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Saturday, May 22, 2021

Israel And The Destruction Of Hamas – Lessons From Sherman’s March Through The South

The 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas has just ended in an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire backed by the United States and Europe. Although both sides have claimed victory, it is Israel which has shown its complete dominance, will, and overwhelming firepower and destroyed the offensive potential of the enemy.  

The conflict was an exact reply of 2014 when Hamas sent thousands of rockets into Israel as a display of defiance and Arab solidarity. Israel responded in kind and and destroyed much of Gaza. 

The United States and Europe, just as they did in 2014, have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the people of 'war-torn' Gaza which Hamas will most certainly divert to offensive military materiel, training, and logistics.  Israel is aware of this recurrent cycle of Palestinian intransigence and violent attack; and it knows that they will stop at nothing to destroy the Jewish state.  

As in 2014 Israel has stopped short of complete annihilation of Hamas only because of practical geopolitical concerns. Such total destruction would not only alienate its most powerful and generous supporter - the United States - but would most certainly bring Iran into a full scale war, first via its client Hezbollah and then directly. It would also cancel the Abraham accords, mutual support agreements negotiated between the United States and regional Arab states. 

The conflict has been decisively won by Israel which knows that it will have to fight again, but with relatively few casualties and a conclusive, damaging assault on Hamas, it may not be for a while. 

Israel is being accused of using ‘disproportionate’ warfare to destroy Hamas just as it was in 2014. Its critics have described its bombing of Gaza as inhumanely brutal – a military Goliath unfairly fighting a plucky but badly outgunned enemy and in so doing killing hundreds of civilians and destroying public and private infrastructure. 

While Israel did indeed destroy much of the Palestinian territory and kill civilians, its strategy was far from inhumane.  In fact it went out of its way to target only Hamas leaders, public infrastructure, and civic property.  More importantly Israel’s strategy was as much psychological as military.

By specifically targeting those Hamas leaders who were responsible for starting the war and persisting despite many opportunities for peace and reconciliation, Israel was sending a message to the general population of Gaza.  It wanted the populace to see who was to blame for the terror and destruction of their territory and who suffered the ultimate penalty.

Image result for images israeli bombs destroying gaza buildings

Israel has also been unapologetic for the civilian casualties incurred through its bombing attacks. Civilians are not innocent bystanders, it said, but complicit in the actions of its leaders.  A militantly jihadist regime can never exist without the support of the citizens it governs, Israel implicitly said, and civilians must pay the price for this support. Furthermore, Hamas has located its rocket launchers in heavily populated areas in a cynical strategy to deter Israeli reprisals.

In short Israel, which could have destroyed the entire Gaza Strip and ridded itself of an implacable enemy once and for all,  did not do so in 2014 and did not do so now.  The IDF has had three goals in mind.  First, to destroy the weaponry which was threatened Israel; second to eliminate the political leaders who were behind the aggression and/or to humiliate them so thoroughly that any cachet, credibility, or moral authority would be degraded and destroyed; and third to send a clear message to the civilian supporters of Hamas – you, collaborators, will not be spared. 

Israel has been successful in all three.  The rocket launchers and tunnels have been destroyed.  The leadership of Hamas has been largely neutralized; and most importantly the population understands completely what their leaders have wrought.  Palestinian heroes are dead, public infrastructure is in ruins, and the will to fight severely eroded.

In an excellent article in the National Review (8.20.14) Victor Davis Hanson compared Israel’s strategy with that of William Tecumseh Sherman, the brilliant general of the Union forces in the Civil War with that of the IDF; and Hanson’s analysis is cannily valid seven years later. 

Sherman’s brutal marches from Tennessee to Atlanta, Atlanta to Savannah, and Savannah up through the Carolinas have been called ‘disproportionate’, but they were not.  There is no doubt that Sherman left a trail of ruin and desolation behind him; but he targeted the ‘plantationists’ – the wealthy landowners who led the South into war and who persisted in the fight at the expense of hundreds of thousands of young lives and the destruction of territory, culture, and history.

Sherman was doing exactly what the Israelis have done in Gaza.  He wanted to show the common people who was responsible for the misery they had suffered.  He was willing to open himself to criticism, opprobrium, and hatred by those Southern aristocrats whom he had chased; but he knew that the citizenry would know better.  Their leaders over whom they had little control were behind the foolish and ill-advised war.

Image result for images wm tecumseh sherman

Sherman, like the Russian general Kutuzov who by strategic retreat drew Napoleon deeper and deeper into the winter hinterland where his forces froze and starved to death, avoided direct confrontation with the enemy.  Sherman knew that the Union forces were superior and would eventually and ultimately prevail, but he understood that military conquest was only part of victory.  

His goal was to humiliate the South – to show its people that the heralded aristocratic Cavalier was nothing compared to the tough and gritty farm boys from the North; that its leaders were inept and incapable of stopping the Union advances.  Sherman wanted the South never to rise again.

Sherman understood – like the Israelis – that military victory was only partial; and that complete victory was the destruction of the will of the enemy and its civilian population.  Sherman said, “War is the remedy our enemies have chosen, so let’s give them what they want.”   Sherman understood that such complete capitulation could only be achieved if he “traversed holy ground” and captured cities which were symbols of the Confederacy and what people were led to believe was Southern supremacy; and if they were easily taken or destroyed, the will of the people would be further eroded.

Sherman was very clear about his march through the Carolinas.  He knew that the journey would be arduous and physically demanding; but he wanted to burn a trail through the very heart of the Confederacy – the place where the rebellion had started – to show the South once and for all that not only had their armies been beaten, but that their whole culture had been destroyed.

Hanson quotes Machiavelli who said, “Men hate those who destroy patrimony more than their fathers”; and Sherman understood that destroying patrimony would be the total destruction of the enemy.  The South would recover from the physical devastation, Sherman knew, but would never recover from the absolute humiliation of its culture.

Sherman – again like the Israelis – was unapologetic about civilian casualties, for he knew that political regimes, no matter how autocratic, are a result of a supportive or at least complaisant population.  Complicit civilians whether directly or indirectly so, must suffer the consequence.

Israel fights with the same moral rectitude and purpose as their radical Islamic opponents.  They will brook absolutely no threat to the Jewish homeland, and civilian Palestinian deaths are the price the enemy must pay for its aggression and permanent hostility.  The Israelis know that they are fighting an enemy who uses a territorial imperative – a Palestinian state – only as pretext for the annihilation of Israel, the ridding of Arab lands of the infidel, and in preparation for universal Islamic rule.

Image result for Images Israel Flag. Size: 139 x 100. Source: en.wikipedia.org

Hamas is not and never has been a government, the representative of a peace-loving citizenry.  It has always been a military wing of international radical Islam, bent on the expansion of its power and influence.  The building of a modern, economically productive, and socially progressive society has never been the goal of Hamas as it is most nations.  It has only one thought in mind – Israel’s destruction.  Radical Islam is expansionist by expressed design.  Israel is only self-protective but defiantly so.

Unlike America, which has lost its resolve and has been weakened by corrosive movements to establish ‘diversity’ as a national and international priority, Israel remains as steadfastly nationalistic and morally secure.  Radical Islam is not simply another culture to be respected and understood for its principles, traditions and history, as progressive Americans insist.  It is the enemy to be defeated if not annihilated.

Wars have always been fought and always will be.  As Shakespeare well knew, until the engine of human nature is neutered, we will continue to be self-interested, aggressive, and violently so.  If there will always be wars, then why not set out to win them?  Israel understands this.  The United States does not.

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