The Fallacy of Peace Through Inertia
Someone close to me recently lectured me on this fact. It appears to makes sense prima facie, but such an enlightened-sounding utterance falls apart as an empty truism with the addition of a little perspective. The Middle Eastern conflict must be viewed from a long-term angle, whilst attempting to countenance the ramifications of the alternative tactic mentioned. People who might be attracted to the deceivingly pacific fog shrouding the above statement would benefit from realising that failing to respond in kind to a belligerant act by zealots like Hezbollah is no silver bullet to the problems of the Middle East; on the contrary, such a strategy may well carry consequences that could ultimately be unthinkably awful.
A powerful expression of the quote I provided above can be found in Steven Spielberg's recent movie, Munich. The moral of that tale is identical to the one pronounced by my close relative; if one hunts down and kills those who planned and carried out the kidnapping-murders of the Israeli athletes at those fateful Games, all one does is inspire a new and more brutal generation to rise up in its place and start spreading increased chaos.
In response to this assertion, I ask; were these numbers of people not destined to pollute the earth with their hatred and intolerance regardless? Israel, by its actions, may well have inspired many, many Muslims to embark on violent jihad over the course of its existence. However, if Israel left - for example - the horrors of the Munich Olympic Games unanswered, it is conceivable that the people who reacted to Israel's subsequent blatant retaliatory assassination programme by joining Islamic militant movements, would readily join the same sorts of organisations when inspired and emboldened by a flaccid Israeli reaction to a travesty of this kind, or perhaps an aura of weakness created by such a profound act of Israeli inertia in the face of this sort of crime. Long and rambling sentence, sorry. Considering that the existence of Israel is an anathema to so many Middle-Eastern Muslims, Israeli inaction and the perception of Israeli weakness is just as strong an inspiration to take up arms against the relatively tiny Jewish state, as a hail of super-potent Star of David-marked precision-guided missiles.
The overarching problem - and this extends beyond Israel and into the international arena - is Islam and its unique propensity (amongst the major religions) towards radicalism. It seems more than likely that Israel will defeat Hezbollah in the future, however I have no doubt that some other radical Islamic organisation will fill any breach left expeditiously. If radical Islam's nature is hydra-like, as those urging Israeli restraint imply (and I believe they are correct), chopping off the heads when they appear until the organism is exhausted through struggle or circumstance seems a perfectly logical grand strategy for the enormously durable West to pursue over the decades.
The ideal that lasting peace could reign in the Middle East if Israel would simply act passively towards its aggressors when she comes under attack is delusional nonsense. Israel is (again) biblical territory in Huntingdon's oft-quoted, prescient - and surely by now undeniable - Clash of Civilizations, and ultimately the conflict between the liberal West and conservative Islam is a fiendishly complicated, opaque and unpredictable game of strategy that will be played out over many, many years. Israel, due to its proximity, will suffer negative long-term consequences emanating from the actions of the armed belligerati of conservative Islam, regardless of whatever strategy Israel chooses (ranging from rank appeasement to overwhelming military retaliation) to deal with belligerant acts dealt by these aggressors, for that is the nature of the consolidated foe. Hence, Israel needs long-term support from the Western world. Israel may not be a liberal place itself in many ways, but in many ways it is the (somewhat unlikely) vanguard of liberalism.
(Crossposted with some improving tweaks at Samizdata)