Ed Driscoll

UTTERLY CHILLING: Stephen Den Beste

UTTERLY CHILLING: Stephen Den Beste coolly and logically describes the suicide (or homicide–call ’em what you prefer) bombing methods of the Hamas in military terms, and places them in perspective along with the ’93 and 2001 attacks against the WTC, and the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing of ’95:

If they could do it, Hamas would certainly use a higher-intensity campaign. If they had the means to make several successful attacks per day, they’d be doing so. If they had better weapons, they wouldn’t be using the ones they are. Terrorist war is war on a shoestring, and in the last year the Hamas shoestring has gotten a lot shorter.

And Israel’s targeted assassinations have hurt them badly, which is why they’re squealing and making dire threats. But their threats are meaningless; all threats amount to making the claim that we could be doing a lot worse than we are, but we’ve been holding back until now. There’s no reason to believe that they are holding back.

Having made this threat, they may well launch a token attack or two against Israeli residential areas (most likely against settlements in Gaza). But they won’t keep doing so, because such attacks won’t turn out to be as effective as the ones they have been making until now.

All of the Arab/Islamic terrorist groups have shown themselves to be utterly ruthless and merciless. And because of that, in every case if they’re making threats it’s an indication of weakness. al Qaeda is the same way, and has made dire threats against the US and issued dire warnings to us many times since 9/11, but without actually launching any attacks at all. For instance, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, al Qaeda claimed to have some unreasonably huge number of “sleeper cells” in the US, primed and waiting for orders, who would unleash hell on us if we actually invaded.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being utterly ruthless. It gives you more flexibility for planning if you don’t consider any kind of attack to be off-limits. But it also leaves you no ability to escalate as a means of deterrence, and gives your enemies little incentive to be anything other than ruthless in return. Hamas cannot use threats to make Israel stop trying to kill its leaders, because Israel’s leaders don’t believe anything Hamas says, either about escalation or about truces.

Speaking of escalation, why is Israel showing Arafat mercy?