Israel Could Face Strategic Defeat Says Pentagon Chief

In a speech at the Reagan National Defence Forum in Simi Valley, California Pentagon Chief Lloyd J. Austin III said that Israel could face strategic defeat if Palestinian civilians are not protected.

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Israel has the military edge, but Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has caused some controversy by claiming that Israel will suffer a “strategic defeat” if civilian deaths in Gaza don’t decrease. Since the beginning of the conflict, nearly 15,200 people have perished in Gaza, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Even by reasonable estimates, the number of civilian casualties is in the multiple thousands, despite the White House challenging the Palestinian side’s official death toll. The New York Times said in a contentious story titled “Gaza Civilians, Under Israeli Barrage, Are Being Killed at Historic Pace” that since October 7, more civilians died in Gaza than in Ukraine following nearly two years of a bloody conflict with Russia.

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DOD file image: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is greeted by Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 13, 2023. 

In his remarks on Saturday, Lloyd Austin emphasised the long-term ramifications of the mass killing of civilians as well as the possibility for further radicalization of an entire society in addition to the impending international backlash:

“The center of gravity is the civilian population and if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat,” Austin said in a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif., on Saturday.

The secretary added that he has personally pushed Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties, prevent violence to settlers in the West Bank.

“We will continue to press Israel to protect civilians and to ensure the robust flow of humanitarian aid,” he added.

—The Hill

Austin underlined that the US will always defend Israel and that it will remain its “closest friend in the world” despite this extremely unusual observation and warning. Washington’s support for Israel, he continued, is still “crystal clear.”

Watch Austin’s comments during his weekend speech in California:

BRICS countries as well as countries in the Global South have already expressed their growing anger at the high number of civilian deaths. The United States remains alone in its ‘blank cheque’ support of Israel at the UN, with China and Russia spearheading these accusations of Israel.

What The Guardian just noted about what has long been standard when it comes to UN resolutions of Gaza: “The US has ended up looking quite badly isolated after only 12 countries joined Washington and Israel at the UN general assembly in opposing a motion calling for a sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”

Meanwhile, US congressional hawks aren’t stopping stoking the fire with remarks like the one below, in which Sen. Lindsey Graham criticizes and lashes out at Austin’s discourse on “strategic defeat.”

Graham flatly rejected the idea, saying “He’s so naïve! I mean, I just lost all confidence in this guy.”

“How about focusing on protecting our soldiers, men and women in Syria and Iraq?” Graham continued. “Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They’re already inflamed! They’re taught from the time they’re born to hate the Jews and to kill them.”

Graham continued calling it “really naive” to say that Israel is fighting against a “tranquil population” that was “only inflamed after Israel goes in to defend itself.”

“I don’t want to kill innocent people,” he said. “but Israel is fighting not just Hamas, but the infrastructure around Hamas… Strategic failure is letting Hamas stand.”

This will continue to backlash against the White House as it braces for a “long war” with Israel, which will put increasing pressure on it domestically and abroad. According to Moon of Alabama, the Biden administration’s chances of surviving in politics appear increasingly slim in the foreseeable future:

With every new daily report about blocked aid and more death in Gaza more U.S. voters will reject such brutal policies. Few outside of Israel support such plans. Most Biden voters won’t. If Biden does not pressure Netanyahu to end the slaughter he will very likely lose the election.

Arnaud Bertrand, a geopolitical expert, and entrepreneur, emphasizes that “there’s no overstating how extraordinary such a statement by Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is, warning Israel it’s heading towards strategic defeat.'” This is similar to his conclusion.

There is potential for Israel to confiscate Palestinian gas for the EU as part of the EU-Israel-Saudi Arabia-Emirates-India Corridor.

The remainder of Bertrand’s remarks in reaction to SecDef Austin’s unexpectedly direct and critical evaluation are below [ZH emphasizes below].

“In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.” In essence, this statement expresses plain sense: killing civilians creates more Hamas than it destroys.

Therefore, all Israel has done thus far is continue to dig itself a deeper and deeper hole. After all, it’s using Pentagon support and weapons for all of this in a variety of ways, so Austin’s statements are a bit misleading.

However, they must believe that if they stopped providing active assistance, Israel would “sink” quite soon, which is something they aren’t prepared to do. They view Israel as their “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in the region. Which serves to highlight the extent of the hole that America and Israel have dug themselves.

The “unsinkable aircraft carrier” is taking on water and requires ongoing assistance from the US to prevent sinking. Still, the US is now openly and bluntly informing them that their actions are accelerating the sinking…

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