"Peace In Our Time?"
Op-Ed, Human Events
June 13, 2007
Author: Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow, International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
If the Bush Administration would just leave well enough alone. Withdraw from Iraq, leave the Iranians to their own devices. Butt out.
Then we could all go back to the “me generation” desire to feel good about ourselves, our surroundings, other countries. Why upset allies, have a majority in Europe and elsewhere view the U.S. as the primary source of international instability and insecurity? Why not just continue sticking our heads in the ground ostrich-like, maybe the whole bloody mess will just go away?
It won’t. We live in a PC society hesitant to speak of a clash of civilizations, of cultures, of (heaven forbid, shh, make sure no one hears) religions. Our adversaries have no such compunctions, they simply blow up those who disagree with them, behead them, sow hatred, seek to undermine societies, threaten to destroy nations.
Does anyone seriously think that by withdrawing from Iraq the clash with extremist Islam will end? That it won’t follow the U.S. home thereafter? The President’s repeated efforts to make this case go unheard, drowned out by the opposing clamor of the anti-war movement for immediate gratification, bring the troops home and the future be damned!
Did U.S. problems with the extremists of the Moslem world begin with the May 2003 invasion of Iraq? 9/11 preceded the war in Iraq, as did the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, as did Palestinian terrorism (remember a time when one could fly without security measures?). Syrian terrorism (downing aircraft in 1980’s), Libyan terror (downing two aircraft in the 80’s and 90’s), the blowing up of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the murder of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro in 1985, all preceded the war in Iraq.
Does the anti-war movement forget the eight year long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s, in which hundreds of thousands died on both sides, the thousands who died due to Islamic terror in Algeria in the 1990’s, or the Assad regime's highly effective means of dealing with the domestic threat posed by the Moslem Brotherhood, in which it simply shelled its own city of Hamma, killing over 10,000 citizens? How many civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists in Egypt, Bali, Madrid, London, Tanzania, Israel, Chechnya? Do Iran’s endless denunciations of both the “Great and Small Satan” (the U.S. and Israel) and call for their downfall mean nothing?
There is a war on, whether we like it or not, and it will not end by withdrawing from Iraq. Can any one doubt the likelihood that at any given moment, maybe while you are reading this very article, al-Qaeda or some other group of nihilistic maniacs is plotting the next 9/11? Only this time they will want to do something really dramatic. Oh, blowing up a couple of skyscrapers? Big deal, “been there, done that”, now lets do something serious.
The few attempts at renewed attacks since 9/11 have been successfully thwarted and the U.S. has gotten a serious homeland security process underway, even if it is still far from complete. But maybe the various lunatics are simply biding their time, maybe it has been plain old luck. For how long?
As yet, no one has devised a fully effective counter-terrorism policy, or for winning in Iraq, or for dealing with Iran. Indeed, there probably is no one single policy, but a cumulative combination of various different approaches. Staying the course in Iraq will not do it, even a significant ongoing increase in troop strength may not suffice. But does getting out improve things? Or is just wishing the problem away a strategy?
Some may be surprised to know that a somewhat similar domestic debate took place in Israel as well, at the height of Palestinian terror in 2002. Many maintained (not incorrectly) that Israel’s security measures, as the U.S.’s in Iraq, further increased Palestinian animosity and exacerbated terror, that there was no military answer to the problem, that Israel should show greater restraint and live with it. Well, Israel took dramatic offensive measures in the March 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, which broke the backbone of the terror onslaught and then continued to pursue an ongoing offensive strategy. This has not “solved” the problem, certainly not its root causes, but it has brought it down to manageable proportions. There truly are no purely military “solutions” to terror and wars of values and belief, but they certainly help.
In 1937 at Munich, the “feel gooders” sought to appease the enemy, dismiss its aggressive designs. If only we would be reasonable and address their “concerns”, all would be well. If we just maintained our distance, disengaged. Well, it did not work then — "peace in our time” proved to be a tragic, historic mistake — and it won’t succeed this time either.
Dr. Freilich, a former deputy national security adviser in Israel, is now a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy.
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