Give War a Chance!

Two items in the batch of international news and commentary at the end of last week strike us as particularly noteworthy, justifying our recall in a new context of the title of P.J. O'Rourke's book.

First, as the extremely well-connected Debka reports, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has now built up an army of up to 13,000 trained men in Gaza. Not only are these fighters well-armed with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, they are literally awash in explosives. Apparently, in the month since it drove off partisans of the rival Fatah faction, Hamas has imported 20 tons of explosives through the wide open Philadelphi border crossing with Egypt. In comparison, until the Israeli pullout from Gaza two years ago, Hamas struggled to smuggle an estimated four tons per year! Hamas fighters are also now equipped with upgraded Katyusha rockets, more lethal and accurate than the primitive Qassams that Hamas has been lobbing onto Israeli civilians (most recently on Thursday, July 19, when four civilians were injured by a Qassam falling on a residential street in the Israeli town of Sderot). Hundreds of Hamas fighters have crossed at Philadelphi for training courses in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. In short, unless it is stopped immediately, Hamas will soon have the means commensurate with its will to inflict terrible damage on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Second, Diana West recounts her interesting conversation, on an Acela train, with GOP Senator Arlen Specter. Ms. West had opined that Iraq risked becoming an ally of nuclear-armed Iran, and observed that the United States could stop this quite decisively with a bombing campaign. Pennsylvania's senior Senator, to his credit, did not disagree. A snippet of the rest of their conversation follows:
[Specter] asked questions, mainly about my [West's] personal tolerance for civilian casualties-theirs, not ours. [He] asked me something like: At what number do civilian deaths-theirs-become intolerable? How many people-not ours-have to die before I say it's too much? ... Somehow, American war goals have become a secondary consideration when America wages war. As Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger put it to The Washington Times: "We could absolutely crush every one of (our enemies in Iraq), but would you be happy with what is left?"

Well, it sure sounds better than asking American troops to knock on doors, card terrorists and drive over IEDs for the next 20 years. But not to the powers that be. ... The men who decimated German and Japanese cities as part of the effort to win World War II as quickly as possible would have been perplexed by descendants who now send American troops house to booby-trapped house and expect to achieve anything but more war, "limited" though it may be.

Talk about waste.

[He] rose to go. I asked whether anything I said had made sense. [His] conclusion: "I don't think we're prepared to take the kind of civilian casualties that you describe."
Ever since our nation was attacked on 9/11, a significant division of the country has, we think, been papered over. The fact of the matter is that many deny our President's claim that the nation is at war (though the Congress gave lip service to the notion when it corroborated the Commander-in-Chief's powers). To this segment of the population, America is engaged in a police action to capture heinous criminals: thus, quasi-Miranda, quasi-due-process, and quasi-federal courts must protect the quasi-criminals who seek to attack our nation from afar. 

To another portion of the American people, however, WAR is the serious business at hand, and it poses existential questions for us and for our enemies. War must be waged humanely, to be sure-civilians may not be deliberately targeted, gratuitous torture must not be sadistically performed, and prisoners must not be starved to death or raped (the Bush administration restated these points on Friday with an executive order interpreting the applicability of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to detentions by the Central Intelligence Agency). But waged war must be, and the goal must be nothing less than the destruction of the enemy by rendering him, in Clausewitz's terms, "politically helpless or militarily impotent." To this end, when the enemy insinuates himself among civilians, we may kill that enemy even if civilians also die-the Doctrine of Double Effect correctly assigns moral responsibility for such deaths to the enemy who cynically shields himself behind non-combatants. Indeed, if civilians tolerate enemy combatants, even sheltering them as has often been the case in Gaza and on the West Bank, the civilians bear equal responsibility for their fate.

Our Israeli friends went through the same type of war-denial we are apparently currently experiencing. As the distinguished historian Michael Oren has noted, the "Intifada" bloodshed that began in September of 2000 was in fact the "seventh Arab-Israeli war," "as much a war as any that had come before" in that "one side sought to annihilate the other." Oren explained how then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held his fire again and again, in order to gain the support of both the Bush administration and the Israeli left. By the spring of 2002, after the devastating Netanya Passover Seder bombing, "Israel and [George W.] Bush...finally understood" the nature of the war Israel was facing, and that it "wasn't about settlements."

At that point Sharon launched a major military counteroffensive operation, and "terror began to fall precipitously," Oren writes. The success of the operation made "Ariel Sharon the first leader in history to prove you could win a war on terror." Sharon did so by using "only a fraction of military power" at his disposal to isolate that terrorist par excellence, Yasir Arafat, rendering him "politically helpless" and "militarily impotent" by cooping him up in his demolished headquarters, from whence he exited only to fade away ignominiously in a French military hospital.

