Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Northern Tinder Box

February 28, 2010
The war of words is continuing.  The latest salvoes were fired last week by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and his Lebanese ally and client Hassan Nasrallah.  Ahmedinejad reportedly told Nasrallah that if Israel attacks Hizballah, the response should be sufficient to lead to the closure, once and for all, of the Israeli 'case.'  In the same week, Nasrallah promised attendees at a 'Resistance Martyrs Day' celebration that his movement would target Israel's infrastructure in the event of further hostilities.  The Hizballah leader mentioned airports, factories and refineries as possible targets. 
Hizballah second in command Naim Qassem joined in this week, describing Israel as 'worse than Nazism,' and the 'leader of international crime under the sponsorship of the U.S. and major world powers.'  Qassem reiterated his movement's rejection of any diplomatic option vis a vis Israel, saying that "What was taken by the force of occupation can only be regained by the force of the resistance."    
The self-confident, warlike tones of  these leaders are by now familiar.   But what, if anything, is revealed by these most recent statements?
Some analysis has suggested that the heightened rhetoric may presage an attempt by Iran to heat up the northern front in response to the hardening international stance to Iran's nuclear program.
While nothing should be ruled out, a number of factors should be borne in mind in this regard.  Hizballah and its backers are well aware of the broad contours of Israel's likely response in the event of further aggression by the movement on the northern border.  The message has been adequately transferred that a future conflict would not remain within the parameters of  a localized Israel-Hizballah clash in southern Lebanon. 
Rather, with Hizballah present in the Lebanese government, and its decisions regarding war not subject to supervision or appeal by any other element in Lebanon,  a future war is likely to take on the characteristics of a state to state conflict.
The results of such a conflict would be damaging to northern Israel, without a doubt. But to Lebanon and to Hizballah, they are likely to be devastating.  This means that from the Iranian point of view, the Hizballah card is one of the most valuable that Teheran holds - but it can probably be played only once.
So there is reason to suppose that the Iranians have good reason to hold back on committing their Hizballah clients until a possible later stage - most likely, in response to a future western or Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. 
Of course, past wars in the region have often erupted not from a decision by one or other of the sides, but rather from a situation of ongoing, rising tensions,  which was then ignited by a single, ill-judged action - such as the attempted murder of Ambassador Shlomo Argov, which led to Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982, or the Hizballah kidnapping attempt which precipitated the war of 2006. 
Hizballah's failure to avenge the death of senior movement official Imad Mughniyeh remains a major issue for the movement.  In his speech to the rally last week, Nasrallah referred to this issue, saying "What we want is a retaliation that is up to the level of Imad Mugniyeh."
But here the movement faces a dilemma. Any major strike on an Israeli target is likely to provoke precisely the conflagration that Hizballah and its supporters fear.  Hizballah, in addition to being a client and proxy of Iran, is also a Lebanese Shia movement, requiring the support of the Shia of southern Lebanon for its longer term goal of dominating the country.  And for all their pride in the 'divine victory' of 2006, the stream of residents of south Lebanon seeking to flee the area whenever security tensions have risen over the last three years has surely not escaped the Hizballah leadership's attention.
So can we conclude that deterrence has been achieved, and the situation of latent tension in the north is likely to remain at its current level for the foreseeable future, short of an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities? 
To do so would be to assume that the thinking of the Hizballah leadership and its allies in Iran is ultimately pragmatic, rational, and non-ideological.  This would be a mistaken assumption. The writings of Hizballah's leaders, and its actions - particularly since 2000 - offer clear evidence that its commitment to jihad against Israel is a genuine one. Recent visitors to Beirut speak of an atmosphere of high, even delusional morale, among Hizballah's cadres. It is sincerely believed that the next war will initiate Israel's demise. And there is in the public domain clear evidence of at least one abortive operation which could have sparked renewed conflict - namely, the foiled IRGC/Hizballah plan to kidnap the Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan , for which two movement members are on trial. 
Ultimately, there are ample pragmatic reasons as to why the Iran/Hizballah side might want to avoid escalation at the present time. But there are also irrational elements within the thinking of these forces - which incline them toward underestimation of their enemy.  There is also a clear motivation for actions intended to reap a cost to Israel, but one not sufficiently high that Jerusalem will launch a full scale response. The possibility here for error and mis-calculation is obviously immense.  The recent deployment by Hizballah of sophisticated M-600 surface to surface missiles adds further fuel to the mix. The situation in the north is complex, multi-faceted, and requiring of only a single wrong move to end the fragile quiet of the last three and a half years. 
 *Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

A Brief, Fascinating Look At Israel

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ayn Rand,Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer |

This Article first appeared on

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There's something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don't have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be as hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population who thought like this, but the US is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd, but whose influence is only starting to spread out of the US.
One reason why most countries don't find the time to embrace her thinking is that Ayn Rand is a textbook sociopath. Literally a sociopath: Ayn Rand, in her notebooks, worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of "ideal man" that Rand promoted in her more famous books -- ideas which were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America's most recent economic catastrophe -- former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox -- along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate "entitlement programs" increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked "Atlas Shrugged" as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after The Bible.

So what, and who, was Ayn Rand for and against? The best way to get to the bottom of it is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel,Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten by Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation -- Danny Renahan, the 
protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street -- on him.

What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"

This echoes almost word for word Rand's later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: "He was born without the ability to consider others."

The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's favorite book -- he even requires his clerks to read it.

I'll get to where Rand picked up her silly Superman blather from later -- but first, let's meet William Hickman, the "genuinely beautiful soul" and inspiration to Ayn Rand. What you will read below -- the real story, details included, of what made Hickman a "Superman" in Ayn Rand's eyes -- is extremely gory and upsetting, even if you're well acquainted with true crime stories -- so prepare yourself. But it's necessary to read this to understand Rand, and to repeat this over and over until all of America understands what made her mind tick, because Rand's influence over the very people leading the fight to kill social programs, and her ideological influence on so many powerful bankers, regulators and businessmen who brought the financial markets crashing down, means her ideas are affecting all of our lives in the worst way imaginable.

Rand fell for William Edward Hickman in the late 1920s, as the shocking story of Hickman's crime started to grip the nation. His crime, trial and case was a non-stop headline grabber for months; the OJ Simpson of his day:
Hickman, who was only 19 when he was arrested for murder, was the son of a paranoid-schizophrenic mother and grandmother. His schoolmates said that as a kid Hickman liked to strangle cats and snap the necks of chickens for fun -- most of the kids thought he was a budding manic, though the adults gave him good marks for behavior, a typical sign of sociopathic cunning. He enrolled in college but quickly dropped out, and quickly turned to violent crime largely driven by the thrill and arrogance typical of sociopaths: in a brief and wild crime spree that grew increasingly violent, Hickman knocked over dozens of gas stations and drug stores across the Midwest and west to California. Along the way it's believed he strangled a girl in Milwaukee, and killed his crime partner's grandfather in Pasadena, tossing his body over a bridge after taking his money. Hickman's partner later told police that Hickman told him how much he'd like to kill and dismember a victim someday -- and that day did come for Hickman.

One afternoon, Hickman drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High school in Los Angeles, and told administrators that he'd come to pick up "the Parker girl" -- her father, Perry Parker, was a prominent banker. Hickman didn't know the girl's first name, so when he was asked which of the two Parker twins -- Hickman answered, "the younger daughter." And then he corrected himself: "The smaller one." The school administrator fetched young Marion, and brought her out to Hickman. No one suspected his motive; Marion obediently followed Hickman to his car as she was told, where he promptly kidnapped her. He wrote a ransom note to Marian's father, demanding $1,500 for her return, promising that the girl would be left unharmed. Marian was terrified into passivity -- she even waited in the car for Hickman when he went to mail his letter to her father. Hickman's extreme narcissism comes through in his ransom letters, as he refers to himself as a "master mind [sic]" and "not a common crook." Hickman signed his letters "The Fox" because he admired his own cunning: "Fox is my name, very sly you know." And then he threatened: "Get this straight. Your daughter's life hangs by a thread."

