February 13, 2004

America an Israel ally against terror

Conservatives support Israel because they want the United States to win the War on Islamofascist terror, just as we triumphed over similar enemies of freedom in the Cold War. To achieve victory, America needs reliable, like-minded friends to join the battle. No nation on earth fits this category more than Israel. We are both modern, liberal democracies targeted by the same gang of regressive, murderous thugs. Because Israel has been fighting this enemy for decades now, they have a determination to eliminate its threat, and an appreciation for what that takes that cannot be found in any other country. They have shown us the right methods for defeating the evil of terrorism, and they fight alongside us today. For this reason, it is in our national interest to ensure that Israel continues to survive and flourish.

Contrast Israel with our erstwhile friends in Western Europe. Political scientist Robert Kagan has described how the latter have decided that diplomacy and international law can resolve all the world's problems, and that military force and coercion must be renounced. This delusional thinking has led to shocking anti-Americanism, even in countries like Britain and Italy, whose governments have nevertheless supported the steps we have taken to protect ourselves. The majority of Israelis, like most Americans, understand that military security is the foundation of peace and prosperity, and that ignoring threats and trying to negotiate them away is a recipe for suicide.

This clear-headed appreciation of how the world operates has led Israel to take the forceful actions that are needed to defeat the enemies of democracy and civilization. In 1981, they preemptively destroyed Iraq's French-built nuclear facility at Osirak, just before it was to begin operating. There is no doubt that Saddam would have used or threatened to use nuclear weapons in his war with Iran, and he would be dominating the Middle East today were it not for prudent Israeli leaders and brave Israeli pilots, one of whom, Col. Ilan Ramon, died in the Columbia space shuttle tragedy last year. Only since 9/11 has America's leadership understood the need for preemptive action against emergent threats. Fortunately for Americans, and free peoples everywhere, Israel has realized this since its founding.

Israel also goes after the leaders of the Palestinian terrorists who are too cowardly to risk their own lives in battle and so must brainwash young people into becoming suicide bombers. They disrupt terrorist financing and safe havens. Again, Israel was using these tools while the U.S. was attempting to end the terrorist threat through litigation or the occasional, ineffectual cruise missile strike.

Israel has also shown that, as far as security is concerned, a nation cannot allow the criticism of hostile countries to tie its hands. The U.N., Western Europeans, and most Third World dictators denounced the Osirak strike, and they regularly lob trumped up, if not false, accusations at Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Israel does not let this criticism change its policy, partly because it knows that many of these critics, secretly or not, want it to be defeated. The U.S. is finally taking a similar approach, disregarding the complaints of adversaries such as France and Russia.

Americans also look to Israel as a model of success in striking a balance between security and personal liberty. Today Israelis live under conditions Americans would find so intolerable that they would evict or destroy the populations responsible for them. Yet Israelis preserve their free society, giving a political voice even to those sympathetic to their enemies. One of the most oft-repeated statements in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was that American airlines should adopt security practices resembling those of El Al, the Israeli airline. The far larger volume of American air travel means we will never match their security, but the fact that so many were saying this back in 2001 shows how much Americans look to their friends in Israel for advice regarding Islamic terrorism. Indeed, the U.S. has used Israeli experts to help upgrade its homeland defenses, and their intelligence services have helped us pursue the war.

Some Americans argue that the Muslim extremists target us because of Israel. The converse is true. The terrorists despise everything Western, secular, and democratic. They believe the U.S. is the Great Satan trying to entice Muslims away from more traditional lifestyles. They are supported by dictatorships seeking to compel obedience in their subjects by demonizing the common, external enemy that is the U.S. Israel is merely the country closest to them that shares America's modern, democratic society, and so it bears the brunt of the terrorists' assault on freedom and civilization. They have learned what it takes to blunt that assault, and we have learned a great deal from them. The U.S. must continue to support Israel, its closest ally.