The Real War vs. the Meme War

E. Rowell:  Recent observations of online “conservative” commentators has revealed a surprising number of previously either neutral on Israel or pro-Israel supporters who have developed one of a number of conspiracy theories about Israel wanting to start World War III.  This is part of the meme war:  the PSYOP created by foreign policy establishment.  I suspect this is a form of hybrid warfare directed at Israel’s supporters.

Will Israel retaliate?; Israel’s Arab allies; Is WOL an IRGC front?

By Park Macdonald, THE SCROLL    15 April 2024

The Big Story

The morning after we published our special edition on Saturday night, predicting that President Biden would attempt to dissuade Israel from “escalating” in response to an “appropriate” Iranian drone-and-missile attack that had been green-lit by Washington, Barak Ravid reported that the White House had responded exactly how we said it would. In a Saturday evening phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden reportedly told the Israeli leader that the United States would not support any Israeli counterattack against Iran. “You got a win. Take the win,” the president said.

On Sunday, meanwhile, Reuters offered further confirmation that Washington had approved the Iranian attack, via a Turkish official who said that Tehran had shared details of its operation with Ankara, which shared them with the Biden administration. The Americans responded, according to the Turks, by conveying to the Iranians that their “reaction must be within certain limits.”

We reached out to Tablet’s geopolitical analyst for help understanding the events of the weekend. The rest of today’s Big Story is a lightly edited version of the email we got in response:

One of the most fascinating things to watch over the past six months has been the replacement of the brutal real war being fought between Israel and an Iranian proxy army in Gaza by a phony war that exists on social media and TikTok.

In the real war, a force of several thousand armed men crossed Israel’s border and barbarically murdered over 1,000 Israelis and kidnapped several hundred back to Gaza to be held in subterranean dungeons and abused—in short, an act of primitive aggression that in any previous moment in human history would most likely have been a prelude to reducing the habitations of the barbarians to rubble before cutting the aggressors up into little pieces to be eaten by crows.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to that result—which is desirable because dis-incentivizing barbarism protects not only the people who were attacked but all other potential targets from being raped and burned alive by barbarians. Namely, the “real war” in Gaza was replaced atom by atom with a fictional conflict whose events were ordered not by the reality on the ground but by the narrative demands of states and social media. What’s interesting and most often overlooked here is the often-determinative role of state actors in deciding which of the two Gaza wars is actually the “real” one.

In the real Gaza war, Israel was attacked by Hamas, which launched a cross-border surprise attack that took at least two years to plan and was aided by large numbers of Gazan civilians—the two categories, civilian and fighter, being interdependent and often functionally indistinguishable. In the virtual Gaza war, Israel aggressively bombed Gaza to rubble with the intention of committing genocide because Israelis are innately aggressive and genocidal. In the real Gaza war, Israel appears to have achieved an unheard-of one-to-one combatant-to-civilian kill ratio fighting an enemy that had dug itself into a densely populated urban landscape. In the virtual Gaza war, Israel bombed Gaza indiscriminately while deliberately targeting hospitals and aid workers and causing children to die of famine because of Zionist blood-lust. The technique is simple: inversion.

Which brings us to the American role in the conflict. Seen from the perspective of the “real” Gaza war, the United States has armed Israel while placing restrictions on how Israel can use the weapons it has provided. However, when it comes to the “virtual” Gaza war, the United States has largely done the opposite, with U.S. officials from President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken on down endorsing weaponized accusations that its putative ally is committing crimes against humanity, and USAID head Samantha Power (whose official motorcade once hit and killed a small child in Africa) enthusiastically accusing Israel of causing a famine. The intention of these accusations is to limit the scope and effectiveness of Israel’s response to the Iranian-sponsored barbarians. In other words, while the United States putatively sides with Israel in the real war, it backs Hamas and Iran in the virtual war.

The question of where one should set the exchange rate between “virtual” and “real” events—i.e., how many memes equals a bomb—is fun to play with. In the end, though, such playful questions can be answered through very tangible strategic calculations that, like the barbarism of the Hamas raid, would have been familiar to kings in the days of The Iliad.

As much fun as it must be for American diplomats and planners to play at backing two sides in two versions of the same war, there is in fact only one war—meaning there is only one U.S. position here. The question of what that position is can be seen clearly from the Iranian attack on Israel.

In the real war, Iran sent 300 drones and rockets, which were intended to destroy two major Israeli military bases and perhaps the country’s nuclear reactor at Dimona—an assault that would be rightly greeted by Israel, at minimum, with an attack that successfully destroyed Iran’s military bases and nuclear facilities. Israel clearly has the ability to pull off such an attack, which, given the slow, primitive nature of Iran’s drones and the unreliability of its missiles—half of which apparently crashed in various locations in the Middle East without being intercepted—would provide a strong counterpoint to Iran’s military weakness.

