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Intellectual dishonesty caused the experts to misread the Gaza military situation

Lies from CNN
Lies from CNN

Lies from MSNBC
Lies from MSNBC

Before Israel began its full scale ground assault on Gaza and the Hamas tunnels two weeks ago, the general consensus from practically every expert interviewed or writing about the attack assumed it would be long, hard, and difficult, taking many months before Israeli troops were able to take control of the Gaza strip and render Hamas impotent.

A good example of that analysis can be seen in this October 13, 2023 article. To quote:

When the huge force Israel has amassed is finally given the orders to enter Gaza and destroy Hamas, they will face a deeply dug-in, well-armed enemy with thousands of anti-tank weapons, drones, and small arms on the most complex battlefield there is. Hamas will be fighting from tunnels, sewers, and strong points set up in high-rise buildings and rubble. They will rake incoming troops with machine guns from alleyways and windows, as well as employ heavier weapons from rooftops and prepared cover, and then melt into the urban maze that makes up much of the Gaza Strip. There will be no element of surprise for this sojourn into deeply hostile territory.

Israeli troops “will face the greatest challenge of their lifetime,” John Spencer, chairman of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point told The War Zone. “Attacking a defended city like this will be combat in hell. I do believe they can do it, but the cost will be high in urban warfare like this, since they will be attacking multiple cities.”

All the experts generally predicted the offensive would take months, and would involve huge casualties on the Israeli side.

I however predicted that the offensive, though not easy, would unfold far faster than these predictions.

This invasion will not be easy, but I also suspect it will not be as hard as many have suggested. Hamas’s power is mostly that of a bully, all threats and violence against the weak and helpless, with little real military capabilities. Israel now enraged is neither weak nor helpless. It will steadily but implacably work its way through Hamas’s tunnel system, but I think it will do so within a month.

Based on this report today, the experts now admit their pessimistic assessments were all wrong, and my analysis was right.

Israel soldiers move through a Gazan street
Israel soldiers move through a Gazan street

The IDF’s tactical success so far in its nearly two-week-old ground incursion into Gaza – cutting the north from the south and entering Gaza City with limited troop casualties – has surprised some observers. There have been 32 Israeli troops killed during the incursion, according to The Times of Israel, which is far fewer than anticipated. The IDF said it is killing fighters and destroying scores of tunnel shafts and other Hamas infrastructure during its advance that has reached the Mediterranean Sea coast. Still, the mounting casualty toll and displacement of civilians remains a grave cause for concern as outrage grows and calls for a ceasefire increase.

“I am surprised by their advancements,” John Spencer, chairman of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at West Point told The War Zone Wednesday. “They are using good tactics and good teaming of combined arms – engineers, armor, mechanized and dismounted enemy.” The IDF is “destroying tunnels as they go and methodically clearing up to their fighting positions, which isolates objectives effectively,” he said.

Hamas “is surprisingly not good at resisting,” said Spencer, who was one of the experts we spoke to in our assessment of the challenges Israel would face in a ground incursion. [emphasis mine]

The article then quotes several more respected Middle East experts, all of which expressed the same surprise that the offensive has been so successful with so few casualties.

Why did I get it right, and these military experts get it wrong?

Before I answer that question we must also look at one other fact. Since the start of the offensive the mainstream media, including the links above, have consistently accepted on face the high and terrible casualty numbers — numbering so far over 10,000 with 40% claimed to be children — given to them by the same Hamas health organization that had falsely claimed Israel had bombed a hospital and killed 500 people (Israel didn’t bomb the hospital, it was a Hamas rocket. It also didn’t hit the hospital but its parking lot. The casualties from the rocket are now estimated to be between 10 to 50.)

No reliable news source should even repeat any further claims made by such demonstratively unreliable source, and if they do, the claims should be carefully framed as very unreliable.

That distrust should be underlined by the general absurdity of these Hamas casualty claims. Based on the fighting and the number of Israel casualties and the various reports, it appears no more than 1,000-2,000 people have so far died — from both sides — and it is very likely almost none have been children considering Israel’s never-ending relentless effort to avoid civilian deaths.

