Since I argued in an earlier column that Israel can and must defeat the Palestinian Arabs, a barrage of responses have contested this thesis. Some were trivial (Ha’aretz published an article challenging my right to opine on such matters because I do not live in Israel) but most raised serious issues that deserve an answer.
The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu observed that in war, “Let your great object be victory,” and he was echoed by the 17th-century Austrian war thinker, Raimondo Montecuccoli. His Prussian successor Clausewitz added that “War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will.” These insights remain valid today: Victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy, which typically means compelling him to give up his war goals. Conflicts usually end with one side’s will being crushed.
In theory, that need not be the case. Belligerents can compromise, they can mutually exhaust each other, or they can resolve their differences under the shadow of a greater enemy (as when Britain and France, long seen as “natural and necessary enemies,” in 1904 signed the Entente Cordiale, because of their shared worries about Germany.)
Such “no victor, no loser” resolutions are the exception in modern times, however. For example, although Iraq and Iran ended their 1980-88 war in a state of mutual exhaustion, this tie did not resolve their differences. Generally speaking, so long as neither side experiences the agony of defeat