Gaza — An Exercise in Subtle Intelligence

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Intelligence work is usually thought of as being conducted by costly and sometimes high tech methods. A glance at the intelligence budgets of the US, Russia, China, and a few others would confirm that view.

For the most part, that view is accurate.

 

canstock-2016-sep-spy-satellite

We expect our intelligence agencies to use extravagantly expensive satellites, planes, drones, submarines, ships, and listening stations. They do, and those methods often lead to obtaining critical intelligence.

We also expect agencies to conduct Human Intelligence, or “HUMINT.” HUMINT requires vast amounts of personnel around the globe and at home to penetrate the governments, military, and industries of states that are of concern to us. It’s expensive, but it does indeed get results. It never gets as many results as we would like, but it gets a lot more than if we didn’t try.

Teams of analysts rely on these and other sources to create best guesses about what is going on in the world. With so much data of various forms arriving all day, every day, every week at the desks of various teams, it’s not always easy to sift through the chaff to find the best wheat. The collective experience of an analytical team is a huge factor in this. Modern computers with good software help improve the results.

With so much high dollar, high tech spying going on, it’s easy to miss subtler pieces of intelligence that become available to us. Yet sometimes, these seemingly mundane, inglorious bits of information can give us important insights.

One current example of an important subtle bit of information is staring us in the face in the Gaza Strip.

In a land where bombs, missiles, assassinations, and kidnappings are daily events, sets of well-proven expectations enter into our judgements about the current situation in Gaza. One clearly verifiable phenomena occurring in Gaza today is the change amongst Palestinian voters regarding the upcoming elections, which will possibly be held this October.

In the 2005 elections, Hamas ran on a We Hate Israel So You Must Love Us platform. That platform plank was supported by another tried-and-true Hamas marketing method, the Love Us and Vote for us or We Kill You method.

 

canstock-2016-sep-burning-flags-of-palestine-and-israel

Unlike the Palestinian West Bank, where the Fatah political group held sway, in Gaza, Hamas had most of the guns and controlled most of the local media so Hamas got the votes. The Vote for Us or We Kill You method is effective for winning elections. It’s far less effective at governing. Hamas has demonstrated the difference very clearly.

Thanks to Hamas, Gaza is an economic disaster, a health disaster, and a hellish place for Palestinian children to live.

The basic fact that Hamas is even worse than the governments in places like Chicago or DC when it comes to completing the basic tasks of government is no great intelligence coup. As long as Hamas could show that they were hurting Israel, they could keep their outside financial support from Europe, various fellow terrorist governments, the UN, etc. The question of whether or not Hamas would govern anything other than the usual Kill the Jews program was generally ignored by many Palestinians and many outsiders.

So here is the good news.

Unlike during the 2005 campaign, Palestinians are frequently and sometimes openly speaking against Hamas. Hamas’s chief rival, Fatah, is happy about that. But when we look more closely, the Palestinians in Gaza are not expressing much love for Fatah either.

The most important piece of intelligence data in Gaza today has to do with the Palestinian people in Gaza.

They are less impressed than ever with suicide bombs in Israel, missiles fired into Israel, kidnapping of Israelis, etc. The majority of the Palestinian public in Gaza is now most concerned with fixing Gaza. They want real schools, real health care, jobs, and reconstruction of the many bombed out areas of Gaza. Crushing Israel is not on most of their wish lists.

Both Fatah and Hamas are aware of this shift in their respective voters.

Both groups have responded with massive social media campaigns. Both parties have adopted newer platforms, or at least are presenting them in social media. In fact, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get a few Gaza trolls attacking this article.

The problem for both groups, but especially for Hamas, is that few Palestinians are buying Hamas’s shiny new You’re Better Off Today Than You Were Six Years Ago campaign.

Palestinians are openly laughing at Hamas’s ridiculous claims of having improved life in Gaza. It hasn’t, and the folks in Gaza know it and admit it.  In particular, young Palestinian adults are mocking Hamas’s social media campaign. They routinely convert Hamas campaign videos into dark comedy.

None of this means that we should expect a sudden and dramatic change in life in Gaza after the October elections.

The Palestinian public may not be able to exercise a democratic choice. A panicking Hamas is capable of anything. But an important implication for intelligence on Gaza should not be ignored. The Kill the Jews sales pitch is no longer a sufficiently popular product with the voters in Gaza.

