"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gaza, interminable Gaza

Well, I put this off for awhile since it was the Christmas season and family was more important than what terrorist assholes were doing. But here I find myself with a few free minutes, so of course I'm going to use them by shouting to the mountain tops instead of reading a book, learning a song, or telling my wife I love her. So: one day after Christmas(or Boxing Day to those from the Commonwealth) Israel started bombing the crap out of Hamas targets throughout the Gaza Strip in response to months of rocket attacks on her southern cities. They did this shortly after a six-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas expired (cease-fire being a very generous term, as Hamas never did, in fact, cease firing rockets into Israel's cities, and apparently devoted those days they weren't firing rockets to buying longer-range models). With Hamas showing no inclination to stop shooting rockets, the Israeli government decided to take matters into its own hands and force Hamas to end its deadly fireworks display.

Now, as with virtually everything to do with Middle Eastern affairs, no one simple solution exists to this problem. Israel, as always, finds itself in a quandry. On the one hand, Israel has every right to defend its territory and its citizens. Despite their inaccuracy, Hamas' rockets aren't just an inconvenience; they prevent children from going to school, business-owners from opening their businesses, and travelers from visiting the region for fear of that one day when a rocket finds its target. Simply because people aren't dying doesn't mean that the rockets don't have a negative impact (and, as we've seen in the last few days, sometimes the rockets do find their targets; and their range is getting longer). And besides, what sovereign nation is going to stand by when a hostile force commits acts of war on a daily basis? As one Israeli official said: if a group in Tiajuana were shooting rockets into San Diego, you can bet the American government would do something about it. And there's this to consider too: no one else is going to deal with Hamas. Arab governments won't, European governments won't, and you can bet that the U.N. will do nothing beyond their usual letter-writing campaign. Short of internal revolt by the Palestinians themselves, no one is going to stop Hamas from pursuing its goal of destroying Israel.

However, few good long-term options exist for Israel. This is partly because no honest broker exists to keep Hamas in check when Israel withdraws. And that withdrawal is virtually certain. So what are they to do? Hamas is a terrorist organization whose promises cannot be trusted; for Israel's own security, they need to be disrupted or destroyed. But there's no one to fill the void and provide better government for the Palestinians, unless Israel decided to reoccupy and directly govern Gaza. In many ways, this is the most logical long-term choice. Hamas offers no prospect of a future peace; Fatah and the PA are little better, because even as the 'moderates' in the equation, they still fill Palestinian heads with hatred toward Israel and provide tacit support for terrorist activities. From childhood, Palestinian children are told that Jews are less than human, no better than Nazis, and that the Jewish people need to be driven into the sea. Every entity that's ever governed the Palestinians has devoted its resources toward attacking Israel and educating its citizens with a pseudo-Nazi ideology rather than building infrastructure, providing civil services, creating jobs (rather than 'martyrs' or 'militants'), and developing an economy. Were Israel to take full control of the Gaza Strip and treat it as a province, it could purge the Palestinian people of their Islamist ideology by reforming the education system, while building the infrastructure and free civil society that Israelis already enjoy. Full control would also greatly enhance Israel's ability to provide for their own security as they could directly patrol Gaza's border and waterways. Of course, this is also the least likely scenario. It would be hugely expensive, require political capital that the Israeli government does not have, and be massively unpopular inside Israel and out. And since everything Israel does or doesn't do is unpopular throughout the international community, her options are strictly limited to whatever she can get away with that has the support of her own population. In the end,what I think we'll see is perhaps a month-long military campaign against Hamas that ends with Israel's withdrawal and possibly tighter control over Gaza's access points. The only benefit will be massive attrition against Hamas' manpower and weaponry, with the looming threat that future acts of aggression against Israel will result in equally devastating retaliation.

As for Hamas, they don't have a leg to stand on. Even sympathetic Arab governments have muttered that the terrorist group brought this on itself. And they have conducted their 'operations' with the usual disregard for civilized rules of war, from positioning rocket launchers in residential areas for the express purpose of causing civilian casualties when Israel bombs them, to using supposedly neutral U.N. ambulances to transport their fighters. That the international community can blandly blame the conduct of both sides equally is a sign of just how degraded our collective moral compass has become. Israel uses precision weapons, allows humanitarian aid to enter the territory of its enemies, and even goes so far as to send text messages warning Palestinians to vacate possible military targets before they're struck; Hamas fires rockets indiscriminately, hides their weapons in civilian buildings (and even in the homes of their families), and sends its children to die as suicide bombers. There is no moral equivalance to be found here. The only sympathy I have is for the Palestinian children who have suffered so much from Hamas' decisions. Hamas values its agenda more than it values their lives; it gladly uses them as human shields and gleefully parades their dead bodies for all the world to see. These children are the only truly innocent victims on the Palestinian side. They had the misfortune to be born into a society whose leaders do not value human life, only care about the destruction of their neighbors, and poison education and civil discourse with racist venom; and where the parents, fully aware of these facts, support these leaders anyway.

There's only one winner in all this. It's not Israel, who will never be able to win strategically without widespread, fundamental reform throughout all Palestinian society; currently, that reform will not come from within, and Israel doesn't have the will or resources to impose it from without. It's not Hamas, who doesn't really care about winning anyway so long as they can wear the mantle of perpetual victimhood and kill a few Jews while they do it. Iran gets to put this one in the win column. Between Hamas and Hezbollah, the mullahs can stir up a hornet's nest every six months in Israel and get the world to focus on how evil the Jews are, rather than how far along their nuclear program is.

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