We need to dig deep and take a chapter from the Greatest Generation’s play book.
Islam was always expansionist and confrontational. What has changed is us. In the past, the West didn’t hesitate to employ its vast military superiority when confronting a less-capable adversary. This was understood by everyone. The forces of jihad were deterred from attacking us.
But now, like Israel, the West finds itself concerned that using our power would abrogate the essential human rights of its adversaries – defined as People of Color – while ‘white’ nations have no rights. We are allowed to protect individuals, but not nations or cultures. Defined as the ‘racist oppressor’, we have no right to object to their racism, while they are permitted to ‘resist oppression’ with violence.
How Western ideology empowers the jihad
The US military made news recently when it adopted the Israeli tactic of ‘roof knocking’ – detonating a small explosion above a building that is about to be bombed in order to give civilians that may be present a warning to evacuate – in its operations against the Islamic State.
Israel used the roof-knock technique to reduce civilian casualties in several recent wars, beginning with Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-9.
One of the tactics that the radical Islamist enemies of the West have adopted as part of the paradigm of asymmetric warfare that they are waging is to use their own civilian populations as human shields. Hamas launches its rockets from school courtyards, and Hezbollah has constructed a massive, dispersed rocket-launching facility embedded in the Shiite villages of southern Lebanon. If Israel has to neutralize this, it’s likely that many Lebanese will be killed.
The human shield tactic is effective because Western military and political leaders are highly sensitive to the charge of unnecessarily hurting civilians in warfare.
There are both practical and ideological reasons for this. In Israel’s case there are possible economic and diplomatic consequences when it is accused of disproportionate response, including cutoff of essential supplies in wartime. But that isn’t true of the US. Nobody will boycott the US or force it to give Texas back to Mexico, and it manufactures its own munitions.
Western populations empathize strongly with “innocent victims.” The effect is even stronger when those who empathize are not threatened; so Europeans (or American presidents) who don’t have to face Hamas and Hezbollah rockets can be highly critical of Israel’s attempts to defend herself.
There are two important things to note: 1) this is a relatively recent development, historically speaking; and 2) this practical/moral/political pressure in the West to behave in a particular way actually enables its enemies to effectively wage asymmetric war against it.
The change in Western sensibility occurred sometime after WWII. Not only were both sides relatively insensitive to collateral damage, the Allies even pursued a policy ofstrategic bombing of non-military targets both to reduce the enemy’s economic capability but also to sap his “will to resist.” Dresden, Hamburg and other German cities were targets of firebombing that killed tens of thousands.
But one raid on Tokyo stands out, even compared to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On March 9-10, 1945, 1,665 tons of napalm-loaded bombs were dropped on the city, creating a massive conflagration that reduced about 16 square miles and 100,000 people to ashes.
It is hard to imagine any Western nation in almost any circumstance today even contemplating such an operation.
The answer is “a lot of things,” some of them obvious and others more subtle.