Hickman and the girl's father exchanged letters over the next few days as they arranged the terms of the ransom, while Marion obediently followed her captor's demands. She never tried to escape the hotel where he kept her; Hickman even took her to a movie, and she never screamed for help. She remained quiet and still as told when Hickman tied her to the chair -- he didn't even bother gagging her because there was no need to, right up to the gruesome end.

Hickman's last ransom note to Marion's father is where this story reaches its disturbing: Hickman fills the letter with hurt anger over her father's suggestion that Hickman might deceive him, and "ask you for your $1500 for a lifeless mass of flesh I am base and low but won't stoop to that depth " What Hickman didn't say was that as he wrote the letter, Marion was already several chopped-up lifeless masses of flesh. Why taunt the father? Why feign outrage? This sort of bizarre taunting was all part of the serial killer's thrill, maximizing the sadistic pleasure he got from knowing that he was deceiving the father before the father even knew what happened to his daughter. But this was nothing compared to the thrill Hickman got from murdering the helpless 12-year-old Marion Parker. Here is an old newspaper description of the murder, taken from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazetteon December 27, 1927:
"It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me," he continued, "and I just couldn't help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marian. Then before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly. I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. "When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. "I knew she was dead. "Well, after she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out."
Another newspaper account dryly explained what Hickman did next:
Then he took a pocket knife and cut a hole in her throat. Then he cut off each arm to the elbow. Then he cut her legs off at the knees. He put the limbs in a cabinet. He cut up the body in his room at the Bellevue Arms Apartments. Then he removed the clothing and cut the body through at the waist. He put it on a shelf in the dressing room. He placed a towel in the body to drain the blood. He wrapped up the exposed ends of the arms and waist with paper. He combed back her hair, powdered her face and then with a needle fixed her eyelids. He did this because he realized that he would lose the reward if he did not have the body to produce to her father.
Hickman packed her body, limbs and entrails into a car, and drove to the drop-off point to pick up his ransom; along his way he tossed out wrapped-up limbs and innards scattering them around Los Angeles. When he arrived at the meeting point, Hickman pulled Miriam's head and torso out of a suitcase and propped her up, her torso wrapped tightly, to look like she was alive--he sewed wires into her eyelids to keep them open, so that she'd appear to be awake and alive. When Miriam's father arrived, Hickman pointed a sawed-off shotgun at him, showed Miriam's head with the eyes sewn open (it would have been hard to see for certain that she was dead), and then took the ransom money and sped away. As he sped away, he threw Miriam's head and torso out of the car, and that's when the father ran up and saw his daughter--and screamed.
This is the "amazing picture" Ayn Rand -- guru to the Republican/Tea Party right-wing -- admired when she wrote in her notebook that Hickman represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should."

Other people don't exist for Ayn, either. Part of her ideas are nothing more than a ditzy dilettante's bastardized Nietzsche -- but even this was plagiarized from the same pulp newspaper accounts of the time. According to an LA Times article in late December 1927, headlined "Behavioralism Gets The Blame," a pastor and others close to the Hickman case denounce the cheap trendy Nietzschean ideas that Hickman and others latch onto as a defense:

"Behavioristic philosophic teachings of eminent philosophers such as Nietzsche and Schopenhauer have built the foundation for William Edward Hickman's original rebellion against society," the article begins.

The fear that some felt at the time was that these philosophers' dangerous, yet nuanced ideas would fall into the hands of lesser minds, who would bastardize Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and poison the rest of us. Which aptly fits the description of Ayn Rand, whose philosophy developed out of her admiration for "Supermen" like Hickman. Rand's philosophy can be summed up by the title of one of her best-known books: The Virtue of Selfishness. She argues that all selfishness is a moral good, and all altruism is a moral evil, even "moral cannibalism" to use her words. To her, those who aren't like-minded sociopaths are "parasites" and "lice" and "looters."

But with Rand, there's something more pathological at work. She's out to make the world more sociopath-friendly so that people like Ayn and her hero William Hickman can reach their full potential, not held back by the morality of the "weak," whom Rand despised.

