Had the war we’re seeing today in the Middle East broken out a century and a half ago, it would have been rather short indeed because the stronger force, the Israelis, would have simply massacred all their enemies. Today, in a more moral age, we find such acts to be savage and barbaric — as well we should.
However, while civilians should be protected in wartime, we also need to recognize that such protection can, and in fact has, gone too far in many instances.
In Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, the people have voted terrorist groups into office that have openly called for genocide against Israel. Furthermore, both Hamas and Hezbollah have launched terrorist attacks against Israel in the past and the people who voted for them had every expectation that they would do so again.
Additionally, neither of these terrorist groups wears uniforms, follows any rules of war, or makes any effort whatsoever to clearly distinguish themselves from civilians. To the contrary, these terrorists use civilians as shields, store munitions in private residences, and they fire on enemy troops from hospitals, mosques, and schools. Then after all of that, they deliberately and indiscriminately murder Israeli civilians while using their own civilian dead as mere propaganda tools.
This begs a number of questions. Why should Israel take great care not to harm Palestinian and Lebanese civilians when Israeli civilians don’t receive the same courtesy? If Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately place legitimate military targets in areas frequented by civilians, why should Israel show greater concern for the safety of those civilians than their own government did in the first place? Since the people of Lebanon and the Palestinian territories have chosen to support Hezbollah and Hamas at the ballot box, despite knowing the tactics that they use, haven’t those civilians essentially agreed to serve on the front line of any conflict as human shields?
Usually all such questions are simply shrugged off and Israel is held to a considerably higher standard than her enemies, which are held to no standards whatsoever. However, Israel’s first duty is to her own citizens, not to world opinion. If the only way Israel can protect its citizens from hostile foreign states is by meting out "collective punishment" as part of a "disproportionate response," then that is what the Israelis should do regardless of the dangers or inconveniences that are inflicted upon the civilian populations of her enemies.
After all, consider the perverse status quo in the region. We have terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, regularly advocating genocide against Israel and following up their words with bloody attacks, even though the Israelis are capable of bombing them both back to the stone age in a matter of months. Yet and still, sizable percentages of civilians in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories are so nonplussed by the prospect of a conflict with Israel, that they go to the polls and enthusiastically support terrorists who are sure to drag them into war. That would seem to be a strong indication that Israel isn’t being sufficiently hard on her enemies.
In other words, if anything, Israel’s response isn’t "disproportionate" enough. War isn’t a game of softball that you call off if one side gets too far behind. When the agents of one nation commit an act of war against another nation, the idea isn’t to do a similar amount of damage to them, it’s to remove the threat entirely. That may be achieved by overthrowing their government, crippling their ability to make war, or by simply hitting them so hard that it becomes unthinkable for them to launch another attack.
Because Israel has been unwilling and/or unable to do this to their enemies, they’ve been stuck in a state of perpetual war since their founding despite the fact that they’re the most powerful nation in the region. In effect, the Israelis have always preferred to allow their own civilians to die in a perpetual, low-intensity war than to use a sufficient level of force to convince their enemies to leave them alone.
However, the "cycle of violence" doesn’t have to continue. As Curtis Lemay once said, "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting." If the Israelis are willing to kill enough of their enemies and destroy enough of their property, eventually they will be left alone. But, if that’s ever going to happen, Israel needs to stop treating civilians in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories like innocent victims of the terrorist groups they support. These civilians have voted these terrorists into office, they’ve encouraged them to make war on Israel, and they’ve allowed their homes, schools, mosques, ambulances, and even children to become part of the fight. Because of that, it’s time for Israel to make the civilians in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories pay a much steeper price for their actions than they have in the past.