by Dr. Reuven Berko
The Islamic-Arab world is currently undergoing dramatic changes. The Middle East has never been a place where balance has prevailed, but is rather a place driven by megalomaniacal ambitions and religious, territorial and economical motives, fostering violent unrest in the region; and now, the artificial countries built on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire are imploding before our very eyes.
The chaos bred by the Arab Spring has resulted in many Arab nations being overrun by gangs affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or various Islamic Jihad "tourists." These terrorists have condemned the fate of millions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Egypt, they threaten other countries in the Middle East and Africa, and they now have their sights trained on us.
From an Israeli standpoint, some of the neighboring Arab countries, which were previously ruled by Islamic tyrants or totalitarian rulers, were -- prior to the Arab Spring -- deterred, as any act of hostility they might have endorsed would have spelled retaliation against to their country and citizens, and therefore threaten their rule. The basis of this deterrence still seems to be in place and still seem effective when it comes to Iran's nuclear endeavors, Hamas and Hezbollah.
The appearance of "jihad tourists" in the Middle East as a new form of armed regimes in neighboring territories, poses a challenge to the premise and perception of warning, deterrence and decision reached by exercising military power alongside diplomatic efforts, as outlined by Thomas Schelling, in his 1966 book "Arms and Influence."
These "tourists" are usually anonymous, armed individuals, flocking to conflict areas from different locations around the world. They are often at odds with each other as well as with the regime, and they murder, plunder and rape "in the name of Islam." They have no individual, tribal of national affiliation with the population they overrun, nor do they consider any backlash against it. They simply feed off its pain.
A "jihad tourist" who may find himself in Syria or in the Palestinian Authority (should the border with Jordan be abandoned) will therefore feel relatively safe from retaliation and punishment within the framework of traditional deterrence measures -- more so than Palestinian terrorists, who operate from within their tribes and families in the Palestinian territories.
The Arabs' history has experience such bloodshed before. In the pre-Islamic days of the Jahiliyyah Arab tribes would often rise against each other and only the concept of vendetta created a tribal mechanism of deterrence. With the rise of the Prophet Muhammad, the tribes that converted to Islam turned their rage against others "in the name of Islam." The deterring principle of vendetta as key to tribal coexistence and personal safety was maintained throughout the Jahiliyyah and in the Islamic era that followed.
As part of the thar (vengeance), the avenging party would target a male relation of an escaped killer, on his father's side, down to a fifth relation, and it was this fear of vengeance that reinforced mutual deterrence. As Western principles negate to concept of vendetta and murderers are set free as part of plea bargains and exchange deals, many Arab and Muslim men, who believe that "prison is for men," are left undeterred by anything.
The anonymity of "jihad tourists" in conflict areas and the fact that they are far away from their tribes and families, affords them -- in their own eyes -- a license to murder rivals and civilians alike without paying a price. As vendetta is considered heinous by the West, each such "mujahid" is essentially an "invisible man," with the "privilege" of getting away with murder without exposing his family to the threat of vendetta.
The response mounted by the West to the security challenges arising from the Arab-Islamic modus operandi has exposed a weakness in assessing processes such as the Arab Spring.
The fact of the matter is that the actions of opposing leaders or populations are propelled by a "state of mind," which includes a leader's philosophical beliefs as well as his country's religious, historical and national narratives, all of which serve as a compass for him and are instrumental in realizing his ideas.
In the absence of state frameworks, there is a need for intelligence gathering and individual punitive action against such murderers. The skewed assessments of developing situations in the Middle East are still based on a "mirror image" of values and ethics, which do not coincide with reality.
Those who demand Israel release murderers and exercise "proportionality" are trying to deprive it from the ability to achieve victory and deterrence against a growing threat. The only thing that may deter a "terror tourist" is the personal elimination of him or an intelligence exposure that frightens his family.
Dr. Reuven Berko
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