July 18, 2006 - Israel could win the war with Hezbollah - by adopting the tactics of the enemy.
Israel could present Hezbollah with a simple ultimatum:
"From now on we will fight the way you fight. We will do just what you do. For every missile you fire at Nahariya, we fire one at Khan Younis. For every missile you send into Haifa, we send one into Gaza City. You like taking hostages? These people are now your hostages. We will stop when you stop. You decide."
But Israel will never do that. Though they will fight to protect themselves, Israelis have a conscience.
Israel will not adopt the Arab style of fighting, and the Arabs know it and play it to their advantage.
In any war innocent civilians are killed. But there is a great difference between civilians dying in a war and targeting civilians intentionally. Hezbollah's war is a war against Israeli civilians. This is taken for granted. No one expects better from them.
Civilian casualties in war are a tragedy on either side. Israel tries to avoid them, as did America in its campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is no way to eliminate them entirely, especially if terrorists persist in using populated areas as bases. Israel's action in Lebanon has been condemned as "disproportionate." It is ironic that one never hears this word applied to the Arab side. An e-mail message from England addresses the question of "proportionate" response:
My nephew who is an Israeli paratrooper (as well as a research pharmacist and international drugs lawyer!), whom I saw in Manchester over the weekend, also gave me an ironic response to the charge of disproportion, which goes something like this: OF COURSE the Israeli response is disproportionate! If it were proportionate, Israel would have to devote itself to the annihilation of 56 Moslem countries, send suicide bombers to Palestinian cafes and markets, attack mosques worldwide, and conduct a massive and insulting propaganda campaign blaming Moslems for all the ills in the world.
Israel has in fact taken steps to minimize civilian casualties, by warning people to leave an area before it is attacked. By alerting the general population Israel is also alerting the terrorists, which slows down Israel's efforts and gives the terrorists more time to kill more Israelis. Can one imagine the Arab side taking any similar precaution? It is inconceivable that terrorists would warn precisely the people they are trying to kill.
Consciences are hard to come by in international affairs. Most governments are tyrannies, and at best pay lip service to the virtues of conscience. China swallows Tibet, and cannot be called to account. Russia crushes Chechnya and demands that Israel exercise restraint. Syria flattens Hama, and nobody remembers. Iran threatens Israel with extinction, then calls Israel the new Hitler. No one expects better from any of them.
The Western democracies claim superior values: freedom, respect for the law, and individual rights. This crisis is a test of conscience for them, and also a test of resolve. Hezbollah's war has implications far beyond Israel. We can no longer (as if we ever could) talk simply about the "Israel/Palestinian Conflict." Iran's power is growing, and stepping up the violence against Israel is its latest power play. Iran has amply supplied Hezbollah with missiles, and is using Hezbollah to divert attention from its nuclear ambitions. Iran is telling not only Israel but also the U.S.: If you interfere with our plans, we can make your lives miserable. Syria has also supported and armed Hezbollah, and is using this crisis to make itself a key player in the region. Both regimes are exercising the time-worn strategy of radical Muslim states: when there's trouble at home, create unity by attacking Israel.
Thus all Western democracies have a stake in the outcome. If Israel goes, they will become the next target, starting with the United States. Those who hate America should consider: Will the world be a better place with China, Russia, and Iran the new superpowers?
Hezbollah thinks it only fair to kidnap Israelis that it can swap for prisoners in Israel. But those prisoners are sitting in Israeli jails because they fought to destroy Israel. They are there because of their war against Israeli civilians. Hezbollah is therefore saying that it's OK to commit terrorism in order to support more terrorism. Bomb Haifa so that more terrorists can go free.
What we now know beyond any doubt is that Islamic terrorism has no geographic boundaries. The message has been sent not only to Israel but to a growing list of locations including New York, Madrid, London, Bali, Mumbai, and Riyadh. Civilization as we know it is under attack by a utopian, totalitarian movement that will not stop as long as its members believe they can increase their power.
We don't have a previous generation's excuse. We cannot say that we didn't know.
Peace with Realism