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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sultan Knish’

With Democracy for All and Freedom for None

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

It would be tempting to attribute the disaster spreading across the Middle East to a brief flirtation with democracy snake oil, but for the better part of the last century the political class of the United States could talk of nothing else. Nearly every war was fought was to spread democracy, protect democracy or worship at the altar of democracy.

For much of the 20th Century it was the working assumption of the sort of men who got up to give speeches in crowded halls that it was democracy that made America special. But it is not so much that democracy made America special, as America made democracy special and workable. And that is because democracy only works when government is limited. When government power isn’t limited, then democracy is just tyranny with a popular vote behind it.

In a poignant historical irony, American democracy went into a prolonged decline just as its political class was busy speechifying about the importance of exporting it abroad. Government authority was increasingly centralized and elections began to come down not to ideas, but to divided groups fighting it out in a zero sum struggle for total control of each other’s lives. American democracy has been exported to Iraq. And Iraqi democracy was exported to America.

With unlimited authority vested in the government, we no longer have elections to decide policy, but to determine whether an oppressive social and cultural agenda complete with a loss of civil rights will be forced on the rest of the country. And our last election was as polarized as an Iraqi election and with a similar outcome.

Democracy was never the solution for the Middle East; a region that is properly multicultural in the sense of being a collection of quarreling tribes, religious factions and ethnic groups. And all that democracy accomplished was to give the majority another tool for oppressing the minority. Instead of bloody revolts leading to dictatorships, there were bloody revolts leading to elections which then led to dictatorships. And only a fool or Thomas Friedman would consider the addition of this extra step to be any kind of improvement.

A multicultural society does not invalidate government by popular vote unless that society is also so split along tribal lines that elections are decided based on the rate at which races and religious groups make up that society. When demographics become valid predictors of political outcomes, then democracy becomes theocracy and ethnocracy. And the only alternative is to resort to reserved political offices for different groups in Beirut style.

There are two elements that make democracy livable. Limited government and national character. And the former depends on the latter. Dispense with the national character and you lose the limited government and democracy becomes a slow descent into tyranny, accompanied by the spectacle of hollow elections.

The Muslim world lacked either limited government or national character and so the democracy experiments there were doomed to become one type of horror show or another. The two dominant streams of political ideology in the region are Socialist and Islamist. The difference between the two is that the Socialists are mildly Islamist and the Islamists are mildly Socialist. Both of them however have no tradition of respect for the law and are motivated by utopian programs based on absolute power.

There was never going to be a good outcome. Understanding that democracy would no more solve the region’s problems than shooting a rabid dog full of PCP would improve its mood was as easy as looking at the dominant political movements that were going to compete in such an election. Each of those movements, aside from hating America, also has no ability or interest in working with anyone outside their narrow agenda except in temporary alliances that would end in the inevitable betrayal.

American leaders were ill-prepared to grasp this because the Republicans were still besotted with an idealistic vision of American democracy propounded by the Democratic Party in the first half of the last century and utterly incapable of understanding that democracy is a tool and it only works in the hands of a people of good character.

No major Republican leader has spoken against the democracy export business because questioning the export of democracy to another country also questions the character of the people there. Republicans talk about American Exceptionalism, but limit it to the country’s political systems. In such a narrow reading, America is superior because its political systems are superior, not because its people are any different or better than anyone else.

The Noose Around Israel’s Neck

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Israel is being hanged on a public gallows erected on the grounds of the United Nations with yards of rope gleefully supplied by the Muslim world. But the hangmen are mostly Westerners who still think that the Muslim lynch mob at their doorstep can be pacified with the death of a single victim.

There are three things you can do when you are about to be hanged. You can walk proudly, recite a glorious line or two to embed your martyrdom in historical memory, and then allow yourself to be hanged. Jews have an extensive body of experience with that brand of martyrdom.

