Thursday, October 28, 2010
National Survival for America and Israel in the Age of Bureaucracy and Terror
(The following is based on a talk and Q&A session that I gave this week in Encino, California at the home of Tammy. Thanks to her and to all the guests who helped make this a great event.)
Today we live in the age of terror. And we're reminded of that every time we turn on the news or go through the airport, as I did on the way here. And for millions of Jews and Non-Jews around the world, Israel has come to be seen as the canary in the coal mine, whose status testifies to our status, and whose health testifies to our own.
If Israel, small and isolated, populated by a widely hated and persecuted people, can survive the age of terror, so can America and Europe. If they can make it, so can we. Israel's placement on the front line of terror has been a double edged sword. On the one hand, as the age of terror has moved across America and Europe, Israeli techniques and technologies, consultants and tactics have shown up here too. From using drones against insurgents to profiling potential terrorists in airports, Israeli techniques have become the gold standard in anti-terrorism.
But on the other hand, Israel has also taken much of the blame for the age of terror. As irrational as that may be. As much as blaming Israel for the spread of Islamic terrorism is as absurd as blaming the lead swimmer caught in the tsunami, for the tsunami itself. People in authority have a habit of shooting messengers who bring bad news. Because it's easier to shoot a messenger, than to cope with his message.
After September 11, the United States was forced to adapt to a different kind of war. A war without conventional armies clashing on the battlefield, deploying tanks, infantry and aircraft to overrun and crush each other. A war in which the terrorists use the freedom and infrastructure of a target country against it. But Israel has been fighting that war for some time already.
Terrorism in Israel originally existed as part of a conventional war fought by Egypt and Syria against Israel. Terrorists crossed the border from Egyptian Gaza before 1967, and murdered Israelis, and then retreated back across the border. Israeli forces sometimes covertly crossed the border and went after them. One such famous mission was led by Ariel Sharon who destroyed an entire village in Egypt that the terrorists were using as a base. This was part of life in a war zone.
Once Israel signed a treaty with Egypt though, terrorism was isolated from conventional warfare. Israel had to learn to focus on fighting terrorists, rather than entire armies.
In 2001, America was also forced to shift to fighting terrorists rather than armies. Weapons systems designed for large scale conventional wars, such as the Crusader Artillery System, had to be scrapped. The role of the special forces went up. Drones were ordered. The game changed. And we still haven't learned how to play it yet.
The problem is that the armed forces of first world countries are not designed for fighting terrorists.
Armies exist to fight other armies. When there is another army to fight, they can perform brilliantly and efficiently. But when there no army... they are out of their element.
The United States and the rest of the coalition neatly destroyed Saddam Hussein's armies twice, yet the actual occupation of Iraq took far longer and cost far more American lives.
When one army fights another, there are laws of war. Soldiers and commanders know what they can and can't do. Mutual agreements protect any prisoners on both sides. But what happens when an army has to fight terrorists. Do they get the benefit of an agreement such as the Geneva Convention that they don't abide by, or is everything on the table. The debate over that has been raging for nine years and it still hasn't been settled. And it won't be any time soon.
It's the Goldilocks problem. Goldilocks had to deal with three bowls. One that was too big. One that was too small. And one that was just right. We have the army, which is too big to deal with terrorists. We have the police, who are too small to deal with terrorists. And we still haven't found the bowl that's just right.
There's a reason for that. Terrorists exploit the weak spots and vulnerabilities in our armor. They know what we can and can't do. Sometimes they underestimate us. But they know the places they can slip through.
Throughout the 20th century, the United States Army has only lost when it had to deal with armed bands and guerrillas, whether it was Pancho Villa or the Viet Cong. Israel used to know how to deal with armed bands and terrorists, but as the generation that had founded the country died, it began to forget. The Israeli army's roots go back to small groups of volunteers, who watched over fruit orchards and waited for bandits to come. Even today many Israeli soldiers come from rural towns and villages, places that the media sometimes calls settlements. But the Israeli worldview has become too urban and detached from the life of the Kibbutz and the settlement.
That sense of being on the frontier, of standing watch at the edge of civilization, of looking beyond the campfires into the darkness and waiting to see what comes from there, not just during a period of army service, but as a way of life, has grown absent.
It's not that we have gotten too big. It's that we think big. We think in terms of gigantic solutions and global problems. Rather than seeing, than looking across the fence of that one fruit orchard at night, and waiting to see if raiders cross that fence.
The idea that we should be thinking of that orchard, rather than the world, seems silly. But America and Israel were both founded by men who saw that orchard, who worked and farmed, and knew that at any moment, they could find themselves under attack.
