After Afghanistan: Taliban Power, Palestinian Terrorism and Islamist Sacrifice Commentary
(c) Wikimedia Commons (VOA)
After Afghanistan: Taliban Power, Palestinian Terrorism and Islamist Sacrifice

“History is an illustrious war against death.”

José Ortega y Gasset, Man and Crisis (1958)

Afghanistan and “Palestine”: Newly Emerging Linkages

At first glance, there are no obvious connections between the Taliban victory over the United States in Afghanistan and Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Upon closer inspection, however, the recent Taliban triumph reflects more than intra-national Jihadi success. Plausibly, strengthened Islamist governance in that “graveyard of empires” will soon expand to other states or territories in the Middle East and North Africa.

One conspicuous beneficiary of this violent expansion will likely be “Palestine“.

First, there are pertinent details. In August 2021, Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met formally in Doha, Qatar. Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad consider the US loss in Afghanistan a tangible validation of their own ideological claims and “resistance”. When congratulating the Taliban on August 17, 2021, Ismail Haniyeh asserted: “The demise of the US occupation of Afghanistan is a prelude to the demise of the Israeli occupation of the land of Palestine”.

The proposed linkages could not have been plainer.

Mutual statements of Taliban-Palestinian solidarity ought not to be considered merely as one-time tactical affirmations. Such statements should be understood in the wider context of a protracted Islamist war against the West. In this struggle-defining context, both the United States and Israel are viewed as “infidels” seeking illegitimate control over Islamic lands.

For both the Taliban and the Palestinians, nothing could be more apparent.

There is more. Abdullah Azzam, Palestinian scholar and cleric, is generally regarded as the “father” of global jihad. Azzan served as mentor to Osama bin Laden and also laid foundations for the establishment of al-Qaeda. Here, intra-Islamic solidarity is unambiguous.

Among other things, the Taliban’s re-conquest of Afghanistan has reenergized global jihad’s determined war against the United States and Israel. Looking ahead, the dramatic submission of the world’s principal superpower (head of the “Zionist-Crusader alliance”) to Koran-directed “true believers” is regarded as an auspicious omen for “holy war”. Ipso facto, following Taliban victory, the future of Palestinian “resistance” appears brighter and more promising.

Islamist Insurgency and International Law

The Palestinian insurgency is generally called “terrorism” by Israel and the West. Even if assorted Palestinian fighting organizations could be granted “just cause” for their stated political objectives, the means they have chosen are often patently unjust. In essence, under authoritative international law, all insurgent resorts to force, even those with a presumptive just cause, become terrorism when they are applied indiscriminately to targeted non-combatant populations.

Prima facie, indictments of Palestinian armed force as terroristic are fully justified when insurgent fighters act against the codified or customary rules of “proportionality” and/or “military necessity”.

Under authoritative international law, which is always part of a state’s domestic law, even allegedly “sacred” rights of insurgency must exclude deliberate targeting of civilians and/or resorts to force intended to inflict gratuitous suffering. Empty political witticisms aside, no insurgent force ever has a right to employ “any means necessary”. Such shallow revolutionary slogans may prove politically useful in mobilizing popular Palestinian support against Israel, but they have no tangible jurisprudential content.

The normative rules are clear. In law, any insurgency that intentionally blurs the lines between combatant and non-combatant populations is impermissible. Irrespective of any “just cause”, it is still “terrorism” whenever insurgents murder noncombatants.

In these easily recognizable matters, there can be  no proper legal exceptions and no legal defense arguments based on purportedly reciprocal wrongs.

Sometimes, Palestinian insurgent organizations have used arguments of the child’s sandbox. “He started it.” In law, tu quoque, a generally discredited position, stipulates that because the “other side” is guilty of similar, equivalent or allegedly greater kinds of criminality, “our side” is free of wrongdoing. Under international law, any argument for tu quoque is inherently invalid, especially after the landmark judgments handed down at the Nuremberg (Germany) and Far East (Japan) post-World War II ad hoc criminal tribunals.

Humanitarian International Law: Relevant Details

For both Israeli (IDF) and Palestinian insurgent forces, the right to armed force can never supplant the peremptory rules of humanitarian international law. Such primary or jus cogens rules (norms that permit “no derogation“) are also correctly referenced as the law of armed conflict or the law of war. Attentiveness to this basic law must remain an integral part of any armed force’s military operations. Historically and conceptually, this immutable law has evident doctrinal roots in the Hebrew Bible, the Law of Athens, and in Roman Law (most notably Emperor Justinian’s Institutes).

