"Israel's counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a non-state actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians - the families and employers of the militants - to restrain Hezbollah in the future.
"Israel's military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon - when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That's when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: 'What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?'"
Friedman says that he is "unsure" whether the current Israeli attack on Gaza is similarly designed to teach Palestinians the same lesson by inflicting "heavy pain" on civilians, but he hopes it is:
"In Gaza, I still can't tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to 'educate' Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims."
The war strategy which Friedman is heralding -- what he explicitly describes with euphemism-free candor as "exacting enough pain on civilians" in order to teach them a lesson -- is about as definitive of a war crime as it gets. It also happens to be the classic, textbook definition of "terrorism." Here is how the U.S. Department of State defined "terrorism" in its 2001 publication, Patterns of Global Terrorism:
"No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:
"The term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant (1) targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. . . .
"(1) For purposes of this definition, the term 'noncombatant' is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty.
Other than the fact that Friedman is advocating these actions for an actual state rather than a "subnational group," can anyone identify any differences between (a) what Friedman approvingly claims was done to the Lebanese and what he advocates be done to Palestinians and (b) what the State Department formally defines as "terrorism"? I doubt anyone can. Isn't Friedman's "logic" exactly the rationale used by Al Qaeda: we're going to inflict "civilian pain" on Americans so that they stop supporting their government's domination of our land and so their government thinks twice about bombing more Muslim countries? It's also exactly the same "logic" that fuels the rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas into Israel.