Why is this so important?
First of all, we are fighting men who live that way. The terrorists we see are mainly middle and upper class and Western educated, but once we set foot in a Muslim country, past that thin wedge of the terrorists who infiltrate our own countries, then we are dealing with raiders and bandits.
Al Queda in Iraq was built out of bandits and smugglers. In Afghanistan, we are fighting tribesmen paid with Iranian money. In other words once we bring out the troops, we find that we're fighting the same kind of enemies that those orchard watchmen who gave birth to the IDF were fighting.
Second of all, it's a matter of scale. The terrorists aren't launching another Pearl Harbor with hundreds of planes in the air. They operate on a small scale. Even 9/11 was carried out by a small group of men using box cutters. Since then terrorists have continued to slip through into the United States in order to stage new attacks. We've stopped most of them. But in many cases, such as the Times Square Bomber, it was because the terrorists were incompetent. Not because our security is tight.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, we're bogged down fighting small unpredictable groups of attackers, who can come and go unexpectedly. In Israel, it's the same thing. A small group affiliated with Hamas or some subgroup of Fatah, can slip across and kill or kidnap Israelis, and then escape back. Unlike America, Israel is still better at tracking down and killing those responsible. But it's not nearly as good as it used to be.
It's a question of scale. When General Wingate was training many of the Israelis who would eventually become the core of the IDF, he taught them to know each square centimeter of the ground, and every village in between. To know everything about the territory they are going to be fighting on. To take the lead and be unpredictable. A great deal of the IDF's success can be credited to that culture in which officers lead and men fight on their own soil. In which the IDF acts confrontationally and unpredictably.
On the other hand when the IDF becomes predictable and entrenched, then it loses. The difference between the two is as great as the difference between the Six Day War, in which Israel struck first and unpredictably, and the Yom Kippur War, in which Israel allowed itself to become entrenched in a defensive position in the Bar Lev Line, in response to a war of attrition. We are seeing the same thing now as Israel takes the defensive position in response to attacks, or takes the bait by responding to a terrorist attack.
Today the IDF is expected to think globally. An exchange of fire with terrorists quickly becomes front page headlines. An Israeli soldier has to think about the media consequences of firing in self-defense. And so he freezes. And the IDF freezes. And we can see the consequences of that attitude over and over again. The flotilla disaster happened because Israel had become predictable and reluctant to use force. And it's a subset of the entire blockade of Gaza, in which Israel waits for Gazan Arabs to come to their senses, while Hamas makes propaganda and terror, and waits for Israel to give in.
That same attitude has come to the United States. American soldiers are dying in Afghanistan because of tight rules of engagement. Rules similar to those that Israeli soldiers operate under. And that's where the scale problem comes in. Armies are naturally big. They act in an organized fashion. They have a large support structure. Terrorists look small, because they stay out of sight, and pose as civilians. When armies feel obligated to play nice so that they don't look like bullies, they become vulnerable and predictable. And they can be defeated.
That is what happened to the United States. It's what happened to Israel.
Third, and most importantly, people will fight for their orchard, more than they will fight for the foreign policy of a government. Human beings are motivated to fight for their homes and families, more than for something abstract. As long as the government represents the orchard and everyone's orchards, then it will have motivated soldiers. When it stops representing that, then the soldiers are now just doing a job. And waiting to go home.
American troops in Afghanistan are fighting for someone else's orchards. The orchards of people who grow opium in them. People who will sometimes invite them in for coffee and sometimes tip off their location to the terrorists. How much motivation can they have fighting to protect someone's else opium harvest. How much motivation can they have fighting to protect people who will betray them in the blink of an eye?
The situation is even worse in Israel. The left wing denounces anyone who fights for land, as worshipping land. Peace Now files petitions to evict the widows of murdered heroes, such as Major Klein, from their homes. But if the soldiers aren't fighting for homes and land, than what are they fighting for? The institutions of the state? The flag? The chain of command?
The terrorists know what they are fighting for. They are fighting to seize the land. All of the land. Palestine, from the river to the sea, is their motto. Meanwhile the Israeli motto has become, creating Palestine, but not all the way from the river to the sea. How motivated will soldiers fighting for such a slogan be?
This is not just the situation in Israel or America. It is the situation throughout the free world. We have lost sight of that orchard. The enemy has not. The terrorists want the orchard. They want all the land around it. They want Israel. They want America. They want Europe. And if things keep going as they are, then they will have them.
And that is the ugly truth. So long as we keep retreating and accommodating, facilitating and appeasing-- then time is on their side.
