After explaining why Israel isn't about to take on the entire Muslim world
, I wasn't going to write about Daniel Pipes' "Victory" article again, the one in which he accuses all of us Israelis of being soft on Palestinian nationalism. Pipes however, has now published a sequel, How Israel Can Win
,and he is hammering away at about the same theme again. Disappointingly, he doesn't tell us so much how we can win, but rather why are not winning. He does, however, reveal his purpose more explicitly:
Israel hardly enjoys freedom of action to pursue victory; in particular, it is hemmed in by the wishes of its primary ally, the American government. That is why I, an American analyst, address this issue with the intention of influencing policy in the United States and other Western countries.
That is a legitimate aim, but it is a different thing from writing, as Pipes did in his previous article, that all the major Israeli political parties don't want victory. It is also a dubious quest. The US has vital interests in the Middle East, and they will not jeopardize them by supporting Israeli actions that they cannot justify to their Arab allies and client states.
If Pipes could in fact offer a specific solution it might be different. If he could say "Israel has to do 'X' to the Palestinians in order to win, but the USA is not letting Israel do it," then we could debate the merits and drawbacks of doing this 'X.' However, he simply makes a vague blanket declaration that Israel ought to be doing something that the US is not letting them do. He doesn't offer any evidence in fact, that Israel wanted to do something that the US did not let them do. He writes:
I refrain from suggesting specific steps Israel should take in part because I am not Israeli, and in part because discussing tactics to win is premature before victory is the policy.
Or perhaps he refrains from discussing tactics to win because there aren't any such tactics that would bring about decisive victory. It is probably true that US pressure prevented Israel from acting on several occasions. For example, Israel had Yasser Arafat surrounded in the Muqata, and it is probable that US pressure prevented Israel from storming the Muqata. Does anyone think that this would have brought decisive victory? For example, a strike was contemplated after the disco bombings early in the Intifada, but was most probably postponed because of US and EU pressure. Ultimately, the same military operation was carried out as operation Defensive Shield, following the series of suicide bombings in March of 2002. Defensive Shield, and improved security measures thereafter, certainly reduced Palestinian violence, but it certainly did not bring decisive victory? Should Israel reconquer Gaza? We've been there and done that certainly, but it didn't bring decisive victory. Israel might reconquer Gaza to end the rain of Qassam rockets, but nobody thinks that would cause the Palestinian extremists or their Arab-Muslim backers to give up their fight against Israel.
Pipes' analysis rests on cardinal fallacies:
* He repeats the neoconservative dogma that wars must end in victory, and that victory can only be achieved when the other side has despaired of winning.
* He insists, despite evidence, that Arabs and Muslims will acquiesce in a solution of the Palestinian problem if the Palestinian Arabs are themselves powerless.
* He provides a tautological definition of "victory."
* He insists that there is some action Israel might take that would make the Palestinian Arabs despair of victory, and that Israel has not taken, but he doesn't tell us what it is.
The Victory Fallacy - The victory fallacy is the central tenet of neoconservatism. It rests on a tautology and is bolstered by a version of history that is probably mythological. Pipes has in fact subtly modified his ideas, because the "strong" statement of them was untenable. He writes:
The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu observed that in war, "Let your great object be victory," and he was echoed by the 17th-century Austrian war thinker, Raimondo Montecuccoli. His Prussian successor Clausewitz added that "War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will." These insights remain valid today: Victory consists of imposing one's will on the enemy, which typically means compelling him to give up his war goals. Conflicts usually end with one side's will being crushed.
Thus far, the idea is pretty clear it seems. Confrontations must end in military victory. In his first article, Pipes used the example of World War II - unconditional surrender, which would bring about peace.
However, in his first article, Pipes also brought the dubious example of the fall of the USSR, which neoconservatives attribute to the policies of Ronald Reagan. That could just as easily be attributed to the poor performance of the Soviet economy and the rise of Perestroika. In fact, the Russian economy did not improve much after the fall of the USSR. If Russia is experiencing relative prosperity now, it is for other reasons. If the price of oil had been $70 a barrel in 1982, history might have looked quite a bit different. Moreover, some Russia watchers note a new ambitiousness and determination in Russian policy, fueled by the oil surplus. The conflict with Russian communism ended, but the historic rivalry with Russia as a great power is certainly not over.
As Pipes' must have noted, there are numerous historical exceptions to the neoconservative victory dogma. Perhaps that is why he wrote, in his second article:
In theory, that need not be the case. Belligerents can compromise, they can mutually exhaust each other, or they can resolve their differences under the shadow of a greater enemy (as when Britain and France, long seen as "natural and necessary enemies," in 1904 signed the Entente Cordiale, because of their shared worries about Germany.)
