Friday, August 22, 2014

Taking out Hamas

Many people say in a resigned manner, what's the point of Israel fighting a war against Hamas in Gaza again, since they can always find new men to replace those the IDF kills.  As one is killed another one or two pop up.  But, this is not only defeatist, it is wrong.
If you take bricks randomly out of a wall, the wall will be weakened and as you continue to remove bricks eventually, it stands to reason, the wall will fall down.  If we estimate how many bricks need to be removed for the wall to collapse, the answer is about 25%.  This is also the estimate in game theory of when an organization will cease to function effectively, if 25% of its operatives, at all levels, are removed randomly.  Thus, in order to render Hamas ineffectual, unable to pass orders up and down the chain of command, Israel needs to destroy ca. 25% of its manpower, including its leadership.  How many is that? 
There are estimates that Hamas has ca. 20,000 fighters (they are not all trained soldiers, rather many irregulars).  But, more serious estimates put the hard core of their fighters at 12,000.  What is 25% of this, it is 3,000.  So far Israel claims to have killed ca. 1,000 Hamas fighters, and wounded ca. 5,000.  Now this is an estimate after 4 weeks of fighting.  But, if we take the Hamas figures they claim to have lost ca. 2,000 people.  Statistical analysis of these casualties by Al Jazeera and other sources, estimates that ca. 60% of these are young men of military age (18-35), while ca. 40% are civilians.   If we take this percentage then we also reach a number of combatants of ca. 1,200 dead Hamas fighters.  Since the fighters don't have to be dead, but rendered ineffective, it is very likely that Hamas is nearing the limit of its capability to absorb casualties and to continue to fight effectively.   Sure they can still fire missiles into Israel, but gradually this ability will diminish, as long as Israel keeps striking their fighters and their leadership.  Of course, not only does the IDF avoid civilian casualties, but they don't make a difference to this equation and therefore there is no point in wasting ordance on them.   
During WWII, Sir Solly Zuckerman, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the British Defense Ministry (a new post), was asked what the RAF should target to increase the likelihood that the D-Day invasion would be successful.  He did a statistical analysis and came up with the answer that taking out railway engines would be the key factor, to prevent the Germans from bringing in reinforcements.  You may say, well this is obvious, but it could have been railway lines, or depots or air strips.  Of course the senior managers of the armed forces were against taking the advice of a "boffin", especially a Jewish one, but they were persuaded by Lord Tedder, and so by the RAF targeting railway engines, Sir Solly probably saved the lives of more Allied soldiers than anyone else.  In Gaza, targeting the launchers of missiles and barracks where they stay as well as the factories manufacturing missiles and the military leadership is the most effective targeting, and that is what the IDF is doing.


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