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Israel: war aims (update)



A modified F-15 squadron of the Israel Air Force. Israel once seemed to know how to deal with enemies. Still, one cannot pursue security at the expense of the virtues that can truly bring it. Sadly, fear of losing democratic respectability, stops Israel from relying on her greatest strength. Her strength will come from a Tzadik level of statecraft.

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, written about 500 B.C.E., is the oldest military treatise in the world. After twenty-five centuries, the principles of that treatise remain a valuable guide for the conduct of war. Sun Tzu should be of interest to the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, in view of the Arab War against Israel which erupted in September 2000. Since then more than 1,600 Jews have been murdered and many thousands more have been wounded by Arab terrorists.

How Israel should conduct the war

Referring to the IDF’s limited response to Arab aggression—targeted killings and intermittent incursions into Arab strongholds—former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “self-restraint is strength”! At first glance one might suspect that Mr. Sharon had been inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. It may well be, however, that he derived that dictum from a misreading of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Sun Tzu would have a general exhibit, at first, “the coyness of a maiden” – to draw out the enemy – but thereafter he would have him emulate the fierceness of a lion.

Confronted by the Muslim-led Palestinian Authority (PA), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emulates the coyness of a maiden. Instead of destroying the PA to the extent of trashing Muslim arrogance, he is following the policy of self-restraint. This timidity gives Israel’s enemy more time not only to accumulate more missiles and other weaponry, but also more time to flood the media with anti-Israel propaganda, funded by Saudi Arabia and Iran. If Netanyahu was animated by wise and fearless statesmanship, he would have ordered the IDF to demolish the Palestinian Authority to such an extent as to sear into the consciousness of PA leaders a simple and stark lesson: Don’t mess with Israel!

Of course, when the forces of the enemy exceed your own or occupy superior ground, then self-restraint is prudence. But when this situation is reversed, self-restraint is weakness. In fact, Sun Tzu goes so far as to say, “If fighting is reasonably sure to result in victory, then you must fight, even though the ruler forbids it.” This means that the IDF, when actually engaged in armed conflict with the Palestinian Authority, should disregard the timidity of the Netanyahu government and destroy Israel’s enemy, the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority!

Lessons from King David

Consistent with the teaching of King David, a Jewish statesman must hate the enemies of his people. As King David said, “I hate them, O God, that hate you” (Psalm 139:21). By haters of God is meant those who hate the people to whom God gave the Torah, since actual hatred has no meaning in terms of the abstract concept of God. (Compare Israeli leaders who, instead of hating Muslim terrorists, hate “international terrorism.”

Hatred, however, is futile if it does not issue in action. Therefore King David declared: “I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and returned not until they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they are not able to rise….” (Psalm 18:38-43). David was not interested in attacking “terrorism,” and Sun Tzu cared not whit for public opinion. He was a warrior, not a politician.

Therefore, in referring to various ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his soldiers, hence on his people, Sun Tzu cautions a ruler against “attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers his country.” Although, a general receives his commands from the sovereign, “he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” Sun Tzu emphasizes that when actually engaged in battle, there are occasions when the “commands of the sovereign must not be obeyed.” Bearing in mind the consequence of the IDF’s abandonment of Gaza, which then became “Hamastan”: what will the IDF do if Netanyahu orders the IDF to expel 300,000 Jews now living in Judea and Samaria?

How Sun Tzu would regard Israel today

Of course, we are placing in question the principle of military subordination to civilian authority, a principle Israel’s political elite would proclaim to preserve its democratic reputation, especially in the United States. Never mind sacrificing Jewish soldiers on the altar of PR.

Sun Tzu did not have to worry about journalists and bleeding-heart liberal-leftists who make the rational conduct of war impossible, and who therefore prolong the killing. When U.S. Admiral Bull Halsey said, “Hit hard, hit fast, hit often,” he was echoing Sun Tzu.

Commenting on the verse, “When you go forth to battle against your enemies” (Deut. 20:1), the sages say, confront your enemies as enemies. “Just as they show you no mercy, so should you not show them any mercy”

Sun Tzu would therefore be appalled by the readiness with which Israeli governments engage in cease fires or “hudnas,” which allow Arab terrorists to regroup and accumulate more and deadlier weapons, Sun Tzu calls for the uninterrupted attack. He unequivocally opposes a protracted war: “There is no instance,” he says, “of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.” But protracted war is the inevitable result of the supposedly humanitarian policy of self-restraint pursued by Israeli governments. Notice how Washington is always preaching self-restraint—Hiroshima and Dresden notwithstanding.

Self-restraint in war is self-destructive

Recall the Yom Kippur War, in which 3,000 Jewish soldiers perished. Certain general officers of the IDF obeyed the commands of the Meir Government by not launching a preemptive attack. Later, the Agranat Commission of Inquiry blamed them for the disaster. Sun Tzu would have agreed with that conclusion, but for different reasons. He would have faulted the generals for “self-restraint,” that is, for heeding the commands of their Government.

It follows that self-restraint as a principle of war is absurd and self-destructive. Israel’s war aim should be not only the destruction the enemy’s forces, but also the eradication of the enemy’s desire to wage war for a hundred years—as did the Allied powers in Germany, and as the United States did in Japan.

This is the attitude of Jews keenly aware of a 2,000-year history of Jew-hatred, pogroms, and holocaust!◙


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