The Words of the Kaufmann Family

The Chimera Of Conquest

Frank Kaufmann
July 19, 2006

Israel bombing Lebanon is serious. (Many argue Israel was left with no choice.) Incursion into Gaza and the West Bank is a sovereignty-oddity that withstands the ascription international war. Bombing Lebanon does not.

Military engagement in both Gaza and Lebanon purportedly stemmed from the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by (technically) non-State actors. In keeping with the art and core designs of asymmetric warfare, Hamas and Hezbollah can be seen as realizing strategic purposes remarkably well! The capture of just three young men has succeeded in drawing Israel into large-scale military commitment on three fronts (two points of fighting in Gaza and one so far in Lebanon).

Israel will not give numbers, but most counts have at least 10 Israeli soldiers dead in combat. Israelís finance minister reports the cost to Israel for its Lebanon campaign alone at $1.1 billion. By all accounts this can be regarded as expensive and stretched. The work of eleven men with box cutters, using other peopleís hardware, drew the United States into over $300 billion worth of war on two fronts. Again, by most accounts expensive and stretched. Bombing a single building bankrupted US economic surpluses replacing it with debt now totaling $8.3 trillion, a level that could force Congress this week to raise the debt ceiling for the fourth time in George W. Bush's presidency. (National debt has continued to increase an average of $1.63 billion per day since September 30, 2005).

How pleasant it must be to conduct hostilities against countries like this, especially so for "martyrdom"-affirming groups for whom getting killed is just fine if not actually good.

From the days of the militant and militarized left, analysts always knew that an important goal and function of asymmetric warfare now commonly (errantly) called terrorism, is to intensify the militancy and "oppression" by the State that reacts and seeks to maintain control and curb disorder. The theory is that the State in its effort to curb dissidents reaches levels of totalitarianism that suffice to trigger revolution among the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the poor. Traditionally these doctrines were established and designed during the era of the Nation State. What is now called terrorism was designed in part to destabilize "capitalist" States through the intensification of state "oppression."

Though Nation States persist they do so anachronistically. Two phases of territorialism have evolved since the European invention of the Nation-State. These include the period of "blocs," which reached its zenith in the Cold War, and the emerging era of "globalization." Though neither Nation-States, nor "blocs" have utterly dissolved during the emerging "global reality," it would do well for leaders to extend and apply traditional analysis of asymmetric warfare to the present more creatively than seems to have been done so far.

Lebanonís finance minister said on Tuesday, Israelís military offensive in Lebanon had caused up to $2 billion in infrastructure damage so far. Israelís response to the kidnapping of its young boys is not unlike the initial campaign of the 3-years-and-counting US military involvement in Iraq. These results can be seen as the realization of asymmetric warfare design, originally conceived to destabilize States, applied on a global level.

The real problem that leads us to this insane-by-any-standards state of the world today is the persistence of the primitive concept "conquest" as an operative category. Of course a greater power despoils the lesser power during periods of aggression. The lunacy however lies in the belief that "winning" is a possibility there from. "Winning" lasts only as long as the aggression lasts. Israel and Hezbollah are both bombing one another. Israel is simply better, better at bombing people and things. The US was also better at battering the pathetic Iraqi army as it took control of Baghdad between March 27 and April 9, 2003. (But Baghdad Bob (Comical Ali) would have a far less buffoonish a job if he remained to report events day by day since the May 1, 2003 speech of President Bush on the USS Lincoln.)

Sticking to the metaphor of communist-era asymmetric warfare design, the military superiority of the US or Israeli armies can be compared to the fact that police with horses and clubs are better equipped to batter and imprison protestors in shorts and sandals, than protesters are to trouble the police. The problem is that getting battered and imprisoned was precisely the response desired by the organizers and agitators working behind the scenes during the era of leftist protests.

The fact is that "vanquishing" is a chimera, a delusion, and like all deceptions a costly one. The twinned mission of diplomacy and aggression when dealing with those who would harm you must be waged in the arena of ideology, not military might. The latter is wasteful, tragic, primitive, and futile.

Frank Kaufmann is director of the Inter-religious Federation for World Peace. 

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