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In an opinion piece in today’s Times, Nicholas Kristof undoubtedly offers sensible advice for the Palestinians, both tactically, and morally, to pursue nonviolence in their struggle with the Israelis. But it is probably useful to remember the famous vignette attributed to Ho Chi Minh to the effect that if Gandhi were facing the French in Indochina, rather than the British in India, he would have been less enamored of non-violence. Others have said the same about the Israelis.

Unlike the British, who were not intent in settling large numbers of British in India, both the French in Vietnam and especially Algeria, and the Israelis in the West Bank, are fighting particularly “savage wars of peace” (to quote Kipling and Alistair Horne) because they played to stay. Kristof is no doubt right in general that non-violence is the way to go, but the Palestinians could be forgiven for feeling that they are being held to a higher standard by well-meaning liberals who think that there is a one-size-fits-all Gandhi/Martin Luther King solution here.

Michael Desch

Michael Desch is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University from 2004 through 2008.

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