Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gaza Day 19: 1,010 Dead, 4,700 Wounded; 13 Israelis Dead.

GAZA (Reuters) – Hamas officials were negotiating a ceasefire on Wednesday as Israeli forces kept up the pressure on the Islamists in the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian death toll rose above 1,000 after 19 days of air and ground attacks.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human rights said more than 670 civilians were among the dead. Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians hit by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have been killed since Israel launched its campaign on December 27.
In Northern Israel, rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel’s north border region. Such attacks have been increasing over the past week. Osama bin Laden also released a tape calling for others to join in this as jihad, or holy struggle.

This remains an issue of national will. Leaders have a penchant to be willing to fight to the strength of their last adherent. Israel, who is in overall control of the tempo of military operations, seems to be willing to punitively kill anyone taking up arms against their incursion.

Political drama is at play here. In many ways, the Palestinians are playing the role of victim, decrying the attacks after firing rockets at the Israelis. The Israelis are playing the role of victim, showing the attacks upon their land while brutally repressing the Palestinians. Both, while claiming to be victims, are also claiming to be strong in the face of their enemies. Gaza is willing to accept the cost of the war in terms of life and destruction to the infrastructure and economy. Israel is willing to accept the cost in terms of international relations, and economic costs of the offensive. Which are not insignificant. estimated the cost of this war at $265 million over the first six days, and the per-day-of-fighting cost rising to $52 million. The cost of the war would surely have risen since then based on the commitment of additional forces.

Let’s do some quick estimation via mathematics:

6 days @ $29-39 million/day = $265 million subtotal
13 days @ $52 million/day = $676 million subtotal
19 days fighting = $951 million total
The IDF had an auxilliary budget of $211 million in reserve as contingency for such operations. Yet this fund likely was already spent in the first week of fighting. There has also been a cost of $9 million in property damage in Israel, and, including retail losses, the total civilian economy cost is likely about $16 million per week. That is a significant rise in the rate of civilian cost. Over the past three years, the residents of the region near Gaza had been compensated NIS 143 million ($36.44 million) for direct and indirect losses.

This has caused the Israeli shekel to have fallen in world currency markets, as Israel is expected to assume debts to fund the war.

It sounds almost reptilian. Chilling to consider one might simply compare over 1,000 deaths, and 5,700 casualties total, to the loss of about a billion dollars in money, and a percentage hit on one’s currency valuation. But there you have it. The cost of this war to Israel has been $951 million dollars, for the infliction of 5,700 casualties upon Gaza (both military and civilian).

That is a cost of approximately $167,000 per casualty inflicted.

In return, one could consider the cost Hamas has burdened to inflict the 13 casualties on Israel. Right now, it is incalculable. The destruction of its property, the ruination of its civic institutions and governmental facilities, and the degredation of its economy has no methodology or mechanism for tracking right now. The personal and societal cost to be burdened by Gaza is surely in the hundreds of millions or billions. Yet we have no estimation at this point, and insufficient evidence to begin to calculate it. In the aftermath of the war, however, the cost of this war will sink in, as families and businesses across Gaza try to rebuild.

This is what happens when war mentality sets in. The cost of war, the price, the toll it takes, means little if one expects to be dead when the bill comes due. Winning is all that matters. Not the cost of that victory.

I learned an expression a long while ago while working at West End Games as a strategic simulation game designer. “All generals study tactics. Good generals study strategy. Great generals study logistics.”

One would hope the various commanders on all sides review the cost of this war, and in the end, realize the price of peace is far less, and the benefits of coexistence much more appealing.

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