US Advice to Israel: “Use Smaller Bombs”

Photograph Source: Al Araby (Q25453791)‏‏ – CC BY-SA 3.0

“U.S. officials said they have privately outlined several steps to Israel to reduce civilian casualties in its military campaign in the Gaza Strip, including using smaller bombs, when going after Hamas leaders and infrastructure.”

– The New York Times, front page, November 5, 2023.

The case for asserting that the U.S. is complicit in Israel’s strategic military campaign against Gaza, where there is evidence of Israeli war crimes, has gotten stronger.  Last month, a three-star Marine general was in Israel to provide advice on urban warfare that the Israeli invasion force is now conducting.  The U.S. is providing intelligence to the Israel on Hamas command and control networks, and CIA director William Burns arrived in Israel on November 5, presumably as part of this intelligence effort.  The United States is not only advising the Israelis to use smaller bombs, but is sending more of these weapons to Israel.

In addition to the hasty resupply of strategic weaponry, the Department of State is now considering the approval of $34 million in semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles, which Israel is trying to buy directly from American gunmakers.  According to the New York Times, the Department of State notified the appropriate congressional committees of the Israeli request, as required by law.  Israel maintains that the assault rifles will be given to its national police force, but it is likely that these weapons will end up in the hands of Jewish settlers on the West Bank, as several Israeli officials have indicated.  The mainstream media have largely ignored the increasing violence on the West Bank, where about 150 Palestinians have been killed in the past month by Israeli military forces and settlers.  The number of Palestinian deaths equals the death total on the West Bank for all of 2022.

The wars in Ukraine and Gaza as well as the exaggerated fears of an imminent Chinese threat to Taiwan have produced a global buying spree of sophisticated weaponry.  Global defense spending exceeds $2.2 trillion, with the United States responsible for half that total. Global military procurement will exceed $200 billion for the year 2023, with the United States responsible for nearly half of that figure as well.  Increased regional conflicts are producing increased military sales; increased military weaponry will lead to greater conflict.  A senior executive with Raytheon, a leading supplier of missile systems, crowed there is “lots of good news out there…for us, it’s just a question of getting [the weaponry] out the door at this point.”

In addition to sending the CIA director to Israel, the United States is using drones over Gaza; redirecting military satellites to monitor Gaza; and tasking intelligence collectors on two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean to intercept electronic messages.  The weapons deliveries and the intelligence support compromise stated U.S. interest in pressing Israel to pause the bombing campaign, let alone accept a much-needed cease fire.  As a result, President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have encountered diplomatic embarrassment and even humiliation in their meetings with Israeli and Arab leaders to arrange a “humanitarian pause” or gain support for U.S. diplomacy.  Blinken embarrassed himself in his first trip to Israel, when he announced he was there “as a Jew,” which gratuitously pointed to the lack of even-handedness in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

The international security community is compromising its standards to accommodate Israeli policies of vengeance against the Palestinians.  A senior State Department official resigned last month to protest the rush of arms to Israel without debating the likelihood of civilian harm from these weapons as required by the policies of the White House and the Department of State.  U.S. media have granted Israeli military commanders pre-publication review rights for “all materials and footage” recorded by their correspondents embedded with the Israeli Defense Forces during the invasion of Gaza, a precondition condemned by press freedom advocates.  CNN gives voice to numerous Israeli officials, who rarely get challenged by CNN correspondents, and rarely pursues Palestinian officials to discuss the war.

Once again, the United States is aiding Israeli military measures, believing there is a military solution to a fundamentally political problem.  Fifty years of U.S. warfare in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and forty years of Israeli warfare in Lebanon and Gaza suggest otherwise.  Lebanon was particularly tragic for the United States as 240 Marine lives were lost in Beirut in 1983 in a misbegotten campaign to pull Israeli chestnuts out of the fire.  Hezbollah didn’t exist until the Israeli invasion in 1982, and is now stronger than ever.

The Gaza War will be remembered for Israel’s use of U.S.-supplied 1,000 and 2,000 pound bombs that were satellite-guided, taking the lives of more than 10,000 Palestinians in the first month, including more than 4,000 children.  The first weeks of bombing leveled Gaza City, and there was heavy bombing in South Gaza, where Gazans were told to seek safety.  Meanwhile, I see little evidence that Israeli strikes have weakened Hamas’ leadership ranks or its fighting forces.

Ironically, both President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu are encountering significant domestic opposition and possibly will endure electoral defeat as a result of the war.  The horrific Israeli bombing campaign has created fissures within the Democratic Party and has divided the liberal and progressive communities, adding to Biden’s domestic problems.  Hubris and overconfidence were sources of Israeli problems at the outset of their wars in October 1973 and October 2023.

Prime Minister Golda Meir had to step down as a result of the intelligence failures that accompanied the October War 50 years ago.  It’s not imaginable that Netanyahu will step down, but he is a dead man walking in the Israeli political arena.  Meir was replaced by a moderate, Yitzhak Rabin.  If Netanyahu is forced to give up power, there is little likelihood that he will be succeeded by a moderate.

General Sherman is best known for saying that “war is hell.”  And he added that “war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; the crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.”  This certainly describes Netanyahu’s modus operandi.  Meanwhile, the Biden administration has taken a blind eye to the suffering of the two million civilians in Gaza.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent books are “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing, 2019) and “Containing the National Security State” (Opus Publishing, 2021). Goodman is the national security columnist for