Israel was caught flat-footed by Hamas’s orchestrated land, sea, and air guerilla attack. In addition to reportedly 1,000 Israeli deaths, Hamas holds over 100 Israeli and international hostages. Israel has responded with waves of aerial bombardment of suspected Hamas strongholds. The strategic questions are retrieving the captives, delegitimizing Hamas leadership, and preventing Israeli and civilian carnage in Gaza’s Byzantine urban jungle. Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson may hold the answer.
In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union was also fighting Indian Wars. Among those wars was with the Navajos, one of the largest North American indigenous nations. Starting in 1849, the U.S. military targeted the Navajos. By 1863, New Mexico District Military Governor and Army General James Carleton ordered the Navajos to move to the Bosque Redondo reservation. For those who didn’t relent, Gov. Carleton tasked Col. Kit Carson, a celebrated Indian scout, to lead a campaign for the surrender of the Navajo Nation.
In today’s northeast Arizona, Canyon de Chelly was the spiritual and main Navajo stronghold. The canyon was fortress-like with limited points of entry. The Navajos had the perceived strategic advantage. Surveyed in 1858 by Army Col. Dixon Miles, it was Col. Miles’s recommendation that no command should try entering Canyon de Chelly.
The Battle of Canyon de Chelly was fought in the winter of 1864. There were over 8,000 Navajos. Col. Carson had less than 5% of that number, with 389 troops, of which 100 were deployed on the canyon’s east side and the remaining 289 on the west entrance. Col. Carson destroyed crops and other staples. He waited out the Navajos during the bitterly cold winter. By the middle of January 1864, almost all Navajos surrendered. This led to the Long Walk of 8,000 Navajos to the Bosque Redondo reservation. Carson’s troops suffered few casualties. The Battle of Canyon de Chelly is regarded as one of the most successful outcomes in Indian War battles.
Israel must decide whether to send ground troops into Gaza. In 2005, when Israel ceded Gaza to the Palestinians, Israel removed its settlers and military and handed over businesses, infrastructure, and governance to the Palestinians. To have leverage, Israel maintained control of Gaza’s water, electricity, and airspace.
Like Kit Carson, Israel has the option of waiting out Hamas. Israel has begun shutting down electricity, water, and vital supplies. In collaboration with American naval support, Israel controls the Gaza shoreline. Israel surrounds Gaza except for Gaza’s 11km (6.8 mile) border with Egypt. With Egypt’s assistance, Israel can wait out Hamas until captives are released, and Gazans recognize that voting for Hamas has consequences.
Kit Carson had two children with an Arapaho wife. Carson’s policy was to try not to kill Navajos but rather to force them to surrender. In the initial stage of the current conflagration, Israel has widespread support. If Israel invades Gaza, it will assuredly incur untold Israeli casualties, with Hamas playing the victim to the Israeli Goliath. If Israel shuts off Gaza utilities and supplies with the offer of turning on the switch in return for all hostages and internationally supervised destruction of underground tunnels and weapons, Israel will retain overwhelming support. Without a ground invasion, Hamas will ultimately be forced to capitulate, framing Israel as the David to the Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian barbaric aggression.
Malcolm Lazin is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. He is the recipient of the U.S. Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award, the Department of Justice’s highest honor. He served as the Chair, Pennsylvania Crime Commission and was the Republican candidate for District Attorney of Philadelphia.