The media however has routinely shown little if any skepticism of Hamas’s claims. For example, this is how Reuters reported the numbers yesterday:

Palestinian officials said 10,569 people had been killed as of Wednesday, 40% of them children. Israel says 33 of its soldiers have been killed.

No caveats, no sense of any skepticism of the Hamas claims. In fact, the entire Reuters article depends highly on Hamas sources, and takes them all at their word, despite the fact that we know they lie, and their claimed numbers make no sense if you spend even a few seconds thinking about them.

And it is here you have the answer to my question above. Even if we assume the experts and these news sources are trying to do an honest job, they themselves have either been conned or have fooled themselves into accepting Hamas’s claims in all things. Hamas says Israel killed thousands? It must be true! Hamas claims it is a powerful fighting force well prepared to maintain a guerrilla war against Israel for years. It must be true! Hamas has a noble cause and Israel is an occupier. It. must. be. true!

While good analysis of any major news story should not accept on face value any claims by the participants, it most certainly must not accept the claims of a source known to lie. And yet, the mainstream press and the experts it has relied on have accepted and continue to accept what Hamas tells them, with no skepticism, to the point that several media sources (Reuters, CNN, AP, and the New York Times) allowed themselves to be used by Hamas as propaganda outlets. Their blind passion to get the story combined with their willingness to repeatedly accept the words of an organization not only known to repeatedly lie but to rape, torture, and slaughter women, children, and babies caused them to misread the situation badly.

Others might not be so kind, and will instead say this poor analysis was because many of these news organizations and the experts they relied on have taken sides. They see Hamas as the good guy and victim, and Israel as the bad guy and oppressor. Thus, their analysis is warped because they assume Israel is lying and Hamas is telling them the truth.

This conclusion is certainly possible with some news organizations and some experts, but it is a mistake to rely on it entirely. For example, many of the military experts quoted in the articles above were from Israel itself. Yet they too were fooled, and thought Hamas was stronger than it is.

The bottom line remains: If you want to understand what is going on it is essential you try with all your might to remain skeptical of everyone, but in the end you also have to factor in who lies most, and the nature of the participants themselves. Leave these essential factors out and you will miss the target every time.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Andi

    IIRC, that rocket that hit the hospital parking lot was from PIJ rather than Hamas.

    This hit a bit closer to home yesterday, when I found out that one of my daughter’s friends (whom she had met on a Birthright Israel trip last year) had attended the music festival and was killed in the attack.

  • Jeff Wright

    I remember seeing a Buddhist figure there…fat lot of good that did.

    Islam made sure India went from Ghandi to the Bomb.

    During the height of the Cold War, insurgents we’re rather well supplied.

    –But now, Russia is an importer of arms…and this rather more speedy operation likely a result.

  • Col Beausabre

    Ok, old soldier comment. The closest US equivalents to reducing a fortified zone like Gaza were

    Bloody Nose Ridge -The reduction of the Japanese pocket around Umurbrogol mountain has been called the most difficult fight that the U.S. military encountered in the entire war. The 1st Marine Division was mauled and remained out of action until the invasion of Okinawa began on 1 April 1945. In total, the 1st Marine Division suffered over 6,500 casualties during its month on Peleliu, over one third of the entire division. The 81st Infantry Division also suffered heavy losses with 3,300 casualties during its tenure on the island.

    Postwar statisticians calculated that it took U.S. forces over 1,500 rounds of ammunition to kill each Japanese defender and that the Americans expended 13.32 million rounds of .30-calibre, 1.52 million rounds of .45-calibre, 693,657 rounds of .50-calibre bullets, 118,262 hand grenades, and 150,000 mortar rounds –

    Iwo Jima – The Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of tunnels. – Castle Line

    Intramuros – “Griswold and Beightler were not willing to attempt the assault with infantry alone. Not expressly enjoined from employing artillery, they now planned a massive artillery preparation that would last from 17 to 23 February and would include indirect fire at ranges up to 8,000 yards as well as direct, point-blank fire from ranges as short as 250 yards. They would employ all available corps and division artillery, from 240mm howitzers down. (…) Just how civilian lives could be saved by this type of preparation, as opposed to aerial bombardment, is unknown. The net result would be the same: Intramuros would be practically razed.”[11] “That the artillery had almost razed the ancient Walled City could not be helped. To the XIV Corps and the 37th Division at this state of the battle for Manila, American lives were understandably far more valuable than historic landmarks. The destruction stemmed from the American decision to save lives in a battle against Japanese troops who had decided to sacrifice their lives as dearly as possible.”

