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Winning the Peace

In our modern age, things no longer exist to perform their function. Washing machines aren't designed to clean clothes, but to save water and energy. Food isn't there to be eaten, but not eaten. And armies aren't there to win wars, but to be moral. And the truly moral army never fights a war. When it must fight a war, then it fights it as proportionately as possible, slowing down when it's winning so that the enemy has a chance to catch up and inflict a completely proportional number of casualties on them.

Forget charging up a hill. Armies charge up the slippery slope of the moral high ground and they don't try to capture it from the enemy, because that would be the surest way to lose the moral high ground, instead they claim the moral high ground by refusing to try and capture it, to establish their moral claim to the moral high ground, which they can't have because they refuse to fight for it.

Israel has been engaged in a long drawn out struggle for the moral high ground. The moral high ground is to the modern Israel what the land of Israel was to their pioneer ancestors who drained swamps, built roads and shot bandits; some of whom were later discovered to be the oppressed peoples of the region, fresh from Syria or Jordan, and protesting the settlements built on that stretch of swamp that had been set aside in their revisionist history as belonging to their great-grandparents, complete with oversized house keys to some of the choicer logs in the swamp.

Sadly the only way to win the moral high ground is by losing. Just look at the massive Arab armies who repeatedly invaded Israel, did their best to overwhelm it with the best Soviet iron that the frozen factories of the Ural could turn out, and lost the bid to drive the Jews into the sea, but won the moral high ground. Then their terrorist catspaws spent decades winning the moral high ground by hijacking airplanes full of civilians, murdering Olympic athletes and pushing old men in wheelchairs from the decks of cruise ships.

All these killing sprees accomplished absolutely nothing useful, aside from the killing of Jews, which to a certain sort of mind is a useful thing in and of itself, but that failure won the terrorist catspaws the moral high ground. Their failure to win a war by hijacking buses full of women and taking the children of a school hostage conclusively established their moral superiority and nobility of spirit.

The world was deeply moved when Arafat waddled up to the UN podium, with his gun, wearing a mismatched cotton rag on his head that would decades hence become the modish apparel of every third hipster standing in line with a can of 20 dollar fair trade Lima beans at Whole Foods, because his commitment to killing people in a failed cause that even he didn't believe in exchange for money from his backers in the Muslim world showed his deep commitment to the moral high ground.

In the seventies, after Israel had ton a few too many wars, Henry "Woodcutter" Kissinger, suggested that it lose a war to gain the sympathy of the world. Golda wasn't too enthusiastic about the idea, but with the old woodcutter in charge of handing out the axes, there wasn't much choice about it. Israel came close to being destroyed in '73, but just when it might have won the sympathy of the world, its armies of young men dashing from synagogues into overcrowded taxis to get to the front lines, turned the tide. Israel won. The woodcutter of Washington lost and Israeli scrapyards filled up with piles of Soviet steel, which was good news for the big sweaty guys who ran them, but bad news for those pining for the lofty fjords of the moral high ground.

In '91 the Israelis went nuclear and decided to beat Arafat at his own game. Rabin and Peres talked the old terrorist out of retirement and down to Washington D.C. where they surrendered to him in an official ceremony at the Rose Garden overseen by a beaming Bill Clinton. Finally Israel had won the moral high ground. And the United States had carved off a chunk of that delicious moral high ground, even though Clinton was forced to fidget in his chair at Oslo when his Nobel Peace Prize went to the greasy terrorist, though perhaps he should have considered that defeat to be another victory of the moral high ground.

But the moral high ground proved notoriously elusive for the Jewish State. There was a brief lull when it seemed that the original sin of kicking ass had been atoned for in the Rose Garden, but then the terrorists started killing Israelis again and the Israelis insisted on fighting back. In no time at all the moral high ground was roped off with a special reserved section for terrorists and a sign reading, "No Israelis Will Be Admitted Unless They Renounce Their Government, Zionism and the Right of Self-Defense."

Peace was the last best hope of the new Israeli Hatikvah, not to be a free people in their own land, but to be a moral people in a land that didn't really belong to anyone in particular, but that they were optimistic everyone could live in harmony in. But peace with terrorists meant not fighting back and there was a limit to what the 70 percent of the country that didn't go to sleep fantasizing about peace would accept in the name of peace.

And so, terrorists killed Israelis, Israelis killed terrorists, that part of the world located in an ugly modernist building overlooking Turtle Bay, which the turtles would like to have back, condemned Israel and demanded that it resolve things peacefully by surrendering more land to the terrorists in order to build up their confidence in Israel's commitment to a peaceful solution.

The terrorists were not expected to reciprocate and build up Israel's confidence in their commitment to a peaceful solution because they already had the moral high ground by way of losing the last thirty engagements with the IDF, including the battle of the school they set up snipers in, the church they took over and the hospital that they used as an ammo dump.