During Israel’s last Gaza war, diversionary legal manipulations were de rigeur. Endlessly, supporters of Palestinian terror-violence against Israeli noncombatants insisted that “the ends justify the means”. Leaving aside the ordinary ethical standards by which any such argument must always be characterized as indecent, even the most allegedly noble ends can never justify openly inhumane means.

In law, it’s not complicated. For more than two thousand years, core legal principles have specified that intentional violence against the innocent is strongly prohibited. Always.

In these ongoing matters of terrorism and counter-terrorism, legal reasoning ought not to be disregarded. Clichés do not make law. In authoritative jurisprudence, one person’s terrorist can never be another’s “freedom-fighter”. Although it is true that particular insurgencies can sometimes be judged lawful or law-enforcing, even presumptively allowable resorts to force must always conform to the settled laws of war.

International law cannot be invented and reinvented according to particular situations. It maintains very specific and determinable form and content. It cannot be defined and redefined by insurgent groups or by insurgent patrons. This is especially the case when insurgent violence intentionally targets a designated victim state’s most vulnerable civilian populations. In those cases, ipso facto, insurgent violence is terror-violence.

“National liberation movements” that fail to meet the test of just means can never be protected as lawful or legitimate. Even if “compelling law” (“peremptory” or jus cogens rules) were to accept the factually questionable argument that certain terror groups had actually fulfilled broadly accepted criteria of “national liberation”, (e.g., Palestinian Hamas), they would still not satisfy the equally germane legal standards of discrimination, proportionality, and military necessity. These core standards are expressly applied to insurgent or sub-state armed forces by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and by the two 1977 Protocols to these key Conventions.

All war and insurgency is governed by ascertainably common standards of “humanity“. These overarching criteria are binding upon all combatants by virtue of comprehensive customary and conventional international law, including Article 1 of the Preamble to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907. This foundational rule is called the “Martens Clause“, and makes all persons responsible for upholding the “laws of humanity” and the associated “dictates of public conscience”.

There is more. Under compulsory international law, terrorist crimes mandate universal cooperation in both apprehension and punishment. As punishers of “grave breaches” under international law, all states are expected to search out and prosecute (or extradite) individual terrorists. In no conceivable circumstances and whatever the presumed expectations of religious faith are states permitted to identify terrorist “martyrs” as legitimate “freedom fighters”. In principle, this is also true for Israel, which was formed according to certain inherently Jewish principles of Natural Law.

“Martyrdom” and Jihadi Terrorist Crimes

In law, rights can never stem from wrongs. Even if certain populations continue to insist on treating the most recalcitrant jihadist insurgents as “martyrs”, such treatment can have no exculpatory or mitigating effect on punishing the attendant terrorist crimes. Despite any alleged justness of cause, and this includes frequently-cited Palestinian references to “sovereignty” and “self-determination”, nothing in international law can justify the deliberate targeting of non-combatant Israeli populations.

In this connection, there are certain notable jurisprudential ironies. During the last Gaza War, such targeting killed and injured not only Palestinians working in Israel, but also Thai agricultural laborers whose only reason for working in Israel was to support indigent families back home. “Credo quia absurdum”. said the ancient philosopher. “I believe because it is absurd”.

Several years back, Mohammed Deif, then leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, summed up his organization’s raison d’etre: “Our soldiers yearn for death, the way the Zionist soldiers yearn for life”. Though this succinct summary was more than just a bit misleading – after all, Hamas terrorists “yearn for death” only because they associate “martyrdom” with personal immortality – a consuming ambiance of death is still their preferred geo-strategic orientation.

In some ways, at least for Hamas and other Palestinian insurgents, those earlier days represent a sort of Dickensian “best of times”. Then, under a more broadly welcoming insurgent canopy, Palestinian “diversity” was able to emerge and strengthen. At that time, even atheistic and Marxist elements were allowed to make some collaborative cause with Islamists, a phenomenon that would still be unheard of today. Then, in deference to fundamental emphases on operational collaboration, no particular ideology was encouraged or allowed to become a singularly hegemonic orientation. This apparent largesse was evident even inside Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the umbrella terror group first formed in 1964. Significantly, that formation was three years prior to the Six Day War; hence, three years before there were any “Israel Occupied Territories”.

