the government?

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
4 months ago
Reply to  Rachel White

The proportional representation system, the party lists, the threshold system of getting into the Israeli parliament, etc.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris Whybrow

The statement is naive, but getting rid of Netanyahu would still be an entirely good thing.

Another Username
Another Username
4 months ago

How much did the State Department pay for this article? I would like my tax dollars back, thank you.

It’s just a coincidence of course, that such pieces are written after Biden says we’ll see large anri-Netanyahu protests and then they magically appear within a week. Schumer calls for regime change and suddenly articles appear denouncing Netanyahu.

It’s all organic if you squint a little and completely ignore reality.

Despicable.

Bernard Brothman
Bernard Brothman
4 months ago

A month ago today, Edward wrote, “How Israel will invade Rafah The final offensive against Hamas faces complications.” We didn’t expect a delay such as this. The question has moved from “when” to “if.”
Each day there is a delay, the pictures of hungry Gazans predominate the news. Each day Israel’s diplomatic position gets just a little bit weaker.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
4 months ago

I re-read the article from last month – “victory is a far from distant prospect”. I’m not sure if that has aged well. Hamas are still operating in Gaza City. There are no humanitarian corridors. And Luttwak’s suggested metrics of success – kilometres of tunnel destroyed and number of Hamas fighters killed – sounds like Robert McNamara’s bankrupt “bodycount” metric from Vietnam.

A D Kent
A D Kent
4 months ago

Luttwak has been consistently wrong on this from the start – he’s on quite a streak now having been wrong throughout on Ukraine. This streak goes back through Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Neocons are as Neocons do. Nothing sticks, no matter how thick the gore. If you ever hear anyone at Unherd (Sayers or whoever) talk of ‘responsibility’ or actions and consequences – remember they give a platform to them.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
4 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Wrong on Ukraine?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
4 months ago

If Bibi’s downfall occurs, who will follow and will that person be better or worse in any meaningful way? The people who want Israel gone are not going to be swayed by the presence of a new face. Their viewpoint has been consistent no matter who was PM.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Hopefully whoever replaces Netanyahu won’t be corrupt on a personal level. That will be a start.

El Uro
El Uro
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Why are you sure he is corrupt? Because of MSM?
It’s like Trump collusion with Russia, but you understand nothing and you learned nothing…

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There are also people in and outside of Israel who just want to see Netanyahu gone, not Israel.

Doug Israel
Doug Israel
4 months ago

The difference with Meir and Bibi is that Meir was essentially forced to resign by her own party which replaced her. I don’t see Likud forcing Bibi to resign and I don’t see him voluntarily doing it. Instead he will have to be forced out in what will likely be a very divisive election.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago
Reply to  Doug Israel

Moreover, the minimum of 3 months required prior to an election will see Netanyahu continue as a de-facto caretaker PM, and the military operation in Gaza will continue, unconstrained.

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
4 months ago

I lost it in the first paragraph when it is claimed “..there was a perfectly serviceable plan to eliminate Hamas having evacuated the Palestinians to Khan Younis and Gaza City.”

Strategising from a distance is always difficult but you can’t evacuate people to places that no longer exist: there may still be some buildings in those locations but they are not functioning cities.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
4 months ago

The problem that Hamas has, is that there is no where to go and hide (and don’t say the tunnels).. The IDF will inevitably root them out and destroy the organisation.

Martin M
Martin M
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

….if they are allowed to.

William Edward Henry Appleby
William Edward Henry Appleby
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

It’s an ideology, not an organisation. The individuals that constitute it currently can be destroyed, as can any living matter, but the banner it holds will be picked up by someone else.

Alan Melville
Alan Melville
3 months ago

If he destroys Hamas do you honestly think he will care?
He will be able to retire in triumph knowing his country is safer.