    Shuri Castle Line – The Japanese defenses, centered on Shuri Castle, held off the massive American assault from 1 April through the month of May 1945. Beginning on 25 May, and as the final part of the Okinawa campaign, the American battleship Mississippi shelled it for three days and by 27 May it was ablaze. –

    So predictions of a long and difficult campaign with heavy casualties were not out of line as they were based on experience.

    On a personal note, I was a tanker and we were taught that the last place you want to send an armored units to fight is urban areas. It gives up their advantage in mobility, canalizes them into killing zones, renders them terribly vulnerable to tank killer teams – even the rubble provides excellent positions with covered and concealment – a lesson the US learned in the Civil War, where the Union Navy reduced Fort Sumter to rubble but only enhanced the Confederates ability to repulse a Union landing.

  • Tom Grey

    The NYT wants Wants the Jews to kill more Gaza civilians because they know the Palestinians are the oppressed ones. Fighting oppression justifies everything else-lies, murders, rapes, babies into ovens. The end ( of oppression) justifies any means.

    A little spoken truth is that they are oppressed … by Hamas. The oppressors they chose in their one election in 2006.

  • GWB

    these news organizations and the experts they relied on have taken sides
    Well, they have. But it’s the side of Progressivism. Since they are Progressives, all of that narrative you describe is their lens for viewing the world. And that means that even if Hamas lies, what Hamas tells them is “truthy” – it sounds good because it fits the narrative. They’re sure that even if it isn’t 10,000 deaths, it’s got to be a LOT, so that number works for now.

    It’s the same reason they simply report the economic numbers the White House gives them when it’s occupied by a Democrat – even though it’s been shown every quarter for almost 3 years now that those numbers will be heavily revised to the administration’s detriment within 3-6 months. Sure, they’ll get revised, but those numbers are “truthy” because they support the narrative.

    It’s the same reason you can’t believe a lot of what comes out the Ukraine war. Here the media struggles, because “Putin is an outsized threat to all of civilization!” is one part of their worldview, while “Poor oppressed Ukraine is winning” is another part. (Because, like the assumptions about how hard the “urban combat” would be, the oppressed underdog has near-superpowers.)

    BTW, this belief system is also why they contract for stringers in Gaza. “Well, they’re journalists, and journalists would never out and out lie. Right?” They didn’t so much hire Hamas propagandists as they simply refused to see the conflict of interest because, Journalists!

    The Right and the Wrong for Progressives is so twisted from reality and human nature, it’s amazing they can even tie their own shoes, much less make predictions about warfare.

  • Col Beausabre: Every point you make is correct, but every single one ignores the nature of the foe, the Japanese (not much different than the Germans). Urban warfare with this kind of enemy is exactly as you say, and carries great difficulties.

    Hamas is not the Japanese. You might consider reading a book called Armies of Sand. It details the endless failures of Arab armies, and digs down to find the cause. Their culture makes it impossible for them to harness a good military action, because everything is done by a top-down command structure. Without careful planning their soldiers are lost and cannot think for themselves.

    I should have been more clear about this in my essay. In every case it appeared to me that the experts were not taking into account the nature of the enemy, which for more than 150 years has shown itself to be a weak opponent when faced with a western military given full freedom to do whatever it needs to do to win.

    Note too that engagements in Gaza since 2005 all were hampered by the new restrictions the left has imposed on western militaries, designed to castrate their abilities to win. This time Israel removed those restrictions.

  • GWB

    Mr Zimmerman:
    I do think there is one similarity between the Japanese during WW2 and the Palestinians: everyone will fight.