Such "no victor, no loser" resolutions are the exception in modern times, however. For example, although Iraq and Iran ended their 1980-88 war in a state of mutual exhaustion, this tie did not resolve their differences.
Iran and Iraq stopped fighting, and it is not clear if the fighting will ever be resumed. It might. The geopolitical problems posed by the Shaat El Arab waterway, and the ethnic and religious differences between the two countries remain.
For that matter, at any time in history there are dormant rivalries that may turn into all out war or be resolved peacefully - for a time, or for all time. The United States and Europe are clearly in competition with China, which has an alien and potentially threatening political system. Does Pipes insist on total victory over China? Would it be achievable?
Similarly, the end of the cold war did not change the geopolitical facts that cause rivalry between Russia and other great powers. Likewise, the end of World War II did not, as Pipes' posits in his first article, end German tendencies to dominate Europe or Japanese economic ambitions and their desire to get the European powers out of South East Asia. These were transformed into a more peaceful expression. Can anyone deny that economically and politically, Germany plays a leading role in Europe today, and Japan dominates South Asia? Hasn't Japan helped to catalyze a "Greater South-Asia Co-prosperity Sphere?" Do the British rule Burma or Singapore or India? Are the Dutch in Indonesia? "Victory" is not always all that it is cracked up to be, is it? Unconditional surrender of the enemy does not change facts of international relations or overcome larger historical forces.
It is very dangerous to base inference of this type on historical data, since the samples are small and the interpretation is really suspect. Therefore, Pipes' remark that "no victor, no loser" resolutions are the exception in modern times rests on shaky ground. We don't have a measure for "resolution" either. However, in recent history, we can point to Chinese-US rivalry and India-Pakistan rivalry as conflicts that seem to be resolving themselves, as least for now, without victors and vanquished.
Further softening his stance, Pipes tells us:
Generally speaking, so long as neither side experiences the agony of defeat Ė having its hopes dashed, its treasury wasted, and lives extinguished Ė the possibility of war persists.
The Arab Palestinians have no treasury at all, their hopes were dashed several times, and many of their lives were extinguished. It didn't end the struggle. How much is enough? What does it mean to say "the possibility of war persists?" Isn't there always a possibility of war, as for example between China and the United States, or Japan and the USA or Russia and the USA, as long as there are economic rivalries and geopolitical realities that cause conflicting ambitions? Can Pipes quantify "Possibility of War," so we know whether to be satisfied with an 0.01% possibility of war, or whether we should strive for an 0.01% possibility? The only way to eliminate the possibility of war entirely is to completely physically destroy the enemy. Does anyone imagine that a time will come when every single Arab Palestinian will have given up the idea of conquering Haifa and Yaffo? As long as a few such people exist, the "possibility" of war persists.
Pipes uses interesting examples to illustrate his point:
Consider the multiple Arab losses to Israel during 1948-82, North Korea's loss in 1953, Saddam Hussein's in 1991, and that of Iraqi Sunnis in 2003. In all these cases, battlefield defeat did not translate into despair.
From the above, we must conclude that there is no operational definition of terms such as "victory" "possibility of war" or "despair." How do we know what is enough to achieve victory by the neocon formula? The answer is that we know by definition. It is a tautological formula. When the other side gives up, then you can declare victory. You know that the other side gave up however, only after several hundred years have elapsed without renewal of hostilities.
Five Million versus 1.25 Billion Perhaps the heart of the matter is that Pipes entirely discounts the Arab and Muslim world in this struggle. He writes:
Israel needs only to defeat the Palestinian Arabs, not the whole Arab or Muslim populations, who eventually will follow the Palestinian Arab lead.
This statement betrays a surprising lack of understanding of the Palestinian problem and how it has been, and is being, used in Arab and Muslim world politics. It is difficult to imagine a defeat of any people that could have been more completely devastating than the defeat of the Arabs of Palestine in 1948. They did not just lose a war. They were not simply conquered. For the most part, they were exiled. They had no effective leadership and no army. The Palestinian cause was kept alive because the Arab countries insisted on keeping Palestinians in refugee camps, for the most part refused to give them citizenship, refused to recognize Israel, and used the Palestinians in attempts to destroy Israel. Yasser Arafat was recruited initially as a student leader by the Egyptian government. The PLO and the Fateh would not have come into being as effective forces without the backing of the Egyptian and Syrian government, and the first Fateh terrorists were recruited by Syrian army intelligence.
Is there anyone who does not understand that the Oslo Accords failed to bring peace in large part because Syria, Iran and, until 2003, Iraq, supported Palestinian rejectionists and made it politically and physically impossible for the Palestinian leadership to accept peace with Israel? Is it possible that Pipes doesn't know that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad get their funding from Iran? Didn't he hear that the Arab summit pledged to support Hamas? Doesn't he understand that the Arab League came into being in 1945 primarily to prevent the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine?
Even Pipes must understand that he is wrong, and that defeat (whatever that means) of the Palestinian Arabs, would not end the conflict, for he writes:
Suffice to say that the Palestinian Arabs derive immense succor and strength from a worldwide network of support from NGOs, editorialists, academics, and politicians;
Surely, Dr. Pipes does not imagine that all this anti-Israel activity came into existence and was supported only by the feeble efforts of a few million Palestinians who have no economic base and no longer have a coherent political leadership?
The deceptive El-Dorado of Victory - Dr, Pipes never tells us what is the 'X' action or actions that Israel should carry out that would bring about despair or defeat among Palestinian Arabs. Suppose for example, that Israel were to reconquer all of the occupied territories, imprison or kill every major terrorist leader and impose occupation administration as there was before the Oslo Accords. Does he, or anyone, imagine that the Arab world will sit quietly by and do nothing indefinitely? Didn't Arab pressure bring about the Madrid conference? Does Dr. Pipes imagine that Syria, Iran and others will not seize the opportunity of occupation to fund new versions of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, inside and outside of the territories? Doesn't he know that Al-Qaeda is already taking root in Gaza?
The real victory is not victory This extreme solution may not be what Dr. Pipes is seeking after all. As he notes:
In the ideological environment of recent decades, morale and will matter more. The French gave up in Algeria in 1962, despite out-manning and out-gunning their foes. The same applies to the Americans in Vietnam in 1975 and the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989. The Cold War ended without a fatality.
Afghanistan, Algeria and Vietnam all have in common the failure of a foreign country to dominate a native population. We can add to those examples the American Revolutionary war, the French in Vietnam and the British in India. This suggests a very different idea from the one advanced by Dr. Pipes. Namely - attempts to dominate a foreign population are usually doomed to failure. It would seem that Israel cannot win the Arab-Palestinian conflict as long as Israel occupies and dominates large numbers of Palestinians. Add to that the fact that the occupation is sapping the will of the Israeli people, and even Dr. Pipes could understand why most of the Israeli electorate agrees that we must leave the territories. The fact is, that as long as Israeli soldiers were fighting to defend Israeli land, no matter how outgunned and outmanned we were, we always won. In those battles where defense of the homeland was no longer clearly the goal, we did less well. The fact is, that as Dr. Pipes admits, the USA itself has not managed to gain victory by occupying Iraq, even with massive investment of troops and money.
Sun Tzu, whom Pipes is fond of quoting, tells us a few other things in the art of war. He insists on attacking the enemy where he is weak, for example, rather than where he is strong. Choosing the battlefield that is favorable to you has been an axiomatic ingredient of victory for every general from Joshua to Caesar, Napoleon, Grant, Lee and Eisenhower. Yet Pipes seems to be insisting that Israel mustn't withdraw from the territories, and must mire itself down in an endless and hopeless guerilla war there, like the French and Americans in Indochina and the Russians in Afghanistan.
In his second article, Dr. Pipes dismisses as "trivial" the criticism leveled by Bradley Burston that I discussed previously. He missed the main point of Burston's article. Israel tried every conceivable strategy against the Palestinian Arabs short of wiping them out entirely. None of them resulted in "Victory" for us or total despair for them. It would appear that there is no 'X' strategy that Israel could follow that would result in such victory. There are things that must be done. These are suggested by Pipes, but again, he doesn't realize the implications of what he wrote:
...that the manufactured Palestinian Arab "refugee" problem stands at the dank heart of the conflict, and that the lack of international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital festers.
Israel cannot solve the Palestinian Arab refugee problem alone, nor can Israel manufacture international recognition of Jerusalem. There is no Israeli victory over the Palestinians that could bring about this result. Victory over the Arabs and Muslims, whom Pipes thinks are irrelevant for some reason, migh bring about this result, but it is not possible for Israel to achieve such a victory.
Dr. Pipes second article triggered a second rebuttal in Ha'aretz newspaper. Unlike Bradley Burston's article, this one is by an prominent Jewish American, Jack Rosen, who is chairman of the American Jewish Congress. It is below.
A famous victory
By Jack Rosen
"And everybody praised the Duke
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin
"Why that I cannot tell," said he,
"But t'was a famous victory."
Richard Southey, The Battle of Blenheim
Daniel Pipes is a usually reliable resource to all those who want to understand the nature of the threats from radical Islamism. But in his important column ("Israel Shuns Victory," New York Sun, March 28) he raises, but does not answer, a critical question.
