"War Breaks Out in Palestine."
As headlines go, this ranks right up there with "Dog Bites Man" and "Politician Accused of Corruption." It is as surprising as the sun's rise in the morning, as unexpected as the coming of spring. Technically speaking, a war in the Holy Land is not even "news" - there's nothing the least bit "new" about it.
Just as regularly as the setting sun, along with the old news of war comes the old clique of international liberals hollering for peace and an immediate ceasefire. We could point out that there was a ceasefire for six months, ending when the Islamic Palestinian terror group Hamas unilaterally refused to renew it; we could point out that even during the so-called "ceasefire", hundreds of missiles were lobbed at Israeli schools and villages by Hamas fighters; we could get into the down-and-dirty details of Palestinian war crimes, the direct cause of almost all Palestinian civilian deaths, but there would be nothing new about any of that.
Instead, let's consider how to end a war. In all this pointless talk of peace, it's easy to forget that peace is the cessation of fighting - and that, therefore, peace comes only when the fighting stops. So how do you do that?
The answer may surprise you. A war can end in only one way, and that is when the loser stops fighting.
There are many ways to reach this point, of course. The losing side may stop fighting when the last one dies or is imprisoned; the few African civil wars that have actually ended tend to follow this course. The fighting may stop when the losing side waves the white flag and offers a bribe to the winner; countless European wars through the centuries ended this way.
The absolutely vital point to understand about war is this: only the loser can decide when a war is over. By definition, it is not possible for the winner to declare an end to war. The fighting will not stop until the loser accepts defeat and stops fighting.
If the supposed winner declares that the war is finished and the loser disagrees, the winner may become the loser and vice versa. Remember President Bush and the "Mission Accomplished" banner? He had indeed accomplished the mission of deposing Saddam Hussein, but the war was far from over because the losers wouldn't let it end. Only after the desperation of of the "surge" has this mistake come even close to being corrected.
Napoleon learned this lesson the hard way. After his failure to conquer Russia, he declared the gift of peace across Europe and said he was done fighting. If he'd done that a year before, peace might have stuck because the nations he had defeated had been beaten into the ground. Instead, after a year of recovery, they saw an opportunity in Napoleon's losses, attacked, and eventually ended his reign. The winner swapped place with the losers.
America made the same mistake in Vietnam. It's now generally considered that we were winning the military struggle and that the communist Viet Cong were on their last legs. Thanks to political pressure, however, the American government decided, in effect, to declare victory and leave. The loser didn't agree that they'd lost; shortly thereafter, they conquered South Vietnam and achieved their goals, becoming the actual victor and America the actual loser.
Compare this sorry result to the World Wars. World War I ended when the losers - Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire - sued for peace. They signed the humiliating Treaty of Versailles in which several of their countries ceased to exist because they had no choice - they'd lost so utterly that they did not have the capability to keep fighting.
If Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire had had the will and the means to continue the fight, they would have done so, if for no other reason than to try to remain as nations so that the leaders could retain power - but they didn't, and couldn't. They had lost, totally and completely, and knew it. They couldn't continue the fight; peace arrived for a while.
The Germans didn't really believe they'd lost, unfortunately. Hitler kept talking about his people having been denied victory because they were "stabbed in the back"; the war resumed after a generation of recovery.
After World War II, the Germans finally admitted that they'd lost. Hitler fought, literally, to the death; he demanded that the war continue until he committed suicide. With next to nothing left, his very briefly ruling successor immediately surrendered unconditionally and the Allies ran Germany for many years following.
The Japanese planned to exercise their right to fight to the death too, but, thanks to the nuclear bomb, they chose not to - they signed a surrender on the decks of the U.S.S Missouri instead of going down to the last man as they'd planned. Thereafter the country was run by Gen. Douglas MacArthur until America, the victor, decided otherwise.
How exactly do we suppose that the war in Palestine will ever end? Remember, the only way that a war can end is by the loser deciding that it must end and placing themselves under the thumb of the victor. What exactly does this mean?
A total Israeli victory would most likely mean that all Palestinians leave Gaza and the West Bank and move elsewhere - precisely where is not really the concern of Israel. Anywhere Else will do. Then, the entirety of Palestine would be the Nation of Israel, a majority Jewish state.
Of course, this would mean that there would be no Palestinian nation and no power for any of the existing Palestinian leaders - the surviving Palestinians would reside in nations ruled by somebody else. Are the Palestinian leaders likely to agree to this? Hardly - although a good many of the Palestinian people might gladly agree, if the rest of the Muslim world gave them the opportunity to move out of a permanent war zone.
A Palestinian total victory would be a touch more extreme. According to Hamas' charter, a Palestinian victory would require that there be no more Jews in the vicinity of Palestine.
Israel at least acknowledges that the Palestinians do have some rightful claims and that they exist as human beings. Hamas doesn't concede this with respect to Jews. Their charter has always called for total extermination of the nation of Israel and all its inhabitants; unlike the Palestinians, Israel has no neighboring nations of similar religion and ethnicity where its citizens could find refuge. By definition, no Israeli government could agree to such terms; they might as well fight to the death, since that would be the result of a surrender anyway.
For decades on end, Israel has repeatedly tried the Vietnam tactic of declaring victory and going home. They did this in Lebanon; in portions of the West Bank; and most recently in Gaza. As in Vietnam, declaring victory fails every time - the war continues despite Israel's desire for it to end. Suicide bombers continue to murder folks in cafes and Hamas missiles continue to crash into Israeli houses.
It's been reported that, after the 1967 war, Israel seriously considered forcibly relocating all the Palestinians into the Sinai Peninsula, then giving Sinai and its new occupants back to Egypt. Imagine the uproar if they'd done that!
Yet, also imagine the lives that would have been saved over the past forty years. There would have been no giant prison-camp of Gaza; no close proximity and thus incessant violence between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli civilians. Instead, there would have been nations of Muslims ruled by Muslims (Egypt and Jordan), and a recognized international border between the Muslim world and Israel. Ideal? No. Practical? Possibly.
Is it too late to do this now? Most likely - but it would be the only possible way that peace, or anything close to it, could ever come. As long as the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist, they won't stop fighting so it will be impossible for Israel to stop fighting them.
As long as the Palestinians are held captive in what amounts to a giant prison camp - and remember, they're not held there solely by Israel, as both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank border on Muslim nations who choose not to admit them - it's not likely that the Palestinians will just sit there and accept their lot.
Barack Obama summed it up when he visited Israel not too long ago:
If missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that.
That's exactly what Israel is doing now. This war will continue, in fits and spurts, forever - or until one side or the other accepts being the loser.
If the rest of the world wants the war to end, then demanding that it stop is exactly the wrong way to go about it. Instead, we should help one side win conclusively. Not maintain the status quo; not try to cut a deal that's been tried and rejected countless times before; but to achieve total victory for one side or the other, for once and for all.
Only after achieving ethnic cleansing - not genocide, but relocation and separation - can there be any possibility of peace. Genocide, the traditional approach and the one endorsed by Hamas, would be equally effective but far less acceptable to modern sensibilities, and would probably serve only to inflame a wider war.
Now, we just have to pick which side we'd rather help out.... and if you have to ask which one, you probably don't want to hear the answer.