The battle is easiest for those who know what they want and are prepared to do anything to get it. It is hardest for those who do not know what they want and will only act in self-defense. We thought that our best defense was the disparity in power between ourselves and the enemy, but that disparity is being used by the enemy to their advantage.
We have lost sight of the orchard. And we are paying the price for that.
But all this is only a small part of the picture. Terrorists are not small isolated groups with grievances, they are well funded and armed proxies of enemy countries. These countries use them to make war, without putting their own soldiers in harm's way.
We are not fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. We are fighting Iran in Afghanistan. We are fighting Iranian money and Iranian bombs. But we are not killing Iranians, because they never have to point a gun at an American soldier to kill an American soldier. All they have to do is provide the weapons and the money.
In the same way, Israel is fighting Iran and Saudi Arabia. And Europe is fighting Saudi Arabia at home. And America is fighting Pakistan and Saudi Arabia at home too.
Terrorism is not about a solution. It's about terrorist groups being used to sow chaos, fear and doubt. It's about using those groups to destroy their enemies economically and politically, bankrupting them, breaking their morale and isolating them internationally. That is what is being done to Israel. It is what is being done to America.
Every boycott, every protest and every ugly word of hate directed at Israel, will eventually be directed at America. It will be directed at every European country and at every European who stands up to terrorism. This is not an accident, it is a deliberate campaign.
Why did Guantanamo Bay become synonymous with evil? It became synonymous with evil because the Kuwaiti government hired a top American law firm to sell the idea that detaining terrorists there was horrible and cruel. They put up a website, developed media contacts and told the terrorist's stories. They sold the narrative, sold out their country and they got paid.
But that is only one example. Well-funded campaigns are being waged against America and Israel from all directions. Their goal is not just to prevent those countries from defending themselves, but to break them down, destroy their sense of rightness and isolate them.
It's easy to get lost in that narrative. To see only a few men in masks firing machine guns or throwing grenades. But they are only the tip of a spear that is being held hundreds and thousands of miles away.
The narrative exploits one of our greatest weaknesses. We want to be liked. We want to be well thought of. We want applause. We want to be loved.
Our enemies don't want to loved, they want to be feared. Because they know that in international affairs, only those who are feared, are loved.
Since 9/11, Islam has become surprisingly popular in America. The number of Americans converting to Islam has dramatically increased. The government is constantly worried about the threat of Islamophobia. NASA has jettisoned the space shuttle. Its new purpose is to make Muslims feel good about themselves. Is all this because America now loves Muslims, or because it fears them?
Is it really violence against Muslims that the authorities are worried about, or violence by Muslims?
When Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer justified a ban on burning the Koran by suggesting that it could incite violence, whose violence was he really worried about? That of the Koran burners or the same Muslims who had terrorized a cartoonist who proposed Draw Mohammed Day?
In Israel, a woman was sentenced to jail for drawing a cartoon of Mohammed as a pig. But cartoonists who draw Jews as pigs don't go to jail. Because even in Israel, there is fear over what the Muslims will think, but no fear over what the Jews will think.
Countries generally do not love each other. But they certainly do appease each other. And the free world is appeasing the Muslim world like mad. Is it doing so out of love, or out of fear? Or out of a poisonous blend of something in between?
This is about more than whether we still have free speech when it comes to the Koran, or whether there will be a mosque near Ground Zero. It is about what unites and divides us in the Age of Terror.
The Muslim world is united by a sense of manifest destiny, by a vision of Islam spreading across the world and ruling over it through Islamic law. They may and do differ on the details. Whether it will be Sunnis or Shiites, doctrine and interpretation, primacy and tactics. But they agree on the end result.
We have no such sense of destiny. We did once, but we no longer do. Once we regarded our nations as gifts from a merciful G-d, today we regard them as the products of colonization and conquest. We tear down the myths and write hostile and hateful history books. It is no wonder that we have lost not only that sense of destiny, but even the sense of justification for our presence here. We have lost that pride in a destiny realized, and in its place has come a creeping sense of guilt. Why are we here? Why do we have land and money? Why are we safe and secure? Why do we have clean drinking water?
You can see that guilt embodied in commercials and editorials. Millions of people being taught to say, "We are not worthy." And if we are not worthy, then our enemies must be. The worse they treat us, the worse we must be. If they kill us, then we must be even worse murderers. If they blow themselves up, then clearly we have made them feel so awful, that they have no choice but to kill both themselves and us at the same time.
We have become self-absorbed. Unable to see past ourselves. We think that it is all about us. We ignore the motives and beliefs of the terrorists themselves. Instead we assume that everything they do is only because of us.
