Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thomas Friedman, in a recent editorial, actually advocated what is essentially terrorism as good policy to fight the Islamist extremists, as a way of “educating” their kind. I’m actually impressed by the candor in his expression of what has been operative policy for years: fighting fire with flame. Allow me to quote this strategy, in the context of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war: “when dealing with a nonstate actor ... nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain [it] in the future.” The immediate implications of this standard are fairly clear, that is if we choose not to engage in hypocritical theatrics: battles between states cannot involve a resort to terror, whereas in an asymmetrical fight between a state and a group like Hezbollah (or Hamas) there is an underlying population that must be severely punished for having a militant group “nested among” it. Never mind that this, by definition, is collective punishment which, by an objective standard, constitutes a serious war crime. The real shock is that violating the laws of war, and reverting to the sacking and pillaging of a 16th century mode, is considered the proper way to fight the wars of the 21st century.

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