Why Israel Must Destroy Hamas
In his NYT Opinion article, Thomas Friedman attempted to make a case for why Israel should not invade Gaza. He states that forgoing a Gaza invasion will “… give Israel and its allies time to think through how to build — with Palestinians — a legitimate alternative to Hamas.” This implies that the last four decades have not been enough time to think this through, and that somehow a little more time will finally succeed in peacefully ridding the world of a well-armed totalitarian terrorist group whose mission is to kill Jews.
To Mr. Friedman I would pose the following question: How many Jewish civilians does Hamas need to torture and murder to justify its full destruction? Is it 10,000 Jews? A million Jews? Six million Jews? Is there any number which would justify Israel’s complete destruction of Hamas in self-defense?
To put in U.S. population terms, what Hamas did was equivalent to invading the United States and killing or wounding over 150,000 American civilians while dragging over 5,000 citizens a few miles across the border. Would anyone seriously argue the United States should not go across the border to completely destroy such a barbaric enemy? Israel must destroy Hamas not out of anger or even out of revenge, but to restore deterrence in the Middle East and ironically, to pave a path for a long-lasting peace with Palestinians, who also suffer under Hamas’ rule in one of the most complex political conflicts in the world.
Those who oppose an invasion of Gaza see it as just another bloody military escalation. However, the world changed on Oct 7, and such thinking is trapped in the pre-Oct. 7 mindset. It has been 78 years since a Western country has completely destroyed an enemy force. Every war fought in or by the West since 1945 has been an elective political engagement – a war to contain or repel, a war to enact regime change, a war to gain territory or an advantage, but never a war to destroy one’s enemy. It has not been since 1945 that an enemy was entirely and irrefutably defeated. It has been so long that many people, rank and file and leaders alike, forget that such a war is even a strategic option. I am not one to downplay risk or quickly advocate for any war, let alone total war. As a U.S. combat veteran, I have seen the horrors of war up close, and like many veterans, I have been against virtually all military interventions of the last 15 years. However, when your neighbor ceases being a manageable threat and instead enters your house and kills and rapes your family, you can no longer rely on bigger fences and brainstorming sessions to unwind the situation – the evil force must be removed.
John Arquilla, a retired professor of strategy at the Naval Postgraduate School, wrote, “In today’s world, whatever happens on the battlefield can be overturned in the information realm, so the battle of the story matters as much as the battle on the ground.” This is wrong. Not everything that happens on the battlefield can be overturned in the information realm. It doesn’t matter how many Germans would have had TikTok or Twitter in April 1945, the final result of the war and the destruction of Nazi Germany would have been just as absolute.
The Battle of Gaza will not be like Fallujah and Ramadi, as those were tactical engagements, not fought as an end-game. The Battle of Gaza should be more like the 1945 Battle of Berlin in which the Allies sought to utterly destroy the entire Nazi regime, fighting down to the last man and last yard of Hitler’s bunker. The casualties were high, but that was the cost to rid the world of Nazis and ensure they could not return. In 1946 a Jew could walk freely down the streets of Berlin, where just two years earlier it would have meant immediate death. Israel will have achieved a similar complete destruction of Hamas when a Jew can freely walk down the streets of Gaza City, just like Israeli Arabs can now freely walk down the streets of Tel Aviv. That is when one will know that Hamas has been completely and utterly destroyed.
To those who say it cannot be done, they may still be using the old playbook of endless wars and limited objectives. I would highlight that many bigger, tougher, and better equipped enemies have been destroyed throughout history. If Israel cannot destroy an enemy that invaded its country and is now cut off from reinforcements and trapped in a 25 by 5-mile strip, then what is the point of having a military? If Israel follows Prime Minister Netanyahu’s claim that they will destroy Hamas down to the last member, whereover they operate, Israel can achieve this success. Israel must do its best to minimize civilian casualties, and any civilians serving as human shields will very quickly figure out that being close to Hamas is not a good idea – Hamas for the first time may find themselves isolated from the Palestinian population.
While wars always bring unintended consequences, so does inaction. Israel has no better option than to destroy Hamas and restore a balance of deterrence in the Middle East. Currently terrorist groups are playing by the old playbook: rounds of escalation slowly bleeding the enemy and ensuring perpetual terror. If Hamas is fully destroyed, terrorist groups will think more than twice whether they wish to invite their own permanent demise, and such knowledge of assured destruction may ironically and finally set the region on a path of peace for Jews and Palestinians alike for the next 100 years.
This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.