Liberalism fosters this manner of grandiosity, the belief that a man is homeless because I earn a paycheck, that children in Africa don't have enough to eat because I stole all their food, that terrorists want to kill me because I have oppressed them. All this is unforgivably arrogant. It treats us as the center of the universe, around which everyone and everything revolves.
And so we ignore Islam, as a religion that has been doing this sort of thing for over a thousand years. Instead we point to our foreign policy. We point to Israel. As if Muslim violence was born 60 years ago, when it wasn't even born 600 years ago.
We take the blame for everything. And that allows us to feel good about our sense of responsibility. While they practice the martyrdom of murder. We practice the martyrdom of taking responsibility for their murders. The relationship is similar to that of the abusive husband, who feels upset because he has to beat his wife all the time, and the wife who feels upset because she thinks she can't get anything right, and that causes her husband to beat her. That sort of thinking is sick and it is victim thinking. But this kind of thinking has become commonplace in the free world.
Once again, does the free world really love Muslims or does it love them because it fears them, like the battered wife, or the victim of Stockholm Syndrome who feels empowered by siding with the hostage takers, so that she can pretend she isn't really a hostage anymore.
Muslims do not feel a need to be loved, respected and feared yes, but loved no. But we do. We want them to love America. To love Israel. To join hands and sing about how much we all have in common. And even though we know that is never going to happen, we want it anyway.
Why do we need to be loved? Because as countries we do not love ourselves anymore. America used to love itself. Israel used to love itself. The nations of Europe used to love themselves. Today they go around looking for someone else to love them. And if they find themselves in an abusive international relationship instead, then they are sure that they deserve it, because they are no good anyway.
And when terrorists kill us, we are afraid to fight back, because we might look like bullies. And then we wouldn't be lovable anymore. Sometimes when the offense is terrible enough, when the streets are covered in the blood of our dead, then we get angry. Really angry. We get so angry that we strike back and lash out. But our enemies know that with enough law firms and PR firms in their corner, we will go back to blaming ourselves. Because retaliation alone is not enough. Fighting back out of pain is not enough. That is how a cornered animal acts. That is how an abuse victim who has taken too much acts. But it's not long term. And that rush of moral adrenaline can't be sustained.
That's what happened in America after 9/11 and in Israel after the Passover Bombing. Some wonder if a big enough terrorist attack happens, if an entire city vanishes in atomic fire, whether we will wake up. The sad answer is that we will wake up, we will fight back, but unless we change the way the free world thinks, we will go back to sleep again.
We need to do more than lash out because we have been hurt. We need to regain that sense of destiny. That knowledge of exceptionalism, which says that, in Reagan's words, G-d is not indifferent to America, or to Israel or to any country we live in. We need to believe that we have a right to exist and a duty to exist. Without that, we will always wind up in the path of creeds and nations who believe in their own sense of manifest destiny. That happened with Nazism and Communism. It is happening again with Islam now.
The world is not a place of peace. There is a constant struggle between different cultures, religions and ideologies. When the Soviet Union fell, a power vacuum opened up. Islam stepped into that vacuum. If we defeat the Islamists, something or someone else will come along to take their place. There is no avoiding that. And there is no surviving that, unless we learn to believe in ourselves again. Not just in institutions, but in the land, the people and the culture.
A strong foe believes that they have something special to offer to the world. Our own academics and popular entertainment say that we have nothing to offer to the world. It says that we are the problem. That is the case all across the free world. And if we believe that we are the problem, how are we ever going to stand up to people who claim to be the solution?
During World War 2, Germans and Russians both believed that they had a special destiny to save the world. Back then we believed that we had a special destiny too. That was then. This is now.
Today Muslims claim to be the solution, and those who claim that America, Israel and Europe are the problem, are tripping over their own feet to roll over and roll out the red carpet for them.
And how can it be otherwise? If you think that you represent a worthless country, a worthless culture and a worthless people-- then why would you not surrender to Islam?
To stand up for something, you must believe in its worth. To stand up to something, you must believe that it is less worthy. If you don't believe that, then it is easier to sit down, to give in and let them do whatever they want.
And what happens to the rest of the world? The United States is selling out Israel for Saudi oil. The UK shipped the Lockerbie bomber home in exchange for Libyan oil. And that's not surprising. Anyone who will sell out their own country, will even more eagerly sell out their allies. And this makes it all too easy for the Muslim world to play divide and conquer, to promise, for example, that terrorism will end when Israel does.
When you throw history and culture overboard, you are left with no unifying bonds between nations. Nations that once shared a common history and culture. And then self-interest rules. The old game of feed your allies to the crocodile, so that you're the one last one it eats. Divide and conquer. We betray each other, and then one by one we fall.
