by Daniel Pipes
New York Sun
April 4, 2006
Since I argued in a column last week that Israel can and must defeat the Palestinian Arabs, a barrage of responses have contested this thesis. Some were trivial (Ha'aretz published an article challenging my right to opine on such matters because I do not live in Israel) but most raised serious issues that deserve an answer.
The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu observed that in war, "Let your great object be victory," and he was echoed by the 17th-century Austrian war thinker, Raimondo Montecuccoli. His Prussian successor Clausewitz added that "War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will." These insights remain valid today: Victory consists of imposing one's will on the enemy, which typically means compelling him to give up his war goals. Conflicts usually end with one side's will being crushed.
In theory, that need not be the case. Belligerents can compromise, they can mutually exhaust each other, or they can resolve their differences under the shadow of a greater enemy (as when Britain and France, long seen as "natural and necessary enemies," in 1904 signed the Entente Cordiale, because of their shared worries about Germany.)
Such "no victor, no loser" resolutions are the exception in modern times, however. For example, although Iraq and Iran ended their 1980-88 war in a state of mutual exhaustion, this tie did not resolve their differences. Generally speaking, so long as neither side experiences the agony of defeat – having its hopes dashed, its treasury wasted, and lives extinguished – the possibility of war persists.
One might expect this agony to follow on a crushing battlefield loss, but since 1945 that has usually not been the case. Planes shot down, tanks destroyed, munitions exhausted, soldiers deserting, and land lost are rarely decisive. Consider the multiple Arab losses to Israel during 1948-82, North Korea's loss in 1953, Saddam Hussein's in 1991, and that of Iraqi Sunnis in 2003. In all these cases, battlefield defeat did not translate into despair.
In the ideological environment of recent decades, morale and will matter more. The French gave up in Algeria in 1962, despite out-manning and out-gunning their foes. The same applies to the Americans in Vietnam in 1975 and the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989. The Cold War ended without a fatality.
Applying these insights to Israel's war with the Palestinian Arabs points to several conclusions:
- Israel hardly enjoys freedom of action to pursue victory; in particular, it is hemmed in by the wishes of its primary ally, the American government. That is why I, an American analyst, address this issue with the intention of influencing policy in the United States and other Western countries.
- Israel should be urged to convince the Palestinian Arabs that they have lost, to influence their psychology.
- An aggressive step like "transferring" Palestinian Arabs out of the West Bank would be counterproductive for Israel, prompting greater outrage, increasing the number of enemies, and perpetuating the conflict.
- Contrarily, perceptions of Israel's weakness lessen the possibility of Palestinian Arab defeat; thus did Israeli missteps during the Oslo years (1993-2000) and the Gaza withdrawal inspire Palestinian Arab exhilaration and more war.
- Israel needs only to defeat the Palestinian Arabs, not the whole Arab or Muslim populations, who eventually will follow the Palestinian Arab lead.
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