That's what makes it so creepy how Rand and her followers clearly get off on hating and bashing those they perceived as weak--Rand and her followers have a kind of fetish for classifying weaker, poorer people as "parasites" and "lice" who need to swept away. This is exactly the sort of sadism, bashing the helpless for kicks, that Rand's hero Hickman would have appreciated. What's really unsettling is that even former Central Bank chief Alan Greenspan, whose relationship with Rand dated back to the 1950s, did some parasite-bashing of his own. In response to a 1958 New York Times book review slamming Atlas Shrugged, Greenspan, defending his mentor, published a letter to the editor that ends: "Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. Alan Greenspan."

As much as Ayn Rand detested human "parasites," there is one thing she strongly believed in: creating conditions that increase the productivity of her Supermen - the William Hickmans who rule her idealized America: "If [people] place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite."

And yet Republican faithful like GOP Congressman Paul Ryan read Ayn Rand and make declare, with pride, "Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism." Indeed. Except that Ayn Rand also despised democracy, as she declared: "Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom."

"Collectivism" is another one of those Randian epithets popular among her followers. Here for example is another Republican member of Congress, the one with the freaky thousand-yard-stare, Michelle Bachman, parroting the Ayn Rand ideological line, rto explain her reasoning for wanting to kill social programs:

"As much as the collectivist says to each according to his ability to each according to his need, that's not how mankind is wired. They want to make the best possible deal for themselves."

Whenever you hear politicians or Tea Baggers dividing up the world between "producers" and "collectivism," just know that those ideas and words more likely than not are derived from the deranged mind of a serial-killer groupie. When you hear them threaten to "Go John Galt," hide your daughters and tell them not to talk to any strangers -- or Tea Party Republicans. And when you see them taking their razor blades to the last remaining programs protecting the middle class from total abject destitution -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- and brag about their plans to slash them for "moral" reasons, just remember Ayn's morality and who inspired her.

Too many critics of Ayn Rand-- until I was one of them -- would rather dismiss her books and ideas as laughable, childish, hackneyed. But it can't be dismissed because Rand is the name that keeps bubbling up from the Teabagger crowd and the elite conservative circuit in Washington as The Big Inspiration. The only way to protect ourselves from this thinking is the way you protect yourself from serial killers: smoke the Rand followers out, make them answer for following the crazed ideology of a serial-killer-groupie, and run them the hell out of town and out of our hemisphere.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Israeli David against the Arab Goliath

I recently viewed a Middle-East Peace conference hosted by the Middle-East Press Club.
The speakers were prominent Israelis, Israeli-Arabs and Fatah functionaries.
Of course the conference doesn't take place in a vacuum.
It is another step on the road of  a quest for peace or victory or what have you.
Whether one has a "dog in the fight" on this issue, or not, some fundamentals are not really arguable.
At the conference, the Israel-Arab Deputy Speaker of the Knesset said he would never accept a Jewish state of Israel.
Of course, if Israel is not a Jewish state, it will eventually be a Muslim state.
The Israeli speakers took the stage with pained, but open expressions.
They were reasonable, they expressed sadness mixed with hope, and you could see their sincerity and compassion.
You could also see a trace, at least, of bewilderment.
Israelis know and expressed at the conference the offers they have made in the past to the Arab community known as Palestinians.
The Israelis have offered every deal short of agreeing to be dismantled as a State, albeit a very tiny state doomed for at least some time to be surrounded by hostile Arab Neighbors with bad intentions.
Israel is the only Democracy on the Arabian Peninsula.
Jews have enriched the lives of Arab-Israelis.
Even the Palestinians in the West Bank are improving their lot in life in comparison with their brethren in Arab controlled countries.
Palestinian women in the west bank are not required to wear the Burka or ha-jib.
This is almost unprecedented in the Arab world.
The world has always held that Israel is entitled to be a State.
Even the Arabs have vaguely agreed to the concept in some venues.
Israel is a tiny, tiny, little speck on the Map of the Arabian Peninsula.
Israel, when not successfully demonized, is a beacon of civilization in a land mass where many of the leaders express a desire to return to the good old days of the 8th Century.

