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.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at National Review

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

 

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Knife intifada