Thursday, July 27, 2006

Do it now or do it later?

One of the best articles Alan Caruba has written. This is from and the series of articles entitled: Warning Signs

July 26, 2006, Volume 8, No. 30

Do it now or Do it later?

We are beginning to see the national debate about what to do in the Middle East shape up into fairly specific sides. I call them the "Do it now" crowd and the "Do it later" crowd.

One can cite history to support either side. The "Do it now" crowd these days are called "neoconservatives" and they are led by people like Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, a respected forum that makes ordinary Republicans look like wimps. Arguing for "Do it later" is George Wills, a respected conservative Washington Post columnist.

It should be noted that there is also a "Let’s not do anything" or a "Let’s run away" crowd who are called liberals and/or Democrats.

Maybe it’s just a trick of my imagination, but I seem to recall Americans of all descriptions just loving those images on television after 9-11 of the U.S. bombing the hell out of Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region where Osama bin Laden was said to be hiding or, better still, driving our tanks into downtown Baghdad. Later we found Saddam Hussein hiding in a hole in the ground.

Perhaps the most powerful argument for "Doing it now" is the fact that it’s been five years since 9/11 and the U.S. has not experienced another comparable attack. Keeping al Qaeda on the run, killing its leaders, and playing havoc with its funding was, in retrospect, probably a good idea.

Now the images on television are of war in Israel and Lebanon. Israel has been the subject of attacks since the day it declared its independence in 1948. It took awhile for the message to sink in, but its neighbors eventually figured out that massing armies on its borders was a very bad idea. They switched to a low-level war involving suicide bombers and rockets. Imagine how long we would patiently deal with Canada or Mexico if they were rocketing our cities and towns?

The "Do it now" crowd is now rooting for Israel to get rid of Hezbollah in Lebanon; mostly Palestinians who took up residence there after previously losing encounters with Israel and Jordan. First thing they did, of course, was to lay waste to Lebanon with a fifteen-year civil war pitting Muslims against Christians. Having no idea what peace is, other than the total destruction of Israel, Palestinians and other Arabs are once again learning what a bad idea it is to provoke yeshiva boys.

In Gaza, Hamas—another group of unhappy Palestinians—is also getting shot up by the Israelis. The Israeli’s "Do it now" crowd has concluded that waiting around for peace with Palestinians is a bad idea and a higher level of payback may prove palliative.

All of which brings us to our "Do it later" crowd who advise that waiting is just as good an idea, particularly as regards Iran who everyone knows is developing its own nuclear weapons capability. By way of a reminder, it was Iranians who in 1979 invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, seized our diplomats, and held them hostage for 444 days. It can be argued that most Iranians are being held hostage by the mullahs, but the funding and arming of Hezbollah comes from Iran.

The "Do it later" crowd always proudly points to how we patiently waited for the former Soviet Union to implode. The problem with that argument is that we also engaged in several proxy wars with them. Owing to Red China’s intervention, the best the U.S. could achieve was a stalemate in Korea and now we are stuck with a loony dictator in the north who has missiles and nukes.

Then there was that nastiness in Vietnam. Despite that loss the U.S. stayed busy sending troops to various places for the purpose of peacekeeping or swatting bad guys in Grenada, Panama, and Haiti. In 1983 Hezbollah blew up several hundred U.S. Marines who were in Beirut on a peacekeeping mission.

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, we funded and equipped Muslim holy warriors to drive out the Russians, thus helping to bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union. The Muslims, however, became al Qaeda and showed their gratitude by destroying the World Trade Center, flying a commercial jet into the Pentagon, and killing some 3,000 Americans.

The problem with waiting for Iran to become a nuclear power is that the leaders of Iran keep saying crazy things and promising to do crazy things. Even Arabs, no slouches when it comes to crazy, think the Persian, albeit Muslim, Iranians are really crazy.

So, while the warnings and recommendations of the "Do it later" crowd sound like a good idea, they rarely are. History is filled with examples of why "Do it now" is a better idea because failure to respond to Big Trouble almost always results in Even Bigger Trouble.

Every generation of Americans has had to learn this lesson. The nation has always been sharply divided over questions of war. This is what we pay Presidents to decide. After 9/11, we wanted the President to punish al Qaeda and, somewhat reluctantly, we agreed to his getting rid of a murderous despot in Iraq. Then we wanted that war to be over in two weeks.

History is rarely so accommodating. Wars tend to be very messy and this is especially true of the years after victory is declared. Militarily, we are still in Europe since the end of World War II in 1945. We are still in South Korea since 1953.

War is transformative and, even the most cursory look back at the past half-century or so reveals that the U.S. has benefited itself and much of the world by opposing evil. Wherever the forces of evil may be and whomever they might call themselves, we still need to be able to "Do it now" because power-crazed lunatics will always find an excuse to make trouble.

As we debate whether to "Do it now" or "Do it later" regarding the Iranian mullahs, perhaps we should recall British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who, after negotiating with Adolph Hitler, returned home to proclaim "peace in our time."

There is no substitute for victory

As this is written, George W. Bush is the subject of mockery and disdain, but sixmonths after the liberation of Baghdad by American and British forces, on November 6, 2003, he reminded the nation that "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe—because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty."

On May 12, 1962, one of the greatest generals of World War II returned to West Point to deliver a farewell speech. Douglas MacArthur spoke as a soldier of one era to the young soldiers who would take up the duty of defending the nation. He told them, "Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be duty, honor, country."

"Others," MacArthur said, "will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men’s minds. But serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the nation’s war guardians, as its lifeguards from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiators in the arena of battle."

Today, there is no lack of controversial issues and no lack of enemies who challenge our nation and the values of Western civilization on which it is based. Those values began 2,500 years ago with a tribe of people, the Hebrews who entered into a covenant with a God they deemed to be the creator and lord of all mankind.

Take away the Jews and there is no Judaism. Take away Judaism and there is no Jesus and no Christianity. There would have been no Diaspora and no Renaissance, no Reformation and no Enlightenment. The only constant to which one can point is the Jews. Empires and Nations rose and fell, but always, always there were the Jews, keeping the covenant, observing the laws, lighting the Sabbath candles, reading from the Torah, and yearning to return to Jerusalem and their promised land.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing that occurred in the twentieth century was that return, that resurrection, of Israel.

On May 14, 1948 Israel’s independence was declared. The Arab response was war. Israel fought again for its survival in 1967 when adjacent Arab nations attacked. Again in 1973, on the eve of Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days of Judaism, Israel was attacked. Each time it successfully fought off the Arabs. In 1977, Menachem Begin became Prime Minister of Israel and in 1978 he would share the Nobel Peace Prize with President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt as the result of their peace accords. Sadat’s efforts for peace were rewarded with assassination.

Begin was well known to those early, first Israelis. He had served in the Irgun Zvai Leumi, an organization that forced the British to relinquish control of what was then called Palestine, a name first given it by the Roman Emperor Hadrian who thought it would erase all memory of Israel.

It remained the given name of the area when, after World War I, the British and French drew lines on the map of the Middle East to create Lebanon as a French Protectorate and Palestine as Britain’s. Other nations created were Iraq and what was then called Trans-Jordan.

Following the day in 1948 when a provisional Hebrew government was announced, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt prepared to attack the re-born Israel. Menachem Begun went to a secret radio station in Tel Aviv. Virtually every home in the land was tuned to listen.

"One phase of the battle for freedom, for the return of the whole people of Israel to its homeland, for the restoration of the whole land of Israel to its God-covenanted owners, has ended," he said. "The state of Israel has risen…through blood, through fire…it could not have been otherwise…and it is compelled to fight—or to continue to fight satanic enemies and blood-thirsty mercenaries, on land, in the air, and on the sea."

"The first pillar of our state must therefore be victory, total victory, in the war which is raging all over the country, said Menachem Begin, eerily echoing the words of General MacArthur at West Point. "Whoever does not recognize our natural right to our entire homeland, does not recognize our right to any part of it."

And he reminded the new citizens of Israel; "We cannot buy peace from our enemies with appeasement." Facing the first war of national survival, he told them that, "in this battle we shall break the enemy and bring salvation to our people, tried in the furnace of persecution, thirsting only for freedom, for righteousness, and for justice."

Nearly sixty years after Begin addressed his people, Israel is still the only truly free nation in the whole of the Middle East. It constitutes barely one percent of the total area occupied by its Muslim enemies. Israel’s population of 6.4 million people is equal to two percent of the combined 315 million Muslims of the nations surrounding and threatening them.

A friend of mine asked, "Why does 98% of the Middle East’s population with 99% of the land hate Israel so much? It is a mystery that defies explanation." It is no mystery. The reason is Islam, a religion that holds all other religions in utter contempt, but especially the Jews whose ancestors had refused to recognize Mohammed as a prophet.

Finally, in this hour of blood and fire for both America and Israel, the words of another U.S. General, George S. Patton, Jr. are worth recalling when, on the eve of the invasion of Europe, he told his troops, "Americans love to fight, traditionally. Americans love the sting and clash of battle. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win."

The wavering, the calls for cease-fire, the urgings for appeasement and withdrawal are not the foundation upon which great nations are born and based.

In Iraq, Americans must play to win and so must Israel in yet another hour of another war it must not lose. Our fates are intertwined; our destinies are the same. The issue is freedom and the battle must be joined. There is no substitute for victory.

"Warning Signs" is the Center’s way of helping Americans and others gain an insight to both national and international events, issues, and trends that will protect our interests and those of others striving toward freedom everywhere. The Center needs your donation to maintain this effort. If you prefer to send a check, please make it payable to The Caruba Organization, 28 West Third Street, Suite 1321, South Orange, NJ 07079.

Coming in September, Alan Caruba’s new collection of his commentaries written between 2003 and 2005. To learn more about "Right Answers: Short Takes on Big Issues", click here.

© 2006 Alan Caruba.
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