My father, who was a veteran of World War II and the Israeli War of Independence, was still alive during the first Gulf War. I vividly remember his comment that it was idiotic how much the press made of how nice Americans were and how our troops were so good that they didn’t want to hurt the enemy. He said, “You fight wars to win. That was the problem in Vietnam. The Americans never fought to win.” My Dad was not talking about burning down all the buildings, slaughtering all the citizens, destroying the food crops and sowing the fields with salt. Instead, he was saying that treating a war as a police action, where you’re trying to be a bit punitive without a clear goal in mind (their surrender, your victory), is a waste of time and lives, both in the short and in the long term.
I thought of that when I read this morning that the Israelis, after two days of banging away, had already withdrawn from Gaza. Keep in mind that Israel didn’t go into Gaza on a whim. She went in because the Gazans had been launching thousands of rockets against Israel. I don’t know about you, but I see what the Gazans did as as an act of war. Certainly we would consider that we were at War if Canada suddenly went berzerk and launched thousands of missiles at US soil. In the face of this war and the murderous intent behind it, Israel retaliated by taking out some buildings and killing 70 people. After the yada, yada about each death being a tragedy, reconsider those 70 people, and keep in mind that they come from a society that doesn’t celebrate life, but celebrates death — it sees death as a religious martyrdom, a civic duty, and a useful propaganda tool. So, while family and friends may mourn the death of the individual, Gaza as a whole has to be delighted that the sole consequence for a year of unlimited missile firing into Israel was 70 propaganda moments. Yay!
Israel continue to be on the receiving end of those rocket launches until (a) she takes seriously the fact that you don’t defeat an enemy with the war equivalent of lashes with a wet noodle, and (b) she begins to understand that these limited incursions, rather than demoralizing Gazans, give them hope. And while the Gazan rocket launches, so far, have been somewhat limited in their scope, merely killing or wounding a few of the citizens that Israel values most when they are alive, not dead,that’s going to change one of these days. The rockets will get bigger and stronger and will be able to travel further (certainly with Iran and Syria’s help). Even if they don’t get better, there’s going to be a lucky hit on a nursery school or crowded apartment building. And then, even as Israel mourns her dead, the Gazans will be dancing in the street.
UPDATE: Alan Dershowitz looks at the Muslim death-cult to which I allude, above:
As more women and children are recruited by their mothers and their religious leaders to become suicide bombers, more women and children will be shot at — some mistakenly. That too is part of the grand plan of our enemies. They want us to kill their civilians, who they also consider martyrs, because when we accidentally kill a civilian, they win in the court of public opinion. One Western diplomat called this the “harsh arithmetic of pain,” whereby civilian casualties on both sides “play in their favor.” Democracies lose, both politically and emotionally, when they kill civilians, even inadvertently. As Golda Meir once put it: “We can perhaps someday forgive you for killing our children, but we cannot forgive you for making us kill your children.”
Civilian casualties also increase when terrorists operate from within civilian enclaves and hide behind human shields. This relatively new phenomenon undercuts the second basic premise of conventional warfare: Combatants can easily be distinguished from noncombatants. Has Zahra Maladan become a combatant by urging her son to blow himself up? Have the religious leaders who preach a culture of death lost their status as noncombatants? What about “civilians” who willingly allow themselves to be used as human shields? Or their homes as launching pads for terrorist rockets?
The traditional sharp distinction between soldiers in uniform and civilians in nonmilitary garb has given way to a continuum. At the more civilian end are babies and true noncombatants; at the more military end are the religious leaders who incite mass murder; in the middle are ordinary citizens who facilitate, finance or encourage terrorism. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, and mistakes are inevitable — as the terrorists well understand.
UPDATE II: This LGF post exposes the dual enemies Israel faces, in the media and amongst the Palestinians, and explains why polite “police actions” will never quiet either the Palestinians or the press.