Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Israeli-Hamas prisoner swap

The Israeli-Hamas prisoner swap was militarily and morally wrong:

·         The swap gives terrorist groups an incentive to capture more Israeli military personnel, an incentive analogous to ransoming kidnapping victims tacitly encouraging future kidnappings;

·         The 1000 plus prisoners Israel is releasing probably includes a considerable number who will resume their criminal activities;

·         The swap was uneven – one Israeli soldier exchanged for more than one thousand prisoners.

Those reasons are not simply practical but also moral. Incentivizing criminal behavior (the first reason) undercuts the rule of law and is therefore immoral. Prevention of future harm by individuals fairly convicted of past crimes justifies imprisonment; releasing such individuals wrongly jeopardizes community safety. Israeli lives and Palestinian lives are of equal moral value, a premise that the grossly uneven swap implicitly denies.

Serving in the military, any nation’s military, is an inherently risky endeavor. Shalit dying at the hands of his captors during an Israeli recuse effort would have been morally and military preferable to the swap.

The policy of not leaving a comrade behind, which is part of the ethos of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as well as the U.S. Marines and other military organizations, is important for several reasons including morale and fighting effectiveness. But the Israeli-Hamas swap for Shalit fails to uphold that standard. The IDF failed to rescue its comrade. Public pressure forced the Israeli political establishment to make an unprecedented an ill-advised swap.

The Israeli government’s action reflects the bankruptcy of their policies in dealing with the Palestinians.

The swap also underscores the essential and central role that good intelligence has in both counterterror and counterinsurgency operations.

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