The political leadership of the free world believes in a world without nations. And if we are all meant to live in a global community without borders or nations anyway, then why quibble over whether a Czechoslovakia or an Israel survive. Those are minor points. Irrelevant in the bigger picture of the EU and the UN. What matters are not nations, but institutions. And so the nations fall apart, the institutions degenerate into tyranny, and those who do believe in something other than an undifferentiated world overseen by bureaucrats... take over.
And that brings us back to the orchard. It's the orchard that people go out and fight for. Not for institutions. When a country represents that orchard, then people will willingly fight and die for it. When it only represents a bureaucracy, then they will not.
The orchard is ownership. It says this land is my land. It says that if you will it, it is no dream. It gives each and every person a stake in the country, rather than a chance to be managed by a vast bureaucracy, told what to eat and how much of it. The orchard is America. The orchard is Israel. As they should be. But increasingly not as they are.
All nations and creeds can in the end be reduced to a plot of land, a space that people can call their own. That sense of ownership is the orchard. America and Israel were both created by men and women, who left where they were in order to be free, to find their orchard, cultivate it and watch over it. And that orchard grew. It drew millions who wanted a space of their own, an orchard of their own. Take away that orchard and what is left cannot stand on its own.
I began by speaking about the threat of terrorism to Israel and America. For many though, the Iranian nuclear threat overshadows that of terrorism. And it is a serious threat, but also an inescapable one.
Israel can take out Iran's nuclear program if it makes the decision to. But that is only a matter of delaying the inevitable. It is possible to destroy Iran's nuclear program. But sooner or later, all those Muslim countries that want nuclear weapons, will have them.
We might have been able to break the chain of proliferation, but when the Clinton Administration failed to halt North Korea's nuclear program, resorting instead to appeasement and bribery, the writing was on the wall. North Korean nuclear technicians have shown up in Syria. Libya abandoned its nuclear program, or supposedly abandoned it, only because Khaddafi was briefly afraid of America. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others are already pursuing their own nuclear programs. In other words, even by the most conservative estimates, it's inevitable that much of the Muslim Middle East will have nuclear capability within a generation. Probably less.
There is a great deal of focus now on not allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons. As a result we're going through the same circus that we did in the 90's with North Korea. Despite all the aid and proposals and a signed basketball presented to Kim Jong Il, none of it worked. Diplomacy will not stop Iran from getting the bomb. A massive series of strikes might, but only temporarily. As long as Iran wants nuclear weapons and as long as there are countries willing to help them build a nuclear program, then they will have them sooner or later.
There's nothing wrong with making that later, rather than sooner. Later is a wise policy, particularly since Iran's nuclear program, has triggered an arms race among Sunni countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who are advancing their own nuclear programs. But later is not never. And it's very important to understand that.
Only one thing will prevent a nuclear weapon from being used on Tel Aviv or Haifa. And it's not diplomacy or viruses released into nuclear facilities. Those too delay the inevitable. The one thing that will stop it, is the same thing that stopped nuclear weapons from being used on New York, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
Deterrence. Mutually Assured Destruction.
The only way to check the threat of force by an opponent with no regard for your life, is by demonstrating equal or superior force. When it comes to nuclear weapons, that means an awareness that any nuclear attack will be met by nuclear attack.
Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD was denounced during the Cold War, but it may have well saved a billion lives. The motto of the Strategic Air Command was Peace is our Profession. And their profession did indeed insure peace. World War 3 was averted not because of peace rallies or people of goodwill meeting around tables and shaking hands, but because the Strategic Air Command was ready and able to put an end to the USSR in retaliation for any attack.
Let us turn back to Israel now. Why did the Camp David Accords really happen? Because Israelis and Egyptians reached out and took a courageous step for peace, as popular history would have it? The Camp David Accords happened because the Yom Kippur War demonstrated the futility of further egyptian attacks on Israel. That demonstration carried with it a heartbreaking cost, but it is what brought peace. Sadat was not a better man than Nasser, but unlike Nasser he was able to see a dead end when it was staring him in the face. And that dead end was the Israeli army.
If Israel is to prevent a nuclear attack, then it will only be able to do so by demonstrating that a nuclear attack will be suicide for the attacker. That doesn't just mean revealing its own nuclear capabilities. Capabilities are meaningless without the will to use them. Capability alone is not deterrence. Only capability and determination together equal deterrence.
For 17 years, Israel has negotiated with terrorists, appeased them and allowed them to operate inside its borders and kill its citizens. If Israel cannot even credibly deter Hamas, how much credibility does its deterrence have toward Hamas' Iranian masters? The answer is very little.
Slightly more than Mutually Assured Destruction does for the United States under Obama.
