Straight Talk: Overwhelming force is the only way to fight terrorists

Those without moral restraints claim a power to define right and wrong and take life as they see fit.

shmuley boteach 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
shmuley boteach 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
So Israel invades Gaza and the world thinks it's a disproportionate response to the Hamas rockets. Which begs the question, what would have been a proportionate response? When the Allies fought Hitler, they bombed Germany's cities indiscriminately nearly every night for years, seeking to inflict the maximum number of casualties, nearly all of whom were civilians. In Dresden and Hamburg, which they bombed toward the end of the war when it was already clear that Germany was toast, they killed more than half a million civilians in just a few evenings. Harry Truman, of course, dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about 350,000. Ah, but Hamas is not Germany and Gaza is not Japan, you say. These were formidable military machines and maximum force had to be deployed against them. That made sense. But what's a couple of rockets? And Hamas is a joke anyway. Get over it. This gets to the very heart of the matter. The world perceives the Palestinians as weak and the Israelis as strong, when in reality terrorist organizations are much stronger than any democracy. Democracies make themselves weak by subscribing to humane standards of fighting. No matter how strong their tanks, they won't send them crashing into kindergartens. No matter how powerful their jets, they won't deploy them against hospitals. No matter how formidable their artillery, they won't use it against shopping malls. BUT THE terrorists are all-powerful. Unconstrained by any tinge of moral restraint, they will kill pregnant women, dismember infants and detonate the infirm. They kill whom they want, when they want and for as long as they want. Remember the brutal decapitation of Daniel Pearl and the all-powerful posture of the terrorist killers who slit his throat? Those who live without moral restraints claim a godlike power to define right and wrong and to take life as they see fit. It is one of the reasons that people have always been drawn to evil. Going over to the dark side has its appeal, as Darth Vader discovered. Decency is incredibly limiting, while wickedness gives people an inordinate sense of dominance. Witness the constant stream of statements coming from the Hamas leadership. Every day we hear how they're "going to make Gaza an Israeli graveyard," they'll transform their streets into "rivers of Israeli blood," or some such other blather that reflects their perception of themselves as all-powerful deities with the power to strike millions at their command. Which is why there can be no compromise with terrorism; the only proportionality that can be used in fighting cold-blooded killers is overwhelming, maximum force. They can only be fought to the death, since their megalomania precludes the possibility of compromise. Proportionality is not a concept that can be employed in fighting those whose belief in their own power is unlimited. Morality and a respect for innocent civilian life is the only constraint that should limit a democracy in fighting those who operate without constraints. It's bad enough that democracies have one hand tied behind their backs by their willful and laudable insistence on moral constraints. Their other hand - the military arm - must therefore compensate by employing every available means to crush the terrorists utterly. Nations must, of course, protect innocent civilian lives and minimize collateral harm to innocent bystanders. But short of this, nations must bring all their power to bear on extinguishing the dark night of terrorism. When the body has cancer, the medical profession deploys every means at its disposal to eradicate it. There is no proportionality. Radiation, chemotherapy and anything else that works is sent into the battle when dealing with a disease that will otherwise snuff out life. I should add that the destruction of Hamas is far more for the benefit of the Palestinians than the Israelis. It is the Palestinians who must live under the barbaric cruelty of an organization that terrorizes its citizens even more than its enemies. One of my friends in the media was talking to me about how Israel is just as bad as Hamas - just as culpable as the terrorists. Rather than engage in a useless debate, I employed a variation on JFK's argument in the famous Ich bin ein Berliner speech of June 1963. OK, they're the same, I said. So I suppose given the choice of living under Israeli or Hamas control, you would just flip a coin? No, he said, he would never live under Hamas, under any circumstances whatsoever. So much for the two sides being equal. Which is why Israel's one million Arab citizens did not elect to live under the control of either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, even though they had every opportunity of voting with their feet and leaving Israeli governance for Palestinian governance once those two regimes were established. In Israel they may have their complaints, but they can protest against the government, petition the High Court and enjoy every freedom. Under Palestinian control they face summary execution for merely being accused of collaborating, as we are seeing in the current conflict in Gaza, without so much as even a makeshift hearing. And this argument is what gives the lie to all those who claim that their opposition to Israel is motivated by their concern for the Palestinians. If they really cared, they would never want a radical, hate-filled organization which teaches young Palestinians that their highest calling in life is to blow themselves up while committing murder. They would want real peace and prosperity for the Palestinians. For that matter, whoever claims to care about the Arabs throughout the Middle East should protest against them having to live under the House of Saud, Bashir Assad, Hizbullah and other assorted Arab governments which are the great enemies of Arab human rights, press freedoms and political liberty. Or maybe they really don't care all that much about the Palestinians and just have an irrational dislike of Israel. The writer is the founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network. His new book, The Kosher Sutra: Eight Sacred Secrets to Rediscovering Desire and Reigniting Passion for Life is being published this week by HarperOne.