Why Terrorism? Because it Works

When Hamas terrorists tunneled from Gaza into southern Israel, killed two Israeli soldiers and abducted Corporal Galid Shalit, that probably put the nail in the coffin of any prospect for a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority. Hezbollah’s attack from Lebanon into northern Israel on 11 July, resulting in death for more Israeli soldiers and two additional abductions, buried the coffin. Under any interpretation of international law, Hamas and Hezbollah, along with their Iranian and Syrian masters and supporters, committed an act of war by invading Israel and killing Israeli soldiers and civilians. Israel has a moral and legal right to self-defense, including going after terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon. Israel also would be justified if it attacked Syria and Iran.

Predictably, Israel responded forcefully. And predictably, far more Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists will be killed along with innocent Palestinians and Lebanese than will Israelis. Why, then, did Hamas and Hezbollah commit acts which were bound to result in catastrophic consequences?

First, for Hamas and Hezbollah there can be only one—dare I say it “final solution to the Jewish problem.” It is the same solution the Nazis sought: the eradication of Jews, at least those comprising the state of Israel. They don’t want an accommodation with Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah want Israel gone; every Jew out or dead. Iran and Syria share that objective.

Second, neither Iran nor Syria wants a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian dispute. The never-ending-struggle over Palestine serves their interests. Images of Israeli tanks bearing down on rock-throwing Palestinian kids stir the pot that renders funds and recruits for a plethora of Islamic fundamentalist causes and terrorist groups. The Palestinians are the pawns of the Muslim world. Furthermore, Iran, which directs Hezbollah through Iranian military intelligence, also finances Hezbollah and, to a lesser extent Hamas, while Syria provides sanctuary and logistical support for both groups. While Hamas and Hezbollah focus first on Israel, Hezbollah and related terrorist groups target Coalition forces in Iraq along with innocent Sunnis. Until 9/11 when al Qaeda stepped to the fore, Hezbollah had killed more Americans than any other Islamic terrorist group. Iran uses Hezbollah as its surrogate in its war with Israel and the United States.

Third, Hamas and Hezbollah, along with all other terrorists groups conduct terrorism for one simple reason: it works. Governments often give in to terrorism. In October 1983, after a Hezbollah truck bomb exploded outside the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut killing 241 American Marines, sailors and soldiers, President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. forces withdrawn. It’s not just the left who “cuts and runs.” In October 1993, after a mob composed of Somali jihadists butchered 18 U.S. Rangers in Mogadishu, the Clinton administration opted to bug out. Kidnapping and hostage taking are also effective. In 1985, Hezbollah hijacked TWA Flight 847. Thirty-nine Israeli passengers were held in Lebanon until Israel agreed to release 756 Shiite prisoners from custody. Despite American and Israeli rhetoric about not dealing with terrorists, the Reagan administration pressured Israel into doing just that. In the 1980s, Hezbollah took a total of 18 Americans hostage in Lebanon. Some were released as part of the “arms for hostages” deal.

As a result of the Second Intifada initiated by Yasir Arafat in 2000, suicide bombings prompted Israel to make numerous concessions to the Palestinians, including last year’s removal of Israeli settlements from Gaza. Ultimately, terrorism is the primary reason the world pays any attention to the Palestinians.

Today, despite the expressed resolve of the Bush administration to “stay the course” in Iraq, a multitude of voices in Congress and the media demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces based primarily on casualties—both American and Iraqi—resulting from terrorist attacks and the insurgency.

Terrorists do it because terrorism works. Israel’s current strong military response and the U.S. policy of pre-emptive attacks are the only viable solutions. There can be no dealing with groups committed to our conversion or death. How Israel, the United States and the West respond to the challenge of Islamic jihadists will determine the future of civilization. In this war there is no substitute for victory. For Israel, its very survival is at stake. For the Judeo-Christian West, the alternatives to victory are submission to a global Islamic caliphate or death.

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism. Email: [email protected]

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