To protect itself from nuclear attack, Israel must reestablish its determination. Bombing Iran might help, but cleaning house and clearing out terrorist groups at home, would help far more. Right now Israel has demonstrated that it can be led around the nose by international opinion. And if it is afraid to kill terrorists inside its own borders, that gives Muslim countries reason to believe that it has become a paper tiger. If IDF soldiers are afraid to pull the trigger when under fire by terrorists only a few miles from Jerusalem, will Iran believe that Israel will push the button to launch nuclear missiles?
Even if Iran never launches a single nuclear missile at Tel Aviv, the chain of proliferation will not end there. Iran has become the world's most enthusiastic sponsor of terrorists, from Israel to Lebanon to Afghanistan.
Israel needs to demonstrate more than that it will respond to a nuclear missile with a nuclear missile, it needs to demonstrate that it will respond to a nuclear attack with a widescale nuclear response. It needs to create an environment in which Iran will not turn over nuclear materials to terrorist groups. These terrorist groups could then detonate suitcase nukes inside Israel. A scenario which would allow Iran to claim plausible deniability.
If Iran and the rest of the Muslim world are not made actively afraid of doing something like that, then Israel is doomed. And the clock is ticking. Israel has to reclaim its deterrence, or the clock will reach zero, and it will be all over. If Israel acts with its hands tied behind its back, then it shows that it is vulnerable, that it can be manipulated and destroyed through that vulnerability. If Israel allows its hands to be tied when it's only a family being murdered here or there, then its enemies will assume that it will act the same way when the lives of all its families are on the line.
That is the challenge which Israel has to overcome to truly avert a nuclear attack. That is what it has to do to protect the orchard. To protect the orchard, you have to claim the orchard and then demonstrate that you will shoot to defend your claim. Otherwise you'll be run off the land by anyone who has a gun and is willing to shoot in order to take it from you.
It's the same challenge that America has to overcome. 9/11 happened because we gave Muslim terrorists the impression that their terrorist attacks against us would be tolerated. That you could bomb US embassies in Africa or US ships in Yemen, and that we would just sit back and take it. That you could bomb the World Trade Center, and we would write some news stories about it, and then go on about our business. We made ourselves a target, because we didn't stand up for ourselves.
The left likes to say that we act like bullies. On the contrary, we attract bullies. We attract bullies by letting ourselves be bullied.
We let terrorist attack after terrorist attack happen, and we didn't do much about it. Then we wondered how could 9/11 happen? It happened because we treated those terrorist attacks like a criminal problem, no different than any other. Buildings were blown up, bombs were planted and an American vessel bombed. And the United States Government went on with business as usual. Until 9/11 when business as usual was suspended.
Had we demonstrated from the first that we would respond ruthlessly to any attack, the probability of 9/11 would have been significantly decreased. It might have happened anyway, but the odds against the Taliban or Bin Laden's backers in the Gulf funding or tolerating such an action would have been far less. And had we hit him hard from the first, Al Queda's network would be a mess, the way it is today, and much less capable of launching an organized attack.
The situation is not so different in Europe, where appeasement leads to greater aggression and uglier demands. This is how the game is played. If you tolerate intimidation, the intimidation increases. If you respond to violent threats over a cartoon with appeasement, the threats will be acted on. The more you retreat, the more they advance. You cannot be polite in the face of terror, unless you want to be terrorized. You cannot compromise with violent threats, unless you want to turn over power to those who are making them. And then violent threats, not the ballot box or the rule of law, become the new form of power.
I said before that you can only check the use of force through superior or equal force. But whether you need to use that force and how much of it you need to use, depends on timing. If you check the use of force early, then you can do it with minimal harm. Mutually Assured Destruction is one example. On the other hand if you allow yourself to be slapped around, then the amount of force you will need to use goes up by a whole lot.
England found that out the hard way during World War 2. Hitler tentatively sent German troops into the Rhineland. ready to retreat if France took a stand. France did not take a stand. By the time it took a stand, German troops were in Poland. Soon afterward they were in France. And so it goes. If you won't take a stand when it's easy, you'll have to do it when it's hard. If you won't rattle sabers when the enemy is still afraid of you, you'll have to use them when they're not afraid of you anymore.
Of course that's not easy to do. It's much easier to compromise. To give away Czechoslovakia and Israel. To pretend that if you get rid of the victims, you'll also eliminate the motive for the violence against them.
Bill Clinton visited Egypt and announced that terrorism all over the world will go away, if Israel makes enough concessions to create a Palestinian state. Let's put aside the fact that it would be easier to create a Palestinian state made of cards, than an actual working one. Let's put aside the fact that half the proposed state is run by Hamas which refuses to sign any permanent peace accords, and which actually won the election. Let's also ignore the fact that Israel is negotiating with terrorists who are continuing to kill Israelis, have already said that they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and refuse to hold elections, because they know they'll lose.
Let's ignore all that, and instead point out the absurdity of believing that Islamic violence will go away, if some sort of deal is struck.
First of all, any such deal would not be recognized by Hamas and numerous other terrorist groups backed by Iran. It would certainly not be recognized by Al Queda. In short it would never be recognized by the actual active terrorist groups who are carrying out the attacks. Those groups would call the deal a sellout and a betrayal, and carry out another round of terrorist attacks. This has already happened before. Indeed Hamas ramped up its terrorist attacks in time for the latest negotiations.
So why would a final status agreement change anything? The Palestinian Authority has its own flag and observer status at the UN. If they get full membership at the UN, will Hamas and Al Queda decide to call it a day? It's utter nonsense.
Israeli attempts to negotiate with terrorists have caused far more terrorism, than anything else. Fatah and Hamas killed more Israelis competing to prove who was more dedicated to terrorism, than they did before the Oslo Accords.
And there's plenty of precedent for that. The Camp David Accords helped cause Sadat's death. In the days of the Mandate, Arab leaders who were willing to come to terms with the Jews, were routinely assassinated.
So not only would a Final Status Agreement not end terrorism around the world, it wouldn't even end terrorism in Israel.
Secondly, Clinton is pretending that Islamic terrorism worldwide is caused by Israel. This is an obscene lie. Are Buddhist teachers being beheaded in Thailand because of Israel? Are there bombings in Kashmir because of Israel? Did 9/11 happen because of Israel? Did 7/7? What about Somalia or the Al Queda presence in Yemen? Do any of those have anything to do with Israel.
To answer this, all we need to do is look at the motivations of Islamic terrorists. That motivation is to impose Islamic rule and Islamic law. That is the reason for the terrorism against Israel, India, America and Thailand and everywhere else.
If you believe that the only moral government is a Communist government, then you will naturally work to impose Communist governments on the rest of the world. If you believe that Islamic law is the only moral law in the world, then you will impose Islamic law on the rest of the world. Particularly on countries with Muslim majorities or sizable minorities. That is what is at work here.
But that is a scary idea, because it requires admitting that we are under siege, not just by a few acts of terrorism, but by a war of ideas. That this is not just about foreign policy differences, but by huge numbers of people around the world and in our own countries who sincerely believe that there is only one right way to live, and that they have the right to impose that way on others by any means necessary.
It's easier to reduce the problem, to say that it's not about Islam, but about us. It's not about Islam, it's about Israel. It's not about Islam, it's about Islamophobia. But those are all coping mechanisms for people who want to deny the truth.
If you're a politician, you naturally want to minimize and manage the problem. If the problem is Islam, then you have a huge unmanageable problem. On the other hand if the problem is Israel, then all you need to do is pull the foreign aid strings, send a few diplomats, have a few angry phone conversations and browbeat those damn Jews into giving those crazy Muslims whatever they want, so the violence stops.
If the problem is Islam, then what do you do? But if the problem is us, then we can change. We'll tour some mosques, talk about how much all the major religions have in common and praise the Koran. We'll also promise to crack down on anyone who offends Muslims. And boycott Israel. There, problem solved.
And so our leaders pretend that the problem is manageable, by making it into something that we can control. By promising that if we just make Israel give up some land and create a Palestinian state, terrorism all over the world will magically vanish down the drain. The terrorists will throw away their weapons into the sea and open up organic bakeries. And everyone will be happy again.
It's easier to think that way. It's certainly a lot more cheerful and a lot less depressing. At least until the truth becomes impossible to deny.
But the victim of this behavior isn't just Israel. Like the canary in the coal mine, Israel is only the first victim. But certainly not the last.
When you ignore the real problem, it doesn't go away. It gets worse. If you agree to play divide and conquer, then not only will there be fewer allies to stand with you when the day comes, but you will have become an accomplice to the worst crimes of your enemies.
In Bethlehem the graffiti already reads, "First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people." In the West it could easily be rephrased as, "First they came for the Saturday people and we said nothing. Then they came for the Sunday people, and who was left to speak up for them?"
The answer is no one. No one will be left.
It is easier to look away. It is easier to say nothing. Even easier still, to join with the attackers. To wave the Palestinian flag and scream, Boycott Israel. End the War. Open Immigration. It is always easier to join the mob, than run from their stones. Always easier to try and be the hammer, rather than the anvil. And if not, then at least to stand on the sidelines.
