Could decapitating Hamas conceivably make sense?

For the past few days, the mainstream media has been tut-tutting that the assassination of Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, will not help Israel in its was against terrorism and, indeed, will only make matters worse. Unless one accepts the bizarre claim that Yassin was really a moderate, it seems odd to argue that his death will prove counter-productive. Intuitively, one would expect that the death of a charismatic and effective leader would have at least a marginally adverse impact on his organization. At a minimum, it may set off a costly power struggle. And, if the successor turns out to be more effective or even more bloody, there’s always the option, at least in this situation, of killing him too. In any case, I haven’t heard anyone seriously argue that the killing of bin Laden would be counter-productive. And if a pro-U.S. leader in Afghanistan or Iraq were killed, this would be portrayed by our media as an unmitigated disaster. Accordingly, the claim that Israel has acted against its interests strikes me as based more on a desire to criticize Israel than on an honest assessment of the facts on the ground.
Amir Taheri, in the New York Post, on the other hand, has attempted what seems like a genuine assessment of the impact of Yassin’s demise. He argues that Hamas was already in some trouble and that the death of its inspirational leader, while provoking a spasm of violence, could be the blow that helps do Hamas in. In this regard, he contends that the first Intifada was brought to an end with the elimination of its principal leaders, notably Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), Yasser Arafat’s No. 2 and closest associate. Taheri’s analysis is speculative and he cautions that without a Palestinian leadership alternative to Hamas and Arafat, the prospects for a durable end to violence remain dim. Nonetheless, Taheri’s views constitute a breath of fresh air compared to the mindless bleating of Israel’s knee-jerk critics.


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