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July 26, 2006

Thomas Sowell on Cease-Fires

Here's an interesting thought from Thomas Sowell.

People are calling for a cease-fire in the interests of peace. But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be the most peaceful region on the face of the earth instead of the most violent.

This is not to say that cease-fires are useless. But it depends on the parties involved. Henry Kissinger was on Fox & Friends this morning, and he mentioned that in his day, he didn't have to deal with these types of groups; he just dealt with countries that had land and people they were responsible for. Hezbollah's just a group all willing to die for their cause, and in today's climate they know how to play the game.

There was a time when it would have been suicidal to threaten, much less attack, a nation with much stronger military power because one of the dangers to the attacker would be the prospect of being annihilated.

"World opinion," the U.N. and "peace movements" have eliminated that deterrent. An aggressor today knows that if his aggression fails, he will still be protected from the full retaliatory power and fury of those he attacked because there will be hand-wringers demanding a cease fire, negotiations and concessions.

That has been a formula for never-ending attacks on Israel in the Middle East. The disastrous track record of that approach extends to other times and places -- but who looks at track records?

It's that history repeating itself thing the people ignore at their peril, or the peril of others. Actually, that's why I think that most of the rest of the world is telling Israel to stand down while the US isn't. It's because they don't remember relatively recent history. Don't forget that most of the world was unwilling to confront Hitler head on ("Peace in our time", anyone?), or afraid to appear strong and resolute against the Communist threat. Both those enemies took full advantage of that timidity. For Hitler, it took America to come in and defeat him, not ask for a cease-fire. For Communism, it took so many proxy wars, but the political climate kept us from defeating it, and people in Korea and Vietnam and Cambodia and many other places paid, and are still paying, the price for it.

If the world considers Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist organizations, then leaving them alone when they kill Israelis is not an option. Well, it shouldn't be. As it is, Hezbollah can launch hundreds of rockets without much of a peep at all from the international community, but Israel is considered too aggressive when it tries to stop those shooting the rockets. Make no mistake; Hezbollah's charter does not allow it to negotiate a permanent peace until either Israel is gone, or they are gone. Which would you rather have win?

Posted by Doug at July 26, 2006 02:35 PM

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"But there have been more cease-fires in the Middle East than anywhere else. If cease-fires actually promoted peace..."

So, by that logic, could we also say that there have been more wars in the Middle East than elsewhere and if wars actually promoted peace, it would be the most peaceful region in the world?

It is a flawed line of thinking.

"It's because they don't remember relatively recent history."

Or, could it be that most of the world is much more well-acquainted with war and know the futility of it - especially when it is mostly random violence that is killing more civilians than actual targets?

Israel has a right to defend herself. But taking actions that lead to the savage deaths of so many civilians only serves to make Israel LESS secure. We must fight against injustice and violence and we can defend ourselves, BUT random acts of violence won't serve that end.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at July 27, 2006 07:19 AM

As a bit of evidence, I'll call any of you to testify.

Suppose there were a border group in the US that, because of its irritation over illegal immigration, began killing and kidnapping Mexicans. Mexico is outraged and wants to take action.

Tell me, will starting attacks on US soil - in which many innocents get killed - will those attacks make Mexico more or less secure?

Self-defense? Sure. But it must be done wisely.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at July 27, 2006 07:34 AM

So, by that logic, could we also say that there have been more wars in the Middle East than elsewhere and if wars actually promoted peace, it would be the most peaceful region in the world?
So neither war nor cease-fires promote peace. That's exactly right, Dan. It's not flawed, it's the truth. You know what does promote peace against an enemy that won't be negotiated with?

Victory. Not war itself, and not leaving the enemy there to continue to kill you, but victory over them. I would love to see a negotiated peace in the Middle East, but with groups and countries officially and unofficially bent on Israel's demise, that won't happen until they give up that goal. In the meantime, Israelis follow the roadmap and give up land in an attempt to go with the negotiated settlement, and are rewarded with deeper incursions of rockets. Rockets that kill civilians. Civilians that are barely noticed by the international community. But when Israel finally, and after great patience, goes after those shooting at their civilians, all of a sudden the world wakes up and gets indignant about civilian casualties.

