A report on the 2014 Gaza War was released this month by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a pro-Israel think tank. The report contains observations, implications, and recommendations regarding the war last summer between Israel and terrorist group Hamas. However, the report never calls Hamas a “terrorist group,” nor does it mention Hamas’s use of human shields, which is strange, because that is a common tactic of the militant group.
Retired U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Corn, a Presidential Research Professor at South Texas College of Law, advised the task force. According to Corn, this report is from a strictly military perspective. As the report states, “Future, and perhaps even ongoing, conflicts will match the U.S. military against adversaries employing Hamas’s unlawful tactics that increase civilian casualties so as to undermine the legitimacy of U.S. military operations.” Which enemies might do so is not known.
However, this “battlefield perspective,” as Corn labeled it, involves focusing on the nature of the changing environment in the global war on terrorism, with war now being fought between states and non-state actors. One side of the conflict, Israel, was “following the spirit of the law,” while the other, Hamas, was “deliberately violating the spirit of the law.”
This form of asymmetric warfare used by Hamas is a “very adaptable and flexible approach to offsetting Israel’s superiority,” says Corn. He thinks that terms like “human shield,” are irrelevant to militarily planning. For war-fighting commanders, terminology “doesn’t alter the dynamic” of destroying the enemy, he says. He further observes that civilian casualties are not against the rules of war unless they are deliberate, as in the case of Hamas.
Contrary to public opinion, the report notes that Israel was unable to destroy all of the tunnels that Hamas used to smuggle materials and terrorists into Israel allowing them to carry out attacks.
Corn said the report is meant to assist U.S. forces for future combat. The challenge for these allies is “how to walk the fine line” -- to avoid, as best as possible, the risk of civilian casualties without losing the opportunity to achieve military objectives.
Jackson Richman is an intern at The Weekly Standard.