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Mission Accomplished? By: Dr. Earl Tilford
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 29, 2009


“Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy the fear to attack.”
Dr. Merkwurdichliebe, 1964.

“War kills men, and men deplore the loss; but war also crushes bad principles and tyrants and so saves society.”
C. C. Colton, 1820.

Last week, the Israeli government declared a ceasefire in the war in Gaza. Last Monday, a Hamas spokesman stated it intends to rearm, while another top terrorist official, Abu Ubeida, declared, “The manufacturing of holy weapons is our goal…we believe it is our right to bring arms into Gaza.”

There may be a ceasefire. The Israeli government may ballyhoo “Mission accomplished!” as smiling troops riding on armored personnel carriers head back into Israel flashing victory signs. But Hamas remains in power. Worse, it thinks it won. On the day after the ceasefire, Mushir al-Masri, a terrorist spokesman, phoned an Israeli radio station to boast, “We are in a powerful, victorious position! Israel will soon learn that the balance of power has changed in Hamas’s favor!”

The Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni declared the goal of Operation Cast Lead was to deter Hamas from firing rockets into Israel. If so, they dispatched Israeli soldiers on a strategically flawed mission.

Deterrence, a concept that blossomed fully during the Cold War, works only under specific circumstances. First, the deterrent must be credible. Israel’s willingness to use overwhelming force and the splendid performance of the IDF may have impressed leaders in Damascus, and that is no small consideration. But terrorists groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda are not national political entities. Their followers are devoted fanatics not merely willing to die to achieve their objectives, but anxious to die. Leaders in Teheran, who soon may have nuclear weapons at their disposal, will not be deterred by what Israel accomplished in Operation Cast Lead.

Second, effective deterrence puts at risk something prized by “the other.” During the Cold War, neither the Americans nor the Russians were willing to sacrifice their children’s future on the altar of political or ideological gain. Hamas indulges no such qualms. Hamas recruits children for “martyrdom” missions. Palestinian mothers brag about martyring their sons and daughters. Their schools teach the glories of blowing oneself into Paradise while slaughtering “apes and pigs” in Israeli markets and restaurants. Hamas invites destruction of schools, hospitals, and mosques by using them as weapon-storage areas and rocket-launch sites. They welcome the death and suffering of innocents because it feeds their propaganda mill with images so readily gobbled up by the Western media and prized by the “useful idiots” (a commonly used term to describe someone manipulated by a political movement) of the Christian religious left.

Indeed, Israeli operations claimed the lives of innocents along with the guilty. Hamas wanted it that way. They know something the loquacious Left—those crowds protesting Operation Cast Lead in major cities from London to New York, Chicago and San Francisco—do not understand. In the minds of Hamas, the concept of “civilian” is irrelevant. Hamas militants readily victimize their own, and their own support the victimization. Gazans, who clearly understand that Hamas’ goal is the complete destruction of Israel and the eradication of every Jew from Palestine, voted these terrorists into power. They willingly provide their children as fodder. When Israel kills a top Hamas leader, another terrorist quickly fills the slot.

Furthermore, martyrdom is more a religious than a political concept. Anyone in military service must be willing to sacrifice his or her life for the nation. Martyrs, by contrast, want to sacrifice their lives.

Israel is a Western-style democracy strong in values that underscore the Judeo-Christian culture that fostered the Enlightenment and rendered values like political liberty and freedom. Unfortunately, the neighbors surrounding Israel possess a medieval cultural ethos centering on “an eye for an eye” concepts more reminiscent of tribalism than civilized society as the West knows it.

Additionally, Israel’s survival depends on maintaining a military better than the combined forces of its enemies. To offset the numerical superiority of surrounding Arab states, the Israeli Defense Forces rely on high technology and firepower. This, too, works to the advantage of Hamas by fostering images of Palestinian Davids armed with rocks and sticks (actually AK-47s and grenade launchers) standing up to Merkva tanks while being pummeled by missiles and bombs from Apache helicopters and F-15s. The resulting imagery also feeds the propaganda mill with fare readily gobbled by the Western media and “useful idiots” demanding peace at any price.

If the Israeli government undertook Operation Cast Lead with the goal of merely moving the rocket firing line back a few kilometers, it was a strategically flawed endeavor. Hamas knows full well that sowing the Israeli wind with rockets and mortars reaps a whirlwind of F-15s and Apache choppers. They know and relish it. Rockets will fly again and Israel will respond in force…again.

The only strategically sane solution is the destruction of Hamas. Brutal as it sounds, there is no nice way to make war. Hamas will not be deterred nor will it ever forsake its ultimate goal of destroying Israel. Al-Qaeda leaders in the caves of Waziristan and mullahs in Teheran are taking note of how Israel and the West deal with Hamas. In the end, weakness and lack of credibility invites aggression and begs destruction.

Dr. Earl Tilford is Professor of History at Grove City College and enjoyed an extensive military career in the U.S. Air Force. He is former director of research at the U.S. Army's Strategic Studies Institute, where he worked on a project that looked at future terrorist threats. He also authored three books on the Vietnam War and co-edited one book on Operation Desert Storm.


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