Israel deserves our support.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Defining "Victory" and "Peace": How the U.S. and Israel Reject General Sherman's Solution and Get Blamed Anyway

February 10, 2010

 "War," said General William Tecumseh Sherman, "is Hell." He knew what he was talking about. Sherman's march through Georgia and into South Carolina at the end of the Civil War helped end the Civil War while destroying a lot of civilian homes, farms, and towns.

His strategy was to inflict such terrible punishment on the South that it would surrender faster, thus saving lives. His men did things shocking to Americans even after such a bloody conflict, burning plantations and destroying everything in their wake. Ironically, though, even Sherman's deeds have been exaggerated.

But Sherman was no mere brute. He was so depressed by the prospect of the Civil War-being among the few who understood how long and bloody it would be-that he had a nervous breakdown at its onset and tried to escape the responsibility of service that he ultimately knew would be impossible for him to avoid. Like other Western generals of his time, and almost up to the present day--but no longer--he simply believed, in his words, "I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early [that is, complete and quick] success."

After the war, Sherman became commander of the U.S. army and about 1870, regarding the Franco-Prussian War but it applies generally:

How are wars won? The preferred way is for one side to see that its own victory is impossible and that it will face much heavier costs by continuing than by surrendering or making peace. By making a deal sooner, the side that's losing often reasons that it can get better terms.

What do you do, though, if the other side isn't going to give up? Here's what Sherman said about the French-German conflict but which also applies to America's Civil War and many other conflicts as well:

"The proper strategy consists in inflicting as telling blows as possible on the enemy's army, and then in using the inhabitants so much suffering that they must long for peace, and force the government to demand it. The people must be left nothing but their eyes to weep with over the war."

That's pretty terrible. Remember, though, that Sherman did say war was Hell. When it became clear that Japan was not going to surrender in World War Two, requiring a full-scale U.S. invasion of that country's homeland that would have left millions dead, President Harry Truman dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. He was right to do so. The results were horrendous, heart-breaking. Yet if Truman had not taken that tough decision far more Japanese and Americans would be dead. The damage to Japan would have been so great that the country would not have recovered, if at all, until many decades passed.

Consider Sherman's analysis in a contemporary context. Western democracies, including the United States and Israel, have no desire to pursue such a strategy. If the governments did, the democratic institutions and public opinion would never stand for it. This creates a paradox: if the other side doesn't surrender, victory is impossible because that other side will not be crushed or so credibly threatened with destruction that its leaders will give in.

This is one side-the other is the nature and ideology of the enemies themselves-of asymmetric warfare. By refusing to surrender, by offering up their own civilians as casualties, by courting massive destruction, by keeping the battle going and inflicting casualties on the democratic combatants, the weaker side hopes to win. True, the radicals believe that their ideology and determination makes them stronger but there's one more factor: they count on the squeamishness of their would-be victims as being too soft, in effect too democratic.

The radicals using asymmetric warfare are wrong in thinking they can win but they are right in thinking they can't lose. The battle goes on as long as they choose, even if the democratic side doesn't give up. And sometimes it does, or at least they can still hope that it will and use that hope to inspire more sacrifice from its own people.

Consider Israel in this context. The above explains why Israel can never "win" the conflict with the Palestinians or with the neighboring Arabs or Muslims for that matter. "Win" here means to gain such a triumph that the conflict will come to an end. But Israel can "win" by reducing the cost of the conflict to itself, going on with its national life, and reducing conflict to a minimum in terms of disruptions and casualties.

Equally, the radicals can gain international sympathy and criticisms of Israel but that will never bring them actual victory, only allow them to extend the conflict indefinitely. And so, there is no peace but Israel remains the closest thing to a winner, as long as it is willing to pay a certain price, while trying to reduce that price to the lowest possible level.

I am not advocating a Sherman-like policy. No one in any position of power in Israel is doing so or has ever really done so. Aside from the moral issue, the effect on Israel's own society, and the impact on its international standing, such a step simply isn't necessary.

Compare the Israeli view to that of the creator and commander of the German army, not in World War Two under the Nazis, not even in World War One, but in the 1870 Franco-Prussian war. The Germans had won but the French were waging war for a time through guerrilla forces.

