What the Heck Happened?

Let’s discuss what’s going on with Israel. Things are developing rapidly so this is the best I can do with what’s out there in the public sphere.

I’ll tackle a couple of key points that are relevant not just to the Israeli situation, but to all of us here in the West, certainly in the U.S.

First: The Hamas attack on Israel is being described as a massive intelligence failure; so what happened?

Second: Think like the other guys. What was Hamas doing? That is, was the idea just to stage a massive, bloody “raid” and then shoot it out with Israeli troops? Or is something else afoot?

Third: How does what’s happening in Israel affect the rest of us?

Each of these topics deserves a long discourse. Someday, people will write books. But for now, we’ll do the best we can, and forgive me if I don’t overturn every rock.

An “intelligence failure.” Really?

Hamas attacked Israel on early Saturday morning, Oct. 7, the 50th anniversary of the joint attack in 1973 by Egyptian and Syria on Israel. As the calendar goes, it’s been half a century, plus one day. And now we are told that nobody saw this coming; that it’s an “intelligence failure.”

Who is kidding with whom? I’m a retired U.S. Navy officer, now working as a geologist and writer for a newsletter publishing company. (And I do NOT speak for the Navy, Department of Defense or U.S. government. I also don’t have access to classified materials anymore.)

But to me, as a faraway outsider, it has long seemed possible, if not at least moderately probable, that something might happen.

In fact, last week in Las Vegas at the Paradigm Press financial symposium, and in front of 500 attendees, I mentioned this (at the time, upcoming) 50th anniversary from the stage. “It’s been 50 years since the Yom Kippur War,” I said. And Israel’s Islamic enemies believe strongly in celebrating anniversaries.

So no; I simply do not believe that nobody — not in Israel, U.S., elsewhere — saw this coming. Nobody’s intelligence services can be that bad, that lazy, that blind, that obtuse, that ridiculously out of touch with reality. So again, how did this occur? Hold that thought…

Because back at the U.S. Naval War College, instructors used to present us with what they called “counterfactual” propositions. For example, what if Pickett’s Charge had succeeded at the Battle of Gettysburg?

How would the Civil War have been different? Or what if the Japanese navy had put up better air cover over its aircraft carriers at Midway? How would World War II in the Pacific have unfolded? Things like that…

In general, the idea behind counterfactual questions is to prompt people to examine not just what happened, but what might have happened. Or to consider why things happened the way they did, beyond and behind what seems evident and obvious.

With this in mind, let’s imagine that last week some functionary in Israel’s security services had put out a fairly routine memo along the lines of:

“Alert! It’s 50 years since Yom Kippur this weekend. Increase the night watch. Military and police leave are canceled. Keep your battle-rattle handy. Clean and inspect weapons. Break out extra ammunition. Be prepared. Shalom!”

Would that kind of preparatory warning have been so difficult? It’s nothing too deep. But it’s still a clear instruction to front line guardians and responders to be extra vigilant, to post extra security.

Instead, last weekend we saw video of Israeli soldiers and police officers gunned down in bed in their barracks. Which means, obviously, that bad guys broke in fast and ready.

Plus we saw other images of Israeli soldiers and police captured in nothing but their underwear, being marched off to be murdered. Where were the guards? How did the physical barriers get breached?

Let alone, we have the fact that many Israeli kibbutzim were overrun, with hundreds of civilians inside massacred wholesale. And your typical Israeli kibbutz is not some lonesome little house on the prairie. No, these locales are built like fortified camps, with steel fencing and guard towers.

And yet the bad guys got in.

I simply don’t believe that there were no “indications and warnings” (I&W) of an upcoming attack. Because something that big — see discussion below — always makes at least ripples on the pond, so to speak. There’s always something “left of bang,” to use an expression made famous during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In the future, we can all look forward to Israel’s version of a Pearl Harbor investigation, if not a Warren Commission, to dig into what happened.

But what about U.S. intelligence? Didn’t it fail too? And what does this attack mean for the U.S.?

Read on…

What Happened?

By Byron King

How bad is U.S. intelligence? Sure, clearly there’s something wrong with Israel’s intelligence services, her distinct lack of I&W pickup. But are there also similarly deep flaws in or throughout the U.S. intelligence complex?

