Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 21, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

WILL IRAQ TURN INTO THE WEST BANK?....I don't like this one bit:

In the last six months, U.S. Army commanders, Pentagon officials and military trainers have sought advice from Israeli intelligence and security officials on everything from how to set up roadblocks to the best way to bomb suspected guerrilla hide-outs in an urban area.

....U.S. military officials also have reviewed a common Israeli tactic of conducting house-by-house searches for armed fighters by knocking down interior walls with a portable battering ram. The tactic eliminates the need to pass through doors and windows one of the most dangerous aspects of urban combat, because of possible booby traps.

In the last week, U.S. soldiers began leveling houses and buildings used by suspected guerrillas, a tactic long employed by the Israeli military in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where they use bulldozers to knock down the homes of militants or their families.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who's read this blog for a while that I'm torn in my views about Iraq and the larger war on terrorism. The evidence that Islamist terrorism is a very real threat is overwhelming, I think, and ought to be taken seriously by everyone. At the same time, I'm not at all convinced that the Bush administration's approach especially its seeming reliance on conventional military force can win this war.

But there's one thing I'm not torn about, and it's this: we can't let Iraq turn into the West Bank. We can't adopt Israeli tactics of neverending escalation and retaliation.

This isn't a moral stance, it's a practical one. I'm sympathetic to Israel's dilemma, but even so it seems plain to me that their approach, though understandable in many ways, has been a disaster. Israel is less safe today than it was a decade ago, or two decades ago, and the possibility of peace has likewise become ever more remote with each passing year. We can't allow ourselves to fall into the same death spiral, and the time to make sure we don't start falling into it is now.

Now, I might be overreacting to this article. Read the whole thing, which gives a somewhat more balanced view of what's happening than just the paragraphs I excerpted above. But our recent tactics in response to the increasing guerrilla activity have made me ultrasensitive about this, and I'm afraid that once we start down this road it's awfully hard to pull back.

I have no doubt that we can a learn a lot in terms of tactics and operational discipline from the Israelis. I just hope we don't learn anything more.

Kevin Drum 9:57 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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