Cognitive Warfare and Goldstone's Gaza Report

(GLORIA Center, IDC Herzliya) Richard Landes - In the final analysis, Goldstone's report represents yet one more example of a massive failure of the West in its cognitive warfare with Islamist forces. For the West, cognitive war is an adjunct to the real battlefield; for the jihadists, the physical battlefield (where they know they can only lose, for now) is an adjunct to the cognitive battlefield. Hamas in 2008-2009, and Hizbullah in 2006, pursued a strategy literally unknown in the history of warfare of maximizing their own civilians' deaths in order to turn people the world over against their designated enemies. For Hamas, the media battlefield was their main concern. Indeed, they barely fought in the field. By echoing their accusations, journalists and organizations like Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and the UNHRC make this strategy a success; they make it "rational." It is hard to imagine a more spectacular victory of the ruthless "weak" forces of an asymmetrical war, one that specifically encourages sacrifice of their own populations. As long as the militarily weaker side can attack enemy civilians with impunity from the midst of their own civilians and have every attempt to strike back turned against the society that tries to protect itself from their aggression, they advance their cause. Accordingly, critics have denounced the report for its unintended consequences, as a "terrorist's charter," as a roadmap for lawfare that will tie the West down like the Lilliputians did Gulliver, as a recipe for the victimization of civilians by ruthless jihadists. The writer, an American historian and author, is an associate professor in history at Boston University.

2010-01-29 08:35:33

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