Gaza: Least likely place to use US Marines to rescue American citizens?

Kooky deployment?

Why are we sending an amphibious readiness group (ARG) with a Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) embarked to sit off the Levantine coast?

US officials say it’s to be prepared for any eventuality, including the need to evacuate American citizens, as the conflict between Hamas and Israel heats up.

But let’s parse that.  Are the US officials suggesting we will need to evacuate Americans from Gaza?  And if we were to do that, what exactly would be the process?  Landing Marines from the 24 MEU in Gaza?  Flying helicopters from the ARG flagship, USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), into Gaza?

Why would we do that, when Egypt and even Hamas would cooperate, if we asked, to get Americans out of Gaza through Egypt?  It’s not to Hamas’s advantage to have Americans effectively held hostage in Gaza, and both Mohammed Morsi and the Hamas leadership know that.  Even if Hamas is intransigent, Morsi knows that he will retain more political independence, and greater scope of action, if he makes sure the Americans get out.  (Remember, Hamas is not his endgame.  Morsi has his own plans for Israel and Jerusalem.  See links at the end for background.*)

Morsi would broker the evacuation of Americans in Gaza if it came to that.  Neither he nor Hamas wants the US Marines in Gaza.

Neither would Israel, of course, because the presence of the US Marines would effectively tie Israel’s hands in dealing with Hamas’s leadership and infrastructure.  Why would the US put troops unilaterally into a local conflict being fought by one of our allies?


Israel and Gaza


Yet if we don’t envision putting Marines into Gaza, then there’s no role for the ARG/MEU in this situation.  Americans evacuated through Egypt don’t need a Navy ship or the US Marines; they need a flight out on an airline or charter jet.

I note but dismiss the media reports that we are moving the ARG/MEU to the Eastern Mediterranean to facilitate the evacuation of Americans from Israel.  This purpose would assume a catastrophic widening of the conflict that is not indicated by the circumstances.  More on that in a minute.  It would also assume conditions of chaos or lockdown in Israel, in which American citizens would have no option for escape other than the use of armed US Marines, whom we would apparently, in this scenario, send into … Israel?

In no case does the tool fit the problem here.  An ARG/MEU isn’t even the right tool to influence the fight from offshore, for which you want an aircraft carrier, US Air Force assets, and/or cruisers or destroyers.  As far as can be determined, the Obama administration has no intention of trying to affect the fight ashore, even from a stand-off distance.  But supposing it did, the fact is that an ARG/MEU is the right tool only if you especially want to put Marines over the beach.  In terms of performing as an intelligence collection asset, moreover, while the ARG/MEU can hold its own in some ways, national assets and the other theater assets – Air Force, Navy – have significant advantages over it.

What, exactly, does the Obama administration expect here?  Does it expect Americans to come under attack and need evacuating in Egypt?  In Lebanon?  If so, why?  And why does it expect to need Marines and their Navy combatant ships to get the job done?

The choice to send the ARG/MEU to the Eastern Mediterranean, rather than sending it home to the East coast – from which it departed on 27 March – seems to be a gesture more than anything else.  I discount the possibility that Obama plans to stymie the Israelis by putting Marines in Gaza.  That would raise a howl in his own Congress.  I also discount the idea that there is any real likelihood of the Middle East “exploding” if Israel does mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

If it did explode, one ARG/MEU would be wholly inadequate to deal with the multitude of crises that would erupt.  But it’s not going to, because the governments with radical leaders – Egypt, Turkey, Iran – aren’t ready for it to explode yet.  They are not positioned to take advantage of a tumultuous crisis in which real changes could be made to the status quo.  Morsi wants to make only the changes he intends to the Egyptian relationship with Israel, and make them on his timetable; he’s not interested in being backed into anything by Hamas.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dealing with Syria, is not prepared for the conflict to expand.  Even Iran isn’t necessarily ready, not because she doesn’t have her nukes yet, but because neither Iran nor anyone else knows if the US will step in to help contain the consequences, if the Gaza-Israel conflict expands across the region.  It’s one thing to plan on pushing against a US-backed order.  It’s another to be uncertain what might happen to the order, if you pushed.

