The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Assassination Will Not Help Israel

This is sheerest stupidity:

Nothing will change about Iran’s policy, or to how well it is carried out. Not a thing.

The problem with American leaders is that they don’t believe in anything enough to die for it. Oh, they have beliefs, the beliefs of a leech (which is unfair to leeches, which are, unlike ticks, largely beneficial to their hosts.) They really, really believe in neoliberalism, because it has made them filthy rich.

But die for it, except in the sense of “destroy the world for profit?”


The leadership of Hamas, Hezbollah, even Iran to a lesser extent, have beliefs they are willing to die for, personally, not just send other people to die for.

Further, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Iranian army (especially the Revolutionary Guards) are ideological organizations. From top to bottom, they believe in more or less the same things. You could kill the top 99 leaders of those orgs, and Mr. would not be that much different.

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In our society and our organizations, corporate or military or civil service, the people at the top have significantly different beliefs from the people in the middle, who have different beliefs from those at the bottom.

Further, because in our organizations there is vast infighting, because there isn’t any consensus beyond “make money” or “get power”. In organizations where, in fact, everyone isn’t pulling in more or less the same direction (if perhaps fighting a bit over “how to get there) leadership matters. The interests of employees in corps are not the same as executive interests. They don’t want the same things, or benefit from the same policies.

None of this applies significantly to Hezbollah or Hamas, to Ansar Allah (the Houthis) or (to a lesser extent) to the Revolutionary Guard. You could kill Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah tomorrow and it would make very little difference.

Leaders of genuine ideological organizations (we’re going to discuss this more in the future) do not have the calculus of late capitalists “leaders.” They do not think the same way. they do not feel the same way. And the organizations they run have genuine missions that the leaders and followers both believe in.

It’s been so long since we had almost any of that in our society that we don’t get how it works. Even NGOs aren’t like that: I know NGO workers and professional staff: they believe, but the people who run the NGOs don’t, actually, and don’t act in alliance with their values, morals and ethics.

Assassinating leaders of ideological orgs doesn’t matter. They just keep going.

This, plus the fact that the Israeli army is incompetent and low moral, is why Israel can’t “destroy” Hamas or Hezbollah.

As the master once wrote, “first make yourself invincible, then wait for your enemy’s moment of vulnerability.”

Israel has already lost. In truth, for those with eyes to see, in 2006 we learned they had already lost. Now it’s just about when and how much suffering.



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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 31, 2023


  1. “first make yourself invincible, then wait for your enemy’s moment of vulnerability.”

    Having nearly every member be able to function as a leader who has the same goals and beliefs is a major step for an organization in accomplishing that invincibility.

    It reminds me of the lessons from the quote “When the tyrant dies his rule ends, when the martyr dies his rule begins.”

    The west is deluded into thinking they are killing a tyrant of an organization when they are in actuality creating a martyr. This delusion is part projection (the west is run by tyrants), and part falling for the propaganda the west regularly spews at everyone else.

  2. Ian Welsh

    Brilliant quote.

  3. Carborundum

    Old IntOp’s Law [#n of many]: High capability organizations are never, ever, *ever* as monolithic, in composition or purpose, as external observers believe.

  4. NR

    The leadership of Hamas, Hezbollah, even Iran to a lesser extent, have beliefs they are willing to die for, personally, not just send other people to die for.

    Color me skeptical on this one, Ian. Hamas’s leaders live in luxury high-rises in Qatar. Nothing about that speaks of people who are willing to die for their cause, especially when the people they claim to care about are dying by the thousands on the ground in Gaza.

  5. Purple Library Guy

    Hrm. I’m thinking of another quote from Latin American resistance/revolutionary groups; roughly “They kept putting us in the ground, but they did not know we were seeds.”

  6. Poul

    In the long run I also see Israel as a doomed project. Like with Apartheid South Africa their support will disappear and Israel will have no sugar daddy to protect them in future wars. But right here and now the Israeli Jews are ultra-nationalists and as highly motivated as their opponents. They’ll use their power to try and eliminated the Palestinian problem in their God-given land. Do anyone doubt that Netanyahu & Co will kill, kill, and kill again until there are no Palestinians left?

    As long as the American political system supports them there is no brake on what they can do. I don’t see anything that is pushing Biden to stop the weapons from flowing to Israel.

  7. Harrym

    ‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’ – Voltaire

  8. Poul

    A twitter from Prof. Devi Sridhar, Edinburgh University, with an article in The Guardian about how disease could take a quarter of the lives in Gaza. This is probably one of the aims of the Israeli government. Create impossible conditions for the civilian population forcing them to leave or die. And leaving is not really possible.

    “We could see almost a quarter of Gaza’s population – close to half- a million human beings – dying within a year. Largely deaths from preventable health causes & collapse of the medical system. It’s a crude estimate, but one that is data-driven…”

  9. Diane Mason

    The American political system will keep on supporting Israel till that support costs it an election.

    The one foreign policy priority that should have mattered to Israel more than any other is ensuring that it never became a partisan issue in the US, but that’s exactly what it has done since getting into bed with the GOP.

    Supporting Israel used to be the policy both parties perceived as the prerequisite to winning US elections. Now it’s the policy that might well cost Biden the Presidency. Israel will never recover from making itself a bipartisan issue in the US, and for the most part it did it to itself.

  10. StewartM

    But die for it, except in the sense of “destroy the world for profit?”

    It’s not just that opinion why our leaders focus on killing the other side’s leaders. It’s because they see themselves as Nietzschean or Randian “Ubermenschen” and to their way of thinking, like Atlas Shrugged they are the movers and shakers and drivers of history while the plebes are the “useless eaters”. Thus, to defeat a cause you destroy *their* ubermenschen top layer.

    I had a historian who wrote a book about St. Thomas More, in which he speculated that deep-down More really feared Christianity wasn’t true. I think our leaders also share that fear, though they will never admit it—that they can’t defeat a Hezbollah because it’s a true bottom-up movement, and thus any head they cut off will simply regenerate.

    As for what drives history, people first ‘vote with their feet’, with action, often in the face of official disdain, ostracism, and outright prohibitions, and only when it appears that they might win is when some of the elite break away to embrace their cause (as Marx observed). A fairly recent political example is gay marriage–a quarter century ago, you’d be hard pressed to find any national politician of note who supported it, and only after people en masse started “voting with their feet” did some come politicians come around (Obama ‘rediscovered’ he was for it after all). Now it’s pretty mainstream.

  11. JohnnyGL

    I think it says something that Hamas hasn’t used suicide attacks against the IDF, yet. They seem quite comfortable wrecking armored vehicles by the dozen, for now.

  12. Jan Wiklund

    If it just was about beliefs….

    When Lenin died in 1924 most of the intelligence went out of the Russian Communist Party. Lenin was a brilliant tactician, his successors were dull sluggers. It seems that somebody that has succeeded to build a combative and ideologically committed organization must be more efficient than his/her successors, who have just followed suit.

    So let’s hope that Nasrallah survives.

  13. Ian Welsh

    The Communists at the time of Lenin’s death were not unified ideologically–they did not all agree on what to do.

  14. capelin

    @ NR

    “Hamas’s leaders live in luxury high-rises in Qatar. Nothing about that speaks of people who are willing to die for their cause, especially when the people they claim to care about are dying by the thousands on the ground in Gaza.”

    As if Israeli and Western leaders don’t live in luxury whatever’s.

    To what extent are the “Hamas leadership” leadership; or the Hamas Dept of External Affairs?

    Hearkening back to Ian’s last article, a certain amount of elite-ness would be a prerequisite for entry to the elite “carve-up-the-little-people” table.

    No tunnelers allowed.

  15. “When Lenin died in 1924…. his successors were dull sluggers”

    The successors of Lenin who weren’t sent to the Gulags had to be dull, or at least appear to be so, or else they’d be the next “traitors” sent to a prison camp.

    The intelligence in the USSR Communist party was eliminated by an interparty civil war. This is not the equivalent to the West assassinating a leader of Hamas, Hezbollah, or Iran.

  16. Bill H.

    We have been killing the leader of terrorist organizations for more than two decades now, and if it has reduced terrorism our government is certainly unaware of it. They are screaming at us about fear and terror louder than ever, the cost of “the War on Terror” is the highest now that it has ever been, and we are firing Hellfire missiles from unmanned aircraft in more nations now than we were under even Obama.

  17. NR


    Yes, that’s exactly the point I was making. Hamas’s leaders are no different from leaders in Israel or America or Germany or Russia or wherever else. They live lives of luxury and comfort while their people suffer. And they are perfectly willing to sacrifice their people so long as they get to continue living that way.

  18. Jan Wiklund

    Ian: No organization has ever been united about everything. As soon there is a new development, there is disagreement, and has to be. Even in Hisbollah. The issue is to develop an agreement, and do that without murderous infighting as in the Soviet case.

  19. Purple Library Guy

    The political leadership of Hamas, even more than politicians in general, are riding a tiger. Western politicians are able to do a bunch of stuff the people don’t want because there’s a huge sophisticated propaganda apparatus persuading the people to accept or ignore them doing that particular stuff, which would turn on them if they did something different.
    The leaders of Hamas have no such propaganda apparatus. And the people they lead have nothing to lose. If they don’t order stuff the rank and file of Hamas want, the rank and file of Hamas will get somebody else. It’s far from certain that the October 7th attack was something the out-of-Gaza political leadership even wanted, as opposed to the in-Gaza military leadership.

    And thinking of “nothing to lose”, again, the Hamas leaders Israel is killing are military leaders in Gaza . . . and nobody in Gaza is going to be afraid to step into those shoes. I mean, what’s the difference? Become a leader in Hamas, Israel will try to kill you. Just live as an ordinary person in Gaza, Israel will try to kill you. What’s the difference?

  20. Ian Welsh


    the Soviet communists had huge divisions on what they wanted to do. HUGE. It is not comparable.

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