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Jewish World Review August 22, 2001 / 3 Elul, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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How Israel will win this war -- THE chatterers have taken to their favorite pastime, telling elected officials what they should do. Most of the chatterers have never actually designed or conducted a policy, which of course makes it much easier for them to give advice (as it will make it easier still to criticize leaders who listen to that advice).

It's especially entertaining of late to listen to them giving military advice to Ariel Sharon, who knows a thing or two about waging war. And it's a bothersome symptom of our collective lack of understanding that the latest crowd of what Scoop Jackson used to call "born again hawks" talks as if all Israel has to do is smash the Palestinians, and then build a strong wall to keep them out.

This easy counsel flies in the face of George Patton's reflection that defensive fortifications are a monument to human stupidity, as centuries of shattered barricades, trenches, moats, and walls testify. As Israeli leaders contemplate their plight, they surely know that such a strategy will only postpone a serious reckoning, and pass the initiative back to their enemies. The Israelis should not launch a violent attack until and unless they can see a chance for a decisive outcome, and that requires more than a purely military strategy.

I think the key to a winning strategy has been presented by Natan Sharansky, who survived years in the Soviet gulag and now sits in Sharon's Cabinet. Sharansky has been at great pains to point out that the problem with the Oslo Accords --- and thereafter with the suicidal diplomacy conducted by a series of Israeli governments, and fully endorsed by most American diplomats and intellectuals -- is that they assumed peace was possible with corrupt tyrants, when it should have been clear that peace could only be achieved with virtuous democrats.

The real problem with Arafat is not what he "wants," but with what he is, and what he has created. There is no hope of a durable peace with a tyrannical and corrupt Palestine. Arafat and his cronies are as corrupt and autocratic as any of the Middle East nasties, which is one reason they like him and support him.

No amount of Israeli power can transform the Palestinian Authority into a tolerant, pluralistic society, yet that must be the goal of Israeli policy (as it should have been the goal of "Western" policy from the outset). And since this sort of transformation will not take place under Arafat, it follows that Israel must work for his downfall, and must support any and all Palestinians who offer the hope of a democratic Palestine.

In short, Israel needs not only military tactics to destroy the terror network, but also political weapons to begin the destruction of the Arafat-led tyranny. It is folly to limit negotiations to the Palestinian "leaders," because Israel's ultimate allies in this struggle should be the Palestinian people themselves. Israel needs to appeal to them directly, just as we appealed to the peoples of the Soviet Empire. Israel needs to start broadcasting to them, along these lines:

Palestinians! We could be dropping bombs on you, but instead we are sending words. We have no hatred of you, indeed we wish to embrace you. Your leaders have stolen your money, sent your children to die in senseless agony, deprived you of your freedom, and distorted your faith. Our fight is with them, not with you. Indeed, we fight for you, for your eventual freedom, for your ability to live and pray in peace, for your ability to create wealth for yourselves and your children, for a chance to develop our joint resources in ways none of us can today imagine.

In this way, and many other similar ways, Israel can take the real fight to Arafat and his henchmen, and simultaneously lay the basis for the kind of Middle East that fools like Shimon Peres thought they could create by negotiating with the leaders of the PLO, as if signatures on a piece of paper could undo decades of evildoing.

Democratic societies, especially in Europe and the United States, have an unfortunate ability to forget that freedom is the most lethal weapon in the endless struggle against tyranny. An entire generation of Americans forgot it, and was shocked to see its awesome power when Ronald Reagan aimed it at Moscow. A generation of Israelis forgot it, and need to remind themselves of it as they grapple with their life-threatening crisis.

Yes, Israel must respond, but the response must aim at a total transformation of the current situation. In waging war in full against Arafat's PLO, Israel must make it clear - to the world at large, to the Palestinian people, and, perhaps most importantly, to themselves - that the key issue is political. The key issue is freedom.

If they can pull it off, it will save more than Israel. It might even have an effect on the Department of State.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen