The Simplest Peace Plan: Victory

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Mideast peace plan is simple: Israel defeats its enemies.

Victory uniquely creates circumstances conducive to peace. Wars end, the historical record confirms, when one side concedes defeat and the other wins. This makes intuitive sense, for so long as both sides aspire to achieve their ambitions, fighting continues or it potentially can resume.

The goal of victory is not exactly something novel. Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist, advised that in war, “Let your great object be victory.” Raimondo Montecuccoli, a seventeenth-century general, said that “the objective in war is victory.” Carl von Clausewitz, a nineteenth-century Prussian, added that “war is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will.” Winston Churchill told the British people: “You ask: what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory—victory—at all costs, victory, in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.” Dwight D. Eisenhower observed that “in war, there is no substitute for victory.” However much weaponry changes, human nature remains the same.

Victory means imposing one’s will on the enemy, compelling him to abandon his war goals. Germans, forced to surrender in the First World War, retained the goal of dominating Europe and a few years later looked to Hitler to achieve it. Signed pieces of paper matter only if one side has cried uncle. The Vietnam War ostensibly concluded through diplomacy in 1973, but both sides continued to seek their war aims until the North won ultimate victory in 1975.

Willpower is the key: shooting down planes, destroying tanks, exhausting munitions, making soldiers flee, and seizing land are not decisive in themselves but must be accompanied by a psychological collapse. North Korea’s loss in 1953, Saddam Hussein’s in 1991, and the Iraqi Sunni loss in 2003 did not translate into despair. Conversely, the French gave up in Algeria in 1962, despite outnumbering and outgunning their foes, as did the Americans in Vietnam and the Soviets in Afghanistan. In all these cases, the losers maintained large arsenals, armies, and functioning economies. But they ran out of will.

Signed pieces of paper matter only if one side has cried uncle.

Likewise, the Arab-Israeli conflict will be resolved only when one side gives up.

Until now, through round after round of war, both sides have retained their goals. Israel fights to win acceptance by its enemies, while those enemies fight to eliminate Israel. Those goals are raw, unchanging, and contradictory. Israel’s acceptance or elimination are the only states of peace. Each observer must opt for one solution or the other. A civilized person will want Israel to win, for its goal is defensive, to protect an existing and flourishing country. Its enemies’ goal of destruction amounts to pure barbarism.

For nearly sixty years, Arab rejectionists, now joined by Iranian and leftist counterparts, have tried to eliminate Israel through multiple strategies: they work to undermine its legitimacy intellectually, overwhelm it demographically, isolate it economically, restrain its defenses diplomatically, fight it conventionally, and demoralize it with terror, and they threaten to destroy it with weapons of mass destruction. While Israel’s enemies have pursued their goals with energy and will, they have met few successes.

Ironically, Israelis over time responded to the incessant assault on their country by losing sight of the need to win. The right developed schemes to finesse victory, the center experimented with appeasement and unilateralism, and the left wallowed in guilt and self-recrimination. Exceedingly few Israelis understand the unfinished business of victory, of crushing the enemy’s will and getting him to accept the permanence of the Jewish state.

Fortunately for Israel, it need only defeat the Palestinians, and not the entire Arab or Muslim population, which eventually will follow the Palestinian lead in accepting Israel. Also fortunate: although the Palestinians have built an awesome reputation for endurance, they can be beaten. If the Germans and Japanese could be forced to give up in 1945 and the Americans in 1975, how can Palestinians be exempt from defeat?

A civilized person will want Israel to win, for its goal is defensive, to protect an existing and flourishing country. Its enemies’ goal of destruction amounts to pure barbarism.

Of course, Israel faces obstacles in achieving victory. The country is hemmed in generally by international expectations (from the United Nations Security Council, for example) and specifically by the policies of its main ally, the U.S. government. Therefore, if Jerusalem is to win, that starts with a change in policy in the United States and in other Western countries. Those governments should urge Israel to seek victory by convincing the Palestinians that they have lost.

This means undoing the perceptions of Israel’s weakness that grew during the Oslo process (1993–2000) and then the twin withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza (2000–2005). Jerusalem appeared back on track during Ariel Sharon’s first three years as prime minister (2001–3), and his tough stance then marked real progress in Israel’s war effort. Only when it became clear in late 2004 that Sharon really did plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza did the Palestinian mood revive and Israel stop winning. Ehud Olmert’s debilitating prime ministry has been only partially remedied by Benjamin Netanyahu over the past year.

Ironically, an Israeli victory would bring greater benefits to the Palestinians than to Israel. Israelis would benefit by being rid of an atavistic war, to be sure, but their country is already a functioning, modern society. For Palestinians, in contrast, abandoning the fetid, irredentist dream of eliminating their neighbor would finally offer them a chance to tend their own misbegotten garden, to develop their deeply deficient polity, economy, society, and culture.

Thus does my peace plan both end the war and bring unique benefits to all directly involved.

Reprinted by permission. ©2010 Daniel Pipes.

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