Rabin's mistake was simple and profound: One cannot "make peace with one's enemy," as he imagined. Rather, one makes peace with one's former enemy. Peace nearly always requires one side in a conflict to be defeated and thus give up its goals.
Wars end not through goodwill but through victory. "Let your great object [in war] be victory" observed Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist. "War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will," wrote his nineteenth-century Prussian successor, Karl von Clausewitz in 1832. Douglas MacArthur observed in 1951 that in "war, there is no substitute for victory."
Technological advancement has not altered this insight. Fighting either continues or potentially can resume so long as both sides hope to achieve their war goals. Victory consists of imposing one's will on the enemy, compelling him to give up his war ambitions. Wars typically end when one side gives up hope, when its will to fight has been crushed.
Defeat, one might think, usually follows on devastating battlefield losses, as was the case of the Axis in 1945. But that has rarely occurred during the past sixty years. Battlefield losses by the Arab states to Israel in 1948-82, by North Korea in 1953, by Saddam Hussein in 1991, and by Iraqi Sunnis in 2003 did not translate into despair and surrender. Morale and will matter more these days. Although they out-manned and out-gunned their foes, the French gave up in Algeria, the Americans in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Cold War ended, notably, with barely a fatality. Crushing the enemy's will to fight, then, does not necessarily mean crushing the enemy.
Arabs and Israelis since 1948 have pursued static and opposite goals: Arabs fought to eliminate Israel; Israelis fought to win their neighbors' acceptance. Details have varied over the decades with multiple ideologies, strategies, and leading actors, but the twin goals have remained in place and unbridgeable. If the conflict is to end, one side must lose and one side win. Either there will be no more Zionist state or it will be accepted by its neighbors. Those are the only two scenarios for ending the conflict. Anything else is unstable and a premise for further warfare.
The Arabs have pursued their war aims with patience, determination, and purpose; the exceptions to this pattern (e.g., the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties) have been operationally insignificant because they have not tamped hostility to Israel's existence. In response, Israelis sustained a formidable record of strategic vision and tactical brilliance in the period 1948-93. Over time, however, as Israel developed into a wealthy country, its populace grew impatient with the humiliating, slow, boring, bitter, and expensive task of convincing Arabs to accept their political existence. By now, few in Israel still see victory as the goal; almost no major political figure on the scene today calls for victory in war. Uzi Landau, currently minister of national infrastructure, who argues that "when you're in a war you want to win the war," is the rare exception.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Pipes is writing about the Israeli-Arab conflict in Middle East Quarterly, but IMHO he could be writing about the US in Iraq or Afghanistan: