Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, the great Southern general of the American Civil War (1861-1865) had a simple philosophy of war.
To end Union efforts to crush the newly-minted Confederate States of America, he urged, Southerners should quickly make its cost as high as possible.
Confederates, he believed, should take no prisoners. Instead, they should kill every Union soldier they could lay hands on.
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
Jackson’s views on war were shared by not only his fellow Southerners but, ironically, by one of the fiercest enemies of the Confederacy: William Tecumseh Sherman.
Sherman was the Union general who cut a swath of destruction through the South while “marching through Georgia.”
He is credited–or reviled–as the father of “total war,” thus making the suffering of civilians an integral part of any conflict.
In March, 1985, a staff officer told Sherman about Jackson’s opinion on not taking prisoners. Asked for his reaction, Sherman said: “Perhaps he was right.
“It seems cruel, but if there were no quarter given, most men would keep out of war. Rebellions would be few and short.”
William Tecumseh Sherman
Contrast that with the way Israel is now responding to hundreds of unprovoked rocket attacks by the Hamas terrorist group.
Since July 8, the Israeli Air Force has bombarded more than 900 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strp.
Israel claims it’s trying to avoid civilian casualties in the crowded urban landscape. Members of the Israeli military have been telephoning Palestinian residents whose homes have been targeted, warning them to leave.
One resident, Sawsan Kawarea, claimed she received a call from “David,” who said he was with the Israeli military.
“He asked for me by name. He said: ‘You have women and children in the house. Get out. You have five minutes before the rockets come,’” Kawarea said in an interview.
She ran outside with her children. A small rocket hit the house soon afterward. Five minutes later, a larger missile hit, destroying the house.
For years, the Israeli military has delivered such warnings via cellphone calls and small “warning rockets”–usually sent from drones.
The strategy has a nickname: “Roof knocking.”
It’s Israel’s response to longtime criticism for “collateral damage.” That is: Civilians killed while its military takes action in the crowded Palestinian territories.
The policy allows Israel to say: We did our bes to avoid killing civilians.
But in waging Politically Correct warfare to head off criticism, Israel has made a dangerous mistake.
Niccolo Machiavelli, the 15th century Florentine statesmen, carefully studied both war and politics. In his major work, The Discourses, he advises:
…Often individual men, and sometimes a whole city, will act so culpably against the state that as an example to others and for his own security the prince has no other remedy but to destroy it entirely.
Honor consists in being able, and knowing when and how, to chastise evil-doers. And a prince who fails to punish them, so that they shall not be able to do any more harm, will be regarded as either ignorant or cowardly….
Meanwhile, on the Gaza Strip: After a week of Israeli bombing more than 900 Hamas targets, Palestinian medical officials claimed that 186 people had been killed and at least 1,390 wounded.
That works out to about 26 people killed every day.
Contrast those figures with the casualties suffered by a single German city during World War 11 air raids during eight days and seven nights.
Beginning on July 24, 1943, the U.S. Air Force and the British Royal Air Force over several days killed 42,600 civilians and wounded 37,000 in Hamburg and practically destroyed the entire city.
The bombing ignited a firestorm that incinerated more than eight square miles, baking alive many of those who sought safety in cellars and bomb shelters.
Hamburg, Germany, after Allied bombing raids
For the vaunted Israeli Air Force to have killed so few of its enemies after dropping so many bombs testifies to a massive waste of ordinance.
Clearly, the only people making good on these raids are the arms makers supplying the bombs.
If the United States had managed to kill only 26 Germans a day in World War II, America and Nazi Germany would still be at war today.
No wonder Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel.
Machiavelli knew–and often warned–that while it was useful to avoid hatred, it was fatal to be despised. And he also warned that humility toward insolent enemies will only encourage their hatred for you.
An Aesop’s fable well sums up the lesson Israel should have learned long ago:
A snake was stepped on by so many people he prayed to Zeus for help. And Zeus said: “If you’d bitten the first person who stepped on you, the second would have thought twice about it.”