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On War in the Middle East

One in a series of publications by the "Thomas Jefferson" of Israel.
First posted 12 August, 2006. Also read The Myth of Israeli Democracy.

More articles are available via http://www.foundation1.org.

Why Israel Is At War

Prof. Paul Eidelberg 


hy is Israel at war in Lebanon? Instead of focusing on political reasons—one could write volumes on that aspect—I want to offer a deeper understanding of why Israel is fighting for its survival in Lebanon, a country in which Hezbollah, far from being a mere militia, has all the attributes of state, controls southern Lebanon, has its own army—indeed, one more powerful than the Lebanese army.

   (Time in Jerusalem)

Hezbollah is more than a proxy of Iran. There are branches of Hezbollah in 20 countries. But it’s the 24-year old Lebanese branch of Hezbollah that constitutes the spearhead of Iran’s ambition to be a superpower and dominate the Middle East. Israel stands in the way of that ambition; hence Israel must be destroyed. Last week Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “we shall soon witness the elimination of the Zionist stain of shame.”

Israel is at war today because Israeli prime ministers not only lacked the ambition to make Israel a superpower, but they have pursued a policy of peace which has truncated Israel by undoing the miracle of the Six Day War. They failed to translate that miracle into public policy—which would have made Israel a superpower—the only way Israel can survive in the Middle East.

Here one can blame Israeli universities, which do not produce statesmen—men with grandiose ambitions who see history as the story of Israel. Rome recognized Israel—or Judea—as a superpower; today historians regard Israel merely as an object of study.

Let’s examine historian Michael Oren’s book Six Days of War. He notes that on Day One, in little more than half an hour, the Israel Air Force destroyed 204 planes—half of Egypt’s air force while destroying six Egyptian air fields, four in Sinai and two in Egypt. Oren writes: “The Israelis were stunned. No one ever imagined that a single squadron could neutralize an entire air base.

Oren turns to Day Two and quotes Col. Avraham Adan, who, while watching the rout of the Egyptian army, was “stupefied. “You ride past burnt-out vehicles,” says Adan, “and suddenly you see this immense army, too numerous to count, spread out of a vast area as far as your eyes can see ¡­ It was not a pleasant feeling, seeing that gigantic enemy and realizing that you’re only a single battalion of tanks.

Oren quotes Moshe Dayan, who was no less “puzzled”: “Though Israel had gained command of the skies, Egypt’s cities were not bombed, and the Egyptian armored units at the front could have fought even without air support.  Oren then quotes Gen. Avraham Yoffe: “There was no planning before the war about what the army would do beyond the al-¡®Arish-Jabal Libni axis, not even a discussion. Nobody believed that we could have accomplished more or that the [Egyptian] collapse would be so swift.  So Oren sees that generals were “stunned,” “stupefied,” had an “unpleasant feeling” about the magnitude of their victory, and saw what was happening as mysterious."

Surely Oren could have remarked that religious people would regard all this as a miracle. He says nothing. Far be it for this historian to quote Leviticus 26:8: “Five of you shall chase away a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight ¡­” History for Oren has no metaphysical significance.  Nor does it have for Israeli prime ministers.

Serious belief in God’s providence in the Six-Day War would have required Israel’s government—it was a national unity government—to declare Jewish sovereignty over Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Golan Heights and the Sinai. To fully appreciate this miracle, a brief survey of contemporary events—ignored by Oren—will show that Israel’s government could have created a “Greater Israel,” indeed, a superpower.

In June 1967 the United States was bogged down in Vietnam and was very much concerned about Soviet expansion in the Middle East, especially Soviet penetration of the oil-rich Persian Gulf on which the entire economy of the West depends. Recall that Egypt and Syria and Libya were then Soviet clients, and that Egypt had sought to gain control of strategically situated Yemen. Recall, too, that Israel employed French planes and weaponry in its stunning victory over Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.

