Wednesday, July 28, 2004
Use of Strength, Perception of Weakness
Juan Cole today writes a response to Dick Cheney's speach at Camp Pendleton in which the Vice President stated: "Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness." Cole makes a very persuasive argument that while the perception of weakness can indeed spur terrorist attacks, the use of strength can absolutely be the cause of terror. Cole point to Lebanon in the 1980s as a perfect example of Israel's use of strength resulting in terrorist attacks from the Shiites of Lebanon. (Let's see here... pre-1982 invasion: no Hizbullah. post-1982 invasion: Hizbullah. Yes, I'll buy that.) Backing up Cole is an article in today's Ha'aretz by Amira Hass. Hass writes about the decision by the IDF to attack Palestinian militants in civilian neighborhoods and the willingness to accept civilian casualties as a result. It is not the case, Hass argues, that the IDF simply strikes when it has the opportunity, fearing that a missed opportunity will result in Israeli civilian deaths.
If they are under observation on their way to shoot at an army position, it should be possible to keep them under surveillance until they are out of the civilian neighborhood. But the army creates the impression that it has another goal in the killing of armed men inside residential neighborhoods, undeterred by the killing of civilians. The IDF hopes to isolate the gunmen in their own society, to make the civilians turn their populist anger on the gunmen. Apparently, the army has also failed at this, even though many share the view of the Palestinian security source that the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades behavior is "stupid."What exactly has been the perception of weakness by Israel under Sharon? The (as of yet unimplemented) Gaza withdrawal? Please. There has been show of strength after show of strength. To anybody with half a brain it seems obvious that a good dose of their own medicine is the last thing that is going to stop terrorists.
As far as Palestinian civilians are concerned, the armed men are the same as the Israeli fighter pilots, bulldozer drivers and soldiers at the checkpoints are to Israeli society. After all, they are part of their society, known and accepted in their surroundings irrespective of the houses they blew up or demolished, the civilians they killed or ailing patients they delayed at checkpoints. Killing armed men - no matter how junior - in civilian neighborhoods actually strengthens the popular Palestinian perception that the the armed factions have the right to attack Israeli civilian neighborhoods: people who will become soldiers also live there, as do senior commanders in the Israeli military. The capabilities might be limited, but the motivation is there. So, the IDF kills junior gunmen with no experience or ability because of their motivation and when they are killed the motivation around them increases, and more young people are ready to become junior gunmen who get killed.
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