The radicals are in charge of governments now, and they aren’t going to let things get out of control in their own countries.  Terrorists can’t mount a militarily meaningful attack on Israel, and Morsi isn’t going to let them do it from Egypt, in any case.  Hezbollah isn’t letting them do it from Lebanon either.  Jordan certainly will not allow it.   And none of the national governments – Egypt’s, Lebanon’s, Turkey’s, Iran’s, Jordan’s, Saudi Arabia’s – sees this as the time to try to rock Israel on her heels.

The reason is that they’re not ready for what could happen afterward.  Most of them don’t mind if it happens – I exclude Jordan and Saudi Arabia from this, as their monarchies would be at risk – but they want to prepare themselves and be positioned to exploit the turn of events.

Four years ago, the US could have made it clear, with relatively little effort, that the status quo would be protected.  It would naturally take a little more effort now, because of the outcomes of the Arab Spring:  Mubarak gone, Hezbollah firmly in control of Lebanon, Syria in an uproar and Assad unable to govern.  But the most basic difference between November 2008 and November 2012 is that the actors in the Middle East can no longer reliably assess what the US will and won’t tolerate.

Fortunately, they aren’t ready to push the status quo’s house of cards down just yet.  It still has benefits for them.  Even if Israel does mount a ground invasion of Gaza, there is no reason to expect that any kind of rioting in the region would turn into an uncontrollable conflagration.  The Middle East’s rulers don’t want it to.

*For background on my assessment of what’s going on in the Middle East, and why the hardy old “Palestinian” narrative is being superseded as we speak, please see the following:

Why Iran now NEEDS the bomb

The Race to Jerusalem

Tumultus Post-Americanus

The Next Phase of World War IV?

The Next Phase of World War IV? – Part 2

The Next Phase of World War IV? – Part 3

The Next Phase of World War IV? – Part 4/Final

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online.

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20 thoughts on “Gaza: Least likely place to use US Marines to rescue American citizens?”

  1. am I remembering correctly, did we send a ship to evacuate Americans in Lebanon when the Israelis were bombing the joint during the last fight with Hezbollah?

  2. It’s a good move, ‘to be prepared for any eventuality in the region.” I see the ARG deployment as part of the general increasing Western military build up in the region. Adds some flexibility, a good thing. It has to do as much with the situation in other states as with Israel and Gaza. Although it also covers “some” evacuation contingencies in a secondary role.

    The circumstances surrounding the ARG’s eventual departure from the Levantine coast will tell us more than it’s arrival. Again, a good precautionary move on the US’s part.

  3. According to there are @30 warships within a day sail of the Levantine coast. Mostly the US 6th fleet, HMS “Illustrious”, six Turkish vessels (I believe ex-French A69 class corvettes) and two Russian vessels, Guided Missile Cruiser “Moskva, Alligator class Landing Ship “Saratov”. I think USS “Cole” is also in the vicinity.

    It was shocking, and very telling, to see the Turkish FM crying in grief in Gaza, along with the Turkish PM accusing the Israelis of “ethnic cleansing”! This is the clearest proof to date that the Turkish leadership is overtly driven by religious ideology. Some idiots still want them in the EU, suicidal idiots that is.

    1. the EU made it clear that Turkey wasn’t ever getting in….and the Turks turned east to sell their manufactures and keep their economy bubbling.

      without attempting defense of Erdogan, the increase in the rhetoric is just as likely to be a product of playing to the new audience (and covering butt for their war against Assad) rather than unmasking what’s driving them. the ideology ain’t absent but you’re assuming a bit much.

      let’s not fail to understand that the motives for EU rejection weren’t pure and that the rejection closed the door that we perobably wanted them to walk through.

      1. Well, I do hope the EU door remains closed. Permanently.

        Too bad they haven’t chosen to leave infidel NATO. Somehow, the idea of German and Dutch Patriot batteries covering Turkey’s southern flank while she is engaged in a not so covert war against Syria, doesn’t sit quite well with my idea of Eurasian geopolitical stability.

        Off topic
        Since you’re a drone fan, I thought I’d bring this to your attention.

      2. Not to entirely discount the “playing to the new audience (and covering butt for their war against Assad)” factor but Erdogan just declared Israel to be a “terrorist state” and guilty of “ethnic cleansing”…so, how extreme does his rhetoric need to be before you admit to the reality that he’s another Islamic radical who is, playing to the west, in order to keep the advantages that relationship provides?