After all… the collapse of Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 was not exactly America’s finest hour of intelligence, right? Nor has U.S. intelligence been all that good about predicting the future in, say, Ukraine. And how bad is U.S. intelligence about, say, China? (Hey, just askin’).

What was Hamas doing?

Videos show large numbers of Hamas fighters descending in parachutes, and even buzzing down, Mad Max-style, in motorized paragliders. And there are images of massive cuts in the Gaza fence line, with bulldozers plowing through.

And then guys raced through on motorcycles and in “technical” vehicles (Toyota pickup trucks and the like) across the wide-open lines of control.

Meanwhile, at this point Israel claims to have killed about 1,500 Hamas fighters inside Israel in the past several days. And that doesn’t account for those who withdrew back into Gaza, taking hostages along the way.

Was this just a one-off hit-and-run? A modern, psycho, serial-killer version of the monkey-bash scene from the beginning of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Or was this Hamas attack part of a larger, phased operation? Is there a strategic angle?

A Light Infantry Attack

Well, first let’s define the terms. A battalion has about 1,000 soldiers, and a brigade has about 5,000 troops. So it’s fair to say that Hamas staged a brigade-level attack on Israel, in terms of troops and boots.

Plus, Hamas fired well over 5,000 missiles into Israel, although these are mostly unguided rockets with relatively small explosive payloads. In other words, these are not the serious stuff like we see in Ukraine, coming from Russia.

From the video of Hamas fighters — some wore GoPro cameras, which tells you something as well — these attackers seemed kind of scruffy. You can see hodge-podges of uniforms, and even many guys in civilian garb.

Hamas fighters’ armament appears mostly to be AK-variety rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and such. Plus, there are reports of at least a few anti-tank guided missiles like the (quite effective) Russian Kornet, and maybe even some U.S. Javelins that leaked out of the Ukraine theater.

In other words, we’re talking about light infantry and no artillery or armored support. Drone support seems to be basic, in terms of observation and some jury-rigged grenade-droppers; nothing like the Russian Lancet-series. And there are no reports of electronic warfare (EW).

As to that last point, Hamas reportedly uses Chinese electronics from Huawei, meaning they use Chinese operating systems that are difficult to crack. And this gets back to that I&W issue from above, the so-called “intelligence failure” to spot the lead-up and prep for attack.

In this last regard, give credit to Hamas, and their supporters and enablers. They are observant, clever and thoughtful. Evidently, Hamas leadership knows what Israel and other intelligence complexes look for, and they kept it quite quiet.

For example, Hamas didn’t pulse the airwaves with pre-attack signals. The Hamas headquarters and command posts didn’t glow with electronic emissions. And it looks like they kept the human aspect under tight control as well, such that nobody was bragging at the local fruit market about the upcoming attack on Israel.

At a tactical level, Hamas efforts were not so much armed combat against Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), as they resembled German Einsatzgruppen in World War II, exterminating civilians in rear areas. And this raises the question, what was the operational goal, if not strategic vision?

Well, there’s no way that Hamas can ever prevail straight-up against the IDF. No, the IDF surpasses Hamas in every respect, from boot-recruit soldier training and weaponry to armor, aerospace, EW and more.

What Were Their Objectives?

All well and good. But what were (and what are!) the Hamas objectives? Clearly, they succeeded in crossing into Israel, to attack nearby military and police compounds and raid kibbutzim, along with literally descending onto that other big fat target-of-opportunity, the large outdoor concert full of civilians. And in this regard, Hamas succeeded wildly. The butcher’s bill is immense, and I need not go into details of carnage.

At this point, it’s worth bringing up Clausewitz. The old Prussian (1780–1831) described how military operations should focus on destroying the opponent’s “center of gravity.” In most situations, that means to wreck the opponent’s combat power; to defeat the other guy’s army in the field. But Hamas didn’t do that, right? Not last weekend.

Contra Clausewitz, Hamas focused on moving in fast, and knocking over some under-guarded, unprepared army and police sites (see above discussion). Then the Hamas fighters took their guns and knives to civilians.

But another aspect of warfare, and one into which Clausewitz didn’t delve, is conflict based on the fundamentals of religion, if not a desire to wipe another tribe from the face of the earth, down to the last seed.

Yes, Clausewitz wrote that “War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.” (Commonly cited as “War is the continuation of politics by other means.”)

But this Hamas attack wasn’t “a continuation of politics.” No, it’s far deeper and more visceral.

