Marlowe's Shade

Monday, October 18, 2004

Israel: Military Solution to Terrorism Works

This enormously important article is the response to all those who still still believe that a hard line against terrorists creates more terrorists.

[For] most Israelis, and for many Palestinians too, the violence of the intifada--which entered its fifth year this month--seems to be in recession...
How did things improve so dramatically, and so quickly, for Palestinians and Israelis alike? Begin by recalling Israel's assassination, in late March, of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. At the time, the action was all but universally condemned as reckless and counterproductive. "By granting Yassin the martyrdom he craved, the Israelis have provided a motive for new suicide attacks," went an editorial in the normally pro-Israel Daily Telegraph of London. "More young Palestinians will fall in love with death, and more Israeli civilians will die with them."
Yet what followed for Israel were nearly six consecutive terror-free months. This wasn't because the Palestinian terror groups lacked for motivation to carry out attacks. It was because they lacked for means. The leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Yasser Arafat's own al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had to spend their time figuring out how to survive, not on planning fresh attacks. The Israeli army incarcerated terror suspects in record numbers--some 6,000 now sit in Israeli prisons--which in turn helped yield information for future arrests. Most importantly, the security fence has begun to make the Israeli heartland nearly impenetrable to Palestinian infiltrators.

The value of keeping terrorists on the run and intiative as a force multiplier can't seem to be stressed enough:

Last summer, domestic discontent with Arafat nearly turned to outright revolt. This, too, was a direct and positive result of Israel's military policy: By locking up Arafat in his compound and making him look weak, he became weak. By weakening Arafat, while simultaneously decimating Hamas, it gave rise to a cohort of comparatively more pragmatic leaders ready to give up on this intifada the moment they can. Above all, by showing Palestinians that the suffering they inflicted was the suffering they incurred, it forced a quiet rethink about the utility of violence as a political tool.

The lessons for the US should be obvious:

Taken together, these measures prove what a legion of diplomats, pundits and reporters have striven to deny: that there is a military solution to the conflict. This is true in two senses. First, a sufficiently strong military response to terrorism does not simply feed a cycle of violence (although a weak military response does); rather, it speeds the killing to a conclusion. That makes it possible for Israelis and Palestinians to resume a semblance of normal life. Second, a military solution creates new practical realities, and new strategic understandings, from which previously elusive political opportunities may emerge.

The situation in Iraq is on a bigger scale, but not, in my opinion, enough to be qualitatively different.

Tactically, Israeli security forces learned, after a shaky start, how to suppress a massive terrorist-guerrilla insurgency, a remarkable accomplishment U.S. military planners would do well to study. Strategically, a majority of Israelis concluded that while peace with this generation of Palestinian leaders is impossible, separation from them is essential. And morally, Israel learned that even the most fractious democracy can stand up to a prolonged terrorist assault, and choose not to yield.
papijoe 1:31 PM