The Only Way to Fight a War

When I was growing up, my father always told me, “Never, ever start a fight; but always finish one.”

I didn’t really understand what dad meant by that until I started studying military history.  The victor in any fight is the side that is willing to fight it out to the end.

The bullies who picked on me growing up nearly always did so because I didn’t fight back.  It didn’t matter how many times they got in trouble.  Often, that was just enough excuse to keep picking on me; to get back at the boy who got them in trouble.  I finally stopped getting beat-up when I started throwing punches of my own.

Unfortunately, throwing those punches also got me in trouble.  Because I defended myself someone thought I had done something wrong.

In watching this recent action between Israel and Hamas, I have seen much the same kind of mentality, both in the media and in those I know in the liberal blogosphere.  “How dare Israel defend itself?  Don’t they realize they’ve killed more Palestinians than Hamas has killed Israelis?”  My favorite so far has been a “friend” on Facebook who posted, as his profile image, a sign that says, “Support Palestine:  Stop the Genocide.”

This, of course, is ludicrous.  For decades, Hamas (and their Syran-supported bretheren, Hezbolah) has been sending suicide bombers into Israeli markets, delis and other public areas with the express intent of killing, wounding and injuring as many people, civilian and soldier alike, as possible.  Meanwhile, Israel has begrudgingly restrained itself in the face of such attacks, often limiting its response to destroying supply routes and increasing security patrols.  Meanwhile, Hamas has used the breathing room of this limited response to increase its capabilities, now employing Chinese-designed, Iranian-supplied rockets to strike further than ever before into the heart of Israel, killing half a dozen civilians and soldiers in the process.

With this new threat, Israel finally ended its self-restraint and began assaulting Hamas positions from the air and later invaded the Gaza Strip with ground forces.  This, of course, brought on the condemnation of the Muslim world and liberals in Europe and America.  The media erupted with complaints that Israel’s response wasn’t “proportional,” that too many Palestinians were dying as a response to so few Israeli deaths.  The fact that Hamas started this latest round of fighting does not seem to matter to the liberal bloggers, the UN and the Muslim community.  They see Israel as an oppressive force and Hamas as freedom fighters, just as they view the United States as evil and Saddam Hussein as the unfortunate victim of American Empire.

This view is both dangerous and inconsistent with reality.  Israel must prosecute its war against Hamas with the intent of destroying any resistance.  Fighting a war of attrition–that is, a war in which each side causes an equal amount of destruction–has an inevitable result of ending nothing or worse, giving the weaker side a chance to win the support of otherwise reasonable people.  This happened in Viet Nam when the Linebacker raids nearly brought an end to the conflict, but public opinion swayed in favor of the reinvigorated Paris Peace Talks (which the North Vietnamese were suddenly eager to resume).  Allowing similar sentiments of “equal destruction” to halt the Persian Gulf War in 1991 inevitably led to the failure to depose Saddam in the 1990s and the liberal backlash against the current war starting in 2003.

No nation or group should ever enter into a war unless it is willing to fight to the inevitable conclusion.  That Hamas started this battle and now screams that it is an unfair fight and too many Palestinians are dying is the height of hypocrisy.  Hamas started the fight.  Hamas placed its military facilities in close proximity to civilian neighborhoods, creating human sheilds of women, children and the elderly.  They did this with two purposes in mind:  1) They knew that the images of dead children being dragged out of Ambulances would play well on the six o’clock news and drive international sentiment in favor of the “underdog” Hamas, and 2) they understood that they could not fight a one-on-one fight with Israel.  Placing their military facilities in the uninhabited areas of Gaza, which are largely along the border with Israel, would mean that Israel could pound Hamas’ military capabilities into dust in minutes.

Were Israel’s actions truly genocidal, the liberals would have more to complain about than a hundred or so Palestinian dead.  In fact Israel has shown incredible restraint in preventing civilian deaths, as nearly all modern Western nations do.  If Israel’s actions were genocidal, tens of thousands of the roughly 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip would already be dead, and tens of thousands more would almost certainly die.  Instead, Israel halted its campaign in favor of allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.  This is unfortunate, since it will hardly quell the irrational cries of the liberals and gives Hamas the breathing room to regroup and redeploy its forces, almost certainly lengthening the conflict.

If the liberals really want peace, then they must allow the two sides to fight it out.  One side has to claim victory, and the other side must admit defeat.  Only then will the bloodshed stop.  Failure to reach this conclusion will certainly lead further decades of violence, destruction and death.