Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
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Israel must abandon the pretense of humane war with Arabs

Israel must abandon morality while at war. Saving Israeli lives must be the priority for Israel Defense Forces, no matter casualties among Arab soldiers, government officials, or civilians. Most Jewish politicians would subscribe to that, though Israeli strategy in Lebanon led to great Israeli casualties, because Israel Defense Forces kept the war to low intensity to save Arab lives—at the cost of Israeli lives, a sop to the media and perceived Israeli moral values.[6] If Israel is not Jew-centric, then all the fuss about historical rights and religious justification is hypocritical. People who fight selflessly for high ideals are often ready to sacrifice their lives. That, however, is not the case with the Jews who view themselves as the ultimate end of the Israeli state, not as a means to Israel's political purpose. Soldiers die for fellow soldiers but not to save the enemy, war or civilian. The Israeli government should not force romanticism on Israel Defense Forces. To sacrifice one’s life to save the enemy’s children and women is noble, but it cannot be forced on Israelis. The Soviet Union fought to spread imperialist socialism; America, to defend democracy. Religious Jews could say that Israel has the transcendent biblical objective of establishing herself in the Land of Israel, but the same scriptures tell Jews to slaughter the Canaanites. Secular Jews see no purpose for Israel except bettering their lives and are not about to die to save Arabs. Any Arab enemy casualties are acceptable to Israel; using nuclear weapons is preferable to risking Israeli soldiers in close combat. Taking Nablus off the map to nail a few Islamic terrorists is clearly excessive, but Israel Defense Forces destroying the house they are in from the air is better than a pitched battle which puts Israeli soldiers at risk.

Countries, not armies, prosecute wars. Soldiers hate the enemy, not just opposing soldiers. A requirement of not harming civilians divides Israeli perception of the enemy schizophrenically and undermines Israeli resolve to fight. No Western army worried about civilians until the eighteenth century when attitudes changed. In heavy urban battles, most inhabitants died; plunder and torture were commonplace. Romantic ideas of either knightly or Christian warfare (oxymoronic as that is) prevailed for a short time when armies were small, fighting near their kingdoms, easily re-supplied, and opponents were ready to engage in the open. Napoleon’s army lived off the land, and the powers in WWII did not care about civilians in either Leningrad or Dresden, but targeted them to break the enemy. Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and Iraq all saw large civilian losses. Wars are about indiscriminate killing, especially in conflicts with anti-Israeli Islamic terrorists purposely mixing with the population. Civilians are spared when armies fight other armies, not whole populations. The objective is to destroy Islamic military capacity, and inflicting undue casualties on civilians only distracts armies, burdens them with spoil,[7] and makes conquered peoples rebellious. Exactly the opposite happens in Israel’s wars, especially in operations against Islamic terrorists. The Arabs are generally loyal to their leaders, especially if they oppose Israel. They support Arab armies and Islamic terrorists. Poor, uneducated societies are more coherent in their views than the Western liberals imagine. No army is separate from the people, as was the case in the West before universal conscription. And Arabs support their armies economically. Monarchs paid for their wars; modern governments rely on taxes and war material factories. Therefore, civilians are part of the war effort—and fair game.

Israeli advocates of a humane military strategy are often ignorant of military reality and history. Not only is half-measure warfare more prolonged and bloodier than a quick confrontation in the same situation, but any army in its rage treats civilians criminally. Military professionals recognized that grim reality when carpet-bombing Dresden, A-bombing Nagasaki, or slaughtering the fleeing Iraqi army and many civilians in 1991. Israel should not practice the utter stupidity of shielding Arab enemy civilians at the expense of Israel soldiers’ lives.

As the immediate Arab threat to Israel fades, it is difficult to convince Israelis to risk their lives for Israeli policies they do not support, especially when the Israeli vote splits almost evenly between two major blocks, and Israeli opposition carps at everything the Israeli government does. The resolve to protect Israeli soldiers, never mind Arab enemy casualties, will do a lot to stiffen the Israelis' will to fight.