The great quandary for Israeli leaders is how to win a war without losing the moral high ground. This is a tricky matter because it requires winning the war and winning the peace. And you can't do both at the same time.

Israel's solution has been to fight limited wars while remaining absolutely committed to peace. No sooner does a war begin, then it is pressed to accept a ceasefire. To show its commitment to peace, Israel is expected to accept the ceasefire. At which point Hamas will begin shooting rockets again and the whole dance will begin all over again. But Israel has trouble refusing a ceasefire because its leaders still believe that they can get at the moral high ground by showing that they are more committed to peace than the other side.

The peace is however unwinnable. It's not even survivable in the long term. Peace either exists as a given condition or it is maintained by strong armies and ready deterrence. Peace cannot be found on the moral high ground, only the mountains of the graves of the dead.

Seeking the moral high ground is a fool's quest. Wars cannot be fought without hurting someone and trumpeting your morality makes it all too easy for your enemies to charge you with hypocrisy. The man who spends the most time vociferously protesting that he isn't a thief, that he has never touched a penny that belonged to anyone else and that he will swear on a floor-to-ceilling stack of bibles to that effect, looks far guiltier than the man who scowls and tells his accusers to mind their own business. The more Israel defends its own morality, the more it winds the chains of the accusers around its own neck.

Refining its warfighting with the object of fighting a truly moral war leads to refined techniques that kill terrorists but still cause some collateral damage, and to soldiers that are more afraid of shooting than of being shot at. And all this painstaking effort goes for naught since it really makes very little difference to Israel's enemies whether they have one photo of a dead Muslim civilian to brandish or a thousand. Either one makes for the same manner of indictment. In aiming to win the peace, Israel instead, like all modern states, loses the war.

The father of an Israeli soldier told his son after he was called up for duty that he would rather visit him in prison than visit him in the cemetery. "If you are fired on, fire back." That is good advice not just for that young man, but for his entire country, and for the civilized world. It is better to fire than be fired upon. It is better to be thought a criminal, than mourned in Holocaust museums. It is better to leave the moral high ground to those who worship the romance of endless bloodshed and defeat. It is better to lose the peace and win the war.


  1. Anonymous11/8/13

    And according to the law of the bully, should Israel win the next war, won't the bully nations then recruit even more buddy nations in 'righteous indignation' to put an end to 'this miserable trickster Israel' once and for all?
    It seems they long for the peace of Tacitus: “They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… they are driven by greed, if their enemy be rich; by ambition, if poor… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretenses, and all of this they hail as the construction of empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace.”
    Bill K.

  2. Anonymous11/8/13

    And it came to pass when the ark set forward, Moshe would say "Arise O Lord, and may your enemies be scattered! Let those who hate you flee from before you!!" Numbers 10:35

    Great piece as usual Daniel.

  3. Being the creator of the greatest moral system for man to live by and it simultaneously seriously endangering ones own survival by living up to it is a paradox.

  4. if a moral system is unlivable can it really be considered great?

  5. Daniel

    You said:

    "The father of an Israeli soldier told his son after he was called up for duty that he would rather visit him in prison than visit him in the cemetery. "If you are fired on, fire back." That is good advice not just for that young man, but for his entire country"

    The problem is that, even since the last Gaza 'war', the Israeli army has changed its rules of engagement to ensure next time round there will be many unnecessary cemetary visits. This, of course, extends to not being able to defend themselves against rock-throwers in the West Bank. In an interesting spin on your quote an Israeli 'commander' in the West Bank recently said that he would much rather see his soldiers in a hospital than in a court.

  6. Anonymous11/8/13

    You sad, "Wars cannot be fought without hurting someone ..."

    Israel is going to have kill a lot of people, not hurt them, if they want relief from their implacable enemy.

    They cannot do so under the present geopolitical circumstances, but must be prepared to do so when conditions give them let.

  7. Common "tater11/8/13

    Daniel, this would be funny if it was not true. You cannot make this stuff up. Perhaps you could be a stand up (or sit down a la "Tonight") comedian by simply trying to explain this gross stupidity by our moronic leadership (US and Israeli). However, that would work only if your audience had enough brains to see how illogical and counterproductive our approach to these terrorist states really is. But then, I feel I must defend our political leadership, for they are obviously the best politicians that (OPEC) money can buy.

  8. In all of history, has there ever been a time before when a country was expected to win the moral high ground but lose the war? It seems only Israel is expected to commit suicide as a grisly sacrifice on the altar of of the moral high ground for others. And yet those others--including the US--will soon be visiting their sons and daughters in cemeteries. What a strange, twisted morality is this.

  9. Anonymous12/8/13

    Rules for Radicals

    The fourth rule is:
    Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
    You can kill them with this,
    for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.
    -- Saul Alinsky "Rules for Radicals"

    The primary enemy of Israel is the Left, the secondary enemy is Islam as represented by the Palestinians and their Muslim allies.

