Nothing is likely to change as a result of the latest Palestinian massacre of Jewish civilians in Israel. Sharon will denounce Arafat, as usual. (Israel has already retaliated, less than 24 hours after the attack.) Palestinians will celebrate the "martyr" who committed the disgusting act. The White House will denounce terrorism, and remind Arafat that he'd better stop this sort of thing if he expects the United States to take him seriously as a peace partner. The Europeans will denounce no one, complain to one another about what a nuisance Israel is, and send another emissary to speed up the peace process. And the State Department will bemoan yet another setback for peace. And the wheel will turn one more time, as Israel prepares its revenge against carefully targeted leaders of the Palestinian terror network.
The Hadera massacre is a microcosm of the broader war against terror, in which the terrorists consider the slaughter of every inhabitant of the West to be morally exhilarating, a step on the road to victory, while we debate the finer points of every tactical decision among ourselves, and finally identify a limited number of acceptable targets. They wage total war against our civilians and our cities; after careful consideration we respond against their leaders and their strategic assets, and then pause to see if anything good has happened. When the terrorists kill again, we again respond, and pause once more.
Sharon asks only a week without carnage to resume peace negotiations, even though neither he nor any other serious person believes there can be peace with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. In like manner, our diplomats call upon Syria and Iran to join with us in the antiterror campaign, even though Syria's dictator laughed in Tony Blair's face when the British PM asked him to withdraw support from terrorist groups based in Damascus, and even though the Islamic Republic of Iran is identified by our very own Department of State as the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism.
It's Munich, all over again, with Israel cast in the role of the brave little democracy about to be devoured by the fearsome tyrant while the West acquiesces and proclaims a new era of peace. I always marveled at the Europeans' ability to praise Hitler as a man of peace, and get terribly annoyed at Czechoslovakia for denying the poor man his richly deserved peace of mind...by existing in his Lebensraum. I'm getting to understand it better these days. The Europeans are more practiced at this form of self-deception than we, and so they've gone straight to the final chapter: Israel is the problem, we don't want this annoyance, so let's get on with it. The American people won't buy this, and so even those Europeanized diplomats who would love to see Israel disappear tomorrow (thereby producing real and eternal peace, in their view) can't quite say it, and so they limit themselves to a strained moral equivalence.
But this is taking a real toll, and the Israeli microcosm shows what we're headed for, alas. While we are debating the finer theological points of international strategy, the terror states and their murderous instruments are organizing for the next atrocity. You would have thought that one Pearl Harbor was enough for this generation, and that our leaders would be so determined to avoid a replay that they would wage uninterrupted war against the whole crowd of terror states, pound on our friends and allies to help us track down the scattered ranks of al Qaeda, and install a model government in Kabul and defend and support it with all our might and wealth, thereby showing the rest of the region that only good things come from the defeat of oppressive obscurantist tyrants.
But no. Just as the Israelis pause, await the next assassins, and then studiously launch a carefully tailored response, so we have paused, far too long already, to test the diplomatic waters, to study all the various options, to consult all the oracles in all the agencies of the government, and to let the interagency process grind out a compromise that will cater to everyone's favorite stratagem.
Only the president can put a stop to this dithering, and tell his people that time's up. He's had it right from the first hour. He told us we were at war and he was right. He told us the war could only be won by killing the terrorists and destroying the regimes that harbored and supported them, and he was right. He asked for patience at the beginning, and he got it. He asked for steadfastness from the American people and he's got it. Now he's got to tell the foot draggers to stop debating, get with the program, and roll into the next phase of the war. The one in which we adopt the only strategy that can bring peace: Destroy those who are waging war against us. Maybe even General Sharon will get the idea.Michael Ledeen is NRO contributing editor & resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. He is author, most recently, of Tocqueville on American Character