Alternatively you can plead your case all the way to the gallows, arguing that a mistake has been made, that your case has been improperly reviewed, begging for someone to listen and do something. This way also ends in a hanging. But it’s the hanging of a slave without even a shred of dignity attached to it. A man that dies pleading with his murderers, and puts his fate in the honesty of the liars and hypocrites whose own crimes makes the worst of his look like virtues, is a craven fool.

Because there is really only one thing you can do when the noose is being placed around your neck. Resist. A noose works by tightening around your neck and cutting off your air or breaking your neck. If you resist the tightening of the noose, you may actually survive. On the other hand if you follow through all the procedures, if you allow your hands to be tied behind your back, and the noose to be fastened around your neck while trusting in the system to do right by you– your death is inevitable.

For seventeen years Israel has been walking toward the gallows. Its leaders have led it there by the nose ring of international assurances. Its people have been led there by refusing to see what is waiting ahead for them, even while the blood was being cleaned off the streets. Every attempt to reach a peaceful solution, every concession and show of good faith, has only tightened the bonds around its hands and the noose around its neck.

That is because every concession Israel has made, has further restricted not only its ability to defend itself, but even its ability to do basic things such as build residential housing in the capital of its own nation. Every gesture and agreement Israel has signed has bound it to ever more restrictive terms. And none of them have brought any peace. All they have ever done is set the bar higher for the next round of concessions demanded by the enemy and its aiders and abettors in the next phase of negotiations.

This is not a peace process, and it has never been one. It is a public lynching. It is the lynching of a country whose only real crime is that its existence offends the religious fanaticism and prejudices of a billion Muslims, who control much of the world’s oil, and whose followers are willing to riot and kill in the streets of nearly every major city in the world at the slightest offense.

The lynching began as a trial where the murderer wore a fine suit and his victim sat in an orange jumpsuit in the dock. Every day during the trial, the murderer would be allowed to leave the courtroom to kill again. And every afternoon he would return to the courtroom with bloody hands that the judge and jurors would pretend not to see. And if the victim dared to call attention to those bloody hands, he would be silenced and told that those murders too were his fault. Hadn’t he after all provoked the murderer into committing them?

Now the trial is coming to a close. The farce that the proceedings ever had anything to do with peace is unraveling. And we can thank Hamas and Obama for that. The endgame is all too clear. The undoing of that “mistake” which allowed the oldest and most persecuted minority in the Middle East to briefly reclaim their homeland from the tyranny of Muslim Caliphs and Sultans. To serve as a homeland for their persecuted brethren from the east and the west. From the south and the north. That mistake.

Republicans, Don’t Give Up!

Monday, November 26th, 2012

The difference between victory and defeat often comes down to morale. You’ve seen it in baseball games and wars. It’s that faint sense of air leaking out of the balloon. A weariness and malaise that kicks in when one side decides it can’t win and doesn’t want to be here anymore.

November 2012 was not a defeat. It was a loss in a close election that rattled the Democrats by showing just how much of the country had turned on their savior. It was a rebuke to Obama’s mismanagement of the country and the economy over the last four years.

Or it would have been if the Republican Party had not reacted to its loss by screaming and wailing in despair after their hopes were ludicrously inflated by establishment posters. Followed by running around like a chicken without a head because we fell 400,000 votes short of winning key states. And this defeatist behavior has helped the media create the myth of a second-term mandate.

The country did not repudiate us. The majority of Americans did not pledge allegiance to some rotten post-American country. The majority stayed home. And that is damning, but it’s also comforting because these are the people we have to win over. They don’t believe in Obama, but they don’t believe in us either. They don’t believe in politics because it isn’t relevant to their lives.

The more Republicans treat the election as a renunciation of everything that they stand for or a reason to give up on the country, the more Democrats posture as having won a tremendous ideological and cultural victory, instead of a limited strategic victory. Our reaction legitimizes theirs.