America forbade such an attack. Instead, the United States put on a bizarre piece of Kabuki theater, in which Iran was instructed on what level of force could be directed at what targets, while Israel was told not to respond, while the United States advertised that its own forces—assisted by the mighty Jordanian Air Force (try not to laugh here)—had successfully repelled the Iranian drone force, which moved at the speed of a 30-year-old Isuzu subcompact. The point of this exercise was to advertise the new rules of the game in the American-run Middle East, which are that Iran gets to strike at Israel within limits set by the United States and that Israel is not allowed to strike back. Which would all be very funny, if the United States wasn’t also, at the same time, funding Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

For observers of the Middle East pecking order, which means everyone in the Middle East, the message was clear: The United States will protect Israel, conditionally, for now, as long as Israel does what America says—but it will also protect Iran. Israel can act defensively, within limits, but not offensively. Iran can shoot Israel in the head, but Israel is allowed to wear a helmet. Israel cannot punch Iran. Even a schoolchild can correctly read the pecking order here: the United States, followed by Iran, followed by Israel and other minor provincial actors like the Palestinians and Lebanese. If this is an arrangement that the Israelis are happy with, they should by all means go along with it—and become Jewish versions of the Lebanese and the Palestinians, who, from a state power perspective, are two of the most wretched and dependent actors on earth.

Why the Israelis—who by some accounts possess the fourth most powerful military force on earth, along with an arsenal of between 80 and 120 nuclear warheads and the world’s second or third-ranking tech complex after Silicon Valley and probably Seoul, South Korea—would see such an arrangement as beneficial defies any rational calculus I can come up with. Perhaps the Israelis believe that global antisemitism is such a strong force that it cancels out all of the aforementioned examples of Israeli prowess—in which case the Zionist idea, which seemed to have been proven right by the Holocaust, has in fact been proven wrong. Or perhaps the people leading Israel at the moment aren’t very good at this.

IN THE BACK PAGES: Why Edmund Wilson saw Judaism as key to America’s cultural survival

Shortly before The Scroll closed today, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported that the Israeli war cabinet had decided to hit back “clearly and forcefully” against Iran, with a response coming as soon as Monday. We’ll have to wait to see what that means in practice, but the report noted that Israel will be coordinating its response with the United States and choosing targets designed to avoid escalation into a “regional war.” In other words, don’t get your hopes up.

The Biden administration has rushed to spin U.S. and Arab participation in Israel’s defense against the barrage as a vindication of its “regional integration” strategy—one that obviates the need for Israeli offensive countermeasures.
A wave of headlines from Sunday and Monday touted the White House line: “Israel Repelled Iran’s Huge Attack. But Only With Help From U.S. and Arab Partners,” read one headline in The Wall Street Journal; “How the U.S. Formed a Fragile Middle Eastern Alliance to Repel Iran’s Israel Attack,” read another. Don’t buy the hype. As Tablet’s Tony Badran put it in an email:

Hyping the role of the regional states, and of European allies, is designed to promote the administration’s (pro-Iran) “regional integration” framework and its associated “regional security architecture.” The message is that in Team Obama-Biden’s regional framework, Israel’s security, when it comes to Iran, is internationalized, not sovereign. Any Israeli action outside those parameters set by the United States are deemed illegitimate. One does not require much imagination to recognize that this is what the administration has in mind for Gaza: an internationalized security arrangement, modeled on Lebanon. The endgame is to deny Israel the ability to go after Iranian equities on its borders—let alone Iran itself.

But that’s not good enough for deterrence, as Michael Doran and Can Kasapoglu argued in a 2022 essay for Tablet. 

Iranian offensive capabilities have developed in recent years toward “overmatch,” in the words of former CENTCOM commander Kenneth McKenzie—i.e., an ability to overwhelm defensive systems. (Although the Saturday attack was the largest ever in the Middle East, it represented only a fraction of what Iran could launch if it genuinely wanted to do damage—as evidenced by Hezbollah’s lack of participation). The fact of overmatch means that a “defense-only” security policy is insufficient, as Doran and Kasapo?lu explained:

For Iran to halt its aggression, leaders in Tehran must believe that America and allied forces will respond to provocations by exacting an unbearable cost. To be truly persuasive, American and allied forces must have at their ready sufficient firepower to respond instantaneously, and they must also demonstrate a steadfast willingness to conduct offensive operations. Such a forward-leaning strategy has long been central to Israeli military doctrine, though with some recent lapses under American political pressure. It is easy to see why Israel has long emphasized offense over defense; as a proverbial “one-bomb country,” a large percentage of whose GDP is generated within a few square miles of Tel Aviv, Israel simply cannot afford to wait to see how many bombs or missiles make it through “Iron Dome” or the latest arrays of anti-rocket laser weapons—especially if there is any chance that even one of the missiles in question might carry a “dirty bomb,” let alone a nuclear warhead. The more sophisticated Iranian systems become, the more aggressively the Israelis must lean forward in order to maintain deterrence.

