A bit long, but I think it is time to put this particular bit of fallacy to rest.
It has come to my attention that there is a substantial lack of knowledge in this forum about War in general, and insurgencies specifically.
Lets first start with a known axiom from every war strategist known for thousands of years: KNOW YOUR ENEMY. The formal process we use to analyze our enemy is called intelligence, and there are literally thousands of analysts and assets out there collecting data on our enemies so that we can determine what they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what their intentions are. The entire goal of understanding your enemy and his intentions is to get in front of what he is doing and defeat him in detail. If you are not doing this, then you are just waiting for your enemy to strike. Done properly, good intelligence allows us to get in front of our enemies and done poorly, even if done with great enthusiasm, it wastes resources, time, and energy in activities that have no material effect on your enemy.
A case in point for Israel would be trying to close the Gaza tunnels with a temporary aerial campaign instead of an occupying ground force. There certainly must have been consideration that Hamas could be cowed and scared to the point where they would be deterred from digging new tunnels. That effort failed. We underestimated Hamas and their commitment to their goal and that lead us to apply the wrong tool to complete the job.
Additionally, denouncing those who understand their enemies and can find ways to attack them effectively as terrorists is not only disingenuous, it is dangerous. If you are so convinced that you are on the right track that your only response to a likely enemy counter is, “You are a terrorist,” you are in danger of myopic arrogance. Ignoring the likely enemy reaction to your move is a recipe for disaster, or both Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are morons. Take your pick.
That being said there are basically two methods of defeating an insurgency: political inclusion and slow sustained pressure using home grown security forces. There is another option, but it is not available to Western forces. We could follow the Crusade model and deal with the Palestinian problem by raping, pillaging, and murdering our way to suddenly empty land mass. Is there anyone that thinks this is serious method of solving the Palestinian problem?
An opportunity was missed with Hamas when they won the election. It was a different time period, and our understanding of defeating insurgencies has evolved orders of magnitude since that election. If Hamas is focused on governing and sees resolution to the liberation of Palestine through a political process, that is a good thing. The alternative is to turn them loose into the shadows where, with wide public support, they will again plot their terror attacks. For those who think that this is not an option, please look North and see what political inclusion has done to moderate Hezbollah and take note that several key NATO members have established political ties with the group. This also worked in Iraq where previous ‘terrorists’ were brought into the fold both as Sons of Iraq and the Madhi Militia earned seats the Iraqi Parliament. Both steps greatly reduced the amount of violence employed by both groups.
The second step, usually done in concert with the first, is growing indigenous security forces that are capable of policing the insurgent areas effectively. A homegrown force is made up of the sons and daughters of the people. Suddenly, the insurgents are not attacking foreign Barbarians, they are attacking the locals they used to meet at the pub or watch grow up in soccer matches. That is how the people are involved in the fight. Additionally, Western nation has ever beaten an insurgent force by applying only its own combat power. Even the Russians in Chechnya created their own Chechen forces, albeit extraordinarily brutal proxy forces. In the occupied territory of Palestine, forty years of Israeli occupation have failed to stamp out Palestinian resistance. There remains a serious threat of residual insurgency. The events around the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount were an attempt to recreate the Intifada, the previous two were born at that exact same location. Fortunately, there remains hope that the current process will produce results. If the promise of political results fade, the Intifada will rise again.
If 2006 proves anything, it is that insurgent groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have not been sitting idle in the interim. If the situation against deteriorates into open insurrection, Hamas and indeed Fatah will unleash a new bag of tricks against Israel. Israel will no doubt eventually get in front of it, but we will be right back where we started. The only difference will be the number of people who were killed during the fighting. Utterly pointless.
Finally, there is the reality of war in execution: violence. Both sides in a war use violence and when the situation turns violent, people die. You can either acknowledge it and scream in rage and demand revenge, or you can acknowledge it and do something about it. If you not studying your enemy and looking for vulnerabilities to exploit when you apply violence, than all you are doing is killing your own soldiers. If you blindly attack him, you may get lucky and hit a vulnerability, most likely you will not, but getting to that point through Darwinism rather than analysis is murder. More often, you simply do a lot of killing, and neither you nor your enemy is defeated. Congrats.
Now a take a closer look at Hamas with a eye toward identifying vulnerabilities rather than simply saying, “Heh they suck,” because even if they do suck, they are still conducting operations. Taunting them WILL NOT defeat them. Please bear in mind, Western Nations have branded Hamas a terrorist group. There is no country in the Middle East, save Israel and possibly Egypt (though in doing so it is faced with the rising tide of the Muslim Brotherhood), that has branded Hamas a terrorist group. That is a problem for Israel. Nominally moderate states provide the bulk of Hamas’s budget. That is a problem for Israel. If you are branding Hamas terrorists, and those that control the likely smuggling routes and finances of said terrorists groups politely disagree with you, then you have a problem. How are you going to get at Hamas’s logistics without being able to effect the logistics lines?
So what is it about Hamas that seems to resonate so much in with the Arab public? Is there a way to counter that narrative? I will submit that going before the UN and denouncing 350 million Arabs for not actively denouncing Iran is probably not the best way to go about doing it.
We would also be wise to pay attention to Hamas’s Palestinian objectives. They won an election, and there is something they are doing that is garnering credit with the Palestinian people. The question then is, do we want a moderate, secular Palestinian government or do we want a conservative, Islamic Palestinian government? There is an internal Palestinian narrative between the two groups: Hamas and Fatah. By reading something like the Hamas Charter with an ear toward that narrative we figure out what Hamas’s selling point are to the Palestinian people. One of the biggest is the narrative that the West cannot negotiate in good faith where Palestinians are concerned. To Palestinians watching Abbas bang his head up against the proverbial brick wall, that seems entirely true.
So, if our goal is to marginalize Hamas, we should probably not be confirming their narrative version of events on a daily basis. Right now, the West’s actions in the ME are marginalizing Abbas and proving Hamas’s assessment of the situation correct. That is a calculus we must change. Calling those who point this out, ‘terrorists or terrorists sympathizers’, will not alter that calculus.
There are two things you can do with an assessment of your enemy. You can look at it for vulnerabilities to exploit and find areas where your efforts are not producing results and redirect them to something more successful or, you can fully embrace delusion and think that more military power will defeat Hamas and continue to pretend that screaming into the wind will effect Hamas. In the end, Hamas is there and must be dealt with.
For the record, it is the Fatah wing of the Palestinians that I support ( at least conceptually and only because the alternative is Hamas.) Like it or not, Fatah and Hamas are engaged in a political struggle that is even more intense than the one between Hamas and Israel. If we are unaware of the processes that have turned Gaza into a Hamas camp and the West Bank into a nominally Fatah Camp, then we are missing a huge piece of the equation. Right now, Israeli military power has essentially put the lid on a Palestinian Civil War. If we are unaware of the continuing struggle in the political and economic domains of these two groups, then eventually, when the lid comes off and we have not propped up the side we want to be victorious then that will have serious repercussions for Israel down the road.
By avoiding the study of your enemy and denouncing those who do study them as terrorist sympathizers and worse, you do your country no favor. One way or another, your enemies will have to be dealt with and we can either do it in the time, place, and under the conditions of our choosing, or wait for the enemy to establish the time, place, and conditions of engagement. Your choice.