That victory awakened Washington to Israel’s strategic value, for it resulted in the closing of the Suez Canal to the Soviet Black Sea fleet. This important arm of the Soviet navy was then compelled to sail through the Straits of Gibraltar and around the Cape of Good Hope in order to project Soviet power along the east African littoral and in the Indian Ocean, the sea-lanes of oil tankers from the Persian Gulf. Israel’s superb air force could also help protect NATO’s southern flank in the eastern Mediterranean. 

America needed a strong and stable ally in the volatile region of the Middle East. A miniature Israel, confined to its precarious 1949 armistice lines, could hardly serve this function. In a memorandum dated June 27, 1967, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that Israel retain control of the Judean and Samarian mountain ridges overlooking its vulnerable population centers on the coastal plain, as well as control of Gaza, the Golan Heights, and a portion of the southern Sinai to secure Israel’s access to the Red Sea through the Strait of Tiran. 

Viewed in this light, only a feckless and faithless government—it consisted of both secular and religious Jews—would trivialize the historical significance of Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War by not declaring Jewish sovereignty over the land conquered by the IDF. Instead, ten days after the war, the Government transmitted a proposal to Cairo and Damascus offering to return to the prewar borders for a peace agreement! 

No wonder so many people throughout the world are oblivious of the fact that Israel has valid legal claims to this land, apart from its having been regained in a war of self-defense. Jordan’s annexation of Judea and Samaria in 1950 was never recognized by any state except Pakistan and Britain. Egypt had no claim to Gaza (and its claim to the Sinai was dubious). 

Jordan and Egypt had invested nothing in these desolate territories, which were occupied by diverse Arab clans—they’re now called “Palestinians”—which had no indigenous culture linked to this land. The presence of those Arabs would not have deterred statesmen who believed in God and possessed the courage of their convictions to extend Jewish law over Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

Having failed to translate the miracle of the Six-Day War into Israel’s national policy and thereby sanctify God’s Name, it was inevitable that subsequent Israeli governments would undo that miracle. Israel can hardly be a superpower under the Oslo Agreement, which entails the surrender of Gaza as well as Judea and Samaria including eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.  This defeatist policy—this betrayal by the nation of God has encouraged Iran to conquer Israel via Hezbollah, the Party of God.  

Now let’s consider the character of the prime ministers that advocated this perfidious policy: (1) Yitzhak Rabin shook the bloodstained hands of Yasser Arafat. (2) Ehud Barak virtually licked Arafat’s boots. (3) Ariel Sharon embraced Arafat’s comrade and successor, Abu Mazen. Clearly, Israel’s military trained prime ministers have been the world’s leading patrons of terrorism. It seems that all of them felt no abhorrence of evil. They and their educators are very much to blame for Israel’s present plight. 

Perhaps a Commission of National Inquiry should examine the curriculum of Israel’s Command and Staff School. The late Professor Y. Harkabi—the mentor of Shimon Peres—was once the head of this school. He was not only a moral relativist who advocated a Palestinian state, but he sanctioned havlaga—self¨Crestraint—as a guiding military principle. The principle of self-restraint was employed by Rabin, Barak, and Sharon against Arab terrorists, and all of these generals-cum-prime ministers advocated a Palestinian state!

What is more, the principle of self-restraint underlies the failure of Israeli governments to declare Jewish sovereignty over the land conquered by the IDF in the Six-Day War. Properly understood, self-restraint—a euphemism for the cowardice or paltriness of Israeli prime ministers—has brought Israel into a proxy war with Iran—a war for which Iran has been preparing for many years while Israeli prime ministers were burning incense to the peace process.

Destroy the Enemy to Obtain One Hundred Years of Peace:

 Part I: Epaminondas

Those who wish to enjoy peace must be ready for war.


eferring to the democratic reformer Epaminondas, the warrior-philosopher whose Theban army defeated Sparta (370-369), military historian Victor Davis Hanson offers insights which Israeli generals and citizens as well as universities should take most seriously. The excerpts below are taken from Hanson’s The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny (1999):

I think it is almost axiomatic that if a general of a great democratic march is not hated, is not sacked, tried, or relieved of command by his auditors after his tenure is over, or if he has not been killed [as was Epaminondas] or wounded at the van, he has not utilized the full potential of his men, has not accomplished his strategic goals—in short, he is too representative of the very culture that produced him, too democratic to lead a democratic army.