    The Israelis cannot take for granted “Oh, that’s a civilian” or “Oh, that’s a child.” Our invasion of the Japanese home islands would have entailed digging out and killing every last Japanese drawing breath. Or some of the civilians might have done as they did on Saipan and suicided. It was a culture that glorified death – just as the Palestinian culture is. (This is above and beyond the cult of martyrdom in Islam, IMO.) Of course, this is part of the argument against the “ceasefire” ideas – this is the closest we’ve seen to total war in several decades.

    I do think the Israeli military is aware of this and has planned for it. But the progressives – whether at West Point or in Israel – are blinded to it. Until, of course, it’s right in their face, slapping them silly.

    You do have a very good analysis on this, IMO.

  • GWB: I think you overestimate the real support for Hamas. They are bullies who brutally use force to keep the citizens of Gaza under their thumb. This includes making them hostages and shields. Under those circumstances, I would expect many to quickly surrender with eagerness to Israeli forces, on the hope that it will bring back the prosperity that existed before Hamas took over.

    Note that the Arab population in Israel has come out strongly in favor of Israel and its actions in Gaza. This reflects I think some down-to-earth realities.

  • Herbert Jacobi

    The greatest mistake is to underestimate an enemy.

    The second greatest mistake is to overestimate an enemy.

  • Herbert Jacobi: Heh. Your comment made me laugh, but its truth is essential. I do not think people have assessed Hamas’s strength accurately.

  • Thomas Bridgeland

    Re the nature of the enemy. In every video or picture I have seen, there are hordes of boys in the early to mid teens present. The adults who actually fight are surrounded by them, and only a few years older. I suspect the actual fighters are very bored young men with not much better to do. Fighting is at least exciting. When it becomes more scary than fun, many will melt away.

  • Tom T.

    The question I never see anyone ask: If 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in the last month, where are the bodies?

  • Cotour

    All of the pro Hamas PR in this unfolding event is almost moot, essentially only a distraction. The Leftist media is doing their best to deny Israel their absolute result by attempting to curtail their operation through public opinion and demonstrations in the U.S.

    The massive pro Hamas demonstrations in the U.S. are a part of the plan. (What are they thinking? It is a part of the strategy. Any student that has come to America and is demonstrating in support of the destruction of Israel should immediately be deported back to their rat hole of origin.

    Free speech? They do not have that level of free speech given their situation.

    The Israeli leadership will not at this moment in time be hampered by much of anything.

    Israel finds itself strategically where it needs to be, however they got there, and now has the INTERNATIONAL LEGAL AUTHORITY to take care of business on a grand scale and they will kill any and all Hamas soldiers that they can find. And they will systematically destroy or make inoperable Hamas infrastructure.

    Israel is taking care of existential business and there is not much that will be deterring them.

    And what is interesting? Meat puppet Joe appears to be defying his radical Leftist handlers. Very interesting.

    IMO all potentials exist.

  • pzatchok

    They are saying that Israel does not have the forces to police Gaza after they take it.

    Well that is only true if they leave any Palestinians in Gaza.
    they have the full ability to turn it all into a huge pile of rubble and move everyone out to either Lebanon and Hezbollah rule or into Egypt.
    Any place that would take them in risks them taking over the nation. Or at least causing a lot of trouble.

    I hope Israel takes the land and moves ALL the people out.
    This will send a loud message to all of it neighbors.

    Terrorist play time is over as far as i am concerned.

  • Cotour

    Lee S, are you out there?

    If you are this is for you:

    Sweden Issues Very Worrying ALERT:

    Are you paying attention yet, Lee S?

    The Liberal / Leftist now radical Globalist, “In the future you will own nothing….and be happy” which you are aligned with insist that reasonable now relatively free people, some confused and philosophically unmoored, self-suicide. I say no, what say you?

    Where exactly is your line in the sand? The enemy is within!

  • Cotour

    AND, the enemy is within primarily invited and in many instances forced by those very same Liberal / Leftists that you are apparently aligned with.

    Where do you plan on hiding after Sweden?

    When do you stop and say no more?

  • Edward_2

    A HamAss “child” is a jihadi with a beard and AK-47.

  • Edward_2

    The Israelis are Smart Cookies.

  • Questioner

    Weeb Union: “This is Why ISRAEL is DOOMED To LOSE This War”

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