        Turkey being admitted into EU membership would open the floodgates to M.E. Muslim immigration into Europe an eventuality we definitely don’t ‘want’. Not due to race or ethnicity but solely due to those immigrant’s unwillingness to assimilate and, the desire of a majority of Muslim immigrants to assimilate Europe into the Ummah.

        “One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.” Algerian leader Houari Boumedienne speaking at the UN, 1974

        “Islam is a revolutionary ideology and program which seeks to alter the social order of the whole world and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and ideals. Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the Earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam, regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it.” Sayyed Abul Ala Maududi,founder of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, April, 1939

        1. GB, Turkey may be more fish than fowl under Erdogan, but it’s not at all a single thing.

          I neither like nor trust Erdogan, but there’s no better contender for bridging the gap between the ME and the West.

          Turkey is working with us and has assumed the role of public face for the coalition behind the effort to topple the Assad dictatorship which is the key to breaking Iranian influence in the ME.

          Here’s an intriguing little thing from our NATO pal…..

          1. Sorry fuster but toppling the Assad dictatorship is NOT the key to breaking Iranian influence in the ME. Only stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program can prevent Iran’s soon to be greatly expanded prestige in the ME. And the ONLY way to stop the Iranian’s program is with American military power. But Obama is on record as stating he will not do that, so Iran’s going to get nukes and, step by step, like dominoes falling, everything else I’ve been predicting is coming to pass.

            Morsi has just assumed dictatorial powers in Egypt. 87% of Egyptians think they should have nukes too and 62% think Ahmadinejad is Egypt’s friend, while 77% are in favor of abrogating the Israeli/Egyptian treaty.

            Lest you think this to be anything new and continue to doubt the coming nuclear armed Caliphate…the Egyptian cleric who launched Morsi’s presidential bid had this to say when he did so;

            1. Don’t fret GB.
              We’ll just fly drones with our new super-secret opinion changing microwave warheads over the ME.

              Problem solved. 🙂

              Btw I hope you are all enjoying your Thanksgiving holiday

            2. GB, stopping Iran’s weapons program is key to stopping Iran, but Iranian influence in the region can be broken prior to that and independently of it

  4. OC, this is OT and probably reflects my ignorance, but have you ever specifically addressed Martin van Creveld’s arguments from “Defending Israel” about the West Bank and Israel’s territorial defense? I’d be curious to read your thoughts.

    1. Jonathan — welcome, and my apologies for the delay in responding to your question.

      I don’t know that I have written formally on van Creveld’s argument, but as you may imagine, I disagree with him.

      The important thing to understand about can Creveld’s argument is that it depends entirely on Israel not NEEDING to defend herself inside a border that traces the Green Line.

      Because he is a well-known writer on military topics, van Creveld has been given a lot of credibility with little to no analysis of his points. He doesn’t actually argue that Israel CAN defend herself within a “Green Line” border. He offers reasons why — with the right agreement with the PA — Israel won’t HAVE to defend herself.

      That’s a different argument, and it boils down to whether you trust the PA and its various supporters.

      Inside the pre-1967 armistice line, Israel’s defense is very difficult, and made more so by today’s technology. The key vulnerability comes from not holding the eastern approaches to the mountains north and south of Jerusalem.

      I wrote about the geography of Israel’s defense in a 2009 series called “The Next Phase of World War IV.” Part 2 was about the defense of Israel:

      1. Thanks and sorry for my late reply. I read your Part 2 before I left my comment but wasn’t sure you would see my reply if I left it on that post. By chance I am visiting Israel, which is probably why I read your Israel post. Since I left my comment I drove from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea on the nice new Highway 1 that is downhill all the way, past Ma’aleh Adumim, past Jericho. It seems obvious that Israel must hold this territory at all costs. It was good to see Israeli warplanes flying over the Dead Sea in the evening. It’s a relatively tranquil area now but one wonders what will happen if/when Jordan falls apart.

  5. You’re gonna love this

    Sanctions? Did anyone hear anything about “sanctions”? Something about tightening “sanctions” having a punitive effect on the Iranian economy?

    Let’s see if I can figure this one out.
    NATO member Turkey , the same Turkey that has requested NATO Patriot batteries for her defense against Iranian ally Syria, and is funneling Western cash/weapons to the Syrian “rebels”…is also financing Iran (in GOLD) to indirectly finance/arm Hezbollah, Hamas and ….Assad.

    Add that to the rest of the regional mayhem.

    Someone is not telling us exactly what’s going on down there.

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