Israel is fighting a critical war in Gaza. Learning from the past is essential to know what to do and what has not worked in previous conflicts.
The key to success in any war is the people and the fighting forces being on the same page. One of the greatest tragedies of Vietnam was that while US forces fought bravely against a difficult enemy in challenging conditions, much of the US population started to turn against the war, the president, and those fighting, going so far as to call them “baby killers”. Such a situation cannot last long, as the soldiers need to know that the people who sent them have their back.
To his great credit, Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has consistently supported Israeli war efforts when he was in the opposition. During previous conflicts, Netanyahu gave numerous interviews to English-language outlets and always supported whatever policies the government at the time followed. He never second-guessed or said, “If I was prime minister….” The same cannot be said right now of Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Yair Lapid, the latter demanding that Bibi resign and be replaced by someone in the Likud. This is not the time for politics, though politics never sleeps in Israel. For the soldiers to win, the people from wall to wall must be behind them without wavering or criticizing the government’s policies. The time for that will come after the shooting stops. Former prime minister Naftali Bennet has consistently fought with CNN and the like on Israel’s behalf in this conflict and never second-guessed the current government.
With the above in mind, I do not want to criticize the Israeli government thrown into a war after the barbaric Hamas attack. As I wrote previously, every day brings new and more gruesome revelations. Women raped, murdered and stacked up in a shed in Kibuttz Be’eri—that one dropped this week, while a young woman told of her hiding in some bushes at the rave and watching people—including friends—begging for their lives only to be murdered in cold blood. She said that the terrorists continued shooting into the bodies of the dead young men and women, causing their bodies to bounce off of the ground. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the depravity of Hamas and the Gazan citizens who murdered, raped, tortured, and stole. If New Jersey is called the armpit of America, then Gaza is the concentrated garbage dump of the world.
Below is a list of actions tried by Israel, the US, and other Western powers that failed. One would hope that the current leadership of Israel would learn from these failures and that the West would take the pressure off of Israel so as not to force her to make the same mistakes over and over again.
1. Trying to reduce civilian casualties. To date, Israel has lost in combat over 50 soldiers, beyond the 300 murdered on 10/7. I cannot tell you if one or 40 have died because Israel risks the lives of its soldiers to reduce civilian casualties. There is no question that Israel could not conduct the entire campaign from the air. There comes a time when one needs boots on the ground to root out bad guys, take care of tunnels, or collect weapons, computers, and intelligence. The problem with everyone from the UN to the White House and college campuses bleating about civilian deaths (how many of those dead in Gaza are terrorists—Hamas does not say) is that Israel will put soldiers in harm’s way to try to reduce civilians killed. The first thing a soldier must know is that his life is more important to his officers and the politicians who sent him than the lives of the enemy. The allies in Afghanistan and Iraq lost numerous soldiers by placing them on urban battlefields to reduce non-combatant casualties. This is a mistake. While Israel suffers from the gullible world accepting as accurate any number the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza throws out, Israel’s priority must be the safety of its fighting men and women (and yes, women are fighting on the ground in Gaza). The lives of your soldiers are more critical than enemy civilians. If you don’t understand that, get out of the war-making business.
2. Exchange of prisoners. Releasing terrorists has cost both Israel and the US dearly. The terrorists released from Guantanamo Bay for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl went back to their business and caused the death of American soldiers. The same has been confirmed for Israel’s large-scale terrorist releases. Those sent to Lebanon in the “Rajoub” deal included the nucleus for the Second Intifada, where over a thousand Israelis were murdered during six years of terror. The 1000-for-one Schalit deal led to the release of many of those who planned and carried out the 10/7 massacre, including the chief planner of the attack, Yaha Sinwar. Releasing prisoners has always led to future terror attacks. And why has Israel always let the Palestinians dictate the terms of release—how many terrorists for how many Jews? Hamas demanded 1,000 terrorists for the soldier Schalit. Israel never questioned the proposition.
3. Nation building. Active and costly nation-building efforts in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan yielded no long-term successes. There is no question that when the US or coalition forces were present, some percentage of the population was ready to buy into a Western-oriented modernization program. But the Western powers always leave, and the locals are offered death or coming back into the fold. Nowhere was this more obvious than with the collapse of the Afghan army. They looked around and realized that, like the Taliban, they pray five times a day, eat Halal food, don’t want women going to school, etc., and with the Americans in full retreat, they switched sides or stopped fighting. Palestinians hate the Jews. Period. Providing them with food, fuel, and medicine has not weakened their hatred in the past. They will take that which you give them and then try to kill you immediately afterward. There are no hearts or minds in Gaza; if there were, they would not be changed by letting in humanitarian aid. Maybe letting in the trucks takes a little foreign pressure off and may stave off disease, but it doesn’t do good for ingrates who hate you. Remember the regular Gazans dancing in the street and spitting on Jewish bodies on the morning of 10/7?
4. Ceasefires. Hadar Goldin was murdered during a previous ceasefire in Gaza. He and a compatriot entered a tunnel and were murdered by Hamas terrorists. The explanation was that John Kerry, yes, that John Kerry, with lots of hair and no brain neurons, had not told Hamas about the ceasefire, so the terrorists saw Jews and killed them and have been holding Goldin’s body as a bargaining chip for years. Hamas will break the ceasefire and try to kill Jews. I would be shocked if this agreement made it to its fourth day. I expect that early in the ceasefire, Hamas will attack Israeli soldiers, and the whole deal will be off with only a small number of captives released. Remember, there was a ceasefire at 6:30 in the morning on 10/7, which Hamas shredded with thousands of rockets and thousands of terrorists crossing into Israel.
Israel needs to win this war, and the West should realize that victory will help weaken the Islamist push to take over the world. Israel needs to fight aggressively and mercilessly and avoid the mistakes of the past that have cost so dearly in lives lost. The US should not pressure Israel to make those mistakes again.