Republican consultants and pollsters fed the dream of an easy victory and that vision of an inevitable victory made the actual defeat much more shocking and devastating. It made people despair thinking that if we couldn’t win an election this “easy”, then it’s completely hopeless. But this was never going to be an easy ride. Not against the first black man in the White House with a money advantage and the media in his pocket. Not against opponents running a coordinated smear campaign while rigging the economy in their favor.

Obama may have Carter’s policies times ten, but he also has the image and the ruthless political machine of JFK. And even Reagan had to work hard to beat Carter. It wasn’t the easy ride that some Republicans like to remember it as. Even though the economy was a disaster, the hostages were in Iran and Carter’s performance had been so bad that he had a high profile Democratic challenger in the form of Ted Kennedy who took the fight to the Convention; Reagan did not break out until the debate. Now imagine Reagan running against JFK. The man in the cowboy hat might have won, but let’s not pretend that it would have been any easier than it was for Romney.

Beating Obama was possible and for a brief shining moment the window was open, when Romney had one good debate performance, but then it closed again as the storm blew in and the polls filled up with the handpicked demographics of the welfare state. And we lost, but we also won.

Win or lose, elections send a message and the message for this election to Obama was not, “We like what you’ve been doing the last four years. Great job!”

Obama lost his mandate. To win, he had to run a divisive campaign dependent on minority groups. And that locks him in a box outside the mainstream. Forget any of that nonsense about bringing the country together again. That is over and done with. The transformation of Obama from mainstream leader to bellicose mouthpiece for the left was completed at his first post-election press-conference.

Republicans might understand what this means if they weren’t busy with an opportunistic internal civil war. And if sizable chunks of the rank and file weren’t busy proclaiming that no election can ever be won again because the demographics of the country had changed so dramatically and everyone is so addicted to free stuff.

Neither one is true.

The demographics have not made it impossible for Republicans to win, not unless Republicans make that a self-fulfilling prophecy by jumping on the amnesty express. And you can beat Santa Claus, because our fat red man is a redistributor and does not give or take equally from all.But doing that requires spending more time making a case on the specific individual economic impact , rather than endlessly singing the wonders of free enterprise and depending on enough people to align with your economic philosophy to carry you over the top.

War Is the Answer

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

For the last hundred years the best and brightest of the civilized world have been engaged in the business of peace. In the days before the Nobel Peace Prize became a joke, it was expected that scientific progress would lead to moral progress. Nations would accept international laws and everyone would get together to replace wars with international conferences.

Instead, technological progress just gave us better ways to kill each other. There have been few innovations in the moral technology of global harmony since Immanuel Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” laid out a plan to grant world citizenship to all refugees and outlaw all armies, invasions and atrocities with the whole shebang would be overseen by a League of Nations.

That was in 1795 and Kant’s plan was at least more reasonable than anything we have two-hundred years later today because it at least set out to limit membership in this body to free republics. If we had done that with the United Nations, it could conceivably have become something resembling a humane organization. Instead it’s a place where the dictators of the world stop by to give speeches about human rights for a show that’s funnier than anything you could find eight blocks away at the Broadway Comedy Club.

Since the League of Nations folded, the warring peoples of the world have added the atom bomb, the suicide bomber, the jet plane, the remotely guided missile, the rape squad, the IED, the child soldier and the stealth fighter to their arsenals. And the humanitarians have murdered a few billion trees printing out more useless treaties, conventions and condemnations; more dead trees than accounted for by every piece of human literature written until the 19th Century.

There is no moral technology to prevent war. Or rather war is the moral technology, that when properly applied, ensures peace.

The humanitarians had gone down a dead end by trying to create perpetual peace by outlawing war, but the peace-shouters who wear their inverted Mercedes Logo don’t really want peace, some of them reflexively hate war for sentimental reasons, but their leaders and most committed activists don’t hate war, they hate the people who win the wars.

