04 January 2009

The irrepressible conflict

Israel declared its independence in 1948. 

It has been attacked by virtually all of its neighbors. It has been repeatedly attacked from within by Palestinian citizens. In 1996, President Clinton was convinced that the agreement signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat would forge a sustained peace between the two sides. Despite Israel's myriad concessions -- including ceding a portion of its territory to Arafat's PLO for the creation of a Palestinian state, Arafat inexplicably walked away. President Bush has likewise supported a two-state solution, but has seen his desires for a sustained peace thwarted as well.

In 2005, the state of Israel ceded the Gaza Strip over to the Palestinians. The hope, of course, was that such a move would mollify the Palestinians and end the terrorist attacks by terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah (the latter of which, of course, is effectively a subsidiary of and largely financed by the Iranian and Syrian governments). 

Several weeks ago, however -- completely unprovoked -- Hamas inexplicably began launching rocket attacks targeting Israeli citizens. What's notable is that Hamas deliberately fires these rockets from the most densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas' security compounds are literally in the middle of cities. The Israeli army, by contrast, has a strict policy of mitigating and, if possible, avoiding civilian casualties. 

As noted by Alan Dershowitz in a forceful yet thoughtful column in the Christian Science Monitor last week, such attacks on Israeli citizens have virtually nothing to do with the actions of Israeli the sovereign state. Rather, they have everything to do with a poisonous ideology preached by the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadenijad that openly seeks the destruction of the Jewish state. Why else would rocket attacks have increased after Israeli left the Gaza Strip several years ago?

As a notable aside, during the last four years, Islamic Jihad and Hamas have fired more than 2,000 rockets at the Israeli city of Sderot.

Here is the reality: There is no moral equivalence between terrorist organizations who deliberately target civilians and a sovereign nation-state that is legitimately protecting its borders. Further, there is no moral equivalence when that sovereign nation-state takes great pains (I'd say unnecessarily so) to avoid civilian casualties vis-a-vis its response to being attacked. The cracked-out likes of Jimmy Carter, Cynthia McKinney and Kofi Annan might think otherwise, but their heads are in the clouds. To Carter and Annan's cronies at the U.N., the attacks against Israeli civilians are entirely legitimate, while the Israeli responses are war crimes.

Why is it that virtually every American president -- from Reagan to Clinton to the Bushes and yes, even to that great bastion of successful diplomacy James Earl Carter, Jr. -- has walked away from some sort of brokered cease-fire shaking his head?

There are moderate Palestinians who desire peace, to be sure. But Palestinian militants are the ones who have stood in the way of peace for decades. And anyone who believes otherwise -- from Jacques Chirac to Jimmy Carter to the editors of The Nation -- has left reality far behind. Until the Palestinian extremists have been extinguished, the Holy Land will never see lasting peace. 

By the way, what would a foreign-policy post be without The Commish taking a shot across the bow of the U.S.S. Hope? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- not Iran's nuclear ambitions, nor the tenuous relationship the United States has forged with Pakistan -- will be the ultimate test of the president-elect's mettle, and of the implied worldview that the world's most savage individuals can be placated by mere chatting.

You're up, Mr. Obama. Godspeed. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

People have forgotten the cardinal rule of war: there is no substitute for victory. Western powers treat war as an exercise in consulting with attorneys as an airplane drops the latest safe weapon into an area after giving the intended targets a 30 minute warning that said bomb will be dropped. Then the surviving enemy will be captured, possibly, and released, usually, or at most detained in a luxury prison with a full compliment of legal rights that would make the ACLU blush, if indeed organizations could collectively have blood rushing to its metaphorical cheeks.

War is a horrible business. It is designed to kill your enemy, to demolish his army, to crush his citizens so that they will cry out against the war, and ultimately to achieve victory. The west has forgotten this and as a result no war has been properly fought since WWII. Not surprisingly, there has been no victory since WWII, but instead just increasingly futile destruction of concrete with one hand while the other hand shovels money to rebuild the destroyed concrete.

The West needs to collectively and quickly come to terms with what war is and decide within itself whether it is willing to wage war to survive. If we all want to sign up to the suicide pact of modern war then we might as well save ourselves a lot of time, money, and blood by quietly surrendering to our enemies now and making terms. If not, then let us staunch the bloodflow by achieving a swift victory while we still can. Those two options are vastly more desirable than wastefully grinding down our treasure and wasting our best people in endless policing actions that are nothing more than managed defeat.