The Braden Files
Curiosities of mathematics, history, parachuting, etc……

Israeli tanks positioned near Gaza


Israel’s military forces began a ground invasion of Gaza on Jan. 3, following a weeklong aerial campaign aimed at devastating the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The logistics of the operation will be a serious challenge for Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that it has begun to move troops into Gaza, CNN reported Jan. 3. The report of a ground invasion follows an eight-day air campaign to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian militant group Hamas. Israel faces complicated urban warfare and, possibly, newfound Hamas anti-tank capabilities.

The 2006 Israeli war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon taught the IDF the limitations of air power, a lesson they will not soon forget. While there is no doubt that the sustained air campaign by the Israeli Air Force in December 2008 degraded Hamas’ military capability by collapsing smuggling tunnels and destroying known arms caches, it is starting to appear as though it was not decisive.

The key here is actionable intelligence. The Israeli Air Force attempted to strike crucial arms caches, smuggling routes, human operatives and supporting infrastructure of Hamas’ offensive capability. The trick was attacking them before Hamas had time to react and disperse vital assets across Gaza. Though small, the Gaza Strip has a densely packed population among which weapons and people can be concealed. Aside from some late-breaking actionable intelligence on targeting, the maximum effect of the air campaign would have been achieved in the early days – if not the first hours.

A ground incursion may well have been part of the Israeli war plan from the start, and it is certainly too early to call the air campaign a failure definitively. But the continued onslaught of Palestinian rockets several days into the air assault – including the emergence of what a Stratfor source suggests is the Iranian-made Fajr-3 artillery rocket – indicates that the air campaign has not been as destructive as Israel might have hoped.

In any case, an Israeli ground assault now appears to be under way. While the precise depth and duration of this assault is far from clear, the IDF clearly prepared to sustain protracted raids if deemed necessary by calling up an additional 2,520 reservists on Dec. 30, 2008, on top of the 7,000 already activated for the Gaza campaign.

The challenges Israel faces are immense. While Gaza – occupied by Israel until 2005 – is familiar terrain for the IDF, it is Hamas’ home turf. Additionally, in conjunction with the other militant and jihadist groups in the territory, Hamas has been prepping the ground for an Israeli assault for some time.

Indeed, Stratfor sources suggest that Hezbollah not only has helped provide Hamas with the 240 mm Fajr-3, it has helped train some 300 Palestinian fighters in southern Lebanon who have now returned to Gaza. Unconfirmed reports in 2008 also suggest that Hamas may have acquired Soviet-era anti-tank guided missiles, specifically the AT-3 “Sagger,” likely smuggled through tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula. Though the design dates back to the 1960s, this missile has been widely proliferated.

Hamas thus may have obtained a limited anti-armor capability. With the appearance of what may be the Fajr-3 (much larger and heavier than an AT-3 and its mount; the mount is only about the size of a suitcase), the potential that AT-3s have been smuggled into the territory must be taken seriously at this point.

While the AT-3 is unlikely to penetrate the frontal armor of a late model Merkava main battle tank, it certainly gave the IDF trouble in 1973 when employed competently by the Egyptians. Used against the rear quadrants of armored personnel carriers and other lighter-skinned vehicles – easy enough in a built-up urban area – the AT-3s could be significantly more effective. Regardless, it would certainly be an upgrade from the rocks and Molotov cocktails that the Palestinians often rely on to throw at Israeli soldiers and armored vehicles. Though it will be unlikely to halt an Israeli advance, a significant and competent deployment of AT-3s could quickly inflict more damage and casualties than the IDF is accustomed to in Gaza raids.

Given Hamas’ demonstrated ability to smuggle rockets that weigh hundreds of pounds and are more than twice the height of a human being, the militant group also could possess even more advanced anti-tank weaponry (designed to be man-portable) smuggled into Gaza from Egypt through the same tunnels. But, Hezbollah and its patrons would likely keep the most advanced anti-tank guided missile systems for themselves.

Either way, Hamas wants an Israeli ground incursion. With no apparent capability to hit Israeli fighter jets, Hamas can only really engage Israel directly if the IDF brings the fight to Hamas on the ground. The AT-3 aside, the proliferation of techniques to build more advanced forms of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have emerged from Iraq is a major concern. The old standbys of large, buried IEDs, suicide bombings and armed ambushes are also possibilities. While Israeli troops can enjoy the protection of tanks, armored personnel carriers and the infamous D-9 armored bulldozer during the approach to the target, infantry at some point must dismount to conduct searches and destroy caches of weapons. Moving armor through dense urban areas without dismounted infantry to spot potential anti-tank teams is risky to say the least.

Actionable intelligence is also key to Israel’s ground offensive. Though small, the territory encompasses some 140 square miles, much of it densely populated. The IDF does not have the manpower to search the entire territory house-to-house, and even if it did, it would hesitate to do so given the casualties this would incur. Though pinpoint targeting data necessary for a successful airstrike is not required to guide a ground incursion (infantry can cordon off and search a complex or even a city block), IDF raids must still be guided by information that allows them to push into Gaza, capture or destroy their target, and pull back out.

Ultimately, it must be remembered that Hamas – even with all its rockets intact – is not a strategic or existential threat to Israel. Israeli territory around Gaza is lightly populated compared to the rest of the country, so from a geopolitical perspective the rocket fire is just a nuisance. It thus makes little sense for the IDF to commit its forces on a strategic scale, and to incur strategically significant losses, in pursuit of a nonstrategic objective.

But with the leap from the 122mm BM-21 Grad to the Fajr-3, Hamas essentially doubled its range. It would have to double it again to reach the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, an unlikely prospect given the heavier logistical burdens of such rockets and the limitations of Hamas. Nevertheless, that hypothetical capability undoubtedly would further escalate the conflict.

