The October Surprise (a bit late) by Steven Jonas, MD

by Steven Jonas, MD
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
crossposted on
January 6, 2009

Many folks on the Left (U.S. and otherwise) were sure that the Georgites were going to spring an “October Surprise” just before the 2008 election. It would be “something big” to aid McCain’s chances which, especially with the Wall Street collapse that started in September 2008, needed some pretty big aiding. It would have something to do with “national security,” and it would come in October, that is if it had not come already. As examples of the latter were those absolutely firm predictions by authorities on the Left “in the know” that there would be a U.S. attack on Iran, “for sure,” as far back as June 2006. Certain other not-so-authoritative sources for a variety of reasons thought at the time that this was nonsense. For one thing, once Jim Baker had installed Bob Gates in the Defense Department, with a strong chorus of support for a “no” from the Joint chiefs, that one just wasn’t going to fly.

So OK, if there was to be no U.S. attack on Iran, how about an Israeli attack on Iran. Well, that would require Israeli flights over Iraqi airspace, controlled by, you guessed it, the U.S. Defense Department. At the same time, the original mission in Iraq, which was either oil and bases, permanent war, or both had come undone. The Georgite-negotiated Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) itself provides for a U.S. withdrawal by some time certain. (Now there’s a “Mission Accomplished,” isn’t there? Why, by golly, on January 1, 2009, the Iraqi government took control of even the Green Zone in Baghdad.)

Gee whiz. Talk about measuring for new furniture in the White House. Bush’s SOFA looks pretty much like what Obama was proposing during the Presidential Campaign, and really got skewered for by the O’RHannibaugh “Victory [without ever defining it] At All Costs” wing of the Republican Party, along with ol’ Catch-up McCain. So Iraq was not good for an October Surprise either, at least not the kind of one that Republican supporters had in mind. They would hardly be trumpeting the 180 that Bush did on “no timetable for withdrawal, ever, ever, ever, that’s just giving into the terrorists” within a period of weeks.

So what to do? Well, they couldn’t get one in before the election. And anyway, after the failure of the years-long efforts of Treasury and the Federal Reserve to put off until AFTER the 2008 election the financial collapse that every informed observer knew was coming, McCain was pretty much a lost cause anyway. But that did not mean that Pres.-elect Obama could not be presented with a nice housewarming present, a really good foreign policy imbroglio to take up much time and political capital that the incoming Administration would otherwise need to deal with the domestic economic crisis.

And so, on November 5, the day after the election, Israel launched an assault on the tunnels leading from Egypt to Gaza, through which Hamas funneled small arms and ammunition, parts for their mainly homemade rockets and other material, under the very effective land, sea, and air blockade that Israel has imposed upon Gaza for many months now. Rearming? Sure. But after all, throughout the same six-month ceasefire, Israel was rearming as well, with weapons from the U.S. just slightly (sic) more powerful than Qassam rockets. That was the first breach in the cease-fire. Now the full-scale invasion of Gaza is underway, preceded by the methodical destruction of its civilian infrastructure by the Israeli air force, artillery, and naval forces. The world demands a cease-fire. Israel says “no.” Hamas fires some more rockets (and some more sophisticated ones as well) and the carnage continues.

It is not my purpose here to get into who is “right” and who is “wrong.” There are plenty of both to go around on all sides in this multi-sided conflict. But what can Israel’s objective possibly be? For an indication, one can turn to a document produced in 1996 called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It was produced by those inestimable authorities on peace in the Middle East, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, et al. You know, the folks from the Project for the New American Century who gave us the Iraq War. Their goals for Iraq were some combination of oil-and-bases, Permanent War, and “bringing Democracy to the Middle East” (out the barrel of a gun). Number one for “A Clean Break” was to end the “Oslo Peace Process” (which had already come pretty much to a halt with the convenient assassination of Yitzhak Rabin). Number two was to encumber any future negotiations with so many preconditions as to make success of same highly unlikely, and so continue Israeli military dominance of its immediate neighborhood.

Accompanied by the continual Settlement Movement for the Occupied West Bank, it was a recipe perhaps not for Permanent War but surely for Permanent Non-peace. And funnily enough, even during the Bush years, whenever there was some glimmer of hope that something might push the parties into a negotiation based on the original 1967 UN resolutions, by golly there was an “outbreak of terrorism” emanating from the Palestinian side. Even authorities in Israel thought that these coincidences might not be so coincidental, but that’s another story.

And so, here comes Obama. His principal foreign policy advisor for the Middle East is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who advocates a “two-state solution” roughly based on the 2003 Geneva Accords negotiated between unofficial but formerly highly placed foreign policy experts on both sides, plus the 2002 proposal from, of all places, Saudi Arabia. The day after his election, Israel starts a process that must lead inexorably towards the present situation, which is anything but conducive to finding a workable two-state solution. The question arises, why should that be? To paraphrase the Fox “News” Channel (oh my gosh, I’m really doing that), we present, you decide.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and a Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for BuzzFlash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad


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