From February 13 to 15, 1945, some 800 Allied bombers utterly destroyed the German city of Dresden. In those three days, 2,700 tons of explosives and incendiaries fell on the city, and tens of thousands of Germans were killed, most of them civilians.
No horrible act can be used to justify another, to be sure. But it’s interesting to note that what was routine in warfare only 80 years ago is viewed with horror today. Indeed, the United States military goes to great lengths in warfighting to minimize civilian casualties — and so does the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But that hasn’t stopped American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin from wagging his finger at Israel – our ally – warning them of a “strategic defeat” should they not do even more to minimize civilian injuries and deaths in their quashing of Hamas in Gaza.
“I have personally pushed Israeli leaders to avoid civilian casualties, and to shun irresponsible rhetoric, and to prevent violence by settlers in the West Bank,” Austin said in a speech to the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday.
Austin’s comments come as top US officials have grown increasingly vocal in their warnings to Israel about the death toll in the Gaza Strip. Those warnings, previously confined to closed-door meetings, have been thrust into the open by mounting pressure from Israel’s Arab neighbors, human-rights activists and opinion at home — including the left of President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.
While Austin and other US leaders have vowed to continue supporting Israel, they worry that American support could become untenable if civilian casualties continue to mount.
It’s important here to remember what Israel is up against. The Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel on Oct. 7th are savages, nothing but. There appears to be little or no hope for another extension of what was always meant to be a temporary cease-fire, and the IDF is ready to move in and finish the job.
The best thing the United States could do is to shut up, mind our own business, and let Israel handle their situation. The IDF is more than up to that task; it has already shown to be making enormous efforts to minimize civilian casualties, even resorting to “roof-knocker” drops that may warn Hamas operatives to clear out along with any non-combatants. Hamas, on the other hand, locates its headquarters under a hospital, places rocket launchers near schools, and kidnaps civilians, subjecting them to torture and rape. There will be a cost to winkle these monsters out of their tunnels, and it is Hamas, not Israel, that is seeking to increase, not decrease, civilian casualties, so they can use dead Gazan residents as propaganda material.
The lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.
He’s wrong. It’s not a matter of Israel driving Gazans into the “arms of the enemy,” namely, Hamas. It is about Hamas driving Gazans into the line of fire; it is about Hamas literally hiding behind children, purposely, hoping to put Israel into precisely the situation that Austin is warning them about.
Hamas must be utterly destroyed. They’ve earned it. There will be collateral deaths, yes, as there are in any war, but the IDF will do what they can to minimize them. We cannot and should not ask any more than that.