And let's ask some of the Jews who were rescued from concentration camps in Germany whether WWII was futile or not. Let's ask some Frenchmen if they wish a cease-fire had been negotiated after Germany took over their nation. We can't ask freed slaves what they think about being freed instead of calling a cease-fire with the South and keeping the status quo, but I have an idea of what they might say. And that's the problem with a cease-fire in the case of Israel and Hezbollah. The status quo is just more Israeli civilian "savage deaths". How exactly is that considered "secure"?

And if a group in the US "began killing and kidnapping Mexicans", the US would do something about it. They wouldn't let it fester for years as Lebanon has done with Hezbollah. They didn't just "begin killing and kidnapping" Israelis, Dan. It's been going on for a good long time. UN resolution 1559, which included a call for Lebanon to disband Hezbollah, was enacted almost 2 years ago. I daresay that your analogy is flawed, because we wouldn't need a UN resolution to get us to take action. It wouldn't come to requiring Mexico to take the matter into its own hands.

A further flaw is that the relative strengths of the two are reversed. Mexico would probably never try that something like that because of the strength of the US military. Mexico would be quite powerless against us. It is for that reason that both the strength and the morality of a nation are key in international affairs. We have the strength to help deter other countries from trying something like that, but we also have the morality and the will to use that strength on ourselves to stop those among us who are doing wrong to other nations. (The usual disclaimers about not being perfect apply.) Lebanon does not have the strength to remove Hezbollah, and the jury's out on whether they have the will. Israel has both, and has shown so many times in the past that they will keep their agreements. Hezbollah has strength but no morality.

Israel is both enforcing UN 1559 when no one else would, and defending itself against almost daily unprovoked rocket attacks and civilian deaths; attacks that got worse when they kept their agreement to leave Lebanon and Gaza. Waiting 2 years to actively defend yourself is, in my estimation, eminently patient.

Posted by: Doug Payton at July 27, 2006 10:15 AM

Right you are, Doug. Order your 'Peace Through Victory" button now.

Posted by: Bruce at July 27, 2006 04:47 PM

Sorry Bruce, but this is not an advertising space, whether you agree with me or not. Consider this the warning.

Posted by: Doug Payton at July 27, 2006 04:54 PM

Sorry, Doug. I hope you know that it wasn't one of 'those' postings. I'm not affilliated with the site or anything like that - I've never even purchased from them. I recently saw that item and thought it related to your post. I guess I wasn't thinking.

Posted by: Bruce at July 28, 2006 08:42 AM

Heh, OK. I guess I jumped the gun (so to speak) on that. I saw the post and didn't look at the name, else I'd have noticed that you'd been doing quite a bit of commenting in general recently. Sorry 'bout that.

Posted by: Doug Payton at July 28, 2006 09:05 AM

In terms of terms of raids across the Mexican-US border, we don't have to speculate. We have history as an example.

In 1916, Pancho Villa, for reasons not truly known but often reported as anger at US support for the then-existing government of Mexico, decided to raid US citizens on the border. In one case, Villa's men stopped a train inside Mexico and removed several Americans and executed them.

About two months later, he attacked a small town in the US, Columbus, NM, killing people and looting and burning the town. A small Army base was at the outskirts of the town and helped repel the attackers. About 70 to 75 attackers were killed, and about 18 Americans, mostly civilians, were killed.

Within 10 days, Gen. John J. Pershing (aka "Black Jack Pershing") took a force of 12,000 men and invaded Mexico in search of Villa. Although the US supported the Mexican government and had previously assisted in its battle with Villa, the Mexican government took umbrage at being invaded and attacked the US forces to repel them. The expedition lasted for 11 months and concluded with the Army's retreat without capturing Villa.

Overall the expedition was a failure. Publicly, Pershing claimed success but privately blamed Pres. Wilson for restrictions that handicapped him.

Posted by: Ricky B at July 31, 2006 01:33 PM

"You know what does promote peace against an enemy that won't be negotiated with?

Victory. Not war itself, and not leaving the enemy there to continue to kill you, but victory over them."

Leaving no enemy left? Perhaps a little holocaust?

Invasions will always prompt counter violence. Deaths of civilians will always prompt hatred and a desire for revenge, a counter attack (see Ricky's comment above).

