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Josh Linden: The Self-Fulfilling Dahiya Doctrine

In light of the encouraging reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be moderating his position toward peace, I wanted to bring attention to this revealing New York Times article published on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Not out of some desire to counter good news with bad. But rather, the juxtaposition of these two stories could easily be described as a lesson in the futility of intransigence. The Times describes the pervading security mindset within Israel, one which emphasizes the need to "shorten and intensify the period of fighting and to lengthen the period [of relative peace] between rounds." That is, Israeli security officials make the calculation that because conflict of some sort is inevitable, be it with Hezbollah or Hamas or even perhaps Iran down the road, it is in Israel's best interest to maximize its firepower in brief bursts to temporarily subdue the enemy, ostensibly ensuring a longer peacetime environment before the next campaign is needed. In a modern era of asymmetric warfare, they view this as preferable to a drawn out guerrilla conflict that would cost countless more lives and drain Israel's economy. This formulation has become known as the Dahiya Doctrine, named after the Shi'a district in Beirut destroyed during Israel's war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. It calls for the disproportionate use of force. It does not distinguish between military compounds and the civilian properties that immediately surround them. It seeks to crush vital infrastructure. But above all, it does these things in order to set a memorable precedent. Attack Israel, and it will respond ten-fold.

THE INDEX — December 18, 2009

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