As the war between Israel and Gaza rages on, some inevitable questions must be raised. If Hamas, an indisputable rogue organization that governs a region which exists more like a plot of land in a state of nature than as a civilized geographic entity, is not totally obliterated (which, with sentimental calls for ceasefires and daily pauses in aerial bombings and ground incursions on Israel’s part, seems unlikely), then can Hamas be politically rehabilitated? What would such rehabilitation look like? Or should we be thinking of more robust and radical solutions such as global incarceration whereby a country is evicted from the community of nations and radically contained militarily?
The most draconian form of global incarceration of a state or region is the permanent disbandment of a state into regional disembodiments, sedimentary fragments chiseled into the mortar bodies of larger states with no chance of it ever recovering its political solvency. It is the absolute disappearance of a state without necessarily terminating the lives of its former citizens. It includes but is not limited to the deracination of its political culture, the destruction of its political institutions and its mores, customs, and norms. Radical assimilation and/or extreme containment are the political concomitants and the direct corollaries of this mandate. Global incarceration of a state or region is the death of its political life and its capacity to generate and regenerate life as it was once capable of doing. An incarcerated state or region is not just a neutralized state – it is a neutered state.
On the slim chance that a heavily compromised, Hamas-governed Gaza exists, what might it look like, and how would it come about?
Here it might be helpful to look to history for political and moral guidance. Japan and Germany in World War II were countries that went through political rehabilitation and, with the aid of the United States, had their entire identities reconstituted. In the case of Japan, a heavily influenced U.S Constitution was foisted on it with great success, albeit via warfare. Sometimes rehabilitation requires war. Sometimes it requires firm diplomacy, or economic sanctions, or military intervention, or absolute regime change. What is essential about rehabilitation in the political sense is that there is adaptation to a code of normative behavior to which the rogue state must adhere. The rogue entity adapts to the norms of a civilizational order.
Imperial Japan was brought to its knees in the aftermath of its attack on the United States of America. As an enemy it was completely vanquished and subjected to the imposition of a Constitution by which it was forced to govern; but more than that: under the order of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), it was forced to relinquish several of its cultural and religious practices, values and traditions that were deemed anathema to the spirit and letter of the law of a democratically conceived republic.
In his seminal work, Nothing Less Than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, John David Lewis notes that we inhabit a moral climate in which any attempts by victors of war to impose cultural values onto others is routinely condemned. This is because we have accepted, for the most part, that victory itself would grow new grievances and ensure more destructive conflicts in the future. Those who wage war to enslave nations and states or continents or to impose their dictatorships are seeking immoral ends and, as such, they cannot be judged morally equal to persons who defend against such attacks. Warfare is fundamentally a clash of moral purposes. The goal of any moral war is the subjugation of the hostile will of the enemy; or, war is an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will. Its primary objective is the overcoming of the hostile will to resist. As Lewis notes: the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces is not the object of war; neither is the occupation of his territory. These are all means to an end. The fundamental and irreducible end is the overcoming of the enemy’s will to resist. Once that will is broken and it disintegrates, then capitulation will follow.
Lewis argues that the “center” of a nation’s strength is not a center of gravity as a point of balance but is, instead, the essential source of ideological and moral strength. When broken, it is impossible for the adversary to continue the war. The tide of war is turned when one side has tasted defeat and its will to continue collapses.
In the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the humiliating defeat of Japan, the military regime of Japan was revealed as a total failure. It was the American military occupation that brought an alternative to the Japanese people. Between the years September 1945 through April 1952, the Japanese lived under the SCAP. All of Japan was properly under American control. There were no divisions of the country, and incidentally, during the occupation not one single American soldier, Lewis notes, was killed by hostile action in Japan. When in 1945 the anticipated number of 500,000 troops fell to 102, 000 by 1948, General Douglas MacArthur noted that, In the accomplishment of the extraordinarily difficult and dangerous surrender in Japan, unique in the annals of history, not a shot was necessary, not a drop of Allied blood was shed.
Lewis emphasizes that the concept of absolute defeat was driven deeply into the minds of the Japanese, and a one-sided relationship with the Americans was established. The occupation was forced on the Japanese, not negotiated. They had to be made to realize that it was because of their lawlessness and militarism that suffering and defeat had been brought upon them and that only when such militarism had been eliminated from their lives and institutions would Japan be admitted into the family of moral nations. All attempts by Japan to bargain were cut off. As Japanese officials communicated their desire to President Truman to control their own foreign embassies he replied that all instructions would be communicated by the Supreme Commander at appropriate times determined by him. All attempts by the Japanese to direct American maneuverings in their direct favor was interpreted by President Truman as an attempt on the part of the defeated to bargain with the victors as equals. What was made clear to the Japanese was that American relations with them rested not on a contractual basis but on unconditional surrender – not to be confused with an armistice agreement reached by negotiations. As Lewis puts it: Unconditional surrender began with a demand; the alternative was surrender or death, not a choice between negotiating points.
