War has been known to bring out the best and worst in man.
There are moments of indelible courage, such as when a young Givati Brigade soldier dashed into a Hamas tunnel in Gaza in a vain attempt to save Lt. Hadar Goldin earlier this month. And there are also occasions of unspeakable cruelty, as exemplified by the mass executions carried out by Hamas in broad daylight last week.
Emotions such as anger and heartbreak, determination and despair, frequently come to the fore, appearing to be as common as the ammunition that is employed on the battlefield.
But if the recent strife involving Hamas in Gaza and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is any indication, then it appears that war is one of the greatest stimulants of human stupidity, second perhaps only to illicit drugs or attendance at an English soccer game.
Take, for example, this whopper from none other than US State Department deputy spokesman Marie Harf, who told reporters at a press conference last week that the ISIS threat “is not about the United States and what we do.”
After condemning the brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley, Harf insisted that, “I think [ISIS] wants to make this about the United States and our actions. And I think what the president was trying to say was that this is not about the United States and what we do. This is about countries in the region coming together to fight a shared threat, and this is not about us.”
There was just a slight problem with Harf’s analysis: the graphic video of Foley’s murder released by the terrorist group clearly states that it is intended as “a message to America.” The video shows US President Barack Obama speaking for 85 seconds as he authorized air strikes in Iraq against ISIS, and screenshots show what is described as “American aggression against the Islamic State.” Subsequently, when Foley’s executioner speaks to the camera, he addresses his remarks directly to Obama, criticizing him and the US government for its actions.
So for Harf to suggest that “this is not about the United States” is disconcertingly dimwitted.
Indeed, it brings to mind Jane Austen’s description of Mary Bennet, a character in Pride and Prejudice who deems herself to be much wiser than she really is: “Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.”
Unfortunately, folly is the not exclusive preserve of Washington bureaucrats, for it has also made quite a splash here in the Jewish state, too.
Consider the remarks made by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on a visit to the south over the weekend, where he said the following: “The goal of the [Israeli] decision makers is to bring Hamas to the negotiation table in Cairo under terms that Israel decides, and to achieve a cease-fire deal as demanded by Jerusalem.”
Fair enough, except that lately the government has been energetically trying to compare Hamas with ISIS in its advocacy and public diplomacy both here and abroad, and we all know that ISIS is not an organization with which one can negotiate. As Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen is reported to have said at this past Sunday’s cabinet meeting, “If Hamas is truly like ISIS, shouldn’t we be waging all-out war against them?” A good question indeed.
It is one thing to wade through the kind of ignorance and inanity that saturate the media, most of which portray Israel in a bad light because of their bias against the Jewish state.
We have all become accustomed to howlers such as when Hamas violated the latest cease-fire – giving it a perfect record of 11 for 11 truces broken – and The Guardian newspaper chose to headline its report: “Israel launches fresh airstrikes in Gaza.” Such foolishness is bad enough because there are plenty of people out there who are influenced by it. But when a lack of common sense begins to seep into the leadership of a country, it is another matter altogether. Particularly when there is a war in progress.
So here is a quick primer for Harf, Ya’alon and others, which can aptly be called, “fighting terror for dummies”: In order to prevail, Israel and the West need to recognize who the enemy is and stop fooling ourselves into thinking that this is not a war of civilizations, because it most assuredly is. This is an epic battle between good and evil, between those who value life over death and those who live to die.
It has everything to do with who we are and the values we uphold and, as much as we would like to believe that we can negotiate with the likes of Hamas and ISIS to reach an accommodation with them, this is little more than wishful thinking parading as policy. All the good will in the world will not convince them to like us or persuade them to abandon their homicidal ideology.
Simply put, there is a war on terror, and it needs to be waged, guided not with stupidity, but with a sense of clarity and purpose.
Achieving peace is just not enough. Our goal must be victory, a total, complete and incontestable triumph over the forces of darkness. Peace will then surely follow, and on our terms.