A partnership of HuffPost and the

Is the Gaza Operation Really Just a Glorified War Game?

John McCreary, editor of AFCEA Intelligence's Nightwatch writes: "Haaretz reported on 5 January the Israel Air Force on Sunday struck and wounded Husam Hamdan, a senior Hamas militant responsible for the Qassam rocket infrastructure in the Gaza town of Khan Yunis and the firing of Grad rockets on Be'er Sheva and Ofakim. The attack also wounded. . . Mohammed Hilo and Mohammed Shalfuh. . . who helped supervise the construction and firing of [said] Qassams."

McCreary maintains that this shows that Israel's air targeting is the result of "detailed tactical intelligence [that's part of] a strategic mosaic of the rocket infrastructure, working backwards from each Israeli town hit by rockets." He prefaces that with: "Israel is using a systemic approach to destroy the rocket threat, from weapons design to manufacture to targeting." [Emphasis added]

"Assuming the reports are accurate," he concludes, the Gaza operation, "is emerging as a text book example of how tactical targeting integrated in a phenomenological, process-based strategy can achieve near permanent strategic results." The upshot? The Israelis "stand a reasonable chance of destroying the present core of Palestinian racketeers."

McCreary's professional (and probably personal) admiration is clear. But by this point in time, the magnificence of the Israeli Defense Forces, however well deserved its reputation, has been repeated ad nauseam. The Six-Day War is a legend. Hagganah, Irgun, and Lehi are Israel's equivalent of the Minutemen. As for intelligence agencies, few anywhere are on a par with Mossad and the Shin Bet.

But between their cutting-edge military and the politicians who have emerged from its highest ranks to lead the country, like Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak, you could almost make the case Israel is ruled by a military junta.

Seen in that light, Operation Cast Lead (surely that ponderous phrase rolls off the tongue better in Hebrew) serves another purpose besides: 1. breaking Hamas, 2. facilitating the military's climb back up the peg it was taken down by Hezbollah in 2006, and 3. helping politicians win the upcoming presidential election.

One can't help but wonder if the Gaza offensive is, in large part, a war game to prepare Israel for an eventual showdown with Iran, which it's also trying to draw out. Between official rhetoric and college youth signing a petition pledging to fight in Gaza, Iran has certainly cooperated.

It's almost as if Israel can't wait until Iran has developed its nuclear weapons to the point where Israel can justify -- to the United States anyway -- a bombing campaign, not to mention a subsequent invasion.

Thus would the return of Israel's glory days, such as in 1981 when it bombed Iraq's Osirak reactor, be assured. Never mind trying to preserve a religious state, it's a military state Israel seeks to perpetuate, replete with its high-tech industry aid from the United States.

But as long as Israel clings to its besieged mentality, it will never be a major player on the world stage. It's time for Israel to grow up and think globally -- or at least regionally. It just might discover that what's best for the Middle East is also to the advantage of Israel.

Subscribe to the World Post email.