Thursday, August 03, 2006

How Should We Fight?

The recent realization that Qana "atrocity" was a lie by Hezbollah will not reduce its importance to the “Arab Street.” In keeping with the so-called Jenin massacre and the death of “little Mo,” lies are an accepted way of life in the Arab world. Fantasy-play is a common phenomenon, often used as a substitute for reality. Rafael Patai explains this aspect of Arab culture in detail.

One of the side-effects of exposing lies like Qana, is that our side concedes main principles while arguing minor details.

Hezbollah’s desire to wipe the Jews off the map, led them to attack Israel. By their nature and actions, they are responsible for the death and destruction in Lebanon including the civilians they put in harms way. Israel, to reduce civilian casualties, drops leaflets warning of impending bombings--enabling Hezbollah to escape and regroup. Implicit in this mistaken generosity is that it is Israel’s responsibility to avoid Hezbollah-supporting “civilians.” It is not. Israel has no obligation to avoid civilian deaths in the course of fighting the enemy if it cost Israeli lives or compromises the mission.

This point is now lost as defenders of Israel focus on proving that Israel is not negligent in the deaths at Qana. This should not be a question. But in a polemical argument, it is tempting to show that even by our critic's standards, they are wrong. One should resist showing respect for the absurd standards of our critics, even for a moment. To do so concedes fundamental principles.

Israel, and her allies, should take the opposite tactic and unequivocally blame Hezbollah for bringing vast death and destruction to the people of Lebanon. At all times one should say: “look at what Hezbollah caused.” Israel should tell the “Arab Street” if you attack us like Hezbollah, you’ll see your families crushed and your tribe destroyed. We should back her in this stance. It should be clear in every sentence that Hezbollah is to blame for the war and its deadly destruction.

Ben Stein understands this issue and goes even further (hat tip:

"It is very much as if, after Pearl Harbor, after the bombing of London, we said, "We will fight the Japanese and the Nazis, but we will only use humane means, and we will show total restraint and will never kill civilians. And we will search our souls and agonize about every move." It is this attitude that kept the United States from winning in Korea, in Vietnam, and now in Iraq. If we had followed that code of suicide, we would have lost World War II and the world would have been plunged into eternal darkness."

Actually, we wavered when we fought Japan. In March 10th and 11th 1945, we fire-bombed Tokyo and killed an equal number of civilians as we later killed in Hiroshima. Our intelligence failed to pick-up any concern by Japanese leaders; we discontinued the practice. Subsequently, we dropped leaflets warning of impending attacks on military and industrial targets despite the protests of our pilots that it would put them at risk. To our enemy, who had no qualms about killing Chinese and Korean civilians, we appeared weak. It was only when we returned to targeting civilians in August, using two atomic bombs, did the Japanese surrender. Did we endure five months of casualties needlessly? It's a question I'd like answered. It does, however raise the important question about how to fight a savage enemy. Mr. Stein answers as follows:

"You cannot fight inhumane people with humane means. You cannot fight savages with one hand -- no, two hands -- tied behind your back. No wars were ever won using restraint and only civilized means. That's a formula for complete defeat and for the end of civilized life. If we allow our media and French intellectuals to prevent us and the Israelis from using the means necessary to win, we'll Lebanon, in Iraq, and everywhere and this civilization is very well worth preserving. Yes, as sad as it would be to use terror tactics to win a war, it would be incomparably worse to lose. At the end of the war we win, there is light. At the end of the war we lose, there is the end."

Will we have to fight today's enemy using means appropriate to the nature of our Islamic enemy? Or can we still maintain military standards developed in the context of fighting conscripted armies of European nation-states? This issue is being discussed among the writers at National Review. John Podhoretz writing in the New York Post asks the following question:

“Are we becoming unwitting participants in their victory and our defeat? Can it be that the moral greatness of our civilization - its astonishing focus on the value of the individual above all - is endangering the future of our civilization as well?”