  10. Assuming of course one need worry about these things. If terrorism, aka asymmetrical war, aka sub-political war, is what works then so be it. Defense and deterrence can only take you so far. Iron Dome batteries can only shoot down so many rockets. On the ground intelligence gathering can only infiltrate so many cells. Drones can only locate so many launch pads. If they want a dirty war, I for one am fine with it replete with truck bombs, blowing up hospitals, decapitating people on YouTube, and such. The next time a rocket flies into Israel, blow up an apartment building in Gaza City. The next time there's a rock attack that kills someone, hang a prisoner.

  11. Anonymous12/8/13

    The basic tactic in warfare against the Haves is a mass political jujitsu:
    the Have-Nots do not rigidly oppose the Haves,
    but yield in such planned and skilled ways hat the superior strength of the Haves becomes their own undoing.
    For example, since the Haves publicly pose as the custodians of responsibility, morality, law, and justice (which are frequently strangers to each other), they can be constantly pushed to live up to their own book of morality and regulations.
    No organization, ncluding organized religion, can live up to the letter of its own book.
    You can club them to death with their "book" of rules and regulations.
    This is what that great revolutionary, Paul of Tarsus, knew when he wrote to the Corinthians:
    "Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth."
    -- Saul Alinsky "Rules for Radicals"

    The enemies of Israel are all those who have absorbed Saul Alinsky's ideology of the Left, the community organizer President being one of the foremost amongst them. The Left uses Islam and Alinskite tactics as a battering ram to demolish any fortress of Western Civilization. Today the battle of Israel rages, yesterday it was the battle of Rhodesia, but the West lost the battle of Rhodesia and now Rhodesia lies a smoking ruin, a shameful monument in the graveyard of the West.

  12. I admire the Jews greatly. Always have. I find contentment in the fact that the low self esteem and self loathing of the Arab World is no match for the IDF and IAF.
    Mid East Arabs are the Hillbillies of the world. They hate the Jews because Israel started on a postage stamp sized parcel of land and have built a modern society.
    The Arabs are still talking about their really great culture a 1000 years ago.

  13. Jerry G12/8/13

    Israel, the USA and other Western countries are suffering the effects of left/liberalism which insists that everything be made equal. Cultures are all equally good, wealth must be redistributed so that everyone has the same and in war no combatant be stronger than the other. So Israel must be cut down in size to fight on equal terms with the Arabs.

  14. Shlomo ben Shmuel12/8/13

    The trouble is that the west (including the US & EU as well as Israel) are fighting(?) or reacting according to the rules of the west, while are enemies are reacting according to their own rules. They never lose, they just lie to explain why they really won. The only real "win" is if one side obliterates the enemy (us) so that it is only a colony of the victors. If we act "morally" to their aggression, we are just showing our weakness. We must fight the next war (and it is coming) so as to destroy our arab enemies.

  15. marty_p12/8/13

    The Arabs respect strength and exploit weakness.
    The current Israeli strategy of continually surrendering territory to solicit peace is doomed to failure. You can't make peace with an adversary who does not even acknowledge your right to exist.
    As far as world opinion goes - Germany dragged the civilized world into two world wars, yet German crimes are now all forgiven and the marketplace is full of German products that consumers seem quite happy to purchase and the Germans are embraced as part of the "Civilized World".
    As far as world opinion goes - Japan committed horrendous crimes during the Second World War and all seems forgiven and the marketplace is full of Japanese products that consumers seem quite happy to purchase and the Japanese are embraced as part of the "Civilized World".
    The North Vietnamese conquered all of Vietnam and the label on my shirt says "Made in Vietnam".
    Nobody is protesting the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and their continuing occupation of the northern part of the island.
    Nobody is protesting the continuing British occupation of the Falklands (save for the Argentinians).
    How many times did the Israelis conquer the Sinai in response to Arab aggression only to return it for the sake of peace only to have to conquer it again in the next war?

    Public opinion be dammed. The Israelis have to do what they have to do.

  16. Writing as an Israeli veteran, whose kids all served and who has a grandson in uniform today, thank you Daniel for this beautifully penned, and perfect piece. I only wish we had a leader who remembered what he wrote 20 years ago

  17. sadly, power blinds the eyes

  18. Anonymous14/8/13

    "i will not drink the kool-aide" (repeat)

    as long as the kool-aide of the left permeates israeli media, there
    will be this problem. we hope and pray that G-d will hear our cries and prayers and make these people do serious teshuvah and very soon.

  19. George J.14/8/13

    Daniel, brilliant article like usual, and also brilliant comments from the readers. I especially agree with marty_p in that if world opinion had forgiven even the horrendous crimes of Japan and Germany a mere few decades after the fact, then why the hell are the Israeli's and collaborator Jews so damn worried that the world will hate them for the grave crime of defending themselves from terrorist garbage?

    It really is a mind-boggling situation.


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