Finally, we of the academic class are sometimes reluctant to equate mastery of military command with sheer intellectual brilliance. But to lead an army of thousands into enemy territory requires mental skills far beyond that of the professor, historian, or journalist—far beyond too the accounting and managerial skill of the deskbound and peacetime officer corps.

“From Epaminondas’s philosophical training [he was a Pythagorean], the corpus of his adages and sayings that have survived, and his singular idea to take 70,000 men into Laconia and Messinia, it is clear that, like both [William Tecumseh] Sherman and [George S.] Patton, he had a first-class mind and was adept in public speaking and knowledge of human behavior. Perhaps with the exception of Pericles and Scipio, it is hard to find any military leader in some twelve centuries of Gaeco-Roman antiquity who had the natural intelligence, philosophical training, broad knowledge, and recognition of the critical tension between military morale and national ethics as Epaminondas the Theban. In his range of political and strategic thought, he towered over his Greek contemporaries ¡­ in precisely the way Sherman did over all the generals of the Civil War, precisely as Patton dwarfed his British and American superiors.

“In short, Epaminondas, the philosopher, may have been the best educated man of the ancient world—an education that stressed logic, mathematics, rhetoric, memorization, philosophy, and literature, an education far more valuable to the leadership of great democratic armies than what is offered in most universities today.

“There was one key ingredient to Epaminondas’s military career that perhaps stands as an exemplar of democratic leadership. Such generals must not be timid or afraid, must not lead their army in the very manner in which they themselves are audited and held accountable by a democratic consensus. Emaminondas by all accounts was a zealot and fanatic—Sherman and Patton [discussed the in sequel] perhaps even more so. The worst generals in the ancient and modern worlds were those with a constant feel for the pulse of the assembly or board of overseers

“Armies are not assemblies. The conduct of war is not a discussion over taxes of public expenditures. The very qualities that make a poor democratic statesman in peacetime—audacity, fatalism, truthfulness, fearlessness, initiative, hatred of compromise, fanaticism, even recklessness—are critical for command of a great egalitarian army, just as the strengths of a politician—affability, consensus-building, retrospection, manners, inactivity even—can prove lethal to a campaign.

“Would that the American generals Schwarzkopf or Powell had risked resigning for insisting that American troops march into Baghdad to liquidate the [Saddam] Hussein regime [in 1991].

And what shall we say of various Israeli generals who adhered to the feckless policy of self-restraint vis-¨¤-vis Israel’s implacable but Lilliputian enemy, the PLO-Palestinian Authority? 

 Destroy the Enemy to Obtain One Hundred Years of Peace:

 Part II: William Tecumseh Sherman


n this essay, virtually every a passage has been extracted from military historian Victor Davis Hanson, The Soul of Battle” (1999), I have selected these excerpts to illuminate dilemmas involved in Israel’s current war in Lebanon. But I alone am responsible for the import of this article.

 William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame was professor and college president teaching history six months before the Battle of Bull Run. If Sherman was considered a cruel general, “cruelty was necessary to destroy the evil of slavery.

“Men go to war to kill,” said Sherman, “and should expect no tenderness. As he said of the Confederacy: “Thousands of people may perish, but they now realize that war means something else than vain glory and boasting.

“Marching through an enemy country and destroying its economic infrastructure and social strata—while losing less than 1% of an army—can instill confidence in soldiers in a way that camp life, entrenchment, and even ferocious set battles cannot.

Sherman’s solders “realized that the quickest way to return ¡­ to their families as to follow their mad genius into the heart of the Confederacy and very quickly to wreck its economic and spiritual core.

 As George Patton understood (who was also deemed mad): “The directing mind must be at the head of the army—must be seen there, and the effect of his mind and personal energy must be felt by every officer and men present with it, to secure the best results. Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.

[Viewed in this light, Ariel Sharon’s appointment of Air Force head Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz as Chief of General Staff was misguided.  Perhaps it is no accident that this pilot opposed a ground invasion into Lebanon. But surely he knows that “victory through air power” is a myth, as we saw so recently in Iraq, where only the 2003 ground invasion by the U.S. accomplished in a few days what thousands of bombs could not accomplish during months in 1991. But let us return to Hanson’s study of Sherman.]

His soldiers loved and admired their “Uncle Billy," who could confess of his troops, "not a waiver, doubt, or hesitation when I order, and men march to certain death without a murmur if I call on them, because they know I value their lives as much as my own.

“’Don’t ride too fast, General,’ they would warn him of muddy roads, "Pretty slippery going, Uncle Billy.”

One nearly illiterate soldier wrote home: “It is an honor to enney man to have ben on the last campaign with Sherman, you se him a riding a long you would think he was somb plow jogger his head bent a little to one side with an oald stub of a sigar in his mouth.

As for the quality of Sherman’s army: “When General Peter Osterhaus’s 15th Corp marched past the Washington reviewing stand—they had occupied the southern wing during Sherman’s march to the Sea—the German ambassador remarked, "An army like that could whip all Europe.

Hanson contrasts Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant: Sherman’s men had marched, moved hundreds of miles, and survived, whereas too many of Grant’s were fixed and had died. The former had sliced through hostile territory and freed slaves, destroyed property, and brought fire and ruin to the enemy; the latter fought not far from home, pitted against like military kind, and had rarely touched the economy that fueled the enemy [italics added]. The South would hate Sherman, whose troops had killed relatively few Confederates, for a century to come, but came to forgive Grant their future president, whose army butchered its best soldiers—a propensity to value property over life [as Machiavelli teaches in The Prince]”

Sherman at relatively little human expenditure defeated the very soul of the Confederate citizenry with a force that was mobile, patently ideological, and without experience of defeat”—ideological—for as Hanson discerns, “the act of emancipation [served] as moral counterweight against the necessary brutality of fire and ruin ...

No Union General liberated more slaves than Sherman. “As blacks themselves acknowledged, Sherman did more to ¡®cut them loose’ than any abolitionist.

This last remark reminds me of a Lebanese journalist who admitted that Lebanon did not breathe the air of freedom until the Israelis expelled the PLO from his country in 1982. With that freedom, he added, the Lebanese experienced the extraordinary humanity of the Jewish state.

Destroy the Enemy to Obtain One Hundred Years of Peace:

 Part III: Patton


srael’s General Staff would do well to emulate George S. Patton, the general most feared by Nazi Germany.

On the eve of battle, Patton would admonish his soldiers: “The object of war is not to die for your country. It is to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his. This requires confronting and killing the enemy on the battlefield.

“Never let the enemy rest.” No cease fires or hudnas. Unconditional surrender should be Israel’s proclaimed war aim!

“We want the enemy to KNOW that they are fighting the toughest fighting men in the world!” This precludes benevolence (which Arabs despise). Just as Hezbollah warriors would show no mercy to you, so you should show no mercy to them. These warriors must be killed even if this results in civilian casualties.

“Forget about army regulations [which] are written by those who have never been in battle. Our only mission in combat Lessons From A Master of War  is to win. Hence general officers may sometimes have to disobey orders of the political echelon!

Patten’s famous admonition, “Grab the Enemy by the nose and kick him in the pants” is profoundly significant in the war between Jews and Arabs. Israel must devastate the Arabs or Muslims from top to bottom to erase the Islamic arrogance that prompts them to wage war against “infidels.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz shy from these war principles, which would have required them to prepare the IDF at the outset to confront the enemy primarily on the battlefield. Bombing the enemy’s infrastructure should not obscure the importance of destroying the enemy’s ground forces. The defeat of these Iranian-led Muslims must be so thorough that it will eradicate their desire to wage war for a hundred years—the policy of the Allied powers that made militant Germany and Japan lovers of peace.

The government should not refrain from this policy from fear of world opinion. Such fear cannot but undermine the General Staff and the fighting spirit of Israeli soldiers.

It is of capital importance that Israel’s ruling elites pursue the war in Lebanon and in Gaza as a war between good and evil. They must shun the moral relativism that tainted Ariel Sharon who said, while Jews were being reduced to body parts, that he does not think in terms of “black and white.” This relativism modulated Sharon’s policy of self-restraint toward Arab warriors—a policy that resulted in more than 6,000 Jewish casualties under his premiership.

That Sharon did not think in terms of “black and white” indicates that he was unfit to be Israel’s prime minister, in a war where the enemy consists of Muslims whose leaders emphatically think in terms of “black and white,” and who therefore imbue their soldiers (as well as civilians) with the most ferocious hatred of Israel. This hatred steels Islamic warriors. Hence the IDF will have to become a virtual killing machine to stop the killing once and for all!

Israel’s victory in this war will ultimately depend on whether its General Staff is animated by the profound sense of good and evil that inspired America’s greatest generals—suffice to mention, along with Patten, William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame. Both generals inspired their armies with complete confidence in the justice of their cause. Yet both pursued a war strategy that actually minimized casualties on all sides. They imbued their soldiers with the will to win and in the shortest possible time.  This requires the use of overwhelming force and the uninterrupted attack.

The general who believes in the justice of his country’s cause will not shy from cruelty against Hezbollah because it is by means of cruelty that he can shorten the war and thus minimize bloodshed. Thus, in this war between good and evil, those Israeli generals who implement the principles of war will be our greatest humanists!

The Middle East War: The Need for Plain Talk


o nation can win a protracted war unless its military commanders and soldiers have an ethical mission. A nation whose commanders and soldiers are tainted by the university-bred doctrine of moral relativism is doomed to defeat against Islam. As I have elsewhere shown, Ariel Sharon was tainted by that doctrine. Needed, therefore—especially in the present Middle East War—is plain talk.

First, we need to regard Islamic despotisms as one might regard the slave-holding states of the Confederacy in pre-civil war America. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided Speech”: A world divided against itself cannot stand. This world cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. Sooner or later, it will become all one or all the other.

President George W. Bush is right: The United States must spread democracy to the Middle East if it is to win the war against what is misleadingly called “militant Islam” or “IslamoFascism”—misleading in that it underestimates the breadth and depth of the enemy.

What applies to America applies to Israel. Unless Israel has an ethical mission vis--vis Islam, it will eventually succumb to the barbaric religion that surrounds it. And it must pursue this mission with a massive and sustained ground operation against Hezbollah to win a decisive moral as well as military victory—a victory to prevent a future occurrence of Islamic aggression and arrogance.

I mentioned Lincoln and slavery. The Muslim looks down at non-Muslims as white slaveholders looked down at blacks. To Muslims, Jews and Christians are despicable “infidels” who, to avoid death, may become either dhimmis, devoid of human rights, or Muslims. In becoming a Muslim, however, the dhimmi exchanges one form of bondage for another—as may be seen in the pages of Bat Yo’er, Dhimmitude. 

Thanks so much to President Lincoln and General William Tecumseh Sherman—and let us also mention 200,000 black Union soldiers—slavery was abolished in the United States. We shall need the equivalent of a Lincoln and a Sherman to liberate those held in bondage by Islam.

Israel must therefore have as its mission not only the destruction of Hezbollah but also the positive goal of liberating Lebanon from its foreign masters—of helping it to become a free and democratic country—free from the Islamic ethos of jihad and the evil doctrine that non-Muslims are inferior to Muslims.

It must be understood that Hezbollah is only the spearhead of Iran’s Islamic War against Western civilization which Israel represents in the Middle East. (In this Islamic War against the West, let us not forget the now obscured but most insidious role of Saudi Arabia, which has so many former American officials on its payroll.)

And remember this: In their war machines, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan made use of modern physics, whose originators were neither German nor Japanese, but an Italian (Galileo) and an Englishman (Newton). Hence the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan—nations that believed in their racial superiority—showed that war is the ultimate revealing agent of national conceit and hypocrisy. We must defeat Islam to show that it is not superior to Western civilization, hence to Judaism or Christianity.

Mark this well: Whether it knows it or not, Israel, the seed of Western civilization, is engaged—unwillingly—in a metaphysical war. This war will not and cannot be terminated by diplomacy.

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