At its most brutal core, waging war involves the deliberate trade of one set of lives for another.
Traditionally, warring nations have sent uniformed men and women to fight, and potentially die, in place of their fellow citizens.
This practice stems from a government’s desire to shield its noncombatant civilian population from the horrors of combat by employing a professional military to fight on their collective behalf.
Hamas has flipped this convention on its head.
World War II saw the advent of many new warfighting technologies which in turn birthed new strategies.
The practice of daylight precision bombing is one such example.
In the name of achieving greater accuracy against military targets located deep within Germany, American long-range bomber crews flew daylight missions and, in so doing, suffered some of the highest casualty rates of the war.
While this tactic was not born of a desire to reduce German civilian casualties, the ensuing technological leaps and bounds that gave way to GPS and laser-guided “smart bombs” have done just that.
Today’s small diameter bombs with their lower explosive yields – and kinetic kill Hellfire missiles equipped with inert warheads – were designed to destroy targets while minimizing, or outright eliminating, subsequent collateral damage.
These innovations, while commendable, have caused a shift in popular thinking.
Due to the proliferation of gun tape footage showcasing smart bomb-enabled pinpoint aerial strikes, politicians and the general public alike now harbor the mistaken belief that a 21st-century war can be waged with a scalpel rather than a hammer.
Accordingly, Western militaries are now expected to prioritize minimizing civilian casualties while still achieving wartime objectives.
My deployment to Afghanistan as an Apache gunship pilot is a timely example.
The rules of engagement governing my conduct prioritized preserving civilian life, sometimes to the detriment of the warfighter.
On more than one occasion, complying with these edicts caused me to assume risk by exposing my helicopter to potential targets rather than engaging from a more tactically advantageous position.
In its current war with Hamas, the steps Israel has taken to protect Gazan civilians far surpasses those of any nation in history.
In an effort to reduce the loss of innocent life, Israel employs leaflets, phone calls, and text messages to warn the Gazan population about pending military operations.
Israel also provides Gazans with maps detailing corridors which can be used to safely evacuate from the coming action.
Even once an operation commences, Israeli forces still focus on preventing collateral damage.
Does Hamas reciprocate by attempting to minimize Israeli civilian casualties?
While some Israeli military installations were attacked as part of their October 7 raid, Hamas primarily targeted civilians, including the elderly, pregnant women, children and even infants.
Hamas continues to target civilians by firing volleys of unguided rockets at Israeli cities and towns.
These attacks serve no tactical purpose.
Instead, they are designed to inflict as many noncombatant casualties as possible.
But what about the Palestinian civilians?
Does Hamas care about the suffering of the very Gazans who voted them to power during a 2006 popular election?
Hamas locates its headquarters, ammunition depots, and troops in close concert with Palestinian hospitals, schools, mosques, and apartment buildings.
This placement is not accidental.
Hamas desires the deaths of as many innocent Gazans as possible in the hopes that this carnage will sway public opinion against Israel’s war effort.
And their strategy is working.
According to reporting from the Wall Street Journal, when Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel intended to destroy Hamas even if the effort took months, Blinken allegedly replied by saying, “I don’t think you have the credit for that.”
With this statement, Blinken conveyed his belief that, despite its efforts to minimize civilian suffering thus far, Israel still lacked the necessary political and moral “credit” required to prosecute the war against Hamas as they saw fit.
Presumably, Blinken’s hesitancy was rooted in concern for the Palestinian civilians living in Gaza.
While this sentiment is laudable, one could be forgiven for wondering why Israel is expected to exhibit more care for the people of Gaza than their duly elected Hamas government.
Though Hamas is, without question, the instigator in this war, the terrorist group seems to bear little responsibility in the court of public opinion for the hell they’ve unleashed against the very people they purport to govern.
To be clear, Hamas could end this war, and by extension the suffering of millions of Palestinians, tomorrow.
By releasing the remaining Israeli hostages in exchange for safe harbor in Iran – or another accommodating country – Hamas' leadership could immediately bring this conflict to a close.
Alternatively, Hamas could continue its war against Israel but do so while employing tactics that prioritize the wellbeing and lives of the civilians living in Gaza.
In other words, Hamas could mirror Israel’s commitment to avoiding Palestinian casualties.
But they will not.
While Israel willingly trades the lives of its soldiers for both Israeli and Palestinian noncombatants, Hamas does the opposite.
For the baby killers and rapists who are Hamas, victory lies down a single path.
A path leading to their countrymen’s destruction.
Don Bentley is a #1 New York Times bestselling novelist.