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Thursday, October 28, 2004

Tips from the experts

As the world debates the wisdom of Ariel Sharon's pullout from the Gaza Strip, it might be worth pausing to reflect on the astonishing success that Sharon has had in winning the war on terror. In today's National Post (subscription required), in an essay adapted from a lecture Monday in Toronto, author Michael Oren makes the case that Israel has created a blueprint for the Western world to win the fight against terrorists.

After Ehud Barak's soft, submissive response to the horrific wave of terrorist attacks that were called the second Intifada (including responding to the lynching and mutilation of two Israeli reservists by bombing an empty soccer field), Israelis elected Sharon.

"He called in Israeli generals, demanded a plan for military victory and brought in a chief of staff who would implement it.

Slowly, almost imperceptively, Sharon began to escalate counter-measures -- targeting terrorist leaders, and establishing checkpoints around Palestinian cities. These measures continued till March, 2002, Israel's bloodiest month, which concluded with a nightmarish attack on a Passover Seder in the city of Netanya.

Sharon struck back with Operation Defensive Shield -- a far-reaching military operation to reoccupy the West Bank's cities. Open season was declared on the so-called "political" leaders of Hamas and the al-Aqsa brigades. Yasser Arafat was confined to his half-ruined headquarters in Ramallah, where he has remained ever since.

. . .

Instead of calling in air strikes or artillery -- what any normal army would do, precisely what the U.S. military is now doing in Falluja -- the Israeli commando units went directly into the terrorists' homes, ferreting them out -- risking their own lives, yes, but also greatly reducing the number of collateral civilian casualties.

The result: In contrast to Israeli casualties in the war -- three-quarters of whom have been civilians, less then half of all Palestinian casualties have been civilian -- a statistic almost unrivalled in modern warfare.

. . .

Looking back at the last four years, the world can learn some invaluable lessons from Israel's war on terror.

The first is, quite simply, recognizing that this is a war -- a total war, an existential war, a war of survival. A national leader, accordingly, must put virtually all other considerations aside. He or she must seek to create a national consensus and to maintain vital alliances -- to emulate Churchill in 1940 and Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. Even then, the state and its leaders must be prepared to endure significant stress internally and bitter condemnations in the international arena.

Secondly, victories can be won against terror without totally devastating the host society. Victory is possible while maintaining basic moral and democratic values. This, arguably, is Israel's greatest achievement in this war, for though the Palestinian people declared war against not just the state but also the people of Israel, we did not retaliate with war against the Palestinians. Throughout, Israel used only a fraction of its military force, and never fired a single artillery shell at a Palestinian target. And though some Palestinian neighbourhoods, particularly in Gaza, have suffered extensive damage, Palestinian society has not been reduced to rubble -- no place in the territories even remotely resembles Dresden in 1945 or Hanoi in 1972 or Chechnya today. No place evokes a sense of what a country would look like after it had sent successive waves of suicide bombers against the civilian populations of France or Russia or the United States.

. . .

From a state of near-paralysis at the end of 2000, Israel has rebounded. The hotels are filled and the restaurants, though now gated and guarded, are packed. In this year alone, Israelis garnered the country's first Nobel Prizes in chemistry, its first Olympic gold medal and the championships of both European basketball leagues -- heady achievements for a nation at war.

I would urge other Western nations to take a close look. Israel has been your litmus, your laboratory. We have shown the world that you can prevail against terror.

Posted by Kevin Libin on October 28, 2004 | Permalink


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» The Sharon Way from Gods of the Copybook Headings
An excellent post over at the Western Standard on Ariel Sharon's strategy to defeat Islamist terrorism. While some might regard Sharon's abadoning of settlements as an act of appeasement unlike Ehud Barak's attempts in 1999 these recent proposals come ... [Read More]

Tracked on 2004-10-28 10:16:46 AM


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