Colonel Richard Kemp on Cast Lead

The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan spoke at a conference in Jerusalem last month.

You can read the entire speech here.

Besides making the case that “the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare,” Kemp made a keen observation:

Do these Islamist fighting groups ignore the international laws of armed conflict? They do not. It would be a grave mistake to conclude that they do. Instead, they study it carefully and they understand it well.

They know that a British or Israeli commander and his men are bound by international law and the rules of engagement that flow from it. They then do their utmost to exploit what they view as one of their enemy’s main weaknesses.

Their very modus operandi is built on the, correct, assumption that Western armies will normally abide by the rules.

It is not simply that these insurgents do not adhere to the laws of war. It is that they employ a deliberate policy of operating consistently outside international law. Their entire operational doctrine is founded on this basis.

Kemp also (correctly, in my view) indirectly criticized Israel’s exclusion of journalists from Gaza during last winter’s war:

There are risks in all this, big risks which are self evident and do not need to be spelt out. But we must be brave enough to take those risks.

The benefits are great. The insurgents – Hamas in particular – put a human face on war with spectacular success. We must do the same. We must let the field soldiers speak with sand on their boots and with a sweat and dirt-covered human face.