What exactly was the PLO seeking to “liberate” during those three particular years? This is not a difficult question. The answer was (and remains) all of Israel, all of the micro-state that is still identified on both Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas maps, as “Occupied Palestine”.

Now, after Afghanistan, only identifiable Jihadists – those who are properly versed in Ribat (religious conflict fighting for “Islamic land”) – will remain invited to participate in divinely-mandated “armed struggle”. The overall Palestinian fight, it follows, will continue to change from being a preeminently secular and tactical conflict to one that may wittingly ignore all of the more ordinary and usual strategic/legal imperatives. This all-consuming “struggle” remains founded upon overriding commitments to “sacred violence”. At its heart, such struggle offers present-day expressions of religious “sacrifice”.

Violence and the Sacred

Relevant “anthropology” here is straightforward. For the Palestinian terror movement against Israel, violence and the sacred must be deeply interpenetrating and inherently inseparable. Though it maintains various more-or-less legitimate claims of “self-determination”, religious sacrifice is what Jihadi Palestinian insurgency is ultimately about. To finally understand this key point is a sine qua non of successful counter-terrorism.

Foundational links between religious sacrifice and violent insurgency have a long and potentially instructive history. To acknowledge and gain useful insight from this chronology, planners and policy-makers may look back to ancient Greece, specifically, to Plutarch. Ideas of Palestinian-Islamic religious sacrifice are ferociously adversarial, but they are not at all unprecedented.

The first century biographer’s Sayings of Spartan Mothers recognizes the honorable female parent as the one who deliberately reared her sons for civic sacrifice. Always, such a venerated Greek mother was relieved to learn that her son had died “in a manner worthy of his self, his country and his ancestors”. On the other hand, those “unworthy” Spartan sons who failed to live up to this enviably bold standard of sacrifice were singled out for unhindered reprimand, and community-wide humiliation.

One woman, we learn from Plutarch, whose son had been the sole survivor of a disastrous military engagement, killed him brutally with a tile. Culturally, it seems, this was the only fitting punishment for his unpardonable cowardice. Later, the eighteenth-century Swiss (Genevan) philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau, citing to Plutarch, described another citizen-mother’s tale as follows: “A Spartan woman had five sons in the army and was awaiting news of the battle. A Helot (slave) arrives trembling; she asks him for the news. `Your five sons were killed’.  `Base slave, did I ask you that?’ The slave responds: `We won the victory’.  The mother runs to the temple, and gives enthusiastic thanks to the gods”.

Why relate these seemingly irrelevant tales from ancient Greece? The answer is simple. There are serious lessons here for both Israel and the United States. Even now, and plausibly more so after Afghanistan, it is impossible to deny that the deepest roots of Jihadist terror originate from cultures that display similar views of religious sacrifice.

The key purpose of such ritualistic violence extends beyond any presumed expectations of civic necessity. Always, this rationale goes directly to the very heart of individual human fear; that is, to the palpable and all-mesmerizing locus of existential dread. Ironically, fear of death has a great deal to with all martyr-centered terrorism.

Terrorism, when expressed as sacrificial practice, becomes a sacred expression of religious obligation. In certain faith-based Palestinian communities, sacrifice derives, in part, from a desperately hoped-for conquest of personal death. By adopting such practice, the Jihadist terrorist expects to overcome his own terrifying mortality.

For Palestinian terrorists, there are multiple accepted paths to immortality. Palestinian-American terrorist, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, actively sought the death sentence for his murder spree at Fort Hood back on November 5, 2009. As he explained in open court, “If I die by lethal injection, I would still be a martyr”.

What could be clearer? What earthly promise could possibly be more gratifying than an authoritatively pledged conferral of immortality? There are always very significant connections between existential dread and Jihadi terrorism.

Though still widely unrecognized in Israel and the United States, there can be no greater power in world politics than power to overcome death.  The Jihadist terrorist openly “yearns for death”, but this is simply a mock heroism. More than anything else, it is an expression of unambiguously primal cowardice.

At his (or her) existential core, the Hamas fighter is not primarily interested in land or justice. This terrorist wittingly kills himself or herself, together with innocent others, to ensure a personal life that will never end. The so-called “death” that he or she actually expects to suffer in consequence of this “sacrificial “suicide” is nothing more than a momentary inconvenience.

It is, in the final tally, just a vaguely minor distraction.

Truth may emerge through paradox. Hamas and other Palestinian “martyrs” kill themselves as “suicides” in order not to die. There is no more central truth to Jihadi terror that is so consistently ignored or misunderstood.

There is more. While seemingly irrational, the martyr, the Shahid, can still calculate rationally that his/her intended suicide will be “cost-effective. This hero-fighter is embarked on what is taken to be a divinely-guided trajectory. He has chosen a gloriously fiery path to life everlasting. On every conceivable dimension, it represents a perfect path.

More on “Martyrdom” and Jihad

In Islam, “martyrdom” has always been closely associated with Jihad. Unequivocal and celebratory invocations for such sacrificial killing can be found in the Koran (9:111) and, more explicitly, in the canonical hadith. “Do not consider those who are slain in the cause of Allah as dead”, instructs the Koran, “for they are living by their Lord”.

For Hamas there are obligatory aspects of sacrificial terror that ought never be overlooked by Israel. This two-sided nature of terror/sacrifice – the sacrifice of the victim and reciprocal death of “the Martyr” – is codified in the Charter of Hamas:  “The Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise…`I swear by that (sic.) who holds in His Hands, the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill’”.

Today, the post-Afghanistan implications of this Islamist decisional calculus warrant intensive study in Jerusalem and Washington. Convinced that Shahada (“Death for Allah”) violence against the Israel will lead to a glorious martyrdom, the true Jihadist can never be effectively deterred only by ordinary threats of armed reprisal. Among other pertinent ironies, such partial threats could sometimes even become an incentive to additional and/or enlarged terrorism.

For Israel, especially after Afghanistan, there is no expectedly tolerable “Two-State Solution”. For the most part, the Islamic world recognizes only one state in this area of the world, and this state is not Israel. On 29 November 2012, the UN General Assembly upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s formal status to Nonmember Observer State,  This upgrade allows “Palestine” to bring complaints against Israelis before the International Criminal Court (ICC), but not as a fully sovereign state.

Human death fear always has a great deal to do with Jihadi terrorism. Though they would strenuously deny it, the Jihadists’ terror of death can lead some to commit an expressly murderous form of “suicide”. Because dying in the act of killing “infidels”, “apostates”, and “unbelievers” is expected to buy the Jihadi freedom from the penalty of death, these insurgents aim for something much more ambitious than any military victory. They seek to conquer their own keenly-dreaded mortality by “killing themselves”.

For them, it all makes perfectly good sense.

There is more. Israel and its Islamist terrorist enemies maintain very different orientations to “peace”. This stark asymmetry puts Israel at a disadvantage in virtually any “peace process”. While Israel’s Islamist enemies dutifully manifest their “positive” expectations for immortality, individual and collective, via the doctrinal slaughter of “heathen”, Israel’s leaders flatly reject their foes’ faith-based and annihilatory decisional calculus.

Among other relevant perils, Israel now confronts a real and still-expanding threat of both unconventional war and unconventional terrorism. Faced with opponents who are not only willing to die, but who actively seek their own ecstatic “deaths”, Jerusalem should better understand the critical operational limits of ordinary warfare, national homeland defense and even strategic deterrence.

Israel’s jihadist foes are in perpetual search for the preeminent power on planet earth. In essence, this means power over death. Accordingly, counter-terrorism policy-makers in Jerusalem/Tel Aviv ought never lose sight of this power and its utterly primal place in determining enemy decisional calculi. In the end, power over death could trump every tangible form of power, including forms that are based upon aircraft carriers, missiles or technologically advanced weapon systems. The core cause of this expectation lies at the very heart of what it means to be human.

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead would understand: In all world politics, any deeply felt promise of immortality must be of “transcendent importance“. This signifies, among other things, that the primary Israeli/American  orientation to wage prudent battle in counter-terrorism operations should always focus on “mind over mind”, and not just “mind over matter”. Whenever insurgent enemies assign absolute primacy to the words “I believe”, it should be a signal to Jerusalem that the best Israeli response must be undertaken at a recognizably intellectual level. Though intangible and not easily understood by ordinary politicians or planners, any enemy search for power over death can prove decisive,  overriding the perils of ordinary military harms.

Quo Vadis?

What next? To dismiss such a distressingly complex reality will be tempting for Israel and also the United States, but such blithe dismissal could prove catastrophic. When a determined enemy is driven by presumptively existential notions of “I believe“, the Israeli arsenal of plausible counter-measures must be rendered correspondingly flexible. This compelling analytic imperative would become even more obvious should that enemy become endowed (directly or indirectly) with nuclear or other weapons of mass-destruction.

Though such ominous endowment is presently implausible, it is by no means inconceivable, especially after Afghanistan. In the longer term, Israeli strategic policy planners must bear in mind that acts of nuclear terrorism need not require authentic nuclear weapons’ they could involve “only” conventional rocket attacks on Israel’s Dimona reactor. In the final analysis, Israel’s deterrence posture will have to function as a seamless web, allowing decision-makers to choose rationally from an already-available range of policy options.

Such fateful choice could sometime concern insurgent foes who seek not “merely” sovereignty and self-determination, but “power over death”.

How best to sum up? The current Jihadi terrorist danger lies at two discrete but interrelated levels. First, it exists at the level of the individual Islamist enemy, the one who chooses “martyrdom” through a deliberate path of insurgent violence. Second, it exists at the level of certain individual states, which may sometime decide to represent, in macrocosm, individual human “self-sacrificers”.

Someday, and quite plausibly, these states may choose collective “self-sacrifice” through the initiation of chemical, biological, or nuclear war.  Such a conflict might not be fought for traditional military reasons, but for the “liquidation” of “infidels”. Prima facie, any such choice would represent the unholiest of marriages between aggressive war and genocide, two mega-crimes under codified and customary international law. In any such conflict, the defining Jihadist playbook would not be the classical military theories of Sun-Tzu or Clausewitz, but the presumptively gratuitous and intrinsically satisfying destructiveness of de Sade.

The root problem to understand here is Jihadist death fear, and the consequent compulsion to sacrifice certain despised “others”. This compulsion, in turn, stems from the widespread and doctrinal Islamist belief that killing unbelievers and being killed by unbelievers represents the most direct path to immortality. In brief, Jihadist terrorist unwillingness to accept personal death leads to killing “others” to escape this death.

For many of Israel’s Islamist terrorist enemies, both individuals and states, killing Jews, not “just” Israelis, offers optimal immunization against personal death. Here, conceptualized in expressly psychological categories, the death fear of the enemy “ego” is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the “other”. Generically, this complex idea was famously captured by Ernest Becker’s vivid paraphrase of Elias Canetti: “Each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good”.

The Jihadist enemies of Israel do not intend to do evil.  They commit to the killing of Jews and other “infidels” with undisguised religious conviction, and with a limitless “purity of heart”. Perversely sanctified killers, these relentless enemies will likely generate an incessant search for more “profane” victims. Though mired in blood, this terrorizing search will usually remain tranquil and self-assured, born of the self-twisted presumption that its determined perpetrators are neither infamous nor shameful but sacrificial.

Not by accident, the military wing of Fatah, allegedly the more moderate and secular exponent of Palestinian terror, is named the Al-Aqsa MartyrsBrigade. In roughly the same fashion as Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Fatah’s “Brigade” remains oriented toward more than “armed struggle”. It is dedicated to religious sacrifice, an all-consuming commitment that promises its followers not just military victory over “Zionist occupiers”, but immunity from death.

Palestinian terrorism is prospectively more dangerous today, after Afghanistan, than it was earlier, In Israel’s early days, there were already Fedayeen (“self-sacrificers”), but their dominant motives were explicitly nationalistic and only derivatively “Islamic”.

Next Steps for Israel

What is Israel to do? For the Palestinian terrorist today, violence and the sacred remain thoroughly intertwined and mutually-reinforcing. Increasingly, Jerusalem must learn to think in terms of desacralizing this relentless adversary, and of convincing him that ritualized murders of “Jews” or “Zionists” will lead not to paradise, but to unfathomable “terrors of the grave”.

Can such desacralization ever be accomplished through ordinary politics and a corollary “peace process?” To be sufficiently persuasive, it would have to originate among influential Islamic clerics themselves. But how, exactly? To be sure, it must be a “mind over mind” struggle, one in which Israel draws upon much wider forms of wisdom than has previously been the case.

Should Israel continue to intermittently target Palestinian terrorist leaders, a strategy of selective killing that could arguably preclude the need for wider wars? While the benefits of getting rid of terrorist masterminds without mounting a full-scale war are temptingly meaningful and more-or-less self-evident, it is also true that the Jihadi terror threat now confronting Israel resembles the mythic Hydra. This creature was, one may recall, a monster of many heads, one which was impossible to kill because each time a single head was “successfully” excised by Hercules, two new ones grew in its place.

There are wider lessons. In world politics and international law, the ultimate acquisition of power is never about land or treasure or conquest or some other traditionally reassuring evidence of primacy. It is a presumed victory over death, a personal triumph associated by philosopher Heinrich von Treitschke with always-special prerogatives of sovereignty. Relevant reasoning here is straightforward. When my state is powerful, goes the basic argument, so too am I. At some point, moreover, when this state seems ready to prevail and to prevail indefinitely, I too am granted personal life that is gloriously unending. Stated succinctly:

An “immortal” state creates (either as citizen or subject) the “immortal” person.

Such abstract ideas can be bewildering for scholars and decision-makers.  Still, to decipher such reasoning at a meaningfully palpable level, one could recall familiar images of mid-1930s Nazi party rallies at Nuremberg. Leni Riefenstahl’s monumental film celebration of Der Fuhrer, The Triumph of the Will, may say it best. Reminding the German people of Hegel’s famous aphorism, the legendary film underscores something of incomparable insight: An individual nation-state can become the “march of God in the world”.

Islamist terrorist strategies will likely fare best whenever it can be made persuasive that “God is “on our side”.

Israel’s Overall Counter-Terrorism Strategy After Afghanistan

What is the best overall counter-terrorist strategy for Israel at this time? To begin, Israel’s strategic and intelligence communities will need to identify new and more promising ways of deterring non-rational adversaries. Simultaneously, especially as Palestinian statehood is now likely to be validated by steady increments of recognition in the U.N. General Assembly, these communities will need to avoid the potentially lethal fallacy of accepting Palestinian statehood because of ostensibly agreements to “demilitarize”.

While former Prime Minister Netanyahu prominently cited this condition of negotiating Palestinian statehood as evidence of his (Israeli) foresight and prudence, it could never have such an intended effect. Jurisprudentially, at least, the reason is clear and incontestable. Every state maintains an “inherent” right of self-defense.

Such a “peremptory” prerogative cannot be challenged or taken away, even if the new state should explicitly agree to certain firm limitations on this “jus cogens” right.

By ignoring core roots of Jihadi terrorism, Middle East peace programs will continuously detour Israel with variously contrived “Two-State Solutions”. Should Prime Minister Bennet yield to assorted pressures by terrorist patron states, he will have overlooked or underestimated the doctrinal origins of Israel’s most recalcitrant enemies. Should he choose, instead, to reject such dangerous pressures, the Prime Minister will have understood that Israel’s ongoing struggles with Palestinian terrorism have been about much more than “land”, “settlements”, or even “self-determination”.

For Israel – now facing a more determined struggle for Palestinian statehood after Afghanistan – this fact can be disregarded only at potentially existential peril. Should Jerusalem make various critical errors in securing itself against both Iran and “Palestine”. the consequences would reverberate in the United States as well as in Israel. To most fully understand all pertinent issues, intersections and Islamist adversaries, it would be best for Israeli policy planners to consider or re-consider Jose Ortega y Gasset’s succinct clarification in Man and Crisis (1958): “History is an illustrious war against death”.

This history will not simply “go away” or diminish in importance. It will remain an irremediable part of world politics, bewildering, heavy and dangerous.


Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with nuclear weapons and world politics. In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel (2003). Professor Beres’ most pertinent scholarly writings can be found at Israel Defense and in the Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Brown Journal of World Affairs; Yale Global Online; The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College; JURIST; The War Room (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (West Point); The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; World Politics (Princeton); The Jerusalem Post; International Security (Harvard); and Oxford University Press (Oxford Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence). Dr. Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II. His twelfth and latest book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016 (2nd ed., 2018).


Suggested citation: Louis René Beres, After Afghanistan: Taliban Power, Palestinian Terrorism and Islamist Sacrifice, JURIST – Academic Commentary, September 29, 2021,

This article was prepared for publication by Sambhav Sharma, a JURIST Staff Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.