He wants Israel to focus on victory over the Palestinians rather than the various formulae for managing a continued state of conflict. Victory is a worthy goal, but Dr. Pipes fails to tell us how Israel might proceed. He has now published an additional column in defense of the first ("How Israel Can Win," New York Sun, April 4), but is again short on specifics, citing only objectives that Israel and its supporters have already been working on.
Dr. Pipes dismisses the various plans put forward by rival political figures in Israel as all sharing a fatal flaw: they "all manage the conflict without resolving it [and] seek to finesse war rather than win it."
OK, let's say that Israel decides to eliminate Palestinian rejectionism. What could it do? Occupy Palestinian schoolrooms and seize their textbooks? Hand out maps with Israel from shining river to shining sea? Blast Hatikva from speakers mounted on helicopters? Make the Palestinians feel worse about their miserable lives than they already do? What would victory over the Palestinians entail? How would we know when we arrived at the destination? What would it look like?
Dr. Pipes laments that "it is clear how deeply unpopular Israelis presently find the idea of winning their war." As much as we agree that victory is a worthy goal, here we must part with Dr. Pipes' analysis. Rather than its lack of popularity, what is clear, instead, is that no one has been able to spell out to Israelis what victory would look like, in practical terms - and for good reason.
Surely by "winning the war" Dr. Pipes cannot mean further entangling Israelis with Palestinians through increased Jewish settlement activity in the disputed areas. Surely he cannot be advocating a full scale attack on Arab population centers followed by permanent reoccupation by Israeli forces of the areas now under the control - if we can call it that - of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli responsibility for the day-to-day delivery of services to millions of Palestinians.
So, perhaps Israel's political leaders and most of Israel's voters actually understand something about their own predicament. Perhaps, in fact, that is why Dr. Pipes has not spelled out what he means by victory.
We must also respectfully depart with Dr. Pipes on his charge that all Israeli parties "ignore the need to defeat Palestinian rejectionism." What is the widespread international demand that the Palestinians renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist if not an attempt to do precisely so?
And even if that effort is discounted, every major political party in Israel has made it a tenet of faith that Israel will only deal with those Palestinians who accept Israel's right to exist. That is why, despite nearly identical records on terrorism of Fatah and Hamas, Israel was willing to deal with Fatah and not Hamas.
But, to return to where we agree with Dr. Pipes, victory is a goal worth pursuing, so let me try, where Daniel Pipes dared not, to spell out how victory can be achieved.
It seems to me that the way "to convince the Palestinians and others that their dream of eliminating Israel is defunct" is through securing a vital, dynamic and successful Jewish state. With a Jewish majority. One that will be prosperous and stable - and enduring. That is the best antidote to Palestinian (and Iranian) rejectionism. That's why I support Ehud Olmert's plans for unilateral disengagements from parts of the West Bank.
Honorable folks can disagree with my conclusion. That, in part, is what Israel's election was all about. The results are muddled, and no doubt Mr. Olmert's coalition, once formed, will muddle through.
As they do, it pays to keep in mind several salient guideposts.
In "The Iron Wall," a 1923 essay, the founder of right-wing Zionism, Vladimir Jabotinsky, wrote, "The expulsion of the Arabs from Palestine is absolutely impossible in any form. There will always be two nations in Palestine - which is good enough for me, provided the Jews become the majority."
Just to be sure his readers understood, Jabotinsky added: "I am prepared to swear, for us and our descendants that we will never destroy this equality and we will never attempt to expel or oppress the Arabs." How then to secure the Jewish national project? If we are to follow Jabotinsky's advice we would do so by building, in his words, "the iron wall, that is to say the strengthening in Palestine of a government without any kind of Arab influence..."
Today Israel is building an "iron wall" between Israel and Arab society in the territories. Many and perhaps most Israelis have reconciled themselves to the view that the iron wall - the security barrier - must exclude parts of historic Israel, even while it protects the rest. As for changing the Palestinians' minds, I would cite David Ben-Gurion's comment following the outbreak of the Arab revolt in 1936:
"A comprehensive agreement is undoubtedly out of the question now. For only after total despair on the part of the Arabs, despair that will come not only from the failure of the disturbances and the attempt at rebellion, but also as a consequence of our growth in the country, may the Arabs possibly acquiesce to a Jewish Eretz Israel."
Despair which cannot mature so long as the international community runs an alternative universe for Palestinian refugee grandchildren fueled by the delusion they will "return" to a pre-partition past and that the 1947 partition (let alone the 1949 armistice lines) can be undone.
Despair which cannot mature so long as the international community, motivated by scenes of Palestinian victims, keeps telling the Palestinians that the world is on their side.
Victory over the Palestinians can be achieved, but first it must be properly understood. Victory is advanced not only by the failure of terrorism but as a consequence of Jewish growth in a vibrant and viable Jewish country.
Jack Rosen is the Chairman of the American Jewish Congress.
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