How do you fight an enemy that is willing—nay, eager—to force you to kill its children even if you don’t want to?

That’s the situation Israel faces against Hamas. It’s the situation we face against Islamist terrorists, too, because they use such techniques as one of their primary tools, and the liberal west and the MSM all too often play into their hands by demonizing Israel and the US rather than the perpetrators.

This is not new. It began when the west decided that all-out war was something it could no longer in good conscience wage. Civilian casualties in the first half of the 20th Century had reached such huge numbers that we turned in revulsion against them, and the increasing accuracy of weaponry enabled us to entertain the idea—for a short while, anyway—that wars could be fought with “surgical precision.”

That would be true, if the enemy cooperated. But it doesn’t.

The Islamist terrorists didn’t invent the technique. In order for it to come to full fruition, the enemy needed a west with a guilty conscience about itself and a desire to excuse that enemy’s barbarism, and an MSM fully on board with the program. This was already beginning to be the case during the War in Vietnam:

The Viet Cong were amplifying and extending tactics practiced in the First Indochina War, most importantly the militarization of civilians and an “opportunistic readiness to exploit any social ‘contradiction’ in order to bring about the violent defeat of the enemy” (Johnson 1968, p. 447). The Viet Cong would attack quickly and then withdraw without trying to win the battle. They would ambush American soldiers; they would blend in with civilians; they would target civilians. Schools were bombed, health centers were bombed. “A teenager was used to throw a grenade into a holiday crowd in downtown Saigon” (Pike 1970 p. 96). Any method that could pull the enemy off balance would be used. The disappearance of front lines and a clearly identifiable enemy was disorienting. It induced fear and paranoia: “Frustrated and frightened, U.S. soldiers tended to view all Vietnamese with distrust” (Lawrence 2008, p. 107)…

The Viet Cong used children as spies (Peer 1970), suicide bombers, and sappers. Recruiters preferred the young for sapper cells “because they are more easily influenced in their thinking, are willing to run risks, physically are better able to carry out their assignments, are less likely to question the arrangements for an operation, and are less apt to become double agents” (Pike 1970, pp. 74-75). ). Some youths were volunteers while many others were forcibly recruited (Goure 1965). The lowest age for recruitment into formal Viet Cong forces was 17, and boys 15-16 years old were eligible for “youth duties” in local hamlet militia (Donnell 1967, p.8-11). However, even younger children were utilized for special operations. Fourteen year olds were known to have worked for demolition units laying land mines (Elliot and Elliot 1969), and to have thrown bombs into police headquarters. A twelve year old was coerced into throwing a grenade into a village. A Viet Cong fighter was known to have given a small school girl an unpinned hand grenade and then told her to take it to her teacher: “At the classroom door the child drops the grenade, killing herself and injuring nine children” (Pike 1970, p. 107). The tactic appeared to work on the notion that the younger the child, the greater the psychological force. The Viet Cong had produced a tactical innovation with their use of children in war.

It is altogether fitting that John Kerry, who made his reputation accusing his fellow soldiers of widespread atrocities in Vietnam, should be orchestrating our diplomacy today in Israel and Gaza for the Obama administration. In addition to his unwarranted sarcasm about the care Israel has taken to minimize casualties, we have his (and Obama’s) working against the interests of Israel and for the interests of Hamas:

As Israel has uncovered the scope of Hamas’s infrastructure of murder and terror, the US has acted with the UN, Turkey and Qatar to pressure Israel (and Egypt) to agree to a cease-fire and so end IDF operations against Hamas before the mission is completed.

To advance this goal, US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Monday night with an aggressive plan to force on Israel a cease-fire Hamas and its state sponsors will accept.

As former ambassador to the US Michael Oren told the media, it is clear that neither Israel nor Egypt invited Kerry to come over. Their avoidance of Kerry signals clearly that the US’s two most important allies in the Middle East do not trust US President Barack Obama’s intentions…

Due to Turkey’s membership in NATO and the glamour of the Qatari royal family, many Westerners find it hard to believe that they are major sponsors of terrorism. But it is true. Turkey and Qatar are playing a double game.

Turkey…sponsors Hamas, ISIL, al Nusra and other terrorists groups.

…Qatar is the major bankroller of ISIS and al Nusra in Syria and Iraq. It gives $50 million a month to jihadists in Libya. It gives Hamas $100m. in annual aid…Qatar is the largest financier of international jihad in the world.

Manipulating the situation so that Israel or the US has virtually no choice but to kill civilians, including women and children, is popular in the Arab world because it works. It’s been working for years. In a 2007 piece about the phenomenon I wrote:

When I was about nine years old, I read the Philip K. Dick story “Second Variety.” The work, in case you’re not familiar with it, was later the basis for such disparate cinema entertainments as “Screamers” and “Terminator.”

The story featured an end-of-the-world war with a series of killer robots made to look exactly like people, and designed to prey on the humanity of the good guys. The first robot type (“first variety”) looked like a wounded soldier needing help. The second variety was unknown, and only revealed towards the end of the story (I won’t be a spoiler here). But the third—the one that gave me a special chill—was a small vulnerable child needing help, a boy clutching a teddy bear.

At least in the Dick story, these small children were not real, they were only killer robots cleverly designed to look real. But the principle of using an enemy’s humanity against itself was the same. The challenge we face is now how to fight such an enemy effectively without losing our own humanity, and so far—arguments about waterboarding and the like notwithstanding—I have no doubt we have erred, if anything, on the side of caution.

Since I wrote those words, the Obama administration has been trying to retreat from the arena. But the issue will come back to face us again; there is really no retreat possible. Israel does not have the luxury of even temporary retreat, because it lives in that arena and must defend itself.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]