Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A British Officer Explains What Counterterrorist Warfare is Like and How Israel Does the Best it Can to Fight in a Humanitarian Way

Several colleagues, including British and French ones, have told me lately the tremendous respect that the militaries and defense ministries in their countries have for Israel's army. A French military magazine recently ran a cover story on how the Israeli air force is the best in the world.

But this isn't just some technical admiration. These people--especially the professional soldiers among them--know just how difficult it is to conduct a war like the one in the Gaza Strip and to behave in a moral way, minimizing civilian casualties. They recognize that nobody tries to do this more than the Israel Defense Forces.

Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing a retired British officer who served in Afghanistan try to explain to European parliamentarians what warfare against terrorists was really like. In an extremely charming and non-offensive manner, he basically said (to an audience whose most frightening experience hitherto was probably when the airconditioning in their office went out) : You people have no idea what you're talking about. Find someone with real military experience to explain to you how hard it is to fight under such conditions.

Such a man is Colonel Richard Kemp who explained in a recent speech well worth reading:

"The IDF face all the challenges that I have spoken about, and more. Not only was Hamas’s military capability deliberately positioned behind the human shield of the civilian population and not only did Hamas employ the range of insurgent tactics I talked through earlier. They also ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children , from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF. Fighting an enemy that is deliberately trying to sacrifice their own people. Deliberately trying to lure you in to killing their own innocent civilians.

"And Hamas, like Hizballah, are also highly expert at driving the media agenda. They will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.

"Their people often have no option than to go along with the charades in front of the world’s media that Hamas so frequently demand, often on pain of death.

"What is the other challenge faced by the IDF that we British do not have to face to the same extent?

"It is the automatic, pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights."

My colleague, Dr. Jonathan Spyer, remarks:

"The interesting thing about Kemp is that at first glance you think that he's extraordinary, and then you realise that he isnt. He's just a sane, professional military man. Which makes you realize just how nuts the terms of debate in Britain and Europe have become."

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