One of the more troubling aspects of warfare in the 21st century is that one rarely finds the well-defined battle lines or moral clarity such as existed in early 20th century conflicts.
In today’s world, nations don’t make war directly on one another. Armies don’t line up along ‘fronts’ and shoot at one another like civilized people (yes, my tongue is firmly in cheek here). Instead, nations with belligerent intentions increasingly prefer to sponsor ethereal proxy armies who wear neither uniform nor insignia to wage asymmetrical warfare on their enemies. This is usually done with the intent of winning concessions by destabilizing and demoralizing rather than trying to achieve a decisive victory. And it is done with impunity.
The term ‘asymmetrical warfare’ was originally coined to describe the disparity in the relative size and strength of the forces in an insurgency or terrorist war. But it also turned out to be aptly named for the asymmetry in the rules of engagement under which each side is allowed to fight. This is because international law and internationally ratified conventions (such as the Geneva Convention) were drafted with 20th century conflicts in mind… not the asymmetrical terrorist proxy wars we have today.
This legal vacuum is the single biggest reason Israel has been unable to gain traction in its attempts to get western nations to acknowledge its need to wage war on an enemy that wears no uniforms, adheres to no accepted conventions concerning the protection of civilians and hides behind the plausible deniability of having no clear government sponsorship or command structure.
However, the current war in which Israel finds itself engaged is surprisingly free of these troubling (and limiting) legal ambiguities.
Yes, technically the attacks against Israel are being carried out by Iran’s (and indirectly Syria’s) proxy army; Hezbollah. However, Hezbollah is officially part of the current Lebanese government, and that government has allowed this proxy army to co-exist with the Lebanese army (in blatant violation of UN Resolution 1559 which called for the disarming of all militias in their midst), not to mention that they turned a blind eye to the accumulation of an estimated 13,000 rockets in Lebanese territory. Therefore responsibility for Hezbollah’s unprovoked attacks on Israel’s Northern border can be placed squarely at the feet of Israel’s sovereign northern neighbor; Lebanon.
In the first hours of the conflict, Prime Minister Olmert wisely declared the initial unprovoked attack an ‘act of war’ and publicly held Lebanon responsible. This is one of the only reasons that Israel has been allowed a relatively free hand in prosecuting this war on the soil of another sovereign nation.
Each time the Lebanese government has called for someone to force Israel into an immediate cease fire, they have been soundly rebuffed. They have been told in no uncertain terms that a) the initial casus belli originated from their territory; b) that attacks continue unabated from Lebanese soil; and therefore c) Israel cannot be compelled to stop its operations until the conditions that precipitated the conflict (e.g. when the kidnapped soldiers are returned and rockets stop falling on the Golan and Galilee) no longer exist.
This refusal on the part of world leaders to impose a cease fire on Israel is a startling departure from standard practice, and it has absolutely devastated the effectiveness of a doctrine used by every Arab regime since Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser accidentally discovered it in 1956. For the sake of brevity we’ll call it ‘The Nasser Doctrine’:
- Instigate a war
- Once the war is well underway and you are in the process of being trounced… get a few world powers to step in and force your opponent into a cease fire
- Whatever you do, don’t surrender or submit to any terms dictated by your enemy. That would ruin everything! All you have to do is wait it out and eventually the world will become sickened at what is being done to your soldiers and civilian population… and will impose a cease fire
- Once a truce has been called you can resume your intransigence (which probably caused the conflict in the first place) from this new, more advantageous position… and you can even declare victory as your opponent is forced to leave the field of battle.
This doctrine has never failed. Not once.
In fact it worked so well for the Egyptians in 1973, that to this day they celebrate the Yom Kippur War – a crushing defeat at the hands of Israel – as a military victory! No kidding… the celebration of victory in ‘The October War’ is a national holiday over there!
In keeping with the Nasser Doctrine, President Lahoud of Lebanon has already begun to plead to the UN Security Council and G8 to “Stop the violence and arrange a cease-fire, and then after that we’ll be ready to discuss all matters.”
OK, let’s review, shall we?
Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to take over their country. Lebanon has turned a blind eye while Iranian and Syrian weapons, advisers and money have poured into their country. Lebanon has allowed the entire south of their country to be turned into a giant missile farm. The Lebanese Army has even provided direct aid to Hezbollah by providing radar targeting data for the anti-ship missile used to strike the Israeli ship (INS Hanit), killing four sailors.
In fact, no official in the Lebanese government has yet to issue a formal call for Hezbollah to cease firing rockets at northern Israel. Not surprisingly, they maintain that it is only the Israeli aggression that must be halted.
And yet, now that Lebanon is in ruins its president is magnanimously offering to invoke the Nasser Doctrine and have the world step in and call it a draw.
No, this time the war has to be fought to its terrible conclusion. As much as it may sicken the world to stand by and watch it happen, the fight must continue until the instigator finally suffers an unambiguous, humiliating defeat.
If that means turning the famed cedars of Lebanon into matchwood in order to root out the rockets and those who are launching them… so be it.
If it means setting Lebanon’s physical infrastructure back to 1986… so be it.
If it means targeting terrorists who deliberately choose to operate out of densely populated civilian areas… so be it.
If it means that the lives of innocent Lebanese civilians are made so unbearable that human rights organizations around the world scream in horror… so be it. For decades, not one of these watchdog organizations expressed any misgivings as Israeli civilians and population centers were deliberately targeted.
Israel has finally arrived at a juncture where the lines are no longer blurry and it must make the unenviable decision of who will be allowed to live in peace… our citizens or theirs. If only one country’s citizens will be allowed to enjoy a modicum of security… for a change it will have to be ours.
David Bogner, formerly of Fairfield, CT, lives in Efrat with his wife Zahava (nee Cheryl Pomeranz), and their children Ariella, Gilad and Yonah. Since moving to Israel in 2003 David has been working in Israel’s defense industry on International Marketing and Business Development. In his free time David keeps a blog (www.treppenwitz.com) and is an amateur beekeeping.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.