Continuing on the NR blog, Podhoretz explains that we could clearly beat the enemy into submission by resorting to their methods:

“… in 1982, in Hama, Hafez al-Assad wiped out an uprising against his regime by slaughtering 25,000 over a weekend. And in 1991, Saddam Hussein took down the Shiite uprising with similar viciousness. The idea that such monstrous tactics don't work is ludicrous. They do work. But I think it's fair to say that we would rather our civilization die than that we commit such acts.”

John Derbyshire quotes that last sentence and answers, “Speak for yourself, Sir.” He explains that a culture-changing victory, as in WWII, may require methods similar to that war:

"That is not a conclusion that sits very easily on the civilized conscience. Outside the context of “crisis war,” it is certainly not one we are currently willing to act on. Our will to act on it within that context, though, is surprisingly robust. I spent my childhood surrounded by men—Christian men, good family men—who had helped to level Germany’s great cities and slaughter German civilians in the hundreds of thousands by area bombing. I never once heard any of those men express the slightest word of guilt or shame about their deeds. When they talked about the war, it was to tell personal anecdotes, or to complain about their military and political superiors.

Even just a few months ago, in fact, I found myself sitting at dinner next to an elderly man who had flown in the great fire-bombing raids of WWII. Did he or his comrades feel any shame or guilt? I asked. No, he said, the subject never came up. It never came up. As he explained: “There was a war to win.”"

What are we willing to do to insure victory? Does it depend on the foe, the stage of the war, the degree of our suffering, etc.? Or are there limits no matter what the consequences to our survival, as Podhoretz holds? The question is worth discussing in general but it is clear that Israel, and the rest of the world, shows a bizarre over-concern for an enemy that would finish Hitler's work in a heartbeat if it had the power.

Update: Ralph Peters has some thoughts on how Israel should fight.


Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

I reiterate the statement by Jason that "One should resist showing respect for the absurd standards of our critics...". This grants them legitimacy, and implies a moral equivalence between them and us. Rather we ought to make it clear that what they say is not to be considered as though it were a search for truth, but as part of an approach to remove truth from consideration.

When they state their qualms about Israel's disproportionate response, I would recommend answering with the quote 'Only those who have been shocked at the horrors committed upon Israel, have the right to criticize her response.'

Next, I would ask those who call for restraint, whether they would cede victory to an insurgency, that surrounded their locations and troops with women and children. If so, they are requiring that the side that respects human life be defeated by the side that does not. Then I would add that this is where we part company, for you support the demonic over the decent, while I prefer the opposite.

One should also respond to the statements that when you bomb the enemy and cause civilian casualties, you create a population of enemies. Did we create enemies in Germany, Italy, and Japan, so that they hate us today? Or is it the Iraqis, whom we safeguarded from defeat, who harbor such ill will for America?

Finally, the question has been raised as to whether there are limits to how vicious we can behave. I maintain that there is the limit of what we would find demoralizing. Here, there are many instances where Americans will restrain themselves, rather than be guided strictly by what is most effective at the moment. However, that is a self-imposed approach of a civilized people. It is not subjecting ourselves to the pretentious standards of the Geneva Convention, the UN, or the "Arab Street". Nor is it the make believe that it will result in decent treatment for our soldiers.

Yet my emphasis would not be on why the enemy acts as they do, for they are trying to do whatever it takes to win. My concern would be about why our side is not dealing with the threat, so as to win, but pretending that the issue is how to gain the appreciation of others.

8/3/06, 4:59 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Israel, and her allies, should take the opposite tactic and unequivocally blame Hezbollah for bringing vast death and destruction to the people of Lebanon. At all times one should say: “look at what Hezbollah caused.” Israel should tell the “Arab Street” if you attack us like Hezbollah, you’ll see your families crushed and your tribe destroyed. We should back her in this stance. It should be clear in every sentence that Hezbollah is to blame for the war and its deadly destruction.

I don't see that happening, however. The rot of multiculturalism and moral relevancy are to blame, IMO. And today, Hezbollah issued a threat of its own. Have you heard about it?

All the excuse-making steps I've seen so far are just fueling that will-of-Allah mindset.

Weingarten said, My concern would be about why our side is not dealing with the threat, so as to win, but pretending that the issue is how to gain the appreciation of others.