As far as the rehabilitative moments were concerned, the most important mission of the occupation was the total elimination of emperor worship and religious-political indoctrination. To accomplish this, two major reforms were put in place: Shinto as a state cult had to be abolished and then eradicated; and schools had to be purged of indoctrination for service to the state. These, Lewis concludes, were the keys to remaking the moral framework that dominated Japanese political life. People would be free to practice their religious beliefs and worship as they pleased; however, the dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic ideology in any form as used by Shinto mythology would be prohibited. State Shinto was illegalized, as were nationalistic ideologies. Textbooks were rewritten. Students were taught the importance of challenging dogma and of forming their own judgments. Even traditions of bowing to the imperial palace and shouting “Long Live the Emperor” were terminated under American occupation, as were Japanese military and paramilitary training in all schools.
And what was the proof that Japan underwent a successful rehabilitative program? Lewis astutely recounts that Japanese educators, quickly realizing they faced no choice under American moral intransigence, excised imperial indoctrination from all their classrooms. Teachers apologized for their past activities before public assemblies. In classrooms across the country, students boycotted their classes and forced their principals to resign, and even the emperor’s household eliminated the practice of bowing to his image and recalled all imperial portraits.
Victory here is deeply philosophical. Physical destruction forced the Japanese to destroy and rebuild the concepts by which they understood the world and themselves. In place of the idea of serving the emperor were the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were written into Article 13 of the new Constitution. Where the Japanese had been used to mindless obedience, they were re-socialized into the virtues of rational thinking, individualism and the belief in an autonomous self. Lewis writes: These moral reversals were at the center of the Japanese repudiation of war.
We are still attempting to understand the measures that can be meted out to a rogue entity like Hamas. The terror group poses a national security threat not only to Israel, but to the whole world. Its charter calls for the obliteration of Israel and of Jewry, and for the establishment of a global Caliphate that would see the annihilation of all non-Muslims.
Victory over Hamas means destroying its assets, which means not just a military defeat but its real asset: its collective formidable will to cruelty, chaos and destruction, along with the moral manipulation of much a world that is anti-Semitic. Where there are assets you find collateral. Its collateral is not its people. Hamas cares little for its citizenry. It cares a great deal for its ability to exploit the global imaginary and garner support by way of the international public’s perception of a Palestinian oppression that is inextricably bound to its own plight. It cares for the attendant guilt Israel feels every time some world leader or street lout tells Israeli leaders to hold a ceasefire, or parades before the world the body of a civilian who happens to be killed in a morally defensive war.
Israel and the moral minority must show an intransigent and implacable rejection of and indifference to the international vitriol and hysteria over the so-called oppression of Palestinians. She must fight her war with moral righteousness and rectitude knowing full well that the hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the streets of London and Paris, New York and Chicago, the Middle East—and all over the world—are nothing more than pure, unabashed haters of Jews masquerading as advocates of justice for Palestinians.
The Palestinian war refugees in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are oppressed by the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinians in Gaza, 75% of whom voted for Hamas in 2006, are oppressed by Hamas. Observe that the 2.1 million Israeli Arabs in Israel are not rioting in the streets.
We may have to think of the future of Gaza in terms of temporary or permanent trusteeship, military occupation, annexation, or rehabilitative colonization. Israel would be foolish to think she can be surrounded by such a gratuitously violent region run by jihadists without assuming some form of military governance by itself, or in partnership with other countries. One thing is certain: a Hamas-governed Gaza is not fit for political autonomy or sovereignty.
It stands in such egregious violation of the global social contract to which all civilized countries are signatories, that its redemptive moment has resolutely ceased to be a possibility. It has fallen below a decency threshold to which civilized nations adhere, and it has so violated the political moralities on which civilization is predicated, that it has no business in the pantheon of the moral order of civilized states any longer. Neither does its ideological and financial fountainhead: Iran. That, however, is the subject of another article.
Divested of the status of sovereignty, then, Gaza has no legal standing in the international community. It is, therefore, left to the judgment of what could be called a benevolent imperium to determine its future. What that will look like and how it will shape the future of Gaza (should the region even remain intact) will depend on the outcome of the war and how it is fought. And that will depend on whether or not Israel truly admits to herself just how much of the world hates her and her Jewish citizens.
Indeed, no moral country can stake its reputation on the feelings, views and opinions of those who do not like it or its people. Independence and national self-esteem require a nation wean itself from the approval of a global community filled with nihilistic supporters of terrorists, and haters of an exalted civilization and its people.