With memories of the Lebanon war of 2006 in our heads, it is understandable that many Israelis are apprehensive about a ground operation in Gaza. Not every ground operation is worth the cost, but any worthwhile operation will inevitably exact a price in Jewish lives. Can/should we be willing to pay that price?
As a democratic society, these are the questions that every Israeli should be asking themselves and their representatives before they run headlong into clamoring for a ground offensive in Gaza: What are the goals of this operation? Is there a way these goals can be met through air power? At the end of the day, will we as a people, be able to honestly say “The cost was high, but the goals were accomplished and the results were worth the price paid.”?
If the answer to that final question is yes, then we must be prepared to act with determination, even at great cost.
To take human life, that of your own soldiers, your own blood, and weigh it on a scale to determine a course of action is the most agonizing calculation that any Israeli commander at any level will ever make. It is, however, necessary for the survival of our people in this land, and it is a reality that we must come to terms with.
Not only commanders, but also those who serve and even their parents are making this same calculation when they enlist or send their sons and daughters to serve. Every year hundreds of brave young men and women “take their turn” in defending our nation and take upon themselves to “…dedicate all of my strengths, and even to sacrifice my life, in defense of the homeland and the freedom of Israel”. This is the duty and obligation of a soldier. It’s what they do.
War is a horrible, ugly and very necessary thing. When I served in the US Air Force, my first day in weapons school was met with a series of questions. Why are you here? What is the purpose of your service? What is your job? After a few minutes of listening to all the flowery patriotic answers, the instructor interrupted with the simplest and most accurate answer that could be given. “Your job” he said, “Is to kill people and break things”. This is the cold, ugly truth of war. Killing those who would destroy us and breaking things that would be used to destroy us are the very reason we have an army and every generation must take its turn.
During operation Defensive Shield in 2002, I attended the funeral of a soldier killed in Jenin. I held my composure until I arrived home and saw my son. I held him and wept because even though he was just a little boy, I knew that his “turn” would come all too soon.
Five months ago, I gave my only son to my only country. Today, he is a designated marksman in a combat intelligence unit. Teams from these units operate on the border with (and even inside) Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and other areas every single day of the year. In a few short months, he will take his place alongside them. It’s his turn.
Fighting and winning a war takes perseverance on the part of the entire nation. When our boys were murdered last month, we were warned against hasty actions with the phrase “Act from the head, not from the gut”. So too, now that we all pray for the safety of our sodliers, we must act from the head and not from the gut, not from the heart.
Our enemies rely on the belief that we don’t have the stomach for casualties, that we cannot push forward while Jewish mothers are crying. If we are to bring quiet to our home, we must show them otherwise. If we have the will, heaven will supply the strength.