To be clear, I think that the Israeli air campaign against Gaza will end up being destructive, and, from a political point of view, pointless at best. That said, the Israeli attacks thus far have NOT been indiscriminate; civilian casualties are inevitable in any such campaign, especially as Hamas locates its arsenals and security forces in areas of densest civilian population. Given this, such casualties have been quite low; it would appear from independent media accounts that something on the order of 95% of the casualties have been incurred by Hamas security forces. Rocket factories, rocket stockpiles, and tunnels to Egypt have also been targets of the assault.
The reasons for my continued skepticism are thus:
- I don’t believe that Israel can actually stop rocket attacks. The volume of rocket fire into southern Israel is quite light, and isn’t hard to maintain even with constrained smuggling and rocket manufacture operations. And yes, “quite light” is different when the rockets are blowing up in your backyard than when you’re hearing about it a continent away…
- I don’t believe that Israel can topple Hamas through airstrikes, and don’t believe that it will do so through a ground offensive. This means that, at some point, Hamas will be able to claim “victory” by correctly asserting that it survived the Israeli blitz.
- Wars are destructive, even when carried out in a “discriminate” manner; the people of Gaza will suffer from the destruction of government infrastructure, even if they’re not killed in the bombing. If Israel’s political goals can’t be accomplished through the attack (and a distinction should be made between Israel’s goals and Kadima’s), then there’s little point to pushing forward.
- As noted below, “sending a message” isn’t enough. Hamas knows that the Israelis are badass; this is why Hamas has been studiously trying to goad Israel into just this kind of assault. Israel has responded by trying to send a really loud message, but of course what the Israelis are trying to say and what the world hears are two different things. Israelis are rather fond of suggesting that Arabs only understand the language of force, but the language of force is terribly imprecise.