Jewish World Review Dec. 27, 2001 / 12 Teves, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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A 'new era'? -- THIS year marked not only the beginning of a new millennium, but of a truly new era as well. In one sense, that era began on September 11th but, in another sense, it began on January 20th, when George W. Bush became President of the United States. The new administration has quietly made a sea change in American foreign policy, both in the Middle East and with the Russians.

After years of responding to Palestinian violence by leaning on Israel to make more concessions, the American government has now responded by demanding that Arafat stop the violence before he can expect anything. Within an incredibly short time, not only Arafat but even the Hamas terrorist group has started backing away from violence, at least for now.

For many years, especially during the Clinton administration, it was dogma in politics and in the media that concessions were the way to promote "the peace process." The fact that the new approach has produced more results than the old will of course make little or no difference to the intelligentsia, who do not give up their dogmas easily, just because of mere facts.

Another dogma that has dominated American foreign policy for years is that the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with the Soviet Union must still be observed, lest we "de-stabilize" the delicate nuclear balance and risk military escalation, perhaps ending in a nuclear holocaust. Here again, the Bush administration has quietly but firmly dumped that notion into the garbage can -- and our relations with the Russians have never been better.

Only stunned silence has come from those who for so long promoted the now discarded doctrine of the sacredness of the ABM treaty. Admitting that they were wrong is virtually out of the question, because that would cast doubt on their whole vision of the world -- and of themselves.

Another doctrine growing out of that vision is that we must walk on eggshells in our foreign policy, in order not to offend "world opinion." Once more, the Bush administration has quietly but substantially shifted our policy to saying what our position is -- and inviting others to join us -- rather than letting "world opinion" determine what we are going to do.

President Bush has made it clear to the world that we are going to do whatever we have to do to safeguard our country and that others are "either with us or with the terrorists." Nor will we fail to note who is on what side -- and to act accordingly.

This is too much for the hand-wringers among us. Already they have struck back with a poll of "leaders" around the world, many of whom express misgivings about the new policy. But this is a classic example of the media creating "news" instead of reporting it. Just who these "leaders" are and how they were selected remains shrouded in mystery.

By the way you select your sample, you can undoubtedly get poll results that show virtually anything you want to show. All that these polls really show is that the underminers of this society have not given up and can be expected to create more mischief when the opportunity presents itself.

While the Bush administration's new policies show far more promise than the old ones -- and far better results thus far -- we need to also keep in mind worst case scenarios. Realizing what these are can help prevent their happening.

If the media and the liberals in Congress or the courts succeed in overturning the Bush administration's detention of hundreds of suspected terrorists, we may well see new outbreaks of terror in the United States. If liberals succeed in getting foreign terrorists tried in courts designed for American citizens, instead of in military tribunals, we can expect trials and appeals to drag on for years, if not decades, demoralizing and embittering the American public.

We can also expect international cooperation in sharing intelligence on terrorists to dry up, when foreign governments realize that their own intelligence operations can be revealed to their enemies by being brought out under the "discovery" rules of American courts.

None of those responsible for undermining our defenses against terrorists can be expected to admit to responsibility for a resurgence of terrorist acts that is almost certain to follow. But they may well succeed in confusing a frightened public into voting back into power the old politicians and the old policies that made us so vulnerable in the first place.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate