On the evening of Thursday, October 19, the thirteenth day of Israel’s bitter war against not only Hamas but also Hezbollah, it is apparent that Israel’s government has chosen reliance on American aid, in all its forms, as a central pillar of its entire war strategy. Barak Ravid reported yesterday in Axios a statement by Minister of Defense Galant that Israel “will need US support for a long period of time”. Even earlier, Karoun Demirjian of The New York Times reported that Israel had asked for $10 billion of emergency aid. Two examples will suffice to demonstrate that explicit and extensive dependence on America is a deeply flawed choice, which will not bring salvation.
First, it is apparent that at least some of the American assistance will have no significant impact on the course of the war. For example, a shipment heralded today by the Defense Ministry appears to have consisted of David urban light armoured vehicles, which are assembled by MDT Armor Corporation of Auburn, Alabama. These are essentially armoured police jeeps, as frequently used by British forces in Northern Ireland. When deployed by the British Army on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, similar ‘Snatch Land Rovers’ proved grossly inappropriate, sufficiently so that the sensationalist press called them ‘mobile coffins’. Israel frequently uses such vehicles during counter-terrorism activity in the West Bank, but they cannot be used in battle, either in Gaza or in Lebanon. The fact that the newly-delivered vehicles appear to be replacements for IDF losses suffered so far during the war, which means losses near Gaza, underlines the fact that Israel was defending the Gaza border with forces completely unsuitable for the task, and is now not prioritising equipment deliveries correctly.
The second vital point to understand is that the indirect form of American assistance, the dispatch of military forces to the Middle East to deter attacks on Israel by Hezbollah or Iran, is of very limited practical utility. Anonymous American officials have indicated that in case of a large-scale Hezbollah attack, America will fight alongside Israel, according to Jacob Magid of The Times of Israel. American public statements have been a world away from this. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the deployment of two carriers is “meant as a deterrent”, with no word of possible military action. The White House Press Secretary spoke in typically non-committal terms of “a sincere capability of protecting and defending those national interests if need be”. Today, a Turkish defense official supposedly passed on an American comment that the carriers were sent “for the possible evacuation of civilians”.
In practice, a simple look at Stratfor’s Naval update map will show the interested reader that one of the two carriers, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), is still thousands of miles away from the war, somewhere in the Atlantic. A more detailed view, provided by the United States Naval Institute’s Fleet and Marine Tracker, shows that out of a total ‘Battle Force’ of 291 warships and support vessels, just 21 are deployed with the 6th Fleet in European waters, including the Mediterranean, and another 13 are deployed with the 5th Fleet, in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula and in the northern Indian Ocean. More than half of America’s deployed naval ships are with the 7th Fleet in the Pacific, demonstrating the readily apparent fact that the modern U.S. Navy is too small for its worldwide responsibilities.
Current American dispositions in the Middle East are not in fact sharply focused on deterring Iran. Two large warships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group left the Persian Gulf last weekend. This happened just two months after they sailed into the Gulf, as part of a much-reported response to Iranian threats to merchant shipping. In practice, America has largely abandoned the task of deterring Iran for at least the last two years. The last American capital ship to have sailed to the Central Command area of operations prior to the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), the identical USS Essex (LHD-2), left in early 2022. The last carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), departed even earlier, after the disastrous departure of American and allied forces from Afghanistan. Not only did Israel ignore the obvious omen of August 2021, it is now pinning exaggerated hope on an American government and military which show no sign of so much as planning for a military confrontation with Iran, let alone preparing American public opinion for this possibility. Neither Iran nor Hezbollah can or will be deterred in such a fashion.
The U.S. Navy is undoubtedly the world’s most powerful, and may have directly assisted Israel this very evening, when the destroyer USS Carney (DDG-64) intercepted drones and cruise missiles over the Red Sea which were “potentially [headed] toward targets in Israel,” as reported by CNN. Nonetheless, American forces have never previously fought alongside Israel in any war, and the probability that this will now change is low. As before, Israel will have to fight and win on its own. To do so, it first needs to understand this fact, clearly and unambiguously.