A group within U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has issued what's called a "Red Team" report, which is designed to challenge official thinking and to question institutional assumptions. This particular report allegedly makes the contrarian case that the U.S. should cease its long-held policy of isolating and marginalizing Hamas and Hezbollah, the terrorist insurgencies that reside in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon, respectively. The Red Team report suggests that the U.S. consider bringing the groups into the moderate mainstream by engaging with them politically. Is the CENTCOM Red Team onto something? Or is it completely crazy?

  • This Is Not Official CENTCOM Thinking  Spencer Ackerman cautions, "Those sorts of intellectual provocations are what red cells are for — to challenge leaders’ assumption." He describes this as "deliberately provocative piece thinking through the implications of U.S. military." It's not the U.S. military's, or even CENTCOM's, official position at all. He praises the exercise as evidence that "the officers in SOCOM and CENTCOM aren’t willing to lobotomize themselves."
Among its other findings, the five-page report calls for the integration of Hizballah into the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Hamas into the Palestinian security forces led by Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Red Team's conclusion, expressed in the final sentence of the executive summary, is perhaps its most controversial finding: "The U.S. role of assistance to an integrated Lebanese defense force that includes Hizballah; and the continued training of Palestinian security forces in a Palestinian entity that includes Hamas in its government, would be more effective than providing assistance to entities -- the government of Lebanon and Fatah -- that represent only a part of the Lebanese and Palestinian populace respectively" (emphasis in the original). The report goes on to note that while Hizballah and Hamas "embrace staunch anti-Israel rejectionist policies," the two groups are "pragmatic and opportunistic."
  • If True, Our Best Option  Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom writes, "If the US wants to change policy, it really has two courses of action. One is to modernize the [Lebanese Armed Forces] until it's capable of a 'hostile takeover,' so to speak. But this is a recipe for civil war, and it's also unlikely to happen for two big reasons: The US won't send Lebanon advanced military equipment because it could be used against Israel; and many Lebanese politicians, even those who are not necessarily pro-Hizballah, view the militia as a useful deterrent against Israel. The other is to encourage an intra-Lebanese political reconciliation process, similar to what CENTCOM's Red Team report proposes. We shouldn't overstate Washington's ability to drive this process -- particularly given its limited contacts with Hizballah -- but it can certainly offer some guidance."
  • Why This Could Be Illegal  The American Prospect's Adam Serwer warns, "if they one day decided they wanted to pursue a path of reintegrating Hamas and Hezbollah back into the LAF and Fatah respectively, they'd have some trouble. The recent ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project makes it difficult for the kinds of civilian NGOs with post-conflict expertise that can help with this kind of reconciliation work to actually contribute, because if they did they'd come dangerously close to providing 'material support for terrorism.' The law makes it illegal for such groups to coordinate with designated terror groups even if they're doing so for nonviolent purposes. Oops."