The plan for perpetual peace is really a plan for perpetual war. It necessitates that the civilized nations who heed its call amass overwhelming quantities of firepower as deterrents against war, which they will pledge to never use because if the threat of destroying the world isn’t enough, their bluff will be called and they will fold. And if they don’t fold, then the world will be destroyed because the humanitarians said that peace was better than war.

It also necessitates that the actual wars that they fight be as limited as possible by applying precision technology to kill only actual armed enemy combatants while minimizing collateral damage. And that humanitarian objective also necessitates that the other side reply with a counter-objective of making it as hard as possible to kill them without also killing civilians.

The humanitarian impulse makes the anti-humanitarian impulse inevitable. The more precisely we try to kill terrorists, the more ingeniously the terrorists blend into the civilian population and employ human shields. The more we try not to kill civilians, the more civilians we are forced to kill. That is the equal and opposite reaction of the humanitarian formula.

In Afghanistan, the Rules of Engagement were overhauled to minimize Afghan civilian casualties. This was so successful that not only did the casualty rate for American soldiers dramatically increase because they were not allowed to fire unless they were being fired at, but the number of Afghan civilian casualties killed by American forces also fell dramatically. It was a great triumph. But sadly the number of Afghan civilians killed by the Taliban increased dramatically and more than made up for the shortfall.

When the Taliban have won the war, the number of civilian casualties will be tremendous once Obama pulls the troops out and the cheerful bearded boys march into Kabul and start killing every woman who can read. But it was still a better thing than the unacceptable levels of civilian casualties under Bush. It was a better thing that the Taliban have free reign to kill as many Afghans as they want than that American soldiers should have been able to fight the Taliban without the humanitarian handcuffs.

Because sometimes you have to destroy the village to save the village, and that is true whether it’s American planes bombing a terrorist hideout or humanitarians letting the Taliban take the village and kill every tenth woman in it.

And yet for all this monumental effort, for all the soldiers dead because they weren’t sure if the man planting an IED in the road was a terrorist or just a decent upstanding poppy farmer checking the soil composition, for all the Afghan civilians killed by the moral technology of inaction, your unfriendly neighborhood  peace-shouter is about as satisfied as a cannibal at a vegan banquet. Give him, her or it five valuable minutes of your time and it will begin shrieking about drone strikes, kill lists and the murderous rampage of a technology that is as far from Shock and Awe as you could possibly imagine without going completely Gandhi. If anything it hates drone strikes more than it hates Hiroshima. Mass killing justifies its smug contempt for the machinery of war, but anything that smacks of an attempt to moralize warfare challenges its principles and urges it on to greater displays of outrage.

Israel, in the name of peace, turned over the lives of millions of people to the control of a terrorist organization which taught their children to believe that their highest purpose in life was to die while killing Israelis.

The Oslo Accords turned stone-throwers into shooters and suicide bombers. It allowed the kind of people that most of Israel’s Muslim neighbors had locked up and thrown away the key to, inside the country and gave them charge of the economy and the youth. Every peace dove, every peace song, every peace agreement, made the rivers of blood that followed not only inevitable, but mandatory.

For decades, every time that Israel was on the verge of finishing off the terrorists, there came a call for a ceasefire or a peace agreement. The call was heeded and the violence continued because all the peace agreements and ceasefires were just prolonged unfinished wars. They were a game of baseball that never ended because no home run was ever scored. Instead the New York Yankees were being forced to play the Martyrs of Muslimtown for thirty years with the umpire stepping in every time the hometown team was on the verge of winning the game. Each peace agreement did not mean peace, it meant that the Muslimtown Martyrs would have another few years to go on killing and being killed.

Peace meant that the war would never end. Instead of perpetual peace, it made for perpetual war.

In 1992 Israel deported 400 Hamas terrorists. It didn’t kill them, lock them up or bake them into a pie. All it did was kick them out of a country they didn’t recognize and closed the door behind them. That deportation became the leading human rights cause of the day. The UN issued a unanimous resolution condemning the deportation. The Red Cross brought them blankets. Newsweek accused Israel of “Deporting the Hope for Peace.”

And so Israel took the 400 Hamas terrorists, the hope for peace, back. Over the next 20 years they shed rivers of blood and rivers of blood were shed because of them. There was never any peace with them and they made peace impossible.

But the humanitarians had gotten their way, as they always got their way, and their way was the blown up bus and the shattered cafeteria, the burning building and the suicide bomber making his way through a crowded mall, the child’s mother lovingly tying on his martyr costume complete with Alfred Nobel’s great invention, the jet plane releasing its cargo of bombs and the television screaming for war. But all these were far better than that 400 Hamas terrorists should sniffle into their Red Cross supplied cups of dark coffee on the hills of Lebanon.

To those who croon to that old Lennon song, peace is always better than war, and good intentions lead to good results. The only way forward is to keep extending your hand to the enemy and doing it over and over again no matter how much effort the doctors have to put into stitching it back together again after the last handshake.

Peace is still better than war. It is better that Israel and Hamas fight escalating mini-wars every 3 years than that Israel finish off Hamas once and for all. That price wasn’t worth paying 20 years ago when all it meant was that 400 terrorists would have been forced to get jobs slinging Halal hash in Lebanese Hashish joints. It certainly isn’t worth it today.

A flock of peace doves wings to Israel with proposals for engaging Hamas. But it’s Israel that is supposed to figure out a way to live with its explosive bride. All the proposals call for some gradual process by which Hamas will be courted, engaged and weaned off terror to become an upstanding member of the international community. And that’s all well and good if you have soy for brains.

Hamas is not interested in being engaged. Its goal is the destruction of Israel. This isn’t posturing, it’s not sullen resentment over being blockaded by Israel or outrage over the latest round of fighting. This is the essential ideology of Hamas, derived from the core Islamic principles over the proper role of non-Muslims in the Muslim world. It is not interested in a two-state solution, job creation programs or any of the meaningless shiny toys that diplomats wave when they arrive in the region. Its goal is to make Islam supreme over all other systems by destroying a non-Muslim state in what it considers to be Muslim territory.

Perpetual peace was not made for such conflicts. Peace was made for reasonable people who are willing to give and take. It was not made for those who only take.

Peacemaking is not a policy, it is a religion that we are all obligated to believe in. It is an immoral moral principle that ends in war. Peacemaking in the World War II cost more lives than Hitler could have ever taken on his own. Peacemaking in the War on Terror has cost a hundred times more lives than the terrorists could have ever taken on their own.

The business of peace is the industry of death. Behind the peace sign is a field of flowers with a grave for every one. Behind the peace agreement and the ceasefire is another war that will be worse than the last.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The Gates of Jerusalem

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The endless wars with Israel are not really about the Jewish State. Nor are the wars about the Arabs living in the territories that Israel lost in 1948 to Jordan and Egypt and recaptured from them in 1967. The rest of the Muslim world cares no more about them than Hitler cared about the Sudeten Germans or Japan really believed in the rights of Chinese and Koreans.

Israel is a sideline in a regional struggle by fractured populations who are divided by ethnicity and religion, language and natural resources, to unite into a single commonality. It is a natural target because its population consists of a people who are members of a different religious and ethnic group than the dominant religious and ethnic groups of the region.

Unlike the Persians and Turks, the Jews are not Muslims, not even Shiites, and unlike the Christian Arabs, the Jews are not even of the same ethnicity as the regional majority. Jews are neither Muslims nor Arabs and that makes them unique and alien in a region where every country is dominated by either an Arab or Muslim identity. Or both.

To the Arab Nationalist, the Persian and Turk is an alien, but the Christian Arab is a brother. To the Islamist, the Christian Arab is a Dhimmi or an infidel, but the Turk is a brother in faith. But to both, the Jew and the Jewish State are an alien presence in the region that must be removed for their own version of regional unity to flourish.

The Post-Colonial contest in the Middle East has been over how to unite the fractured ethnic minorities and the religious splits together into a single region. What do the tribal oil monarchies have in common with the former colonies ruled by military strongmen? What do any of them have in common with the Persians and the Turks?

Uniting behind something is difficult, as even the Islamists must admit. Islam split over issues of succession not too long after Mohammed’s death. But uniting against something is fairly easy. The Jews are the most alien of all the groups in the region. Unable to unite on love, the Middle East unites on hate and hating Israel gives everyone in the region a feeling of having something in common.

Israel is however only a sideline in the larger struggle between Islamists and Nationalists, Sunnis and Shiites, in a region struggling to define itself around the supremacy of a single defining identity, rather than a harmony between different identities.

Terrorism against Israel is not a continuous enduring phenomenon. The enemies that Israel faced were defined by the political and religious trends of the region, from an early PLO committed to fighting to incorporate Israel into a Greater Syria  to the latter day Hamas which is fighting for its own Islamist superstate in the form of the Caliphate.

Rather than an ongoing resistance by an oppressed people, the terrorists have actually been defined by ideological opportunism.

To the Arab Nationalists, it was nationalism that defined a nation and their terrorists constructed a mythical Palestinian identity to indoctrinate generations into becoming eager soldiers in the endless war being promoted by their Arab Nationalist backers in Egypt and Syria. And so Palestinian nationalism was born, not at all troubled by the lack of any actual national history to go with all the flags and bloody poems about dying for a homeland that had never existed and whose population consisted of economic migrants from Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

To the Islamists, nationalism is at best suspect and at worst, idolatrous. Hamas has never been able to disavow Palestinian nationalism, but its leaders waver between invoking the Palestinian nation and tossing it aside for their true goal of a regional Islamist unity.

The Arab Nationalists needed a national history and identity to lay claim to Israel. The Islamists has no need for such trinkets. To the Islamist, Israel is a Muslim possession by right of conquest. Once Muslims capture a place, whether it is Spain or Israel, it becomes Muslim land in perpetuity. There is no need for a national mythology linking a people to a specific place to allow a Muslim to lay claim to a territory that was once ruled by Muslims.

Incidentism

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Once upon a time it was the objective of the military to win wars. Now the objective of the military is to avoid incidents.

An incident happens when civilians are killed, prisoners mistreated or some other event that is photographed, videotaped and then flashed around the world. This results in an Incident, capital I, that triggers much artificial soul-searching by the media which spends the next two years beating the incident to death and flogging its corpse across television programs, newspaper articles, books, documentaries and finally, if it’s a big enough incident, a real life movie version that is based on the book, which was based on the article, where the idealistic reporter/lawyer/activist who uncovered the truth about the incident will be played by Matt Damon or George Clooney.

The main objective of the military in most civilized countries is to prevent this chain of articles, programs, books, documentaries, dramatized plays and Matt Damon movies from coming about by making sure that no Incident can ever happen. And the best way to do that is by not fighting. And if the enemy insists on fighting, then he must be fought with razor sharp precision so that no collateral damage takes place. And if someone must die, it had better be our own soldiers, rather than anyone on the other side whose death might be used as an Incident.

Incidentism isn’t derived from a fear of Matt Damon movies, but from the perception that wars are not won on the battlefield, but in the minds of men. And that perception has a good deal to do with the kind of wars we choose to fight.

The military, whether in the United States or Israel, does not exist to win wars. It exists to win over the people who don’t want it to win a war.

The guiding principle in such conflicts is to use the military to push back the insurgency long enough to win over the local population with a nation building exercise. This program has never worked out for the United States, but that doesn’t mean that generations of military leaders don’t insist on going through the motions of applying it anyway.

