Monday, January 05, 2009

War Is Cruelty

War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over.” - William Tecumseh Sherman
I was thinking about the war, and how different people approach war and truthfully, many problems in life. There are times where it is best to simply face up to the problem, take the 'lumps', as you will, and move on. This is certainly true in war, as stated so well above by General Sherman during the Civil War. As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a short op-ed I wrote for the Lander Chronicle [Vol. 4 Issue 1] in the fall of 2003. Large chunks of it are quite apropos now, so I'm reposting it in full here. (The writing is a bit weak, especially in the beginning, but I threw it together rather fast and was forced to edit out a bit by the school. Long story.)
There is an old cliché in sports: ‘Defense wins championships.’ There is also a second truism on the subject: ‘The best defense is a good offense.’ The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had an elite defense for over five years, yet were never able to win the NFL championship until this past year. The explanation for this was an offense that was so fruitless that their defense, no matter how superb, was not enough to compensate. In warfare as in sports, these guidelines form the foundation for victory. The Soviet Union did not win World War II by successfully defending their motherland from the Nazis. Defense does not stop the opposition from attacking; it only diminishes the effect of that attack. Attacking is different: it weakens, and possibly devastates, the opposition’s capacity to attack; if only because they now have to concentrate on their own defenses. Hence, it follows that World War II was won when the Russians, British, and Americans finally infiltrated Germany and smashed its capacity to wreak havoc and destruction upon the world. These concepts should be applied to the State of Israel. Israel has a horrible mess on its hands – not only from the now 3-year old Palestinian intifada, but from world pressure and condemnation. However, there is a way out of both messes at once, and that’s to temporarily make them both bigger. Israel’s only option to make its land safe for its citizens, and to gain worldwide respect, is to stick to its guns: both figuratively and literally.

As a visiting group of US Senators pointed out recently, Israel has the firepower to destroy the terrorist infrastructure among the Palestinians, they just lack the resolve to use it for fear of world opinion. But this is illogical. Currently, they are being condemned at every turn, no matter how hard they try to be accommodating. Therefore, they have little to lose in terms of political capital. Economically, Israel can no longer afford to allow this charade to continue.

The drain the intifada has had on the economy is staggering. There has been only one short period in which the economy stopped falling, public pressure was reduced, and people weren’t being killed as often: when they followed the United States’ lead in Afghanistan and went in strong after the terrorists. This is not even remotely surprising. There seems to be a recurring theme in history that those ethical leaders who have the fortitude to use power to achieve a safer world are shunned and yelled at before they act, yet praised and respected when they do. They are questioned on a moral basis: How could they destroy another? Yet these questioners fail to acknowledge that these others are oppressors and bullies, inherent threats to the world as a whole. And when they are at long last confronted, those who showed their courage are praised. Just as Israel was at first eschewed for its strike on the Egyptian Air Force in 1967, and again for its attack on Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981, these decisive actions were imperative to its safety. Now, these are hailed as two of the most brilliant tactical maneuvers in modern warfare, in addition to being viewed as heroic, brave – and necessary.

In the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman decided to absolutely annihilate everything in his armies’ paths; whether soldiers, tobacco fields, or entire cities. In a speech to the leaders of the city of Atlanta, he explains why he is intent on burning their hometown to the ground despite their pleas: “[I] shall not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the humanities of the cause, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest.” Later he laments about the press, “You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better.” But his deepest comments were in the middle of his speech: “I want peace, and believe it can only be reached
through union and war.” Just as General Sherman did then, Israel must now act for its survival as a nation by fighting for its people and its ideals. It must ignore the press and the so-called “humanist” claims heaped upon them; show enough prescience to look not just at the present, but in the future struggles of millions; and show its resolve by attacking the terrorists with a strong arm and its superior firepower until the possibility of threat is totally stamped out of existence.

Ezzie Goldish
First Year Representative