It’s no stretch of analysis to say that the Hamas tactical goal on Oct. 7 was achieved, almost exactly as planned.

Hamas fighters moved into Israel, killed as many so-called “settlers” as possible, took hostages for trade, held territory until the bitter end and stirred up a massive response by the Jewish state.

This kinetic event alone — Oct. 7, 2023 — will go down in certain history books as a massive Islamic “victory” over Israel, another milestone about which people will sing songs in ages to come.

But now?

Hamas “Opened the Gates of Hell”

Well, apparently the next phase of the Hamas operation involves drawing the massive combat power of the IDF to the edge of Gaza, and then a likely incursion or invasion. And again,

give the opponent credit for not being stupid. Hamas leadership had to know that what’s about to come would occur.

The IDF Chief of Staff has stated that the Hamas attack “opened the gates of hell.” And it’s no stretch to say that Israel is about to go full Roman Empire on Gaza; that is, Carthage 2.0. Or to channel the ancient Cato the Elder (234–149 B.C.E.), call it “Gaza delenda est.”

As a matter of geography and logistics, Israel can isolate Gaze in its geographic entirety. Then bomb the tar out of the place, drop artillery onto every possible target, starve it, wreck it, grind it all to rubble and bulldoze the entire stinking mess into the Mediterranean Sea.

Whoever is left gets free transportation to some other country, maybe Somalia, while Gaza itself becomes depopulated and reverts to nature for a century or so.

Then again, besieging cities is hard. Things don’t always go according to plan. Think Stalingrad. Grozny. Fallujah. Or consider a heavily fortified and tunneled rock island like Iwo Jima, if not Okinawa.

So what is the Hamas plan for the next phase of operations? Well, Israel is looking at a costly, likely lengthy, politically tough road ahead. And we shall see.

What Does This Mean to the Rest of Us?

With all of the foregoing in mind, here’s a partial list of things to consider: Pro- and anti-Israel lines have clearly popped up across U.S. and Western societies and politics. Did you realize before that things are so bitterly crystallized?

In just a few days since the Israel massacre, we’ve seen everything from members of Congress outright blame Israel for the Hamas attack; consider the so-called “squad” who openly fly the flag of Palestine. Or look at the stories about university students across the nation, Harvard to Berkeley, with similar views.

At the very least, in the U.S., Canada, Europe and more we see the deep roots of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic belief, mainly in the left, woke, progressive factions of many critical institutions.

Meanwhile, much of Israel’s military budget is funded with U.S. aid, which means that the U.S. government — U.S. taxpayers, if not bond-buyers — pays for a whack of what is about to happen.

Already, the U.S. is ferrying munitions and supplies to Israel, all of which come from depleted U.S. stockpiles. And the U.S. industrial base is nowhere near capable of supporting anything like long-term warfare at current levels of expenditure.

As for Israel, over the past 20 months that nation has supplied ammunition and other warfighting material to Ukraine. So right now, Israel is low on bombs, artillery rounds, other ammunition and much else. So again, U.S. and NATO munitions will head to Israel, versus Ukraine.

And from the front lines in Ukraine, Russian sources report that many Israeli technical and military staff who have been involved in the conflict for the past year and a half are heading home. And we might see a collapse of the Ukraine military sooner, versus later; another geopolitical disaster for the U.S. and NATO.

In Israel, reservists are being called up and this will be a drain on the Israeli economy, especially the booming high-tech sector. This likely has certain global implications.

In the rest of the Middle East, oil producing nations are watching it all down to the granular level. Back in 1973, the Yom Kippur War led to an Arab oil embargo on the U.S. and some European nations, along with skyrocketing oil prices. Things are different now, but then again war and oil in the Middle East are never a good combination.

In everything that happens from now until whenever, you can count on U.S. involvement at one level or another, from intelligence support (see above), to diplomatic, financial and military influence. And every decision point will bring new challenges, if not pitfalls.

For those of us who are not part of the action — we’re not among those bigshot “deciders” in Washington — we’re on another roller-coaster ride as events unfold. Along the way, there’s at least some semblance of security in holding cash, energy-related plays, gold and other hard assets like copper and other industrial metals.

Just be sure to keep an open mind. Beware of media and government propaganda. And strap in for another long, hard ride.

The Daily Reckoning