Friday, March 7, 2008

What Answer?

A crazed gunman – of course, a fundamentalist Islamic radical – runs into a yeshiva (a Jewish school) in Israel, kills seven outright and wounds at least ten others (some of whom are not likely to survive). In Palestine, the streets erupt in celebration, with green Hamas banners sprouting like spring grass, thousands of rounds fired into the air, and candy being handed out in large quantities. Hamas immediately claimed “credit”, calling the actions of the shooter “heroic”.

How should Israel respond?

The state of Israel has basically the only well-functioning government in the entire region. It is the only country whose citizens (including the Arabic citizens!) are free, by virtually any measure one could apply. Ever since the state of Israel was created, they've been more or less continuously attacked by their neighbors and more distant Arabic and Islamic states or their proxies (for example, Iran is the primary sponsor of Hamas). So far as I can tell, there's a small group of the good guys (Israel) – the kind of people and culture we'd like to have as friends – surrounded and attacked on all sides by the bad guys. I sure can't see much to savor or cherish about the people and culture attacking Israel.

So here's how I think Israel should respond: I think they should use their vastly superior and (currrently) voluntarily hobbled military power to deliver a message that couldn't possibly be misinterpreted by even the most primitive, addle-brained adversary. The message should be: if you attack our people, we will respond in an overwhelmingly painful and permanent way. In other words, the response should be as disproportionate as you can possibly make it. For example, in the current situation Hamas has already publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, and then celebrated afterward. Fine. Israel, please wipe out Hamas in Gaza. Kill anyone who resists. Re-occupy Gaza and declare that you are permanently annexing that land. Any citizens of Gaza who don't want to be citizens of Israel get a free trip to the putrid paradise of Palestine. Choose military effectiveness and threat reduction over mercy. Make the Palestinians, your other enemies (and their masters), and the entire world aware of the perilous cost of attacking Israel.

This is, I believe, the only “peace process” with a genuine chance for success. As uncomfortable as this is for any liberal to accept, history teaches us an uncomfortable truth: humiliating defeat is the most common path to a lasting peace.