Patterson: War is successful only if enemy is understood


Thomas C. Patterson is a retired physician and former Arizona state senator who lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

The Chinese general Sun Tzo 2,500 years ago wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

That’s good advice. Unfortunately, America’s media and military leadership feign ignorance of their current enemies. They never use the words “Muslim” or “Islamist” to identity our foes, terms that actually denote who they are and what inspires them. Instead, they use descriptions like “insurgents,” “militants” or other euphemisms to avoid hurting the feelings of the enemy.

Hamas, who our leaders would like to believe is their ultimate enemy, is nothing more than the representative du jour of a vast network established 1,300 years ago with the never-relinquished mission of subjugating the West.

Israel, after decades of repeated atrocities, has no choice but to exterminate Hamas if it ever hopes to live in relative security. Even if Hamas is destroyed, there are legions of other terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, a more formidable foe than Hamas, ready and willing to step in and carry on the fight.

For the West, knowing our enemy means recognizing how savage and implacable Islamists are, how outside the mainstream of modern humanity they are. For many Americans, it was shocking to read of terrorists laughing as their Oct. 7 victims were raped, burned or beheaded, often in front of their families.

Yet the same incomprehensible behavior is common in the hundreds of lightly reported Islamist attacks perpetrated annually worldwide. Schoolchildren in the madrassas are taught that Allah is pleased by fanatical hatred and brutality directed at infidels.

It’s hard for Westerners to comprehend this medieval mind-set. Negotiations are fruitless because lying to the enemy is explicitly condoned in traditional Islam. Wars of containment are futile, and appeasement is seen only as weakness. Their ultimate goal is conquest, not peace.

Yet the oblivious Biden administration dodders on, as if our relations with the terrorists were governed by the Treaty of Utrecht. Our naiveté was on full display in the recent cease-fire/hostage swap that we foisted upon our Israeli allies.

Mentally sound humans feel deep sympathy for the loved ones of a hostage held by Islamists. Because we value human life more than they do, hostage exchanges are vastly one-sided, typically involving from three up to as many as 1,000 Muslim terrorists exchanged for each civilian.

One of those thousand terrorists recently exchanged for one Israeli is now a Hamas leader, who warned that “Oct. 7 was just a rehearsal.” Fifty-five percent of the first 117 terrorists released during the current swaps had been held for murder and other violent crimes, while 21% were confirmed jihadists.

The hostages we see are quite visible pictures of utter despair. But, for each one we can visualize, there are more at risk of being captured when terrorists realize gains from hostage taking. Each of these potential hostages is also a human being with families and lives of their own. They’re just not visible and don’t know who they are yet.

The hard fact is that, when we lavishly reward hostage takers, we are condemning others to the same fate. There is no great solution to the hostage conundrum. It’s worth considering, though, that if we had a policy of not negotiating but instead consistently killing or capturing all hostage takers, the practice would eventually cease.

The Biden administration isn’t into hard choices. Sometimes, they even seem confused about which side they are on.

In 2021, for example, the Biden administration restarted funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Hundreds of millions of dollars, which had been frozen by the Trump administration, were distributed to Palestinians in spite of State Department concerns that the funds would almost certainly be used for terrorism.

More broadly, Joe Biden has worked assiduously to appease the Iranian regime and its proxies with billions of dollars. This makes as much sense as slipping money to Nazis during World War II.

The cycle of Islamist violence will never end if we continue to subsidize it and prop it up. Instead of timidity and vacillation toward those who want to kill us, knowing our enemy means understanding that we must focus on destroying and defeating this mortal foe.

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