The term of art for terrorism as a military tactic is “asymmetrical warfare.” Since terrorists cannot hope to best states and their armies by fighting them head on, they seek advantage through other tactics—hence the asymmetry. Those tactics are designed to sow fear and depression and anxiety and impotence in civilian populations. Nothing will do that so well as the murder of kids The point is simple: This is war. Asymmetical warfare is … warfare. It’s not statecraft, it’s not a negotating tactic, it’s not an expression of anger at straitened circumstances. And just as terrorists play to their own advantages in conducting war, so too the states they fight have every right to use their advantages once they are attacked. Otherwise the asymmetry is simply a form of unilateral permission to kill civilians and wreak havoc on the daily lives of those who are non-combatants.
As Israel makes its moves in response to the monstrous slaughter of three boys, we need to keep this in mind. Israel must and should use the best weapons at its command—its superior intelligence, its ability to target bad guys, and its dominance of both ground and air—in a war Hamas (apparently) has now chosen to wage in the aftermath of the ludicrous Kerry “peace process.” This is the other part of the equation in asymmetrical warfare. If Israel follows Barack Obama’s typically anodyne and meaningless counsel to show “restraint,” the asymmetrical balance tilts in favor of Hamas. There’s no reason—moral, practical, realpolitik, or anything else—that Hamas should score any kind of victory here. Rather, it should be wounded, bloodied, injured, impaired, driven asunder. Hamas seeks to weaken Israel emotionally; that is its asymmetrical advantage. Israel’s task is now to weaken Hamas in every other way with its advantage.