Rabbi Prof. Dov FischerThe writer is rabbi of the Young Israel of Orange County, member of the RCA Executive Board and former national vice president of the ZOA. An adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School, he was Chief Articles Editor of the UCLA Law Review and authored the books "Sharon Against Time Magazine" (Jerusalem: Steimatzky, 1985) and "Jews for Nothing".
With Israel’s long-restrained ground invasion into Gaza now at hand, Israel would do well to consider quietly and thoughtfully what America historically has done and always does when she perceives danger coming from south of the United States: in such cases, America “goes ballistic.” And G-d bless America for doing so.
When America learned that the Soviets quietly were setting up missile bases in Cuba, 90 miles from Florida, the “best and the brightest” who advised President John F. Kennedy counseled a naval blockade that threatened bringing the entire world to the brink of nuclear holocaust. No missile actually had been launched towards America. Indeed, the Soviets and Cubans were trying their best to camouflage and hide what they were building.
President Kennedy did not exercise restraint. These were his words to the American people: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” He confronted Nikita Khrushchev with a naval blockade and did not back down.
President George H.W. Bush, whose Secretary of State James A. Baker III is remembered notoriously for his vile comments about “the Jews,” regularly advised Israel to “show restraint.” However, when Panama strongman Manual Noriega defied Bush in 1989, President Bush declared “Operation Just Cause” and sent 27,684 American troops to invade Panama, not only toppling Noriega’s Government but even arresting him and dragging him back to America, where he was tried and convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering.
Noriega served a 17-year prison sentence, then was sent by America to France, where he served another sentence, then was shipped to Panama to remain in prison. No one ever released him in any hostage exchanges.
A few years earlier, in 1983 President Ronald Reagan had invaded Grenada with 7,000 troops to take down a Marxist-Leninist government that had come to power in a 1979 coup. In 1986 Reagan also bombed Libya’s Bab-al-Azizya barracks, the compound where Muammar Qaddafi lived.
Indeed, almost one hundred years ago, Gen. Pancho Villa, based in Mexico, had amassed a guerrilla coterie of some 400 soldiers. In March 1916 he sent 100 of them across the border into America, where they came into Columbus, New Mexico, burned the town, seized 100 horses and mules, and killed eighteen Americans. In response, America sent Gen. John J. Pershing into Mexico. The Pershing Expedition went 350 miles (560 km) into Mexico, comprising a force of 10,000 men. Pershing defeated Villa’s men and severely wounded Villa himself.
When America gets punched, America “goes ballistic.” That is “the American Way”: invading countries near the U.S. border, within the ambit of the American hemisphere, unleashing brutal and overwhelming force, and not stopping until the enemy backs down. If the enemy does not back down, then America simply tears down the enemy’s government and, if practicable, grabs the governmental leaders of the enemy and brings them to America for long-term incarceration.
Which brings the discussion to Israel and her border neighbors, including the Hamas murderers. Israel has not crushed and obliterated her border enemies, as America often has done. Israel allowed the encircled Egyptian Third Army to go safely home as the Yom Kippur war ended. She somehow did not annex Judea and Samaria in June 1967, as she did East Jerusalem.
By contrast, consider how America took Texas. First, in the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, America pressed Spain to give the United States Florida and to withdraw Spanish claims to Oregon. In return, America agreed that Spain could have Texas. Then, when Mexico gained independence two years later in 1821, American settlers started moving into Texas. After the Alamo fell in 1836, America continued moving towards annexing Texas and finally did so in 1845. That, too, is the American way.
America’s border enemies, once vanquished, have accepted their defeats and even changed their paradigms, becoming allies and friends of the United States. By contrast, Israel’s neighbors do not accept defeat, never accept defeat, will not accept defeat, and — because of the complex Koranic theological overlay, compounded by Groupthink where, even if some Arab country wanted to stop the nonsense, the other 20-25 Arab/Moslem countries will not allow anyone to break ranks on pain of assassination — they seemingly never will.
That is why, somehow, so many Israelis have concluded that the enemy has to be crushed this time. There is no other way because the enemy will not accept that they have been defeated, that it is time for them to adopt a paradigm shift. Rather, for them each defeat becomes reconceptualized as a victory, a step forward in a small skirmish that is part of a war that can extend for centuries.
For Hamas, even if they lose again, they somehow reconceptualize each drubbing as a step towards victory: “Twenty years ago, when we lost, we did not have rockets. Six years ago, in 2008, when we lost, we had Katyushas and Qassam rockets that could reach the Negev. Now, when we lose, we have M-302 and M-75 rockets, and we can reach Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Hadera. Imagine what we will have in two years the next time we lose! On to the next war!”
That is the problem and difference between Israel’s and America’s border enemies: unlike those who fought and lost to America, and who today are fine American allies and friends, Israel’s enemies are terrorists and international thugs who cannot and will not shift the paradigm, cannot see the obvious commonsense clarity of how much they would benefit and gain if they just stopped making war. That is why a fair-minded person can understand those among Israel’s leaders and population who, this time, are calling for the enemy to be crushed and obliterated.
Dov Fischer’s political commentaries have appeared on the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, Los Angeles Times, and in other major American publications. He formerly was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, is an adjunct professor of law at two prominent American law schools, and is Rav of Young Israel of Orange County, California. His writings can be found atwww.rabbidov.com