Nearly a century ago, in 1928, fifteen nations came together to sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact, officially known as the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, which came in the wake of World I, the so-called “war to end war.”
The main text was extremely short, containing two articles, the second ending with the statement that all disputes should be settled solely through “pacific means.”
The hopelessly naïve text, whose intentions were bold and good, was rendered meaningless by a slew of wars in the 1930s, culminating in World War II. The shock and horror in the West about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can arguably be traced back to the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but all war is bad. Every sane and humane person wishes for there to be no more wars, conflicts or violence.
Nonetheless, and unfortunately, this is no more a reality today than it was in 1928. Regrettably, as it did in 1928, the West believes that all disputes can be ended peaceably and through compromise, negotiation and diplomacy.
We are seeing this exact attitude played out not a million miles from the front where Russian forces are mercilessly pounding Ukrainian towns and cities, but in Vienna, where there is hope that a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime can be persuaded to give up its hard-fought nuclear weapons’ aspirations for promises.
We have seen that, since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran does not play by the rules of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Its tentacles are constantly causing untold misery and bloodshed in Yemen, the Gulf, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, to name a few.
Yet, the West believes that it can pacify Iran and encourage it to temporarily give up its nuclear ambitions for sanctions relief and other goodies. The paucity of this tactic was laid bare when Richard Nephew, the U.S. deputy special envoy for Iran and two other American negotiators resigned their positions during the negotiations, because considered the U.S. position far too soft, pacific and pliable.
Even now that we have the flimsiest deal on the table to return to the JCPOA, Iran is making the P5+1 sweat by calling its negotiators back to Tehran for consultations. The Iranians know that, despite threats to the contrary, the West will remain at the table twiddling its thumbs indefinitely, never truly losing patience, because in the mindset of Kellogg-Briand, they have zero alternatives to Iranian recalcitrance, other than “pacific means.”
This almost-100-year “pacific” mindset has been shown to be as fallacious as it is dangerous. Adolf Hitler understood it in the 1930s, as have many other rulers since.
Wars have not died out; only the West’s appetite to face and win them has withered.
Even during Hitler’s expansion throughout Europe, the West entered the war almost kicking and screaming, whether through Neville Chamberlain’s “peace for our time” remarks, or the isolationism of the United States that ended at Pearl Harbor.
The West has lost its already meager appetite to fight, and even more importantly, to win. This might be fine for the Western countries that are far from most potential theaters of war and rarely under direct threat. It is easier to postulate and theorize from afar.
Israel, on the other hand, faces daily threats from near and far. It is a part of the West in terms of quality of life, technology, development and progress. Nevertheless, it cannot afford to adopt Western-style pacifism. It must continuously fight or ready itself for war. More importantly, it must make plans for victory.
Only victory has ensured the endurance of the Jewish state. We have been forced to live by the sword, even if many have been lulled by the false promise of the pen. And the pen failed during Oslo and every agreement and negotiation since then.
Finally, the Palestinians have even given up the pretense that they even live by the pen. According to Palestinian Media Watch, Palestinian National Council chairman Ali Faisal claimed that there is a binding Palestinian decision to “renounce … all agreements with Israel.”
Faisal said that the Palestinian leadership has decided to embark on “a path of resistance in all its forms”—a term that clearly includes the use of violence and terror. In other words, the Palestinians are readying for war.
Israel can continue to adopt the failed concept of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, believing it can live by the pen, or it can prepare for the terror and bloodshed that the Palestinian Authority leadership has declared is coming.
It needs to pick up the sword and should throw off the failed Western conceptual shackles of trying to pacify its enemies, and seek a victory over Palestinian violent rejectionism and terror once and for all. Then then, and only then, will there be peace.
History has shown it is foolish to believe otherwise.
IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi, a former aide-de-camp of the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, is the CEO of Israel’s Defense & Security Forum.