When China violates the borders and territorial waters of thirty-five countries, the world demands a return to the status quo ante; when jihad terrorists fire deadly rockets into Israeli homes, the world demands a proportional response. This is folly, yet we do it. We see our enemies as mere errand versions of ourselves.
Yes, we are all human beings—not that they necessarily recognise that—with the same biology, but that is where the correspondence ends. Our Western civilisation created our minds. It did not create the minds of Chinese; it did not create the minds of Muslims. These are minds forged in totalitarian furnaces. What they see is not what we see. Return to the status quo ante, and proportional response to unprovoked attacks, they do not see as fair, civilised or rules-based. They see it as stupid. Such responses are stupid because the price they pay for their actions is precisely zero—to the totalitarian mind, human lives don't matter. From their perspective, every border incursion and every rocket attack will have one of only two outcomes: we gain territory or we lose nothing; we kill some of them today or we try again tomorrow. It is a gloomy picture, but at least it is real. Right now we have a US government convinced that the Iranian regime will cave under the weight of concessions.
The basis for such absurd geopolitical principles are well laid in the now almost universally accepted idea that Israel has to return (let’s leave aside to whom) territories she has conquered from countries that have attacked her without any just cause whatsoever. The absurdity of this demand lies in the fact that, should it be acceded to, there will be no cost whatsoever to Israel’s enemies for attacking whenever the mood takes them, knowing that should they lose territory, they’ll simply get it all back and can try again, until eventually they win. This is not peace, but permanent encouragement to the totalitarian mind to keep precipitating wars.
India has been tied down in an extremely expensive cat-and-mouse game with China along the entire length of the Indo-Tibetan border. Tiny incursions in Ladakh followed by tiny incursions in Arunachal Pradesh and then tiny incursions in Sikkim, then back to Ladakh, then Himachal Pradesh, and on and on. And all that India wants in every case is a return to the status quo ante! That guarantees that the incursions will continue, because the outcome of their actions never costs them anything: they either win or they don't lose.
If China makes a ten-metre incursion anywhere along the Indo-Tibetan border, an Indian response that will stop the incursions would be to drive the Chinese a Kilometre beyond the status quo ante into Tibetan territory and hold the gained territory. The Chinese are too superior to even consider that this might be an actual Indian strategy. Only when they continue their incursion elsewhere along the border with the same outcome, then they’ll be spooked. They'll be spooked because they have no mechanism for dealing with an enemy that stands up to them. Tibetan troops in India are chomping at the bit to liberate even an inch of their country. They will drive the Chinese well beyond the status quo ante even if the Indians will not.
And what are the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) and ASEAN doing about Chinese territorial waters violations while its Indian border violations are going on? Why do the Chinese navy’s “fishing boat” armada get warnings and shots across the bow when those so-called fishing boats ram Coast Guard vessels? These are nothing less than military attacks. Why do they not get military responses? Robust, disproportionate military responses are the only responses that will be taken seriously. Do we want to solve the problem, or not?
These boats should not just be blown up and sunk, as some violated countries have done, when there are much more creative actions that will destroy both the “fishing boats” and the artificial islands. Why is it taking so long to put maximum pressure on China? Have we not learnt that when dealing with the totalitarian mindset, escalation dominance is the only way to peace? Only by demonstrating that for every move they make, we will make a move that’s ten times worse, will they be forced to desist, not because they are worried about how much they will lose, but because they will not see a way to regain the face they have lost. At that point we control their responses. We allow them a token face-saving gesture and they’ll be puppies from that point on, provided we keep up the pressure.
Dr Eran Lerman of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security describes escalation dominance as, “If they throw a chair, we throw a table; if they throw a cupboard, we throw the whole building.” This is exactly right. When Iran’s IRGC-Quds Force escalated its attacks on US facilities in Iraq, President Trump responded not by proportionately attacking Iranian facilities, but by assassinating the head of the IRGC-Quds Force, Qassim Soleimani, which was way out of proportion to the Iranian action, as Western dhimmis wasted no time in howling about. It worked. Save for a token, largely harmless, retaliatory attack to save face, the Iranian regime behaved. To respond proportionately is to enable your enemy to calculate the cost of his actions beforehand, and thereby to control an attritional strategy. Escalation dominance puts an immediate end to such a strategy because the enemy has no idea how far you will go.
Unfortunately, we do not see escalation dominance when it comes to rocket attacks from Gaza. Clearly, taking out military installations is not effective since the Palestinians consider death in war a reward. The rocket attacks always continue. The attacks resume within days of every so-called ceasefire. Rather than the yo-yo closure and opening of border crossings and contraction and expansion of fishing zones, an effective escalation in Gaza would be seizure of territory on a calculus of x square kilometres for every y attacks across the border. For example, for launching over 4000 rockets into Israel in May 2021, Gaza should have been bifurcated with the loss of about 25% of its territory to an Israeli security zone between the two parts, further attacks adding up to trigger the next loss of territory elsewhere. The security zone, by the way, a corridor dug out as a basin open to the Mediterranean, would put an end to any rebuilding of the “metro”. Israel would not have to flood the tunnels, as Egypt has done. The terrorists will do that, if they’re stupid enough to puncture the basin walls.
They have destroyed everything in twenty days. During the fifty-day war, the Israeli rockets couldn't do such a thing, and ten days after the war, we were able to get this business back. But now, we are unable to get our businesses back. All the tunnels have collapsed.
—Gaza tunnel operator after the Egyptians flooded the tunnels.
The Egyptians obviously see their Gaza enemy as that enemy sees itself. Talk of, “degrading their capacity to fight,” is nonsense. What must be degraded, better still destroyed, is their capacity even to contemplate fighting. They are Muslims. They have a permanent incentive to fight. Start from there. They have to pay in currency that has value to them. Thus, for example, in response to rockets fired from northern Gaza, take territory from southern Gaza; in response to rockets fired from southern Gaza, take territory from northern Gaza. The same can be done with the Judea and Samaria. It does not mean that the totalitarian mind will suddenly become a reasonable one, but it will block it from doing what comes naturally. See things the way they see things, and all becomes clear.