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Over time, this may lead to improvement in Gaza and a lessening of the conflict with Israel. A few decades ago, an Israeli woman told me, “There will be peace in Israel and Palestine when Palestinians love their children more than they hate Israeli children.” I have always been certain that she was right. That day may be arriving in Gaza.

Taiwan’s Election is a Communist Rejection

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On January 16, 2016, Taiwan held national elections. The results were clear. Dr. Tsai Ing-wen, the Democratic Progressive Party (“DPP”) chairperson and presidential candidate, won a landslide victory with 56.1% of the votes. Eric Chu of the Kuomintang Party (“KMT”) garnered 30.1% percent of the votes.

 

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

President-Elect Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen
Image by MiNe(sfmine79), wikimedia commons.

 

In the same elections, the DPP achieved a clear majority in the legislature, winning 68 of 110 seats. That is enough for the DPP to legally overcome any opposition in the legislature. Whenever a national election results in a landslide, usually at least one of two things is true – either the elections are the single candidate, North Korean style farce, or the voters are unhappy with the status quo. In the case of Taiwan, it is the latter, but there is more to it than that.

Prior to the elections, the Taiwanese public had made it clear that they were tired of the corruption and economic mismanagement that their government had inflicted on them. On January 16, they were largely voting for change.

At the same time, a significant portion of previously steadfast KMT loyalists had lost faith in their party because the KMT had shifted toward overt cooperation with the communist regime in Beijing. The KMT had bet heavily on the benefits of economic cooperation with Communist China. That bet did not pay off.

It is a mystery why the Kuomintang Party ignored the pathetic examples many Western nations have set by trusting Communist China in business and diplomatic dealings. A glance at the last thirty years of US history would have let them know what to expect. They either never took that glance, or they were serving interests other than those of the people of Taiwan.

Communist China’s reactionary response to the DPP’s victory was swift and predictable. The regime in Beijing publicly warned Taiwan that any attempt at declaring independence will result in an immediate, crushing military defeat by the Red Army.

To Westerners, this response might sound a bit severe and childishly undiplomatic, but nobody in Taiwan was surprised. The communists have been demanding the “return” of Taiwan to Communist China since the Chinese Nationalist Army retreated to that island in 1949. Since then, “obey our rule or die” has been Beijing’s standard mantra toward Taiwan.

 

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that pesky 110 miles of water. Image by CIA, public domain.

Taiwan, Chinese coast, and that
pesky 110 miles of water.
Image by CIA, public domain.

 

One might wonder why, since the Maoist regime in Beijing was so easily able to invade and occupy Tibet, wouldn’t they do the same with Taiwan?

The answer is water – about 110 miles of it. That’s the distance from the mainland shores to the beaches in Taiwan. The Red Army did not require a navy to invade and occupy Tibet. Invading Taiwan, on the other hand, would require a strong enough navy, and China does not quite have that yet. They are working on it. For decades, Communist China has consistently declared its intent to “reunite” Taiwan “by force, if necessary.” So far, the threats have not caused the Taiwanese to surrender their freedom to Beijing. When the KMT decided to move closer to the communist regime the Taiwanese voters threw them out.

So what do the election results mean for Taiwan’s Western Pacific neighbors?

For South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Brunei, it’s good news. All of them have grown weary of Communist China’s increasingly aggressive policy. Taiwan’s increasing acquiescence to Beijing had been a worrying development for them.

What does it mean for the United States of America?

For the moment, the reaction in the US has been quiet relief. In diplomatic terms, here is the official US response:

“We share with the Taiwan people a profound interest in the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. We look forward to working with Dr. Tsai and Taiwan’s leaders of all parties to advance our many common interests and further strengthen the unofficial relationship between the United States and the people of Taiwan.”

Leave it to the folks at Foggy Bottom to simultaneously use the terms “profound” and “unofficial” when taking a “stand.” Or would that be a “non-stand?”

Diplomatic ambiguity aside, US leaders, albeit at the pace of a disabled snail, have come to realize that China has, in fact, been telling the truth for the last sixty-six years concerning its aggressive intentions, and that even the government in Beijing occasionally speaks the truth.

