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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 25, 2002

Some things to keep in mind

As always Victor Hansen in the National Review has a lot to say. "Lest we forget why we have been fighting the al Qaeda terrorists and are now ready to invade Iraq, we should remember some basic facts about the present war

What is its immediate cause?

About a year and a half ago, Middle Eastern terrorists — at a time of peace and without provocation — simply murdered 3,000 Americans. They blew up four airliners together with their crews and passengers, toppled the World Trade Center, and attacked the Pentagon. In addition, they caused billions of dollars in damage to the American economy, threw millions out of work, and forever changed the daily lives of an entire country and of much of the world besides.

Why did they attack us in such a manner?

Our enemies struck at icons of American economic and military power and used terror in lieu of conventional weapons and tactics. Knowing they could not defeat the United States military or appeal for support to the American people, they thought to create a climate of horror and fear to further their own political agendas. Perhaps we were supposed to quietly withdraw our troops from the Middle East, insist on concessions for Yasser Arafat, and grant de facto spheres of influence to al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. Yet just as the fundamentalists gave us no thanks for saving Muslims in Kosovo, Bosnia, Kuwait, and Somalia, so too they would have looked at such dispensation as decadent compassion and been emboldened rather than appreciative.

What do they really want?

It is hard to tell, inasmuch as their grandiose schemes are as illogical as Hitler's — but no less dangerous. But if we take them at their word, their Middle East would look something like the Taliban's Afghanistan or the mullahs' Iran — a vast tribal, patriarchal, and theocratic society on a continental scale. It would be run by zealots and religious extremists who would institute a medieval sort of Islamic law, even as the leaders themselves, like Ottoman grandees of old, would continue to be parasitic on the West — importing their own eyeglasses, medicines, videos, and electronic technology. Politically, they would hope to expand on the model of Iranian theocracy and terror, using vast oil revenues to buy missiles and eventually components for nuclear weapons — first to obliterate Israel, then to either blackmail or attack us.

Over 300 million in the Middle East live under regimes that are corrupt and tribal, dysfunctional autocracies without elections or the rule of law. With rising populations and failing economies, despots can only defer reform by using their state-run presses to vent tension against those more successful, such as Israel and the West. Hating the Jews is old stuff for the weak and envious, and so apparently is despising the country that gives you Star Wars, 757s, and vaccinations.

So who are we really at war with?

We fight first the terrorist nucleus, and so must hunt all of them down in a global chase where there is little quarter asked for or given. Further, radical regimes that in the past have harbored terrorists, stockpiled frightening weapons, and are either openly or covertly aiding al Qaeda must be confronted to change or be vanquished.

Who is winning?

It is not even close so far. After little more than a year, and at a cost of fewer than 100 American casualties, al Qaeda is about half ruined. The Taliban is gone. Iraq is terrified. And equally awful regimes like those in Syria, Iran, and Libya are apprehensive precisely because they know they are guilty of spreading murder and mayhem against Western innocents. We know where the terrorists thrive — in outlaw states like an Afghanistan, Somalia, or Sudan, theocracies like Iran, or dictatorships like Iraq. When those regimes are either gone or reformed, the world of our enemies shrinks.