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Israel, America, and Never-Ending War

The Jewish state has been engaged in sporadic warfare with its Arab neighbors, in various combinations, since 1947, while the U.S. has been fighting its war on terror since 2001 (and al-Qaeda began fighting the U.S. several years prior). Comparing these seemingly interminable wars with such historic conflicts as the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage (264-146 BCE) and the Hundred Years War between France and England (1337-1453), Victor Davis Hanson notes that such conflicts tend to come to an end only when one side is able to inflict a definitive defeat on the other. He applies this precedent to the present:

Tiny Israel has had the power to vanquish its enemies in an existential war, but chose not to use its full military potential—given both internal and external pressures. Israel apparently concluded that the permanent occupations of the Sinai, Gaza, and borderlands of Lebanon, which would have provided permanent demilitarized ground corridors, would be too costly either in terms of policing and stabilizing hostile populations or too politically expensive in alienating key Western allies.

Nor did Israel think it could force a consensual government on the West Bank or change hearts and minds, as happened with the Israeli Arabs, who do not regularly organize and fight Tel Aviv. Nor, in an age of missiles and rockets, did Israel yet have the technological ability to create absolutely safe skies or the global support to retaliate by air [so as to inflict devastation on its enemies]. The result was that Israel is forced into a chronic cycle of defeating regional enemies without the ability to end the perpetual willingness of the defeated to suffer tactical defeat, then rearm and reequip during periods between wars, and then renew the conflict on supposedly better terms.

The American slog in Afghanistan is somewhat similar. Americans feel that the level of force and violence necessary to obliterate the Taliban and impose a lasting settlement is either too costly, or not worth any envisioned victory, or impossible in such absurd tribal landscapes, or would be deemed immoral and contrary to Western values. Therefore, as in most serial wars, the U.S. chooses to fight to prevent defeat rather than to achieve lasting victory. . ..

The bizarre modern Western doctrine of “proportionality” (akin to the tit-for-tat blood feuds of the Icelandic sagas) tends to ensure stalemate. Leisured Western publics are uncomfortable with using their militaries’ full strength, given the collective guilt and bad publicity that accrue when their forces inflict far more losses than they have incurred. Yet, paradoxically, disproportionality was always central to resolving chronic wars: having much more power makes the weaker aggressor suffer so much that it never again tries to undertake another attack.  . . .

The result is the present age of serial Punic conflict, perhaps intolerable to the psyche but . . . tolerable so long as casualties are kept to a minimum and defeat is redefined as acceptable strategic wisdom. In the past, such periods of enervating war have gone on for a century and more. Ultimately, they, too, end—and with consequences.

Read more at National Review

More about: Ancient Rome, Israel & Zionism, Military history, Politics & Current Affairs, War on Terror

Europe Has a Chance to Change Its Attitude toward Israel

Dec. 15 2017

In Europe earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu met with several officials and heads of state. Ahead of his visit, the former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein addressed a letter to these European leaders, urging them to reevaluate their attitudes toward the status of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the gravity of European anti-Semitism, and the threat posed by Hamas and Hizballah. In it she writes:

For years, the relationship between Europe and Israel has been strained. Europe tends to criticize Israel for simply defending itself against the continual threats and terrorist attacks it faces on all its borders and inside its cities. Europe too often disregards not only Israel’s most evident attempts to bring about peace—such as its disengagement from Gaza—but also chides it for its cautiousness when considering what solutions are risky and which will truly ensure the security of its citizens.

The EU has never recognized the dangers posed by Hamas and Hizballah, as well as by many other jihadist groups—some of which are backed by [the allegedly moderate] Fatah. The EU constantly blames Israel in its decisions, resolutions, papers and “non-papers,” letters, and appeals. Some of Europe’s most important figures insist that sanctions against the “territories” are necessary—a political stance that will certainly not bring about a solution to this conflict that . . . the Israelis would sincerely like to resolve. Israel has repeated many times that it is ready for direct negotiation without preconditions with the Palestinians. No answer has been received.

The European Union continues to put forth unrealistic solutions to the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the results have only aggravated the situation further. Such was the case in 2015 when it sanctioned Israeli companies and businesses in the territories over the Green Line, forcing them to close industrial centers that provided work to hundreds of Palestinians. The Europeans promoted the harmful idea that delegitimizing Israel can be accomplished through international pressure and that negotiations and direct talks with Israel can be avoided. . . .

[Meanwhile], Iran’s imperialist designs now touch all of Israel’s borders and put the entire world at risk of a disastrous war while Iran’s closest proxy, Hizballah, armed with hundreds of thousands of missiles, proudly presents the most explicit terrorist threat. Europe must confront these risks for the benefit of its citizens, first by placing Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations and secondly, by reconsidering and revising its relationship with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Europe and Israel, European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy