Special Report

Counter-Insurgency Intensifies — Again

We are waging a crusade, we should say it plainly.

By 8.25.14

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The attack against the top commanders of Hamas’ military wing, reported in the Jerusalem Post over the weekend, underscores one of the key elements of a counter-revolutionary war: kill the insurgents; and in particular, kill their chiefs.

There will always be variations based on time and place, but in essence we know what must be done to suppress the savage wars of the post-colonial era that we are still living in more than half a century after the sun set on the British Empire.

You must eliminate the commanders of the terror bands that seek to replace the post-colonial regimes. These, as often as not are composed of incompetent thieves with no respect for their own countrymen. This gives the insurgents an initial claim to the moral high ground, which they quickly squander by showing they are little more than political mafias, using the populations they claim to represent as hostages and expendable props for propaganda purposes.

Second, you must flush the foot-soldiers out of their hiding places — get the fish, if one may refer to an old maestro of the genre, out of the water.

According to the Post, Israel’s main English-language paper, Israeli air strikes caught the terrorist chieftains in their lairs, which, not surprisingly, were in buildings inhabited by ordinary people, behind whom the serial killers were, as per their habitual M.O., hiding.

The Israel Defense Force does what it can to warn civilians of imminent strikes and to give them time to get out of harm’s way. There is only so much it can reasonably do. Its first responsibility is to the land and people it exists to defend. This is its first responsibility, not its only responsibility. The IDF takes very seriously the ethos of “the honor of arms,” and in applying this ethos, it puts its own fighting men at risk to lessen the risks to civilians in the combat zones. Compare this to the systemic massacres of civilians that characterizes the fighting style of Arab militias, armies, and terror organizations.

International complaints about Israeli war tactics should be answered by a counter-diplomatic offensive led by the U.S. and other civilized democracies, notably England and France and other European powers. One element of this offensive should be to stop paying funds to the U.N. until its ad hoc war crimes commission, led by a Canadian jurist, is disbanded or given its proper role, which is to put the leadership of Hamas in the dock. Hamas is, as newspaper readers know, the terrorist party that controls Gaza; it provoked a war with Israel this summer, which continues despite efforts to find acceptable cease-fire terms.

Another objective of the Democracies’ diplomatic offensive should be to completely defund the U.N. agencies that supposedly have taken care of the alleged Arab refugees since 1948, and which instead have been incubators and funders of terror organizations.

Officials in the foreign ministries of nations serious about “rule of law” and “international law” or simply law, which of course is the only way to guarantee the protection of civil rights and political liberties, should ignore U.N. “human rights” commissions and organize their own ad-hoc judicial investigations into the regimes established in lands controlled by terrorist organizations, notably Hamas, Hezbollah (which controls swathes of Lebanon), and the Palestine Authority, which controls certain territories west of the Jordan River and is nominally in charge in Gaza.

They should ask about due process, for starters.

One can surmise, in this realm, that the alleged informers and collaborators that Hamas executes without the faintest nod toward due process include real spies. After all, it makes sense for quite a lot of Palestinian Arabs to have figured out by now whose government they would rather live under, and to work for its success against the murderous tyrants under whom they suffer.

Others whom the Hamas gunmen indict, judge, and condemn without benefit of anything like a penal code, let alone courts and lawyers, are desperate souls whose only mistake was to try to get out of the crossfire.

Some day, there will be accounts. And there will be Arab terror leaders who will be in the dock for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and prominent in the indictment will be the murders of their own neighbors for refusing to stand, unarmed and helpless, in harm’s way — harm, mind, caused by the self-same terrorists.

There will be accounts. These men will be in the dock just like the men who stood in the dock at Nuremberg. And many of the charges against them will be copied from the record of that extraordinary court.

In fact, it would be well for Hamas leaders, and associated killers from across the zones of Islam’s war against civilization, to be tried in Nuremberg. It would be highly appropriate and symbolic. The Western Democracies’ fight against totalitarianism continues, whether the enemy is the perverse mutation of one of the representative nations of the West or savages from outside its boundaries.

And among the witnesses for the prosecution, there would be Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinian Arabs, many more. There would be Christians who could tell the court what it is like to live under Muslim tyranny. But there would be Muslims as well, who would finally be heard on the proposition that no one ever challenges, namely that Islamic terrorists do not represent Islam.

Assuredly, it must be remembered that the first victims of Islamic barbarism are ordinary Muslims, just as the first victims of Nazism were ordinary Germans and the first victims of Lenin-stalinism were ordinary Russians and Poles and Jews and the other captive nations.

The fact that Muslims have been slaughtering other Muslims does not evacuate this question: Are Islamic tyranny and terror the normal outcomes of Islamic culture? Are there strands of Islam, peculiar — perhaps — to certain Arab societies, that morph into a version of terror-enforced totalitarianism? This is not a demagogic question.

I myself scarcely know the answer, which is precisely why, were I a prosecutor in the trial of an Arab Muslim terrorist, it would intrigue me.

No doubt, most of the Arab victims of Arab terror are, and quite understandably so, hunkering down and trying to save their families. In Iraq, in Syria, in the occupied zones of Gaza and Judea and Lebanon — occupied by serial killers belonging to terrorist organizations, Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Authority — resistance to the totalitarian gangs is tantamount to accepting almost inevitable murder. Yet, some individuals resist.

In Gaza and other territories that Israel allowed its sworn enemies to administer in the hope of reaching a land-for-peace compromise, resistance extends to bringing information to the only power these people see as capable of rescuing them. There is no other way to explain the intelligence on which Israel relies to make its battle plans and choose its targets.

One can put the question: why do not more resist? It may be due to the sheer force of their oppressors. That is certain. However, it may also be due, at least in part, to the inability or unwillingness of sufficient numbers of Arab Muslims in the lands of Arab Islam to embark on the sort of political and mental evolution that would turn the tables on the tyrants and the religious authorities who support them.

Early on in these wars of civilization, Muslims who fought back against those whom they called Islamists coined a term to describe their war aim. The term, still in use, is eradication. Partisans of all-out war against Islamist terror, who knew from hard experience they were the first targets of the would-be caliphs and the neo-emirs leading platoonsof throat-slashing psychopaths, were called eradicators, and they accepted the term grimly but proudly, for they viewed themselves as defending hearth and home and country against barbarism.

The term “eradication” was scoffed at in the West, avoided, at least in public, even by security experts in and out of governments, because it suggested brutal regimes. On the contrary, it was the expression of weak regimes because illiberal regimes, fighting for their lives.

It might have been wise to listen to what certain Arabs and Muslims were calling themselves, because we might then have encouraged them to begin eradicating strands in their political culture that were toxic. But for that to work, they would have had to trust us to trust them, and that we could not do, because we were so convinced we could lead them straight down the road to liberal democracy as we know it. Thus they understood, where we did not, the meaning of my enemy’s enemy being my temporary friend, and played the game accordingly.

Twenty-five years on, and now we are talking about annihilating bands of killers whose opponents asked us to appreciate or at least understand why they were eradicating these same bands’ political forebears. We lost much for not hearing them.

Live and learn. It serves little purpose to bemoan the spectacle of high officials suddenly discovering an existential threat that has been around for at least three decades. What’s next? A search for root causes? An umpteenth effort to bring liberal democracy to these lands hardened by misery and tyranny?

Early on in our confrontation with the terrorists, President Bush said we were, of necessity, embarking on a crusade. The word was purged, due to historical connotations deemed too crude for our reforming, benevolent purposes. That was an error, and the word should be brought back. Not only because it accurately describes our position, but because its historical connotations, to Westerners, are or ought to be — if our schools are doing their job — salutary, heartening. Jews, who suffered during the original crusading era, understand this. Non-believers of Christian background understand this. It should not be so painfully difficult for our elected leaders and public officials, including the military ones, to understand this.

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About the Author

Roger Kaplan, a Washington-based writer, covers the Middle East and Africa (and tennis) for The American Spectator.