We need to focus on getting these Islamic enemies to fear us and quit worrying about getting them to appreciate us. I cite a Kipling poem (can't recall the title at the moment--my brain is fried with all the heat) in which the Arab grew to respect his enemy.

8/3/06, 6:58 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Thanks, Allen, for adding material that expands the discussion. I can’t answer the general case of how to carry on a war. I, like most people, take historical examples as a guide—particularly World War II. However, I do think there are ethical prescriptions relevant only to the wartime context.

Part of the strength of our military comes from its discipline to an appropriate ethos rooted in practice. It creates that morale that you mentioned. And it does so because it marries honor with effectiveness. But when the ethical commands become arbitrary and demand altruistic (i.e. politically correct) concern at the expense of the safety of the troops and the success of their mission, we have a serious problem. But so too when utilitarian case-by-case pragmatism substitutes erratic behavior for proven practices solidified by time-tested military principles, we have a serious problem. Apart from that I’m hesitant to specify the details of what I assume good rational experienced military commander has to know.

8/3/06, 10:41 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

jeremayakovka, check out the update ... Ralph Peters says Israel has started the preliminary demolition.

AOW, check out Peters on teaching Hezbollah a lesson.

8/3/06, 10:43 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

That article by Ralph Peters is quite good:

Even the finest, most-determined military efforts won't eliminate Hezbollah entirely. But uncompromising ferocity on the part of the Israeli Defense Forces can weaken, humble and humiliate the terrorist leadership.

That kind of humiliation would do quite a bit to make some Muslims reconsider "the will of allah."

8/4/06, 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've become a nation of horse whisperers who no longer speak horse.

8/4/06, 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nietzsche, "Beyond Good & Evil"...


Every elevation of the type "man," has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society and so it will always be--a society believing in a long scale of gradations of rank and differences of worth among human beings, and requiring slavery in some form or other. Without the pathos of distance, such as grows out of the incarnated difference of classes, out of the constant out-looking and down-looking of the ruling caste on subordinates and instruments, and out of their equally constant practice of obeying and commanding, of keeping down and keeping at a distance--that other more mysterious pathos could never have arisen, the longing for an ever new widening of distance within the soul itself, the formation of ever higher, rarer, further, more extended, more comprehensive states, in short, just the elevation of the type "man," the continued "self-surmounting of man," to use a moral formula in a supermoral sense. To be sure, one must not resign oneself to any humanitarian illusions about the history of the origin of an aristocratic society (that is to say, of the preliminary condition for the elevation of the type "man"): the truth is hard. Let us acknowledge unprejudicedly how every higher civilisation hitherto has originated! Men with a still natural nature, barbarians in every terrible sense of the word, men of prey, still in possession of unbroken strength of will and desire for power, threw themselves upon weaker, more moral, more peaceful races (perhaps trading or cattle-rearing communities), or upon old mellow civilisations in which the final vital force was flickering out in brilliant fireworks of wit and depravity. At the commencement, the noble caste was always the barbarian caste: their superiority did not consist first of all in their physical, but in their psychical power--they were more complete men (which at every point also implies the same as "more complete beasts").

8/4/06, 11:22 AM  
Blogger Allen Weingarten said...

Douglas MacArthur wrote “In war there is no substitute for victory.” Some gainsay this by contending that victory cannot be the only standard, but that there must be morality as well. My position is that the sole standard is victory, where morality is built in. Allow me to clarify. In the film ‘Dirty Harry’, the culprit has buried a girl, who will soon suffocate if not found. The hero, Clint Eastwood, tortures the culprit, who only then informs on the location of the girl. Now torture is immoral, but it would have been more immoral to let the girl suffocate, so as to safeguard the villain. Similarly, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved the lives of those who would have perished in the invasion, prisoners of the Japanese, and the Japanese themselves.

So on the scale of lives, morality can dictate harsh measures. Even more fundamental is what transpires in the inner man. How would Dirty Harry have felt, by letting the girl suffocate? How do we Americans feel when monsters are allowed to mercilessly carry on their deeds? To curtail retribution on the monstrous, can be damaging to our persons.

