Saturday’s coordinated Hamas assault on Israel was the worst terror attack on a Western power since 9-11. With hundreds of Israelis dead, Americans who remember Al Qaeda’s assault on New York and Washington viscerally understand the shock and grief of our ally.
September 11th and October 7th bear much in common.
Both dates saw the targeting of innocent civilians for maximum terror effect. Both were staggering intelligence failures. Both heard the cries of “Allahu Akbar” invoked by attackers bent on jihad. Both nations’ leaders immediately responded with vows of war.
That’s where the similarities should end.
Benjamin Netanyahu must avoid the post-WW2 American myth of a “nice war.”
Already, the U.S. is calling upon Israel to act with a “proportionate response” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is making the absurd demand that, “It is critical that aid begin flowing into Gaza as soon as possible.”
The world wants to believe that conflicts can be “prosecuted” in such a way that only the bad guys die, the good guys come home, and no innocent civilians become casualties of the effort.
There is no such thing as a bloodless war, no matter how many precision weapons modern defense firms churn out.
Smart bombs are no substitute for dumb strategy.
Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to break Hamas. “We will cripple them mercilessly and avenge this black day they have brought upon Israel and its citizens.”
His words sounded much like those of President George Bush, three days after 9-11. From the smoldering rubble of Ground Zero in New York, the president was given a bullhorn to address the rescue workers.
One yelled back, “We can’t hear you.”
“I can hear you,” the president replied, “The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
The crowd roared.
Six days later, the president addressed Congress and the world, delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban and its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar: “They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.”
While revenge is not a noble sentiment, force is an international language terrorists understand. And to be successful, the use of force must be applied until the enemy utterly and unconditionally surrenders. That was America’s mistake in Afghanistan.
In 2001, Americans were rightfully proud when, in a matter of weeks, an initial invasion of just 1,000 special operations forces and CIA operatives, along with 1,300 Marines, sacked the nation that harbored Osama bin Laden.
And though it took 10 years to find and kill Osama bin Laden, we did that too.
Where America went wrong is believing compassion and cash could change hearts and minds before the enemy was entirely defeated. For 20 years the United States spent billions in Afghanistan fighting terrorists while simultaneously trying to build schools, pave roads, and foster democracy.
As General David Petraeus said, American soldiers in Afghanistan didn’t know whether they’d be greeted by a “hand grenade or a handshake” anytime they ventured off base.
Postwar American leadership seems to have forgotten the key lessons of our last great victory: compassion can only be delivered after the enemy accepts defeat.
The Marshall Plan worked because German grenades stopped flying on May 8, 1945. MacArthur’s Occupation of Japan succeeded only after an unconditional surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri.
The Biden administration is under the delusion that American cash can buy peace in lieu of force.
Just six days after taking office, Biden reversed a Trump-era policy and restored half a billion dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority. Four months later, Hamas expressed its gratitude by raining 4,300 rockets on heavily-populated Israeli cities.
In August of this year, Biden released $6 billion “for humanitarian aid” to the Iranian regime for a prisoner swap. Hamas and Hezbollah have since openly boasted to the WSJ and BBC about their Iranian benefactors.
So smug was the Biden administration in its Middle-East brilliance that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan gloated, “the Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.”
Eight days after his brag, Hamas murdered hundreds of Israelis.
The Middle East was actually quiet during the Trump administration. Though villianized by the left, Trump’s policies of defunding the Palestinian Authority, canceling the Iranian nuclear deal, decisively striking war criminals like Soleimani, and threatening to hold Iran responsible for the actions of its proxies caused peace to break out. Exhibit a: the Abraham Accords.
Thankfully thus far, Israel is not taking the Biden approach. It has cut power to Gaza, conducted more than 130 strikes, and is preparing for a ground invasion. On Sunday, October 8th, Netanyahu reportedly told Biden, “We have to go in. We can’t negotiate now. We need to restore deterrence.”
The world can help by not pressuring Israel to pull its punches. The West can swiftly bring humanitarian aid and help to the innocent in the Gaza Strip once Hamas unconditionally surrenders, and not a minute before.
Morgan Murphy is a former national security advisor and Pentagon press secretary.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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