Hard core Beijing-lovers in Washington have fallen on hard times. Their cash is still welcome, but they are as out-of-fashion as integrity inside the Washington Beltway. In practical terms, the US government will continue to pretend to believe that fair and friendly cooperation with Communist China is possible. In the meantime, the US will allow a dribble of military aid to flow to Taiwan and the Philippines. Relations with Viet Nam will improve, and the US will send that country token military aid. The cost of the PR photo shoots in Viet Nam heralding in the new cooperation will be greater than the value of the equipment we send them.

In my view, the election results in Taiwan are good news. Let us hope that for the sake of the people of Taiwan, and for the sake of everyone in the Western Pacific, the DPP will use its power to truly represent the democratic will of the people of Taiwan.

 

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Candidate “None of These” Takes Nevada Primary

By Piper Bayard

I 100% applaud the people of Nevada. The first step to creating better government is to stop accepting the crap that the two self-serving parties keep trying to shove down our throats. Nevada, you rock!

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Nevada Democrats Chose “None of These Candidates” in Primary

 

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Starting with something quite serious today. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi is being held in Mexico on weapons charges. On March 31, 2014, he was attempting to meet his friends in San Ysidro for dinner, and he missed the exit, landing him at the Mexican border. This is not uncommon. With no chance to turn around, the first thing he told the border officials was that he wasn’t trying to enter Mexico, and that he was just trying to turn around and get back to San Ysidro. He was completely up front about the three legal firearms in his possession. These facts are not disputed. He was arrested and tossed into prison in Tijuana. He has recently been relocated to a prison in Tecate.

 

U.S.M.C. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi

U.S.M.C. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi

 

Sgt. Tahmooressi served two deployments in Afghanistan, was honorably discharged, and was being treated in San Diego for PTSD. Unfortunately, as of June 19, in spite of numerous petitions and a media outcry, our administration has exhibited virtually no interest in bringing back our Marine.

For more information, see Why is a US Marine in a Mexican Jail? The Case of Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi and US Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi Stuck in Mexican Jail on Gun Charges.

I’m not big on petitions, but I did sign this one. Demand Release of U.S.M.C. Sgt. Tahmooressi Suffering with PTSD from Mexico Imprisonment. We can also help on social media by using the hashtag #bringbackourmarine to keep it trending and raise awareness that this travesty has occurred.

And on lighter notes . . .

Myndi Shafer clues us in on the Summer Book Crush — over 80 Book Boyfriend Flings by over 30 authors for just $0.99. Summer Book Crush

 

Summer Book Crush

 

If there’s anything I’ve learned from our editor, NYT Bestseller Ellie Ann, it’s that perfectionism doesn’t pay. Kassandra Lamb helps folks deal this this career-stunting problem. Hi, I’m Kass, and I’m a Recovering Perfectionist

5 Things I Learned as an Anonymous TSA Blogger by Jason Edward Harrington.

Susan Spann reminds us of the power of simple kindnesses. The Postman Always Waves Twice

DD, Michael Rooker, and Piper Denver Comic Con June 2014

DD, Michael Rooker, and Piper
Denver Comic Con June 2014

 

Note of Interest: I had a cool weekend at the Denver Comic Con. DD and I got to hang out with Human Echoes podcaster Tony Southcotte and NYT Bestseller Ellie Ann, as well as friends and fellow authors Juliette Terzieff and Jinxie Gervasio. Also had a nice surprise in the form of dinner with Michael Rooker. He’s not just Merle Dixon, zombie killer from The Walking Dead, but also a Southern gentleman and a lovely man with whom to spend an evening. Be sure to catch his upcoming movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, in which he plays bad guy Yondu.

Travel to Japan with Mihael Herrera. Travel Day — Visit to Mt. Takao

Shaggy from Scooby Doo

We lost a radio icon this week. Casey Kasem, the voice of Shaggy on “Scooby-Doo” and the DJ who gave my generation America’s Top 40 Countdown each week has passed on to that Great Sound Booth in the Sky. Jenny Hansen of More Cowbell called my attention to this fitting tribute, In Honor of Casey Kasem, Counting Down Baseball’s Best Songs.

And for Game of Thrones fans, George R.R. Martin is now on Twitter at @GRRMspeaking.

We fans have a message for you, George . . .

Campaign Style Poll of the Week

All the best to all of you for a week of satisfying choices.