Read the rest here:

Quote of the Day, Part I: 

Israel’s strained relationship with the Biden administration also might be playing into Iran’s thinking, said Sanam Vakil, a Middle East expert at the U.K.’s Chatham House think tank. “I think the Islamic Republic has decided that if Israel and Iran are going into an escalatory cycle, it’s better to do it now, during the Biden administration,” she said.

That’s from a Monday article in The Wall Street Journal, “Israel’s Next Move After Iran Attack Involves Complex Calculations.”

Quote of the Day, Part II: 

We have decided to create a new equation and it goes this way: from now on if the Zionist regime anywhere attacks our interests, assets, figures and citizens, we will reciprocally attack it from the origin of Iran.

That’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) head Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, quoted in the same article.

Image of the Day: 

That’s an illustration released by the IDF showing the origin points of the more than 350 drones, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles fired at Israel on Saturday—the largest-ever missile attack in the Middle East. Note the participation of the Houthis, over whom, according to the Biden administration, Iran does not exercise “full control.”

A real head-scratcher:

It almost seems like the behavior of a country that does not fear preemption or serious retaliation.

Within Our Lifetime, the Soros-funded, tax-exempt organization behind a wave of New York City protests named after Hamas’ “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation, participated Monday in “Flood Wall Street for Gaza,” an “economic blockade” of Wall Street. The protest was part of A15 Action, a coordinated global protest movement to “identify and blockade major choke points in the economy,” with local protest actions in dozens of cities around the United States and the world, including a blockade of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and of the highway outside of Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Also on Monday, British Iranian journalist Vahid Beheshti released what he claimed was a letter from the head of the IRGC intelligence organization titled “Supporting and encouraging Palestinian movements towards the political isolation of the Zionist regime” and referencing the April 15 protests.

Beheshti claims the letter is proof that the IRGC is “organizing and supporting” the April 15 action; we haven’t seen authentication of the letter or an English translation, so we don’t know. But we do know that IRGC networks are active in several Western countries; in November, True North reported that an estimated 700 Iranian regime agents were active in Canada, while The Times of London identified more than a “half-dozen” groups active in the United Kingdom’s protest movement with ties to the Iranian regime and the IRGC. There’s been less reporting on IRGC activity in the United States, but that’s under an administration that hired an Iranian agent into the Department of Defense (where she remains today) and thanks to a press that, on foreign policy in particular, acts as a glorified messaging arm of the Democratic Party. Let’s just say we wouldn’t be shocked if it turned out that the American protesters chanting “Death to America!” and “Hands off Iran!” were not merely useful idiots but somehow connected to the Iranian regime.

April 16, 2024 | 6 Comments »

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6 Comments / 6 Comments

  1. Tanna,

    Israel needs to fight like there enemy.

    I know your misspelling of “their” is a common mistake; but you had me baffled for a minute. I thought,

    “Israel needs to fight like (they’re their) enemy??”

    “Israel needs to fight like (there’s an) enemy??

    I finally realized that it was a spelling error — probably caused by the spell-checker.

    Pardon me for asking — what the heck is a “meme”? I’ve seen the word multiple times, since, I believe, the 2016 election; but I don’t know if I ever saw it before then. It’s not easy, being a “Boomer” (I do know what that means).

  2. There are several real wars.

    The cyber war, the military war, the political war, the Jew-hating war, the internal Israeli Jew war the internal Arab war, etc.

    ALl important, but 1st in importance is the Military war,2nd the Political war, 3rd the Internal Israeli Jew war, and so on.

    Just my opinion.

  3. 99% knockdown rate due to whomever. Not likely! Hashem did the knock down and cause the missiles to not reach their targets. As to Israel starting the next world war. Go ahead! Israel needs to fight like there enemy. At least I’ll be here to help my children rebuild. God help this current generation if all of us Baby boomers are dead and gone. As to the future, it looks to me like this chaos is soon coming to a neighborhood near us all.

  4. Brilliant reporting and analysis. Bravo to Park McDonald and all of th Middle East experts and commentators whom he cites as his sources. They are an impressive bunch.. Such a Probing attack would also, perhaps, expose

    It does seem likely that the recent Iranian attack was only a probing operation, in order to force Israel to reveal its order of battle if an attack was launched from Iran. Iran, presumably is planning a “follow-up” attack on Israel using nukes, or biological or chemical weapons.However, it is possible that the Obama-Biden administratopn might ask the Iranians to hold back from this all-out assault on Israel until after the November election (if Obama-Biden fails to cancel the election altoghether, which they nightattempt to do) Come to think of it, Iranian nuking of Israel as an “october surprise” that might be used by Obama-Biden to achieve multiple purposes–cancel the elections, distract Rpublican election monitors if the election does go forward, persuade voters that changing administatrations at a time of overwhelming national crisis, etc.