You are right, the only certain peace is when EVERY LAST ONE of your enemy is destroyed - and their children, too, so they don't grow up to seek revenge.

Rather a ghoulish image, seems to me. And hardly within the bounds of "Love your enemies" that we Christians here believe in.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at August 1, 2006 12:19 PM

Dan, please don't put words in my mouth. I never said and don't believe what you're attributing to me. Did we kill each and every Nazi during WWII? No. Did the Union kill every single Confederate soldier or every slave-owning planation owner? No. This is nothing but hyperbole and straw men.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 1, 2006 10:27 PM

Sorry, I know what it feels like to have people assume that I am saying something that I'm not. It seemed to me that when you said, "not leaving the enemy there to continue to kill you" that you were talking about killing them all.

What does that mean, then?

Posted by: Dan Trabue at August 2, 2006 10:59 PM

In my original post, I referred to defeating Nazi Germany and the Soviets. We defeated both without killing them all. Same with the US Civil War vis a vis the Confederacy. The enemy did not exist after the respective wars. (I suppose, the jury's still out on Communism in practice vs an organized group of countries, but certainly things got marginally better in Russia and especially in the satellite former-Communist states.)

You sound like you're really not sure if/how WWII was won, or indeed what victory looks like in general. Assuming I speak of genocide when none of my examples of victory used that is nothing but feigned confusion.

I've provided common examples from history of what I mean. Don't then try to misrepresent my view by ignoring those examples.

Posted by: Doug Payton at August 3, 2006 09:05 AM

Again, I apologized. I hate people being misrepresented and wouldn't intentionally do so.

And I DO know how WWII was won, by us killing more millions of their people than they killed of us, until such point as they couldn't afford to keep killing.

It was "won" at a cost of tens of millions of lives and by the US dropping nukes on two civilian cities. (Does that constitute genocide? I don't know, but I never really brought up genocide, did I? Don't misrepresent me, either. I mentioned a holocaust, and what we did in WWII were holocausts - "Great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life, especially by fire." Not that we were the only ones by any means committing holocausts.)

Yes, I'm well aware of how WWII was won.

And I'm suggesting that killing enough of our enemies (and all the civilians that get in the way) to break them emotionally or financially or both, is a helluva way to try to win anything.

There's nothing wrong with arguing for victory. I want the world to be safe from terrorists, too.

I'm suggesting that there are more ways to win victory than lowering ourselves to their level and question the ethical, moral and practical validity of such a win. WWII was won at a cost of tens of billions of lives and trillions of dollars and resulted in a cold war that was similarly expensive. Could we have done better?

It is, of course, difficult to say. I personally have a hard time imagining an Other Way NOT costing less in lives and dollars and morality.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at August 3, 2006 11:28 AM

oops. WWII was won at a cost of tens of MILLIONS of lives, not billions.

"Only" millions.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at August 3, 2006 12:49 PM

"I'm suggesting that killing enough of our enemies (and all the civilians that get in the way) to break them emotionally or financially or both, is a helluva way to try to win anything."

Indeed. War is hell, as Sherman put it. It so happens that this is the only way to win an existential war against totalitarians. The alternative to victory in such a case is defeat, which means cultural annihilation and either death or slavery for the vanquished (that is, for us). Victory in such a conflict means utterly breaking the enemy's will to fight. So long as that is not broken, fighting continues.

There could not have been a negotiated peace with the Germans while they remained Nazis, because--how shall I put it?--they were NAZIS. And totalitarian nations do not give up their ruling ideologies until their spirit is utterly broken, beyond repair. Even then, one must be on guard lest it make a comeback from the dead. (Nazism is in fact not quite dead in Germany even today.)

The ideology of Hezbollah, the ideology of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, its creator, is every bit as Jew-hating and totalitarian as the Nazis. It seeks the annihilation of Israel and the radical Islamization of the world. The same is true of al-Quaeda and all other jihadists. There will be no negotiated peace with them, either. So choose now which future you want--peace through victory, attended with enormous suffering and death, mostly the death of innocents, or peace through defeat, attended with the cultural annihilation of the West, and death or slavery for you and everyone you know and love.

Posted by: anselm at August 11, 2006 04:33 PM