A reflection on Hamas and Israel
I want to share a thought about terror and counter-terror, prompted by the Hamas attacks and the dilemmas Israel faces. It is not based on regional knowledge but does draw from scholarly work on the politics of terror and insurgency. It is not so much a take on specific events as a general reminder of the larger shape such events can take.
For the victim, terror is about what it is. For the terrorist, it is about what happens next.
Terror can be a weapon of the weak, designed to get the strong to use their strength against themselves. Terrorists know what they are going to do, and have an idea what will follow. They mean to create an emotional situation where self-destructive action seems like the urgent and only choice.
When you have been terrorized, the argument that I am making seems absurd; the terrorists can seem to you to be raving beasts who just need punishment. Yet however horrible the crime, it usually does not bespeak a lack of planning. Usually part of the plan is to enrage.
Americans have fallen for this. 9/11 was a successful terrorist attack because we made it so. Regardless of whether or not its planners and perpetrators lived to see this, it achieved its main goal: to weaken the United States. Without 9/11, the United States presumably would not have invaded Iraq, a decision which led to the death of tens of thousands of people, helped fund the rise of China, weakened international law, and undid American credibility. 9/11 was a contributing cause to American decisions that caused far more death than 9/11 itself did. But the point here is that 9/11 facilitated American decisions that hurt America far more than 9/11 itself did.