Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

You have to be really deep in the weeds to see it. But if you watch close, you can see it happening.

What am I talking about?

If you're a political junkie like me, every cycle you know of a few dozen members of the opposite party who are never more than a handful of points ahead of their opposition. 6 or 7 points? Not that far. But of course it's a million miles. Campaign's can work like crazy but a member of the House who wins by 55% to 45% generally just keeps on winning by the same spread. Like I say, it's a million miles.

But not this cycle. It's no mystery that things aren't looking good for the GOP this year. But I like looking at numbers in the individual races. And again and again, I'm seeing races that never quite become competitive tip on to the other side entirely.

One I noticed a few weeks ago was Rep. Chris Chocola in Indiana 2. First was a Democratic poll showing him a stunning ten points behind his Democratic opponent. Partisan polls are of course inherently suspect. But, as has happened again and again over the last six or seven weeks, that was followed by an independent poll which showed a smaller but still serious deficit. Chocola with 41% to his challengers 46%.

For an incumbent in July those are very bleak numbers.

And he's not the only one.

I keep seeing polls showing swing district Republicans either neck and neck or behind their Democratic challengers. Lots of them are polls sponsored by Dems -- which makes sense, since they're the side that wants to preview the level of competitiveness in the race. But in most of the cases I've seen, those numbers have been substantially confirmed by subsequent independent polls.

And if you watch closely, the water just keeps rising.

The tide changes? ARG has Lieberman 44%, Lamont 42%. Well within the margin of error.

I've been waiting for someone to say this, someone who can say it not with the guide of history and logical inference but with actual knowledge of the IDF. And here it is.

In the Israeli daily Ha'aretz tonight, military affairs writer Ze'ev Schiff says that the main conclusion that will be drawn from the IDF's disappointing performance in the Lebanon war will be that the army's fighting capacity and edge has been blunted by years of policing duties in the territories.

Writes Schiff ...

Most units, in their training and operations, followed fighting doctrines of police forces and not of standing armies. Hezbollah trains, fights and is equiped as an army, utilizing some of the most advanced anti-tank missiles and other weapons.

The character of the IDF - known for its blitzkrieg methods, encircling movements deep inside enemy territory, and the ability to bring about a quick and decisive conclusion to the fighting - has been spoiled by years of involvement in operations that tied it down, emotionally and politically.

A couple weeks into this war, long enough that it seemed clear that things weren't going exactly according to plan for the Israelis, TPM Reader EF wrote in and put the matter more acidly but I think correctly ...

The IDF’s troubles are the bitter legacy of the endless occupation. Armies engaged primarily in harassing civilians tend to perform poorly in combat. The Argentine army, which had been engaged in a dirty war against its own people, mostly powerless to fight back, suddenly found itself in a real fight in the Falklands. The British soldiers and Marines did not arrive strapped to tables with electrodes attached to their genitals, so the Argentines didn’t know how to handle them. They lost pretty quickly. Nor is this because the whole Argentine military were simply bullies and cowards; the Argentine air force, which had not been involved in rounding up and torturing helpless people, put up a good show against the Royal Navy. Occupation duty is always bad for combat units. The American units in Korea in 1950 and those sent to Korea from occupation duty in Japan to stop the North Korean offensive performed poorly by most measures. It would take months to get them back into fighting trim, and non-occupation troops, brought in from the States, would do most of the heavy lifting in driving the North Koreans back from Pusan and Inchon.

I don't want to get sidetracked on to the question of equivalence between the Argentine military regime and modern day Israel. I certainly don't think they're remotely equivalent. But that question is irrelevant to the point EF is making.

Occupation degrades a fighting force -- a reality the Israelis need to confront right now and we Americans need to come to grips with as well. The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is something Israel really cannot afford now as it becomes more clear that she is in renewed need of a very potent fighting army.

But, of course, this goes beyond the military sphere. Or rather the military sphere is revealing a deeper reality. The occupation itself is corrupting Israeli society just as it seems to have corrupted (remember that in its original and deep meaning, 'corruption' means 'decay', 'rot') the IDF. And here too, can we not see the echoes for ourselves?

As Amos Oz, the great Israeli novelist, wrote just after the Six Day War, in his first foray into public letters. “Even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation."

The occupation has become Israel's weakness, not its strength. True friends of Israel realize this.

There are certainly a lot of other questions to ask about the invasion of Iraq. But because the 'Was It Good for Israel?' question is such a live one, both for critics of Israel in the US and her staunchest defenders, I thought I'd return to it.

And basically along these lines, can any defender of this policy still claim with a straight face that the US invasion of Iraq hasn't been pretty much an unmitigated disaster for Israel?

I think the Israelis -- pretty much across the board -- understand that. Do the hawks in this country see that?

I really don't know if they do or not.

I can think of one very marginal advantage that has accrued to Israel's strategic position: the virtual destruction of a unified Iraqi state and thus what was at least once a fairly powerful Arab army, which was always an over the horizon threat to Israel, at least to some degree. That's one.

Against that, let's consider the following.

The vast increase in power of Iran, which is clearly the state that is the greatest threat to Israel in the Middle East.

The sharp weakening of the US's standing in the Middle East -- which amounts to a profound strategic setback for Israel in as much as US influence over the Arab and Muslim states of the Middle East has been a key factor in securing tentative acceptance of Israel by certain states in the region. Consider Sadat's switch from the Soviets to the US, as Egypt's key ally, as a backdrop to the Camp David accords.

Increased pressure on Middle Eastern regimes who've made either formal peace (Egypt, Jordan) with Israel or de facto reconciliation (like a few of the Gulf emirates.)

The dimensions of the disaster are so vast and its permutations so varied, it's hard to know quite where to start or where to end the discussion. But as number four we might say, the fact that the entire region has been set on fire. That can't be a good thing for a small country on the edge of the Levantine littoral that can't be a great thing.

What do you think? We've openned up the discussion in this thread over at TPMCafe.

Keep your eyes peeled for some more data out of the Virginia senate race. I think we've got a real race on our hands here.

We're going to be putting up an email link right here on the right -- just like we did with our Social Security rolls last year. But until that goes up. I wanted to remind you that we want your tips from the field for our Election Central site over at TPMCafe. If you're keeping a close eye on a race in your area, let us know. Maybe you've seen a story in the local media which hasn't gotten national attention yet. Or maybe you're seeing something happening on the ground that no one else is seeing. Let us know. Our election coverage is based on your eyes and ears. Email us at the comment email address over there at the right and include the subject line "Election".

This really is sort of a bad joke. A judge has thrown out a verdict against a corrupt defense contractor who swindled the CPA (the US occupation government of Iraq) because, he says, the plaintiffs hadn't adequately demonstrated that the CPA was an "instrumentality of the US government."

Basically the CPA was too multinational in character for the contractors who swindled it to be sued in American courts.