Rattling the Cage: Lessons from the world's Goliaths

The idea that there's a military solution to every Israeli conflict with any Arab enemy is a foolish dogma.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
If we just bombed the living daylights out of Gaza, if we flattened a village or two, if we wiped out a few hundred or a few thousand Palestinians after the next round of Kassams, our problems would be over, according to the thinking of many if not most Israelis. The reason Israel won't do it, they're convinced, is because we're too nice, we're too civilized to play by Middle Eastern rules. Either that, or they think our leaders are too afraid of the US, the UN and the foreign media to fight the Palestinians for real, these politicians care more about what the goyim will say than they do about protecting Jewish lives. If Olmert and the others weren't so worried and frightened, if they had the guts, the national spirit and, yes, the ruthlessness to unleash Israel's military power against the terrorists who are rocketing our civilians, the rockets would stop, goes the popular theory. If we punished the Palestinians harshly, brutally, if we rubbed their noses in it but good, they'd learn a lesson, people seem to be convinced. THIS IS the message from Binyamin Netanyahu and the Right, and a great majority of the Israeli public supports them. But if all Israel needs to do is be ruthless enough and the Palestinians will bow to our superior power, then why are so many of the world's ruthless regimes still at war with enemies who, in terms of military power, can't hold a candle to them? We just saw this in Tibet. The Chinese, once again, mopped up the Tibetans rioting for independence, beating them, killing them. How long have the Chinese been teaching the Tibetans a lesson? About a century. Mao Zedong killed an estimated 1,000,000 of them at the beginning of his rule. Was Mao a conscience-stricken liberal? Did he care what the world thought of him? So why, 60 years after Mao rubbed the Tibetans noses in it but good, are the Tibetans still fighting? Why hasn't ruthlessness and military superiority worked on them? There are so many other examples. Take the Russians. Did the Russians ever have any qualms about using disproportionate force on their enemies? Did they ever worry about having to answer to The Hague? So why have the Russians been fighting the Chechens for nearly two centuries? Stalin had 30 years to liquidate the Chechen resistance, and he didn't do it. What was Stalin's problem - too soft? And how did the Soviets lose to the rebels in Afghanistan? Was Brezhnev afraid of how he would look on CBS? The Soviets killed an estimated 1,000,000 Afghans, then went home the loser. Why didn't Soviet Communist ruthlessness and military superiority work in Afghanistan? You can go on. The Turks are still fighting the Kurds after uprooting and killing them en masse for ages. The Arab Muslim regime of Sudan is still preoccupied with the black Christians of the south after killing an estimated 2,000,000 of them and enslaving hundreds of thousands more. So are Turkish and Sudanese leaders forcing their armies to fight too humanely? Is it that the politicians in Turkey and Sudan won't let their armies win? I'm sure that's not it. I really don't know what the problem is. I don't know why the combination of military superiority and ruthlessness doesn't do the trick every time, but it doesn't. If it did, the most savage parts of the world would have found peace and quiet centuries ago, while only the liberal bleeding-heart countries like Canada and Sweden would still be at war. That's not the way the world looks, does it? I'M NOT saying that military power and the determination to use it are futile. Sometimes wars are won, sometimes war actually makes things better. World War II, of course, is the best example. The Second War in Lebanon is a more recent one. Israel's furious bombing campaign against Lebanon is clearly the reason why Hizbullah hasn't killed or kidnapped any more Israeli soldiers in the nearly two years since. So the idea that there is no military solution to any conflict is a foolish dogma. But the idea that there is a military solution to every conflict, or certainly to every Israeli military conflict with any Arab enemy, is also a foolish dogma, and this one, unfortunately, guides Israeli public opinion today. It makes complete sense, in the light of experience, for Israelis to have lost their faith in diplomacy and unilateral withdrawal to bring them security from Palestinian terror. What makes no sense, though, is that they still have faith that war will do it. They still believe that if we just "take the gloves off" with the Palestinians, Sderot will have peace and quiet. They don't learn a lesson from the rest of the Middle East, from the rest of Asia, from Africa, from anyplace. They don't learn a lesson from Gaza, where we've been killing hundreds of Palestinians month after month. They don't learn a lesson from world history or from Israeli history. How long have we been rubbing the Palestinians' noses in it? Sixty years ago the Palestinians started a war with Israel, and what they got for their trouble was 15,000 dead, 700,000 refugees, and the lost chance at statehood. If Israeli military superiority and ruthlessness could teach the Palestinians a lesson, they would have learned it in 1948, and we'd have had peace and quiet since then. The Palestinians didn't learn the lesson, though, and neither did we. I don't have a good answer for the Kassams, I don't know how to get peace and quiet with the Palestinians. Oslo turned out to be a false god. Disengagement turned out to be a false god a little while later. Zbeng v'gamarnu - "Boom and it's over" - turned out to be a false god a long, long time ago.