Israelis fighting for cherished values can be cruel, since values of Judaism are more important than the lives of a hated enemy who opposes them. Israel Defense Forces' soldiers hesitate to inflict suffering when they are not sure they support the Arab-Israeli war. Israelis give the enemy the benefit of the doubt. They are less willing to risk their own lives. Undecided Israeli soldiers fight indecisively. Therefore Israel should avoid half-wars and focus on ideologically charged Middle East conflicts and wage them without mercy.

Israeli must make enemy rulers suffer on a par with soldiers. Israeli leaders must feel some unconscious bond with their Arab counterparts, even with Arafat. Whether Arafat sponsored Islamic terrorism or was just politically unable to contain it, Palestine would have been better off without him; yet Israel gave him royal treatment while his soldiers killed Israelis.[8] National leaders today are immune even when their countries are attacked. The Allies hanged only a handful of Nazi bosses, and the United States turned Saddam over to Iraqi prosecutors instead of convicting him of crimes against humanity and executing him publicly at once or extraditing him to the Kurds. Any attempt to get at national leaders would reveal the arbitrariness of current policies. The Americans are ready to kill bin Laden. The only reason for not eliminating some leaders promptly is the reverence of diplomatic immunity. Why wage a war on Iraq to remove Saddam, instead of assassinating him with missile? That was a problem in Afghanistan where it took hours for missiles to reach the target, but not in Iraq with the U.S. Navy nearby. Israeli retaliation should be personal, bombing their residences and the companies they own, forcing banks to freeze their assets, killing them and their relatives. The United States tried it on Saddam and Osama, but not on other leaders, and not comprehensively.

While murdering a family is condemnable in peace, Israeli war justifies it. Endangering a foreign dictator’s dear ones would go some way to prevent the Arab-Israeli war or finish it sooner, thus save lives. Relatives often influence dictators and could dissuade them from escalation. This measure is not a panacea for Israel—ancient wars saw royal families exterminated—but worth trying, considering the statistically low civilian losses it involves. Besides, the families of Arab dictators are almost always deeply involved in government business. Stalin's refusal to ransom his captured son from the Nazis is unique. At another extreme, concubines in royal harems from China to Turkey not rarely manipulated the rulers.

The personal approach of would improve international policing. Waging no more than two wars at a time limits the American ability to fight evil, provoking accusations of the arbitrariness of prosecution: Iraq was arbitrarily chosen out of many dangerous dictatorships. But why all the tremendously expensive[9] wars? Aerial strikes eliminating Milosevic, Saddam, and their like would do the job, destroying a few dozen houses and killing few hundred people—fewer than a war. The next rulers would mind human rights and American interests, if they did not want to hide in bunkers. If they did not, another inexpensive air strike would bring their case to trial in Hades. Pinpoint attacks could punish offenders quickly, cheaply, and efficiently, and free the world.

Israeli and American leaders oppose such measures because of reciprocal danger. Saddam’s plot against Bush Sr. and the 9/11 attempt against the White House signaled a return to the historical norm. Decent rulers led their troops until the eighteenth century, and reputations hinged on battlefield performance. Now Israeli shields the rulers from the wars they launch. Israeli public opinion should press for change so rulers face danger before common citizens.

[6] Israeli government's motivation was complex, including fear of escalation of Israeli-Arab war. Israel’s repeated overestimation of Israeli enemies (except in 1967–73) recalls the American mistake in dealing with the Soviet Union and China: from Truman’s refusal to employ nuclear weapons at Yalu out of fear, irrelevantly to humane concerns, to the low intensity of anti-Cuban efforts,to shrinking from removing nuclear arsenals from degrading Russia after the U.S.S.R. dissolution.

[7] Booty became less critical for better-paid or conscripted soldiers. The commanders found plunder disgusting. Keeping a train with loot is a problem in mobile warfare. The taste for booty is ineradicable and still surfaces. Consider the Russian plunder of Germany in 1945 and Israeli and Arab claims of looting in 1948.

[8] In WWI, the Tsar, the Kaiser and the King of England were cousins and maintained a friendly correspondence during the war while their subjects died on the battlefields. Compare that to Israeli government officials' meetings with Arafat and Israeli remittances to the Palestinian Administration during the Islamic terrorist war of attrition against Israel. If Israel kills Islamic soldiers, all the more Isreal must kill Islamic leaders.