Israelis, on the left and on the right, now apparently understand that their country is at WAR. Over 60 percent of Israelis now accept that the withdrawal from Gaza was least premature, if not altogether ill-advised, in the absence of a Palestinian side prepared to live in peace with the Jewish state. Any vigorous preemptive attack on Hamas will be widely supported.  We predict such an attack will happen very soon.  [Note that a little over a year ago we predicted in an op-ed that the Hezbollah's Iranian-backed build-up just north of the Israeli border was straining the delicate security balance and creating an intolerable situation that would lead to open conflict, which it did less than week after our piece was published, when a unit from the Lebanese terrorist group crossed into Israel, killed three IDF soldiers and kidnapped two others.]  For Israel, having a second well-armed Islamist terrorist group, Hamas, controlling territory on its borders is intolerable, especially if the group is led by the likes of the Syrian-based deputy chairman of Hamas's "political" bureau, Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouq, who told its daily paper, Felesteen, that a "campaign against the Zionist enemy" is precisely what is now needed to end intra-Palestinian strife.

Speaking in the Rose Garden Friday morning while flanked by veterans and military family members, President Bush reiterated his belief that we are at WAR. We agree with the President. But for a nation at war, the increases in our non-military public spending have been unprecedented. As ordinary private citizens we have been urged to "go buy an SUV", to go about our lives as usual, to do about anything and everything but sacrifice, even as "key judgments" released last week from the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland note that the United States "currently is in a heightened threat environment" as our enemies "continue to enhance [their] capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups."

Jurists have taught that there are rules of war and accepted norms of behavior, codified in the Hague and Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the use of certain types of weapons, proscribe various tactics, and outlaw attacks on specific categories of targets. But we are at war with terrorists who wear no uniforms, have no rank, display no weapons openly, target civilians, and in some cases commit suicide for mass murder. These terrorists are now accorded the privileges of lawful combatants taken on the field of honor-and some the latter would not even dream of, such as early release of enemy detainees by the Administrative Review Boards at Guantánamo  Bay even as the conflict is ongoing (regular prisoners of war, irrespective of their condition, are normally not repatriated until the conclusion of hostilities).

In the fight against Islamist terror, we Americans have never actually given war a chance. We must do so-and soon-lest when we finally wake up to this war's reality, we find that the cost of the conflict thrust upon us is immeasurably higher.

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
Two items in the batch of international news and commentary at the end of last week strike us as particularly noteworthy, justifying our recall in a new context of the title of P.J. O'Rourke's book.

First, as the extremely well-connected Debka reports, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has now built up an army of up to 13,000 trained men in Gaza. Not only are these fighters well-armed with anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, they are literally awash in explosives. Apparently, in the month since it drove off partisans of the rival Fatah faction, Hamas has imported 20 tons of explosives through the wide open Philadelphi border crossing with Egypt. In comparison, until the Israeli pullout from Gaza two years ago, Hamas struggled to smuggle an estimated four tons per year! Hamas fighters are also now equipped with upgraded Katyusha rockets, more lethal and accurate than the primitive Qassams that Hamas has been lobbing onto Israeli civilians (most recently on Thursday, July 19, when four civilians were injured by a Qassam falling on a residential street in the Israeli town of Sderot). Hundreds of Hamas fighters have crossed at Philadelphi for training courses in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. In short, unless it is stopped immediately, Hamas will soon have the means commensurate with its will to inflict terrible damage on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Second, Diana West recounts her interesting conversation, on an Acela train, with GOP Senator Arlen Specter. Ms. West had opined that Iraq risked becoming an ally of nuclear-armed Iran, and observed that the United States could stop this quite decisively with a bombing campaign. Pennsylvania's senior Senator, to his credit, did not disagree. A snippet of the rest of their conversation follows:
[Specter] asked questions, mainly about my [West's] personal tolerance for civilian casualties-theirs, not ours. [He] asked me something like: At what number do civilian deaths-theirs-become intolerable? How many people-not ours-have to die before I say it's too much? ... Somehow, American war goals have become a secondary consideration when America wages war. As Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger put it to The Washington Times: "We could absolutely crush every one of (our enemies in Iraq), but would you be happy with what is left?"

Well, it sure sounds better than asking American troops to knock on doors, card terrorists and drive over IEDs for the next 20 years. But not to the powers that be. ... The men who decimated German and Japanese cities as part of the effort to win World War II as quickly as possible would have been perplexed by descendants who now send American troops house to booby-trapped house and expect to achieve anything but more war, "limited" though it may be.

Talk about waste.

[He] rose to go. I asked whether anything I said had made sense. [His] conclusion: "I don't think we're prepared to take the kind of civilian casualties that you describe."
Ever since our nation was attacked on 9/11, a significant division of the country has, we think, been papered over. The fact of the matter is that many deny our President's claim that the nation is at war (though the Congress gave lip service to the notion when it corroborated the Commander-in-Chief's powers). To this segment of the population, America is engaged in a police action to capture heinous criminals: thus, quasi-Miranda, quasi-due-process, and quasi-federal courts must protect the quasi-criminals who seek to attack our nation from afar. 

To another portion of the American people, however, WAR is the serious business at hand, and it poses existential questions for us and for our enemies. War must be waged humanely, to be sure-civilians may not be deliberately targeted, gratuitous torture must not be sadistically performed, and prisoners must not be starved to death or raped (the Bush administration restated these points on Friday with an executive order interpreting the applicability of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to detentions by the Central Intelligence Agency). But waged war must be, and the goal must be nothing less than the destruction of the enemy by rendering him, in Clausewitz's terms, "politically helpless or militarily impotent." To this end, when the enemy insinuates himself among civilians, we may kill that enemy even if civilians also die-the Doctrine of Double Effect correctly assigns moral responsibility for such deaths to the enemy who cynically shields himself behind non-combatants. Indeed, if civilians tolerate enemy combatants, even sheltering them as has often been the case in Gaza and on the West Bank, the civilians bear equal responsibility for their fate.

Our Israeli friends went through the same type of war-denial we are apparently currently experiencing. As the distinguished historian Michael Oren has noted, the "Intifada" bloodshed that began in September of 2000 was in fact the "seventh Arab-Israeli war," "as much a war as any that had come before" in that "one side sought to annihilate the other." Oren explained how then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held his fire again and again, in order to gain the support of both the Bush administration and the Israeli left. By the spring of 2002, after the devastating Netanya Passover Seder bombing, "Israel and [George W.] Bush...finally understood" the nature of the war Israel was facing, and that it "wasn't about settlements."

At that point Sharon launched a major military counteroffensive operation, and "terror began to fall precipitously," Oren writes. The success of the operation made "Ariel Sharon the first leader in history to prove you could win a war on terror." Sharon did so by using "only a fraction of military power" at his disposal to isolate that terrorist par excellence, Yasir Arafat, rendering him "politically helpless" and "militarily impotent" by cooping him up in his demolished headquarters, from whence he exited only to fade away ignominiously in a French military hospital.

Israelis, on the left and on the right, now apparently understand that their country is at WAR. Over 60 percent of Israelis now accept that the withdrawal from Gaza was least premature, if not altogether ill-advised, in the absence of a Palestinian side prepared to live in peace with the Jewish state. Any vigorous preemptive attack on Hamas will be widely supported.  We predict such an attack will happen very soon.  [Note that a little over a year ago we predicted in an op-ed that the Hezbollah's Iranian-backed build-up just north of the Israeli border was straining the delicate security balance and creating an intolerable situation that would lead to open conflict, which it did less than week after our piece was published, when a unit from the Lebanese terrorist group crossed into Israel, killed three IDF soldiers and kidnapped two others.]  For Israel, having a second well-armed Islamist terrorist group, Hamas, controlling territory on its borders is intolerable, especially if the group is led by the likes of the Syrian-based deputy chairman of Hamas's "political" bureau, Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouq, who told its daily paper, Felesteen, that a "campaign against the Zionist enemy" is precisely what is now needed to end intra-Palestinian strife.

Speaking in the Rose Garden Friday morning while flanked by veterans and military family members, President Bush reiterated his belief that we are at WAR. We agree with the President. But for a nation at war, the increases in our non-military public spending have been unprecedented. As ordinary private citizens we have been urged to "go buy an SUV", to go about our lives as usual, to do about anything and everything but sacrifice, even as "key judgments" released last week from the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland note that the United States "currently is in a heightened threat environment" as our enemies "continue to enhance [their] capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups."

Jurists have taught that there are rules of war and accepted norms of behavior, codified in the Hague and Geneva Conventions, which prohibit the use of certain types of weapons, proscribe various tactics, and outlaw attacks on specific categories of targets. But we are at war with terrorists who wear no uniforms, have no rank, display no weapons openly, target civilians, and in some cases commit suicide for mass murder. These terrorists are now accorded the privileges of lawful combatants taken on the field of honor-and some the latter would not even dream of, such as early release of enemy detainees by the Administrative Review Boards at Guantánamo  Bay even as the conflict is ongoing (regular prisoners of war, irrespective of their condition, are normally not repatriated until the conclusion of hostilities).

In the fight against Islamist terror, we Americans have never actually given war a chance. We must do so-and soon-lest when we finally wake up to this war's reality, we find that the cost of the conflict thrust upon us is immeasurably higher.

Michael I. Krauss is professor of law at George Mason University School of Law. J. Peter Pham is director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University. Both are adjunct fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.