I could feel the blazing fire from the fireplace warming me. Napoleon faced backwards on his horse as he pointed in the direction of the Alps compelling his men to follow him. The gilded gold frame that surrounded him seemed somewhat cleaner, sharper. The oil painting, itself, I had seen hundreds of times seemed richer and deeper.
The books stacked in rigid harmony on the bookshelves around the room, capsules that held some of humanity’s knowledge, clearly had been re-shelved and reorganized in sharp military precision. Even the painting of Caesar Augusta on the opposite wall bore the look of a recent cleaning.
“Our little tomb of civilization has been freshly polished, Captain.”
I looked back and saw the LTC walking into the room.
“Indeed. The timing could not have been better.”
The LTC grunted his acknowledgment and sat down on the high-backed leather chair in front of the fireplace. He shifted his weight and leaned over, pouring himself a whisky.
He paused as he held the bottle over the second glass.
“I assume you are joining me, Captain?”
“You have a cigar for me, Colonel?”
He poured into the second glass.
“I carry a handkerchief for any random lady in distress and an extra cigar for the occasionally wayward Captain.”
I chuckled and settled into the seat next to him. He handed me a cigar and we lit them in silence while staring into the fireplace.
He reached over, grabbed his glass, and held it up in a casual toast.
“To the brave men and women of Israel.”
I touched my glass to his.
“May they be victorious.”
We sipped our whisky and continued to stare into the fire. After a few moments the LTC began to speak.
“The terrorists need to be exterminated.”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
“Do you think the Israelis will be able to pull it off.”
“I have no doubt. There is something… different this time.”
“Besides the magnitude, how so?”
“It was interesting, Colonel, I was talking to Kavon the other day about this. We were talking about that word…’terrorist’… it got me thinking.”
“Terrorism is a tool designed to effectuate an outcome. By causing terror, literal fear, among a nation’s population, you can do two things simultaneously: destroy its economy and create a political demand.”
“I think I understand what you mean by destroy its economy, but I don’t quite follow on the political demand part.”
“Yes, if a terrorist causes mayhem in a train station, then the target population will be less inclined to go to the train station. If they don’t go to the train station, they don’t go to work. If they don’t go to work, GDP suffers. It is a long-running gambit to be sure, but there is a logical connection. Political demand is a more complicated gambit.
If people become so terrified by the enemy that they simply want the enemy to stop, they will… or so the theory goes… begin petitioning their government to accept the enemy’s demands. Of course, the standing government will never do that, or should I say, should never do that. Still, the theory goes the people will become so fed up with the fear that has been inflicted they will elect new rulers who will make a deal with the enemy to make the pain stop.”
“I see. You think this might be what happens with the Israelis?”
The LTC took a sip of his drink and studied me. I could see him in my peripheral vision as I focused on the fire burning in the fireplace. I could also feel my jaw becoming more clenched the harder I stared.
“Why not, Steven?” the LTC said with a softer tone.
“This time is different. The terrorists sought to wreak fear, to change the course of the Israeli political dynamic. Their masters in Iran sought to undo the Abraham Accords, but their actions did not spark fear, not even close.”
“Yet, it did create an emotional response.”
“Indeed, Colonel. It sparked rage. Fury. Righteous indignation. They have said this atrocity is their 9/11 and they have an extremely valid point.”
“I think the comparison is apt.”
“After 9/11 we reacted with fury. But there was also a simultaneous understanding that the events of 9/11 did not represent an existential threat to the United States or our people. It is different in Israel. The goals of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Authority… the whole cabal of them is the utter destruction of Israel, and they have attempted to cause the pain point since 2005. But this time they showed themselves to be the pure unadulterated butchers they are. They did not do this for political gain… they did it because they enjoyed it.”
The LTC silently nodded.
“The response they are receiving is not what they had anticipated. Israel will show restraint, Israel will be very proportional, the same playbook is in effect… or so they thought. This time Israel and the Israeli population has been enraged. This time they will unleash the dogs of hell upon them.”
The LTC watched me for a few moments again before he spoke.
“Captain, you are a professional, and a rational evaluator. Do you agree with this Israeli doctrine?”
I turned and looked at the LTC and our eyes met.
“They were not terrorists, Colonel, they were not freedom fighters, they were not even soldiers. Hamas and their allies are barbarians, and they can burn in hell.”
The LTC nodded.
“Yes, Captain. They should… and they will.”