The winds of war are indeed blowing in the north. For two years, these winds have rained dead and wounded deep inside Syria; other winds are blowing far from Israel's border. The media is focusing the spotlight on one possible scenario, a complex one, that could, God forbid, lead to actual hostilities. Winston Churchill would have called these winds "the gathering storm."
Is this really the case? Forty years ago, the Syrian and Egyptian armies conducted expansive joint exercises. The Israeli defense establishment was concerned that when the exercises concluded, those armies would turn to war with Israel. Reserve forces were called up, units were deployed, and in doing so a war was averted that no one was sure would ever have started in the first place. A similar drill was conducted for the second time, six months before the Yom Kippur War, and that time, too, reserve forces were drafted and units were deployed. The third time, after the Israel Defense Forces had become sick and tired of the "run-around," the war began.
Similar situations have frequently occurred since then. The last time was during Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel's week-long military offensive in the Gaza Strip last November. Reserve units were called up; the standing army prepared its weapons. Despite the disappointment felt by some of the fighting soldiers, an unnecessary (for the conditions at the time) ground incursion was avoided. After the blow Hamas received in Gaza, the subsequent period of quiet in the south has been the longest in the last two decades.
All the commentary until now has been in praise of the deterrence Israel achieved. The wisdom of statesmen is to navigate the warship at full strength but with a finger on the safety switch. The wisdom behind waging warfare is knowing how to avoid it. Deterrence doesn't exist in thin air; it has cost us much blood. The State of Israel has military capabilities which are able to neutralize, within a matter of hours, the entire military and civilian infrastructure in Syria and Lebanon (as well as Hezbollah's). This is a proven capability.
One of the important objectives, if not the most important, is to paint a clear picture of the price that states or organizations will pay if they seize weapons of mass destruction. The army must be prepared so it can act quickly and decisively, if this theoretical deterrence proves ineffective.
The situation in the north isn't Israel's fault; much of it is due to an almost forgotten history: The Golan Heights, which comprises 0.6 percent of Syrian territory, is a geographical and psychological obstacle standing before those who wish to set the region ablaze. The crooked land-for-peace formula sounds so ridiculous now; today this land is the very thing preventing war. The concern over war with Syria is exaggerated. Those who think that salvation and betterment will come to Syria by waving the Golan issue need to think again.
A war machine, which at any given time is supposed to emerge victorious by inflicting maximum enemy casualties against minimum casualties for its own side, is a necessity. From Cain's killing of his brother, up to the weapons of mass destruction in our times, the establishment of the war machine and its continual development on a daily basis is to ensure one of two goals: Increasing the size of the "empire" through the necessary employment of warfare, or creating a deterrence force strong enough to prevent war. Now is the time to restrain the war machine.
The writer is chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel.