Tinfoil Time, Indeed

Matthew Yglesias starts an otherwise interesting post of the Yassin assassination on a rather bizarre note:

So Israel’s been in a conflict with Hamas for about a decade now. The peace process collapsed and Sharon took over as Prime Minister years ago. And then he goes and blows up Sheik Yassin just in time to step on the Richard Clarke story. Hm. That can’t be right, right? Right. Right. Oy.

Oy, indeed.

His substantive point:

To say something substantive about the Yassin business, this is really one of those force alone versus force and something else kind of times. I won’t be missing the “spiritual leader” of a terrorist organization committed not to ending the occupation, but to prolonging it through endless war for the destruction of Israel, but it’s a total fantasy to think that his existence is the essence of the problem over there. You can either kill (or forcibly remove) all the Palestinians, or else you can try and find a deal that most of them will be happy with. Just killing a few and hoping the rest will suddenly stop wanting independence isn’t really a plan.

I agree, of course. One would hope, indeed presume, that there’s a plan here. But the essence of the war on terrorism is–or, at least should be–to make the point that terrorism as a political tactic is so repugnant that it will not be legitimated through negotiation. Period. So, if you’re a terrorist, we’re going to kill you. If you play within the rules of civilized society, we’ll sit down and talk.

There’s obviously a reasonable contingent within the Palestinian community that will settle for half a loaf–a territory they can govern more or less independently that will co-exist with Israel. I honestly have no idea how large that faction is, though. And they’ve allowed Hamas and other terrorists to have a veto power over the negotiating process. It’s going to take internal action on their part to solve this problem.

I’m no fan of Sharon or the Likud party in general. I think they’ve done a lot of things to exacerbate the problem and have indeed fallen into the force alone trap on occasion. I think bulldozing the homes of suspected terrorists and rendering their families homeless is a bad idea. Continued thumbing of their noses at the world community by continuing the settlement policy is counterproductive as hell. But it’s hard to condemn the pinpointed targetting of the terrorist leadership for extermination. It won’t solve the problem by itslelf. But I’m willing to stack up dead terrorist bodies as long as it takes.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kevin Drum says:

    “As long as it takes”? Unfortunately, they fight back. I’d prefer not to wait that long.

    In other words, a policy that works, please, not just one that feels good.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Sure. But what is the policy that works? We haven’t seen one yet, if the definition of working is stopping the terrorists. If you’ve got one, I’m sure game.

    Hamas has been impervious to negotiation. We made a very concerted effort–that I supported–during the 1990s. It ultimately blew up, leading to the 2nd Intifada. We tried again with the Roadmap under Bush and Co. But, again, Hamas has vetoed the process at every step of the way with their suicide bombers.

    If we take out the top guy every few weeks, maybe they’ll think twice. Or maybe they’ll become less centralized and become more like al Qaeda.

  3. melvin toast says:

    Actually we have seen a policy that works.

    Israel ought to fire some missiles at the nearest American target. The 101st invades Tel Aviv and secures the country. Interim leadership is appointed while the US deals with security issues. Now instead of blaming Israelis for killing Arabs, it’ll be red blooded Americans who are just trying to defend themselves.

    Who wouldn’t want to be occupied by the americans? Really?

  4. Kate says:

    “Sure. But what is the policy that works?”

    You hit the nail with that one. Kevin finishes his complaint with the usual. “Give me something else”. Intellectually convenient, that.

    When the only “policy that works” for Arafat, Hamas is the elimination of the Israeli state, it’s hard to see much other alternative than to make it a very dangerous proposition to be a leader of such a group – “spiritual” or otherwise.

    The heads of these snakes have been offlimits for far too long. I suspect Arafat may have turned in his boxer shorts for diapers, as a matter of expediency.

  5. Paul says:

    And then he goes and blows up Sheik Yassin just in time to step on the Richard Clarke story

    I am starting to wonder if there are any sane liberals left in the world.

  6. Jeremiah says:

    There are, but they’re harder to find. I believe they’re in the corner, hiding their heads in embarrassment.

    Yglesias has drifted pretty far toward the tin-foil crowd, and I can’t say I respect much of what he says anymore.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Clearly, even many on the thoughtful Left–in whose numbers I could Yglessias–view Bush as, at best, totally amoral. For them, Bush is where Clinton was for many on the Right by the late 1990s–pretty much any charge seems credible to them.

  8. I think targeting the top terrorist leaders makes much more sense morally and strategically than punishing the families of terrorists. I view this change in strategy, plus the plans to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and stop some settlement activity (though sadly, not all), as an improvement. Unfortunately, until a decapitation campaign really picks up steam, Hamas will still have enough top leaders to coordinate horrific “revenge” operations.

  9. P.S. I was pretty sure Yglesias was poking fun at the tinfoil crowd when he tied Yassin and Clarke together.