Colonel Richard Kemp on IDF’s Moral Performance

One of the real puzzles I hope to pose in order to motivate my readers to slog through my new book is the bizarre phenomenon of the difference between the IDF’s ethical performance and the way it registers in the MSNM (my new acronym, Mainstream News Media). I first became really aware of this in Jenin, when the Israelis had sacrificed the aerial option in order to avoid civilian casualties, lost over a dozen men in hand-to-hand combat, and finally ended up killing 52 people, 47 of which were combattants, but got accused of massacres and war crimes that drove the international media into a frenzy.

Here, at a JCPA conference on Operation Cast Lead and International Law, British Colonel Richard Kemp describes the extraordinary measures the Israelis went to in order to spare civilian casualties in Gaza (cf. Sri Lanka).

7 Responses to Colonel Richard Kemp on IDF’s Moral Performance

  1. E.G. says:

    Today’s IDF conscripts were toddlers when, following the Oslo accords, the homicide bombing attacks began taking their arbitrary Israeli civilian victims. Their parents were familiar with car-bombs and hijackings and their toll of civilian victims. Their grandparents were more familiar with murder squads crossing the 1949 armistice lines to murder Israeli civilians. Their great-grandparents were more familiar with Arab pogroms of Jews in Palestine. Jewish Palestinian and Israeli civilians have always been targeted by Arabs, of neighbouring countries or localities.
    With a few exceptions, Arab civilians have not been targeted by Jewish militias or Israeli soldiers.
    Human lives and dignity are differentially valued by the two parties. Israelis do their best to spare or save lives, especially “uninvolved” ones – civilians. Arabs exploit civilians, their well-being, dignity, and lives, be them Jewish/Israeli or Arab – for propaganda objectives.

  2. oao says:

    Arabs exploit civilians, their well-being, dignity, and lives, be them Jewish/Israeli or Arab – for propaganda objectives.

    and they call it honor.

  3. Fat Man says:

    Michael Totten reports a conversation with Robert Kaplan about, inter alia, Sri Lanka:

    MJT: So you just got back from Sri Lanka. What did you see there? What did you learn?

    Kaplan: … Sri Lanka defeated, more or less completely, a 26 year-long insurgency. They killed the leader and the leader’s son. But there are no takeaway lessons for the West here. The Sri Lankan government did it by silencing the media, which meant capturing the most prominent media critic of the government and killing him painfully. And they made sure all the other journalists knew about it.

    MJT: Wow.

    Kaplan: There are a thousand disappearances a year in Sri Lanka separate from the war. Journalists are terrified there. The only journalism you read is pro-government. So that’s one thing they did.

    The Tamil Tigers had human shields by the tens of thousands, not just by the dozens and hundreds like Al Qaeda. They put people between themselves and the government and say “you have to kill all the people to get to us.” So the government obliged them. The government killed thousands of civilians.

    MJT: Tamil civilians?

    Kaplan: Yes. They killed thousands of civilians in the course of winning this war. It acted in a way so brutal that there are no lessons for the West.

    MJT: Would you say it was as brutal as Russia’s counterinsurgency in Chechnya?

    Kaplan: Yes. It was. The U.N. is investigating whether as many as 20,000 civilians have been killed during the last few months.
    * * *

    MJT: Sri Lanka has been fighting this counterinsurgency for decades. Have they slowly made progress all this time and have now finally finished it off, or was there a tipping point recently where a seemingly endless conflict just ended almost suddenly?

    Kaplan: The Sri Lankan government was elected in 2005 to win the war. And it has done that. Extremely brutally. It’s a government that’s very nationalist Sinhalese Buddhist. These are not the Richard Gere’s “peace and love” Buddhists. These are the real blood and soil Buddhists, where Buddhism is like any other religion when it’s threatened and it’s defending a piece of territory. It can be very brutal.

    It was elected to win the war, which it interpreted from the voters as a right to silence the media and to fight without any restrictions.

    MJT: It does work, though, doesn’t it?

    Kaplan: It does work, yeah.

    MJT: Not that we should do it, of course.
    * * *

    MJT: So there are no lessons at all? Nothing for the U.S., Israel, or Pakistan?

    Kaplan: No.

    MJT: Only moral lessons, perhaps. Yes, this works, but it would take an awful lot to get us to fight that way again.

  4. Peter Reaper says:


    “MSNM (my new anagram, Mainstream News Media)

    No “anagram”, but “acronym”. ;-)

    thanks. i knew it was wrong even as i wrote it.

    PS. I wished it weren’t so hard to pronounce “MSNM” (maybe it just needs some practice…). Otherwise, it’s a perfect acronym and name.

    MSNM as in MiSsiNgsoMething.

  5. Lorenz Gude says:

    What an extraordinary situation we have worked ourselves into in the West. We ignore that the rules of warfare only work if everyone recognizes them. Instead we have affirmative action for murderers. Pfui. Of course there are lessons for the West from Sri Lanka. Indeed there are lessons only for the West – no one else has forgotten them.

  6. oao says:

    What an extraordinary situation we have worked ourselves into in the West.

    the west consists now of an increasing number of failed states, with the US coming close. california is already gone, it is issuing iou’s. the rest of the country to follow.

  7. Miles Tompkins says:

    EG states……”With a few exceptions, Arab civilians have not been targeted by Jewish militias or Israeli soldiers”. On what investigative basis do you make this claim?
    Times have changed….Israel will be forced to investgate Cast Lead…if not it will go to the ICC…EU has supported this, Scandinavia has supported this, Japan has supported this…only US, and sadly Canada’s Harper government have downplayed the report , word for word from Netenyahu. Strong support from many Jewish groups as well. Times are a changin

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