General Moltke ordered all French guerrillas to be shot and anyone helping them be severely punished. "Experience has established that the most effective way of dealing with this situation is to destroy the premises concerned-or, where participation has been more general, the entire village...."

A German officer wrote in 1870: "We are learning to hate them more every day....Atrocious attacks are avenged by atrocities which remind one of the Thirty Years War."

Does this have anything to do with Israeli tactics on the West Bank or Gaza Strip? Of course not, though nothing would be easier for Israel to do in terms of capability. After 50 years of conflict, Israeli soldiers don't respond the way those Germans did after five months. That's why not a single real atrocity or massacre can be found by Israel's enemies despite massive and desperate attempts to do so over many years; even despite the fact that there have been many completely documented and deliberately planned massacres of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists.

And this remains true despite the fact that the "atrocious attacks" Israel faces, in terms of anti-civilian terrorism, is far beyond what that German officer in 1870 could ever have dreamed possible. Remember, too, by the way that under British rule in mandatory Palestine the mere possession of a gun was punishable by death. The British executed more Jews in two years during the 1940s than Israel has hung Palestinians who killed civilians in 50 years. In fact, Israel has not executed a single Palestinian during its existence. 

Fortunately, back in 1871, the French government, realizing the hopelessness of the situation, made a deal, giving up one and a half provinces and paying reparations in order to end the war. Even this did not terminate the friction between the two countries which later resulted in two world wars, though that particular peace agreement held for almost 45 years.

Still, the Franco-Prussian war example shows that even a "total victory" might be less satisfactory ultimately than what for Israel is largely a victory for all practical purposes, including at least formal peace with two of its neighbors and a de facto peace-though not necessarily a permanent one of course, with the Palestinian Authority.

Two points to conclude. First, there is nothing harder than to explain the above to a Western audience. They identify a good outcome only with a full and formal peace ending the conflict. This is, of course, preferable. But if it is impossible-and it is in an asymmetric conflict when international sympathy for the aggressive "underdog" allows it to go on getting its people killed and territory damaged for decades-than a practical "victory" is the next best thing.

Second, it is rather ridiculous to slander Israel as a "war criminal" or bully or aggressor or the factor blocking peace when the opposite is true. If the weaker side insists on being the attacker and rejecting a reasonable peaceful solution, then that supposed "David" becomes in fact the actual "Goliath."

Moreover, compared to the wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there have been no massacres, summary executions, wholesale destruction of cities, large-scale looting, or anything comparable to such things.

In the attempt to smear Israel, we are now down to debating whether it was right for Israeli soldiers to shoot back at enemy combatants trying to kill them who were firing from a specific building or which ammunition should have been used in doing so.  And this in a situation where the other side is subject to no limits whatsoever, indeed can be expected to target civilians on purpose and execute prisoners.

Defiinitely, there has been a great deal of success for groups with a long history of deliberate terrorism in lying about Israeli actions and spreading the general impression that some kind of war crimes were committed. Yet the fabrications and irresponsibility of Western institutions in doing so are far more shocking than anything that actually happened.

And finally, Israel has rejected the Sherman strategy. It is the Palestinian side, along with Iran, Syria, Hizballah, and others that have embraced it. They just lack the competence to pull it off.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, the United States is facing parallel issues, and this will happen even more in the future. It is understandable that democratic countries have generally abandoned the Sherman approach but there is a price to be paid for doing so. What is completely unacceptable is to pay the price for restraint and then be falsely accused of acting otherwise.

At the end of the Civil War, Sherman wrote, speaking words that all democratic societies truly feel:

"I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting-its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers....It is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ...that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation."

Yet Sherman did not live to see the age of ideological warfare, no matter what the cost to their own people the radicals and Islamists do indeed call for "more blood, more vengeance, more desolution." They do so in the hope that their enemies are "sick and tired of fighting," will do anything to avoid casualties and the "anguish and lamentations," from citizens, and that fools in the enemies' camp blame the continued warfare and suffering on their own side. 

The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky