I ran across this Andrew Sullivan post that gives a good example of a common assumption that has bothered me.
The Israelis shell the UN headquarters in Gaza. In yet another brilliant move to win over global opinion and dispel any notion that this invasion has been morally suspect, they also destroy large amounts of food and humanitarian supplies. Meanwhile, the only entity capable of running any kind of viable Palestinian state – Fatah – is being murdered by Hamas in Gaza and undermined on the West Bank by Israel’s Gaza campaign. So the result of this campaign might well be the permanent collapse of any hope for a viable Palestinian state, deeper alienation of Israel’s own Arab population, propaganda gains for Jihadism across the world, and a crippling legacy for the new administration to try to tackle.
The implicit assumption is that Israeli military action is harmful to its own interests because it destroys Israel’s reputation. This mystical thinking suggests that if a country makes enough generous concessions, the world community will intervene to solve their problems. Mystical thinking also entails a certain belief in the futility of force – somehow, dropping bombs on Hamas makes them miraculously stronger, and drives them further into radicalism.
One would think that the Middle East could serve as a perpetual disproof of this line of thought. No amount of international odium has hampered Hamas’s decades-long terror campaign in the least (or the PA before it). Nor has public perception ever mattered more to Israel’s security than the nation’s military force. Nor has that military force yet failed to enhance the state’s security – including against the guerrilla Intifada beginning earlier this decade.
Israel’s military policy embraces an opposite mentality – a rational mentality. It assumes that Hamas is a rational actor that will strive to maximize its pursuit of what it conceives to be its interests – and that voluntary demonstrations of goodwill either to the “world community” or to Hamas will do nothing to change this equation. Rather, Hamas will respond to an actual disincentive – military action – that forces the organization to weigh its desire to preserve infrastructure and its members’ lives against the value of killing as many Israelis as possible. Regardless of who the media declares the “victor” of this fight, I expect that rational thinking will prove its own point.