Wednesday, August 02, 2006


An Opportunity to Lose

Talk about learning the lessons of the last war in the next. David Ignatius, writing at Real Clear Politics, looks back at the Yom Kippur War of 1973 in search of understanding modern Islamic terrorism and Middle East violence.

Ignatious thinks he finds lessons applicable to today’s situation, and says that to find a unique opportunity for a negotiated peace, Israel (and their US sponsors) must “alter its view” of the Palestinians and the Lebanese. I’m not sure he means us to think of Hezbollah as “Lebanese,” and mentions not at all how we’re to view Iran or Syria.

For Ignatius, it’s all about perceptions and understanding. Israel and Egypt and Syria forged lasting peace, because Egypt enjoyed a very short tactical advantage because of a surprise sneak attack, which gave them dignity, in contrast to earlier ignoble defeats. Israel was ready to “bargain” because they learned that their Arab enemies “wouldn't run from battle.”

Looking at today’s war, Ignatius thinks the same kind of “opportunity” awaits. Israel the “will have to revise their doctrine that their adversaries can be coerced solely by military force.” Arabs can now make peace as “plausible negotiating partners,” due to their “resistance on the battlefield.”

Pity Ignatius’ perceptions lead him to such grand misunderstanding. His comparisons ignore the real consequences of 1973 (and any and all previous negotiations and peace-making efforts. He assimilates Hezbollah propaganda, exaggerates their performance, fully ignores their terrorist methods, and virtually exalts their depraved Secretary General Nasrallah.

Ignatius has a laughable interpretation of Israeli life since 1973:
Yet in the long lens of history, the importance of the 1973 war is that it opened the door to peace.
Whatever we thought then, does anyone now think that 1973 opened the door to peace in the Middle East? Aside from some fatuous Nobel Prizes, and Egypt and Jordan relieving themselves of axiomatic Arab war-making against Israel, what peace was achieved? If peace was forged, someone forgot to tell Israel, oh, and where are all those suicide bombs, rockets, and terrorist attacks coming from?

As he exaggerates the peace, Ignatius likewise exaggerates the object lesson itself, the Yom Kippur War. Here’s how he describes it, setting up the false premise upon which to shape his imagined truisms:
The 1973 war seemed like the ultimate disaster: Israel's very survival was at stake in the early hours of the battle. As the war dragged on, there was a risk of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear confrontation; and the conflict triggered an Arab oil embargo that devastated the global economy. Because of its close alliance with Israel, the United States was isolated from many of its European and Arab allies.
In the past 30 years, has the US not been isolated from many of its European and Arab allies? Really, I’d be curious to understand the basis for that kind of assessment. Ignatius makes it sound like US isolation over Israel was a wartime anomaly. Because we vouchsafed an Israeli existence in 1973? Based on his own argument, we’d have to acknowledge it wasn’t our support in 1973 during Yom Kippur that caused this, but our continuous support for Israel for the past 50-60 years.

No doubt, the Arab Oil Embargo and the formation of OPEC painfully demonstrated our over-reliance on fossil fuels, but since Jimmy Carter, has this been a serious concern? Didn’t OPEC fall apart soon thereafter, and in many ways, didn’t the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the threat to everyone (many Arab states included), shift allegiances and create new opportunities?

Ignatius longingly remembers the active diplomacy “masterfully orchestrated by Kissinger,” in marking the 1973 war as an “historic turning point.” I guess he would, as he likewise reminisces how “Even the terrorist group of the day, the PLO, was drawn into a web of secret liaison with the CIA.” Ah yes, well we remember those good old days when the CIA controlled every action of the compliant and trustworthy PLO.

This then is the commonly accepted mythology of Diplomacy At All Costs. For diplomacy and negotiation to maintain their undeserved status as always better than “war war war,” one must revise uncomfortable history, and inflate diplomatic successes in place of the less convincing results that actually accrue.

Folly follows foolishness in Ignatius World:
The key missing element, so far at least, is a Kissinger-level diplomatic commitment by the United States. Condoleezza Rice came close to a Lebanon peace deal last weekend, but to pull it off, she will need to move more toward Kissinger's stance of honest broker.
Yep, and to be an honest broker, you just need to be willing to make a deal with the devil. With honesty, I suppose. No obligation or necessity of the other partner in negotiation to actually want to negotiate in good faith.

As a convincer, Ignatius wants his readers to believe that smashing Hezbollah (or for that matter, other terrorist threats) militarily is simply falling into the terrorist trap. Beware the protracted conflict! Ignatius buys off on the Powell Doctrine, so named after the ultra cautious former Secretary of State, who held to the view that wars must always be short, outcome certain, before undertaken.

I think most reasonable observers today would acknowledge that, overwhelming military might and a prompt, violent response cause our current terrorist adversaries to rethink their strategy. In contrast, a focus on diplomacy and negotiation in the face of continued aggression signal weakness and lack of will. Why can’t we listen to what our enemies say in this regard?

Instead, trifling commentators like Ignatius would have us believe that we are playing right into our enemies hands. Like some terrorist version of Br’er rabbit, we’re to believe, Israel falls right into the Hezbollah trap by attacking Hezbollah head-on. Like killing Hezbollah fighters and eliminating Hezbollah strongholds is just what they wanted Israel to do.

Of course, for Ignatius, holding that view allows him to compare the current Israeli situation with the US in Iraq. Ignatius quotes Lawrence Wright, writing about Osama Bin Laden in "The Looming Tower:''
"His strategy was to continually attack until the U.S. forces invaded; then the mujahadeen would swarm upon them and bleed them until the entire American empire fell from its wounds.''
News flash to Ignatius: the mujahadeen are not “swarming,” they’ve not been “bleeding” America very successfully, and we’re not very soon going to “fall from our wounds.” If anything, Al Qaeda’s almost utter defeat in Iraq against US forces have led to some remarkable changes in tactics, brutality against fellow Muslims (and civilians), losses and frank admissions of Jihadi failure. The Israelis should want to fall into that kind of trap.

If Ignatius hadn’t thoroughly discredited his own argument by this point, the following howler would have been sufficient:
The evidence grows that you can't achieve real security without negotiating with your adversaries, and you can't succeed in such negotiations without offering reasonable concessions.
Consider that assessment for a moment, against history if not common sense. Consider decades of Communist deceit throughout the Cold War in any region such regimes were present. Reflect on North Korean or Iranian perfidy in their nuclear programs. Think about Palestinian opting for Intifada in the face of an Oslo-driven Two State solution after the years of the “fruits” of Kissinger’s “masterful orchestration.”

Please. If you’re going to construct these peons to Diplomacy you’d best start with examples that actually demonstrate success. The IRA, for an easy alternative.

The evidence grows, indeed. Let the evidence show that radical, violent Islamic Terrorists and their state sponsors show no signs of relenting from their goals: to destroy Western Civilization and subjugate or slaughter the infidels, men, women and children. Using the most vicious and brutal means possible. Showing no mercy even on those willing to surrender or make peace at any price.

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