In Israel, the last time the military was sent to win a war, was 1973. Since then the military has been used as a police force and to battle militias in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. In the Territories, the ideal Israeli soldier was supposed to be able to dodge rocks thrown by teenagers hired by Time correspondents looking to score a great photo. Today the ideal Israeli soldier is capable of visiting an American college campus to dodge the overpriced textbooks hurled at him by the local branch of Students for Justice in Palestine or the International Socialist Organization, while explaining why the IDF is the most moral army in the world except for the Salvation Army.

The ideal Israeli soldier, like his American, British and Canadian, but not Russian or Chinese, counterparts, is supposed to avoid Incidents. That means operating under Rules of Engagement which make firing at an assailant almost as dangerous as not firing at an assailant.

The ideal American soldier is supposed to avoid the Taliban, or as one set of orders urged, patrol in places where the Taliban won’t be found. And that’s sensible advice, because if the goal is to avoid creating an Incident, then avoiding the enemy is the best way to avoid an Incident. Unfortunately the enemy has a bad habit of appearing where he isn’t supposed to be and creating his own Incidents, because Taliban and Hamas commanders are not concerned about being yelled at in a fictional courtroom by Matt Damon. They actually welcome Incidents. The bigger and bloodier the Incident, the more hashish and young boys get passed around the campfire that night.

American soldiers operate under the burden of winning over the hearts and minds of Afghans and New York Times readers. Israeli soldiers are tasked with winning over New York Times readers and European politicians. But some hearts and minds are just unwinnable. And most wars become unwinnable when the goal is to fight an insurgency that has no fear of the dreaded Incident, while your soldiers are taught to be more afraid of an Incident than of an enemy bullet.

Israeli leaders live in perpetual fear of “losing the sympathy of the world”, little aware that they never really had it. The “Sympathy of the World” is the strategic metric for conflicts. And so Israel does its best to minimize any collateral damage by using pinpoint strikes and developing technologies that can pluck a bee off a flower without harming a single petal. But invariably the technocratic genius of such schemes has its limits, an Incident happens, the Israeli leftist press denounces the Prime Minister for clumsily losing the sympathy of the world, and international politicians order Israel to retreat back behind whatever line it retreated to during the last appeasement gesture before the last peace negotiations. And its experts ponder how to fight the next one without losing the sympathy of the world.

American and Israeli generals live in fear of losing political support and so they never put any plans on the table that would finish a conflict. Instead they choose low intensity warfare with prolonged bleeding instead of short and brutal engagements that would finish the job. They talk tough, but their enemies know that they don’t mean it. Worse still, that they aren’t allowed to mean it because meaning it would be too mean.

Incidentism leads to armies tiptoeing around conflicts and losing them by default. Avoiding them becomes the objective and that also makes Incidents inevitable because the enemy understands that all it will take to win is a few dead children planted in the ruins of a building; in a region where parents kill their own children for petty infractions and frequently go unpunished for it. The more an army commits to Incidentism, the sooner its war is lost. Prolonged low intensity conflicts are ripe with opportunities for Incidents, far more so that hot and rapid wars. And so the hearts and minds, those of the locals and those of New York Times readers, always end up being lost anyway.

War is no longer just politics by other means, it actually is politics with the goal of winning over hearts and minds, rather than achieving objectives. The objectives of a war, before, during and after, have become those of convincing your friends and your enemies, and various neutral parties, of your innate goodness and the justice of your cause. Propaganda then has become the whole of war and those who excel at propaganda, but aren’t any good at war, now win the wars. The actual fighting is just the awkward part that the people who make the propaganda wish we could dispense with so they can focus on what’s really important; distributing photos of our soldiers protecting the local children and playing with their puppies.

Take all that into account and the miserable track records of great armies are no longer surprising. Armies need to prove their morality to win a war, but are never allowed to win a war because it would interfere with proving their morality. Conflicts begin on the triumphant moral high ground and end with the victors slinking back defeated after an Incident or two has been splashed all over the evening news and the book based on the article on it has already been optioned by Matt Damon’s production company for a movie to be funded by the same people who fund the terrorists.

The war of words, the conflict of images and videos, the clash of arguments, has become the sum of war. And that war is unwinnable because it must be fought on two fronts, against the cultural enemies within and the insurgents outside.

An army cannot win a war and win over the New York Times at the same time. And so long as it fears Incidents more than operating in an aimless counterinsurgency twilight that eventually shades into defeat, then it is bound to lose both to both the terrorists and the New York Times.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

A Moment of Truth in Israel

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Seven years ago the Israeli government decided to forcibly evict the Jewish residents of Gaza and withdraw all bases and forces from the area. The experts, some with the government and some with the media, assured everyone that it would be for the best and that withdrawal would actually improve the security situation in the country.

It was put about that resources and lives were being wasted protecting Israelis living in Gaza, while those Israelis insisted that their presence in Gaza was protecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The experts laughed at them. Now the experts are keeping an ear open for air raid sirens because as it turned out, those farmers and teachers, those men and women growing lettuce in greenhouses and building homes on hilltops, from which rockets are being launched, were the ones protecting Tel Aviv.

“They are now being asked to relinquish these accomplishments for the greater good,” the government press release said of their houses and farms, of their synagogues and greenhouses. And the greater good was served. The greenhouses were turned into Hamas training camps and the synagogues were burnt to the ground. Rockets fly into the air from the ruins of broken houses.

No longer will your sons have to die in Gaza, the experts said. A month later rockets were falling on Sderot. A year later Gilad Shalit had been kidnapped and Israeli soldiers were back again, dying in a Gaza that was now run by Hamas.

Among the bundle of promises from the Sharon government, was that the Gaza withdrawal was part of an oral agreement with the United States limiting further withdrawals and concessions. That agreement lasted for another few years until Obama took office and no one in his administration could ever remember such an agreement or accept its validity.

“The moment of truth has arrived,” Netanyahu said, on resigning from the Sharon government. “At the moment of truth, a man – especially a leader – must ask himself: ‘What are you doing, what do you stand for, what are you fighting for?’”

These moments of truth come fast and furious in Israel, but hardly anyone waits around for an answer. Not even Netanyahu, who knows better.

Hamas’ objectives have always been straightforward. Its commanders and suicide bombers, its militia members, bomb experts, smugglers, launchers and embezzlers know what they are fighting for.

“Our struggle against the Jews is extremely wide-ranging and grave,” the Hamas charter says. “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” It has the simplicity that you would expect from the Muslim Brotherhood, a fascist organization that drew equal inspiration from the Koran and Nazism.

What however is Israel fighting for? Since Oslo, the slogan of Israeli moderate conservatives has been “Peace with Security” even though it was quite clear that you could pursue peace and have neither peace nor security, or you could pursue security and have peace. Their slogan was muddled and their policies even more so.

Israel may have superior firepower, but like most Western countries, its policymakers are too muddled to be able to apply that firepower in a useful way. The limited scale warfare that has been adopted by America, including drone assassinations and extensive security measures, came out of Israel’s futile efforts to find a more humanitarian style of warfare that would limit civilian and military casualties. But all that these measures really did was make life with terror more manageable.

Withdrawals and a variety of defensive measures such as Iron Dome made it seem like Israel could maintain the status quo. Peace with Security meant no peace and no security, but enough of the illusion of both that it would seem as if the slogan had been fulfilled. Suicide bombings dropped and the terrorists were forced to resort to rocket attacks and drive-by shootings with much lower casualty rates. Rates so low that those who didn’t live in Sderot or Samaria could ignore them.

Instead of ending the threat, Israeli conservatives had found a way to live with the pain of terrorism while turning their focus to economic reforms. The left with its emphasis on finding a permanent solution through appeasement and withdrawals was discredited and collapsed. But the problem had not gone away.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/a-moment-of-truth-in-israel/2012/11/18/

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