Sunday, January 04, 2009

Comment on Israel-Hamas war

I left this comment on Professor Nacos' blog in response to Israeli-Palestinian Clash: Who is Winning the PR War?:

One of my favorite quotes about Operation Iraqi Freedom is relevant for Israel's current campaign:

"... war is undertaken at the risk of the national soul. The moral certainty that makes war possible is certain only to unleash moral havoc, and moral havoc becomes something the nation has to rise above. We can neither win a war nor save the national soul if all we seek is to remain unsullied—pristine. Anyway, we are well beyond that now. The question is not, and has never been, whether we can fight a war without perpetrating outrages of our own. The question is whether the rightness of the American cause is sufficient not only to justify war but to withstand war's inevitable outrages. The question is whether—if the cause is right—we are strong enough to make it remain right in the foggy moral battleground of war."
- Tom Junod

As we've learned - and needed to learn - in Iraq, for modern liberal Western nations, of which Israel is one, it's insufficient to defeat the enemy on the battlefield and declare victory. In modern liberal Western politics, and for the media that deliberately frames our politics, the perception (fair or not) of being the victimizer is politically debilitating and victims are granted political power. That's good and right in principle, but also exploitable by those who do not share our principles. Therefore, for the stronger side, when that side is a modern liberal Western nation, victory requires not only defeating the enemy, but establishing a tangible long-term better state in the defeated enemy's domain. The non-liberal 'weaker' enemy - whether Hamas or the Iraq insurgents - understands this as a vulnerability they do not share and the more they can promote suffering among the people, and use the media to blame their liberal enemy for the suffering, the stronger they are.

As President Bush's stubborness (which, hopefully, President-elect Obama will inherit) and the Petraeus-led counterinsurgency strategy also has taught us in Iraq, the modern-day guerilla strategy you discuss in this post can be defeated, but it requires more intimate engagement - not less - and a long and patient, intelligent, full-spectrum, and expensive commitment by the occupier to build the liberal peace. These peace-building efforts must endure even when the mission becomes protracted and ugly due to our own entering incompetencies and learning curve, the inevitable circumstances of change on this scale, and the sabotage of a ruthless calculating intelligent enemy. They must endure even when the mission becomes unpopular and misunderstood within the liberal societies of the occupier, and used cynically for political gain by competitive political entities within those societies.

How can Israel win this time? Move beyond 20th century thinking and learn from America's 21st century strategy in the War on Terror. Do more than win on the battlefield. Stay to work for liberal security. Israel must not be cowed by the media-driven protests within the modern liberal West that aid the non-liberal enemy and, therefore, perpetuate the suffering that empowers the enemy. Israel must first decisively defeat and disenfranchise the non-liberal enemy. Then, Israel must not settle for being a realist occupier for the sake of maintaining a security buffer for Israel proper; Israel must be a liberal occupier, as we've been in Iraq, and endure the costs in order to transform the region by building towards a modern liberal peace.

One can hope the media will choose to err on the side of the forces that work for long-term solution through liberal reform rather than continue to synchronize their efforts, deliberately or not, with the non-liberal enemy's open strategy of perpetuating a destructive status quo.




Blogger Mad Minerva said...

Well said!

1/19/2009 10:46 AM  

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