This is especially true because Israel exists at a demographic disadvantage in the region. The IDF is relatively small compared to nearby armed forces and the country is casualty-averse. There is thus little doubt that the IDF assault will be limited in nature, and Israel certainly has no interest in re-occupying Gaza. For its part, Hamas will attempt to drag out the assault as long as possible, conducting a war of attrition against the casualty-averse IDF.

While the ground incursion will have to play itself out, IDF limitations mean that the overall Israeli operation probably will eviscerate Hamas’ military capability only if the air campaign was exceedingly effective in its first days. At this point, it is not at all clear that it was. In that case, the IDF may have more work in Gaza than it is ultimately equipped and structured to achieve.

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Change of Address
In a few short days, an African American man will move from his private residence into a much larger and infinitely more expensive one owned not by him but by the taxpayers. A vast lawn, a perimeter fence and many well trained security specialists will insulate him from the rest of us but the mere fact that this man will be residing in this house should make us all stop and count our blessings – because it proves that we live in a nation where anything is possible.

Many believed this day would never come. Most of us hoped and prayed that it would, but few of us actually believed we would live to see it. Racism is an ugly thing in all of its forms and there is little doubt that if this man had moved into this house fifteen years ago, there would have been a great outcry – possibly even rioting in the streets.

Today, we can all be both grateful and proud that no such mayhem will take place. when this man takes up residency in this house.

This man, moving into this house at this time in our nation’s history is much more than a simple change of addresses for him – it is proof of a change in our attitude as a nation. It is an amends of sorts – the righting of a great wrong. It is a symbol of our growth, and of our willingness to “judge a man, not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character”.

There can be little doubt now that the vast majority of us truly believe that this man has earned both his place in history and his new address. His time in this house will not be easy – it will be fraught with danger and he will face many challenges. I am sure there will be many times when he asks himself how in the world he ended up here and like all who have gone before him, the experience will age him greatly.

But I for one will not waste an ounce of worry for his sake – because in every way a man can, he asked for this. His whole life for the past fifteen years appears to have been inexorably leading this man toward this house. It is highly probable that in the past, despite all of his actions, racism would have kept this man out of this house. Today, I thank the Lord above that I am an American and that I live in a nation where wrongs are righted, where justice matters and where truly anything is possible.

Who is this man?

Here is his picture.

Maybe you thought I was talking about someone else?

Rules for the Non-Military
Dear Civilians, ‘We know that the current state of affairs in our great nation has many civilians up in arms and excited to join the military. For those of you who can’t join, you can still lend a hand. Here are a few of the areas where we would like your assistance:

  1. The next time you see any adults talking (or wearing a hat) during the playing of the National Anthem – kick their ass.
  2. When you witness, firsthand, someone burning the American Flag in protest – kick their ass.
  3. Regardless of the rank they held while they served, pay the highest amount of respect to all veterans. If you see anyone doing otherwise, quietly pull them aside and explain how these veterans fought for the very freedom they bask in every second. Enlighten them on the many sacrifices these veterans made to make this Nation great. Then hold them down while a disabled veteran kicks their ass.
  4. (GUYS) If you were never in the military, DO NOT pretend that you were. Wearing battle dress uniforms (BDUs) or Jungle Fatigues, telling others that you used to be ‘Special Forces,’ and collecting GI Joe memorabilia, might have been okay when you were seven years old. Now, it will only make you look stupid and get your ass kicked.
  5. Next time you come across an Air Force member, do not ask them, ‘Do you fly a jet?’ Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot. Such ignorance deserves an ass-kicking (children are exempt).
  6. If you witness someone calling the US Coast Guard ‘non-military’, inform them of their mistake – and kick their ass.
  7. Next time Old Glory (the US flag) prances by during a parade, get on your damn feet and pay homage to her by placing your hand over your heart. Quietly thank the military member or veteran lucky enough to be carrying her – of course, failure to do either of those could earn you a severe ass-kicking.
  8. Don’t try to discuss politics with a military member or a veteran. We are Americans, and we all bleed the same, regardless of our party affiliation. Our Chain of Command is to include our Commander-In-Chief (CinC). The President (for those who didn’t know) is our CinC regardless of political party. We have no inside track on what happens inside those big important buildings where all those representatives meet. All we know is that when those civilian representatives screw up the situation, they call upon the military to go straighten it out. If you keep asking us the same stupid questions repeatedly, you will get your ass kicked!
  9. ‘Your mama wears combat boots’ never made sense to me – stop saying it! If she did, she would most likely be a vet and therefore could kick your ass!
  10. bin Laden and the Taliban are not Communists, so stop saying ‘Let’s go kill those Commies!’ And stop asking us where he is! Crystal balls are not standard issue in the military. That reminds me- if you see anyone calling those damn psychic phone numbers, let me know, so I can go kick their ass!
  11. ‘Flyboy’ (Air Force), ‘Jarhead’ (Marines), ‘Grunt’ (Army), ‘Squid’ (Navy), ‘Puddle Jumpers’ (Coast Guard), etc., are terms of endearment we use describing each other. Unless you are a service member or vet, you have not earned the right to use them.. Using them could get your ass kicked.
  12. Last, but not least, whether or not you become a member of the military, support our troops and their families. Every Thanksgiving and religious holiday that you enjoy with family and friends, please remember that there are literally thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen far from home wishing they could be with their families. Thank God for our military and the sacrifices they make every day. Without them, our country would get it’s ass kicked.’

‘It’s the Veteran, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press.’
‘It’s the Veteran, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.’
‘It’s the Veteran, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.’
‘It’s the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.’

One more:

  • 13. If you ever see anyone either standing for or singing the national anthem in Spanish – KICK THEIR ASS.
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