And if you're hit, then you take it. You absorb it. Because if you fight back, then you're only feeding the cycle of violence.
Obama has said that America can absorb another 9/11. It can. Just as most people can absorb numerous beatings. If the beatings are far enough apart, then you can heal from them and recover in time for the next beating.
As the canary in the coal mine, Israel shows what happens when you absorb beatings. Israel has been absorbing beatings for a long time now. Once it was famous for hitting back, and hitting harder than it was hit. But for the last 17 years of the peace process, Israel has been absorbing the beatings. Or rather its citizens have been absorbing them. Not just soldiers on patrol, but couples sitting down for a meal in a cafe, families driving home from Jerusalem, children sitting in school and waiting for the siren to go off.
What absorbing terrorist attacks does is it allows the terrorists to set the terms of the battle. Then it allows the mediators to discuss the terms of the peace. And since the terrorists have already set the terms of the battle, they go on to set the terms of the peace.
Once you negotiate with terrorists, then you reward terrorism. And when you do, there is no end to it.
Absorbing terrorism is not the same as defeating terrorism. Absorbing terrorism changes you. In Israel, living with terrorism has dramatically changed the country and its people. Parents give children cellphones so they can check in after the next suicide bombing. Families who travel in dangerous areas split up into different cars so if there is a drive by attack, the entire family won't be wiped out. And there will be someone left to care for the children.
We have seen the first beginnings of that here already. We see it when we are told to throw out liquids and walk through scanners. We're told to get used to a lack of privacy and autonomy. To have an escape plan in the event of a terrorist attack. As terrorism continues to be a threat, we will also change. Just as Israel changed. We will come to terms with a life in which we, or any member of our families, could be killed at any moment by terrorists. And that will change us. It will change who we are. It will change how we approach life.
That is what absorbing terrorism does to you. And why are we absorbing terrorism, in order to avert a full scale war. To avoid, what the media charges, was an overreaction to the attacks of September 11. We absorb terrorism, for the same reason that Israel does, in the name of peace.
Peace is indeed a beautiful thing. The Sages of Judaism teach that when G-d wished to bless Israel, he found no better vessel for blessing, than the blessing of peace. That is why the blessing of the priests in the Temple of Jerusalem was the blessing of peace. But while you can be blessed with peace, you cannot buy peace. You certainly cannot buy it from those who claim that there will no peace unless you pay them for it first. Peace that has to be paid for is never worth the price. It is surrender by another name, without the dignity of fighting a war first.
Peace is priceless unless you pay for it, and then there is a price, and that price is everything you have.
The free world has been trying to buy peace for a long time now. It tried to buy peace from Hitler. Now it is trying to buy peace from Islam. Those who once said, "We created Czechoslovakia in 1918, so why not give it to Hitler in order to bring peace", now say, "We created Israel in 1948, why not give some or all of it to the Muslims in order to bring peace." A little compromise here. A little compromise there. And soon there will be peace. The peace of the slave and the silence of the grave.
During the second World War, the song on the lips of every British sailor was, "There'll Always Be an England". But now many are asking, whether there will indeed always be an England. And the answer is often skeptical.
The second to last paragraph of Israel's Declaration of Independence concludes with the words, LeGeulat Yisrael, proclaiming that the founding of the modern State of Israel represents the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel. But has Israel really been redeemed at last? Or is it only another exile. Have the Jews come home, or are they still strangers in someone else's land.
Questions like these are being asked by the concerned citizens of every nation, about their own nations, their own covenants and their own laws. Europe is in the thick of that fight, as it drifts toward the dark shores of Eurabia. The EU celebrated the breakdown of nation states, but now Europe needs those nation states more than ever. But instead of nations, it has bureaucracies that cheer on not merely the end of nation states, but the end of Europe itself.
The orchards are burning now. Others have grown wild and tangled. The rest are touched by the winter frost.
Today East Jerusalem is on the table. Before the 1967 war liberated Jerusalem, Jordanian snipers from illegally annexed East Jerusalem used nearby Jewish buildings for target practice. Residents had to keep their curtains closed and the lights dim in rooms with a view of East Jerusalem, because if they didn't, they might be killed in their own living rooms.
Only when Israel liberated East Jerusalem, only then could the shades be pulled back and the lights be lit brightly again. But with missiles raining down today, if East Jerusalem is turned over to the terrorists, then those shades will have to be drawn shut again, and the light will die out.
That light will die out not only in Jerusalem, but all around the world. Everywhere that terrorists are and everywhere that they dream of being. Everywhere. If we don't keep the light lit, then the darkness will grow and the light will be lost.