Pipes vs. Burston - Part One
In his article Israel Shuns Victory
, Daniel Pipes makes a claim that is practically a tautology:
Wars are won, the historical record shows, when one side feels compelled to give up on its goals. This is only logical, for so long as both sides hope to achieve their war ambitions, fighting either continues or potentially can resume.
He gives several examples to show that war is not necessarily won through a simple military defeat—in particular, the Arab-Israeli conflict persists even after a number of Israeli war successes. He says that most of the other strategies Israel has come up with, from retreat to transfer, are also bound to fail, because they do not address the root of the conflict: Arab rejection of Israel.
And how does one solve that problem? Pipes doesn't spell anything out himself, but we can find Solution A in a Q&A
feature with Uzi Landau that he links to. Landau advocates a combination of military defeat, democratization and reeducation of the Arabs, and finally some good old mutual concessions.
Bradley Burston responds
to Pipes in Haaretz, and draws out a Solution B from a speech Pipes gave in 2003:
Arabs will not truly accept Israel's existence until Israel "punishes violence so hard that its enemies will eventually feel so deep a sense of futility that they will despair of further conflict."
While that may not be the only way, and it's not what Pipes is advocating in his current article, the idea is nothing to sneeze at. Germany and Japan have certainly kept quiet since getting beaten into a stupor in WWII. But Burston protests, convinced that this solution has already been attempted:
[Pipes] notes, by way of inference, that the wars in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 failed to persuade them. I guess we didn't fight hard enough, or well enough.
The truth is, the IDF never did fight hard enough or well enough to bring the Arab world to the brink of utter ruin and despair. It wasn't trying to either; it only meant to repel immediate threats, and that's all it accomplished. Solution B has not been tested yet, so Burston's criticism is baseless. (There are other possibilities for criticism though, such as rejection of Israel being too rooted in Islam to ever permit widespread acceptance [at least without more extensive secularization of Muslims], and the Arab world being too large to damage it adequately.)
Another point is that, despite Burston's assumptions, "punishing violence" does not have to take the form of more violence. Sanctions, restrictions on personal liberties, psychological warfare, expulsions, etc. can all be devastating.
Burston's next question is this:
Does Dr. Pipes really believe that people who crave a violent, Jew-murdering death are really going to accept Israel if only enough military force is applied?
Is Dr. Pipes telling us that people who celebrate the sacrament of suicide are going to think differently of us if we send in more tanks, bigger bombs, more F-16s, more Apaches, more infantry brigades, more commandos, demolish more homes, demolish more olive trees, demolish what little is left of the Palestinian Authority?
What Burston surely knows but doesn't acknowledge here is that the goal of a suicide bomber is not merely to kill Jews (or himself), but to pressure the remaining Jews into giving up their land. And all the military pressure Israel could put on the Arabs is worthless as long as it's handing out property deeds at the same time. Clearly, many Arabs are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice if it means that their larger goal will materialize.
But imagine for a moment, if your mind can stretch so far, that Israel were to steadfastly refuse to make any withdrawals (and maybe even annex
land after each attack), thereby neutralizing this motivation. Now imagine further, and I'm speaking purely theoretically, that the IDF had a policy of leveling an Arab town for every act of Arab aggression against Jews. Such a tradeoff would hardly be worthwhile, and I think most Arabs would agree.
Burston must have felt that his other arguments were sorely lacking, because not once, but twice
, he pulls out the nuclear bomb of Israeli debate, capable of reducing any enemy to a puddle of radioactive goo: the Israeli identity card. Unfortunately, Pipes doesn't have one. And what can an American really say about Israel, from his armchair 6000 miles away? Funny though, that Burston can judge Pipes from 6000 miles away. Maybe he stole his driver's license?
If you're going to criticize someone for being too distant from a situation to properly understand it, then for your own credibility, you have to back it up by pointing out some bit of information that the commentator is lacking. Burston makes no attempt to do that, because he wasn't being serious in the first place and his comment was empty of content; he was only engaging in the adult equivalent of calling someone a poopy-head. In fact, many who do live in Israel agree with Pipes. And many Americans agree with Burston. The facts are not in question here, only how to logically put them together, and reason has no borders. Writers who appeal to this fallacy (is there a name for it?) should not even be dignified with publication in major newspapers like Haaretz. Then again, it is Haaretz ... never mind.
Burston may be completely wrong, but Pipes is not completely correct either, and I'll talk about that be"H in Part Two.