On the other hand, there are times when we would not engage in measures, because it is too undermining to ourselves. Police and servicemen sometimes become brutalized by their behavior, and can engage in destructive activity in a counterproductive manner. Note however that such extremism does not lead to success, but to demoralization and loss. There is then a technical question as to the level of violence that is permissible, in terms of what will bring victory.

Now it is true, that Americans and Israelis, being as they are, can never become as harsh as their enemies. Yet that is okay, for what we lose by being decent, is more than compensated for by our ability to be creative and productive. Our losses have not been due to being insufficiently brutal, but to not examining our politically correct beliefs. The view that any harshness on our part is to be avoided, is simply nonsense, suicide, and immorality.

To summarize, in war ‘victory’ is the sole standard. This requires a morality where we punish the aggressors, rather than sacrifice ourselves.

8/4/06, 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greek Civilization ended the day they introduced the 1st hypocrite at the Dionysia.

8/4/06, 1:24 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

If you are an enemy of Israel I would expect you'd encourage them to fight as they are now.

I’d encourage them to commit suicide and remove their despicable presence from this earth. It’s my usual advice for Nazis, communists, and other sundry fascists. :)

Let us acknowledge unprejudicedly how every higher civilisation hitherto has originated! - Nietzsche

I single out that word “hitherto” and suggest that with the realization that excellence, in the noblest sense, requires liberty--not brute power--we can hopefully proceed along better lines. However, one keeps one’s powder dry.

I’ve cleaned house; you’ll find some of the chatter gone.

8/4/06, 4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can clean out all my chatter but the Nietzsche post Jason...

But you do raise an interesting question... What is the noblest sense of excellence these days? I would argue that it requires brute power too... that excellence cannot exist without it...

8/4/06, 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and that liberty would disappear without it.

8/4/06, 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But then again...never mind. I've gotta run and pick up my daughter, so I can't stay to argue the point. Have a great weekend Jason!

8/4/06, 4:22 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

You have a point, FJ. Given the threats of in the world today, and in the last century, maintaining the power to defend oneself by brute force is a necessity. But that is just the means, for what we truly seek to defend is our desire to live in liberty without the brute force in everyday life that is so common in oppressive nations through out the world and through out history.

8/4/06, 4:35 PM  
Blogger George Mason said...

Very good column. I saw Ralph Peters this weekend on BookTV on CSPAN2. I could not put it better:

o There is no "surgical" war. War is (1) inevitable, and (2) hugely horribly messy. People are chewed up as well as infrastructure.

o There is no war on the cheap. Israel under Olmert is learning this. Had they gone in on day one into Lebanon with all they had, they might have shortened the war and the costs.

o There is no victory if Syria is left out of the destruction. Stop Syria by crushing it, and the Hezbollah will dissolve immediately. By the way, Iran will get the kind of wake up message they really don't want.

o Shift the idea of this being a war of ideas to the fact that this is a war of beliefs. To Islamists, death is a promotion. That is in no way a rational approach, and it cannot be dealt with rationally in the sense of "diplomacy." The solution is to kill them all. Eventually, people in the USA may come to understand this--after another 9-11.

8/6/06, 9:51 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

How should one fight an enemy who has blurred the distinction between bomb factory and maternity ward?

8/7/06, 5:22 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Peters is right but the country isn't ready to hear it ... yet.

Beamish asks a good question.

As I read the news about "civilians" in Lebanon I wonder who they are talking about. After all Israel isn’t fighting the Lebanese army. "Technically speaking" it is civilians that are lobbing rockets into Israel. On the other hand, everyone in Shia-dominated Hezbollah-controlled areas sees themselves as part of an army for Allah. They're all simultaneously civilians and fighters. There’s no distinction and I believe there isn’t even a word in Arabic for civilians. Hezbollah calls them civilians and victims when talking to the guilt-infested infidels. But it calls them fighter/martyrs—heroes who are winning the war—when they talk to fellow Arabs.

8/7/06, 8:15 AM  

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