Hizballah terrorists killed 220 American Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 soldiers on 23 October 1983 by driving a bomb-laden truck into their barracks in Beirut. America then retreated from Lebanon, its tail between its legs. Hizballah and Iran — the nation that created Hizballah and still arms, funds, and supplies it — won that round. The two — and Syria, which supports both Hizballah and Hamas — are now in the warmup stage for the next round.
For those who missed the first lesson in March, there are two schools of foreign policy in the Republican Party. There are those neo-Wilsonians, such as President Bush and Secretary of State Rice, who believe that in order to defeat Islamic terrorism we must establish democracy in the Middle East as a competitor to radical Islam. They have embarked on a strategy that requires success in Iraq before action is taken anywhere else. It is a self-imposed quagmire.
The second school of thought I have labeled, “Endgame Conservatism.” Those such as I say that history from Carthage to Vietnam teaches that if we fail to prosecute a war in a manner calculated to win it decisively, we will lose it inevitably. We believe that terrorism cannot threaten us significantly without the support of nations, and that those nations that are preeminent in their support for terrorists — Iran and Syria — must be forcibly disconnected from terrorism. We believe that waiting for Islam to reform itself is tantamount to accepting defeat and that radical Islam (an ideology, not a religion) must be defeated just as Soviet Communism and German Nazism were. We believe that our military’s job is not to build nations but to defeat those that threaten America. Once they have done so, their job is finished and whatever the people of a nation do thereafter is their business, not ours, unless they choose to threaten America or its allies again. We assert that requiring democracy in Iraq before defeating the Syrian and Iranian regime enables the enemy to control the pace and direction of the war. And we believe that peace isn’t about “processes.” It’s about winners and losers. Until you have each belligerent in one category or the other, the war isn’t over.
We, and the Israelis who left Lebanon before us, left without defeating the terrorist regimes that have every day since then used Lebanon as a terrorist base. In Syria, Hafez Assad has been succeeded by his son Bashar and, in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeni has been succeeded by more ayatollahs and their face man, Ahmadinejad, for whom the Apocalypse is a career objective. Syria has been on our list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1979. Iran has been on it since 1984. Neither has suffered any consequence for their dedication to terrorism. Our weakness has become their strength.
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW in Israel and Lebanon is the direct result of our failure for more than 20 years, and the Israelis’ failure, to prosecute this war decisively. What happens next depends on what we do now. The Bush neo-Wilsonians lack the resolve essential for decisive action. On Fox News Sunday Secretary Rice did two things. First, she auditioned for the job of a BBC news presenter by using consistently the term “extremist” when she should have said “terrorist.” Second, she took the preposterous position that going to the UN Security Council was a demonstration of American determination and strength. She said — again and again — that the UN payoff was that the Iranians were totally “isolated.” Yes, Mizz Rice, if by “isolated” you mean Iran is in de facto control of the world oil market and command of growing global terrorism. If “isolated” means having huge, open trade with China and Russia and military weapons and training provided by both. And what are we doing to act decisively against either Syria or Iran? We are, again, abdicating our responsibility and asking the UN to decide for us.
If this White House truly believes feckless UN debating is decisive action, we have been the worst victims of campaign fraud since 1976 when Jimmy Carter bamboozled some of us into believing he was a conservative. We could have gotten this result by staying home in 2004.
The Democrats, (or rather their brain trust, the NYT editorial staff), long ago accepted that America is incapable of winning wars, and believe it should not be permitted to. In a Saturday editorial that could have been written by Rice, the Times accepted that Hamas and Hizballah would not be defeated or their supporters significantly affected by the outcome of this round of warfare. It opined that the proper direction of Israeli force is to weaken and isolate Hamas and Hizballah. Nyet, comrades. The proper direction of Israeli force is to attack and destroy the enemy’s centers of gravity. Those are found in Damascus and Tehran, not in Gaza or Lebanon.
ON SUNDAY, Israeli deputy prime minister Shimon Peres said, “There are officers belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard among Hizballah and they operated the missile [that struck the Israeli ship off Lebanon].” We know, from the statements he issues from his Damascus headquarters, that Hamas leader Khalid Messhaal operates from Syria with Syrian support. Since we toppled Saddam, Assad’s regime has supplied, funded, and reinforced the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Iran’s mullahcracy has been both funding and arming the Shia militias and terrorists there. The single most lethal weapon used against our troops in Iraq — the “explosively-formed projectile” version of the IED — is made in Iran and smuggled into Iraq. Iran has waged a one-sided war against us since 1979.
What is happening now in Israel, Lebanon, and Gaza is not the decisive battle. Fearing a regional war, Israel won’t press its advantage and remove the Assad regime. It lacks the ability to remove Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs. This round of fighting will go on for weeks or months, and then — unless Iran and Syria choose to raise the stakes — it will end, again. Temporarily, again. Until they decide to attack, again. What Israel’s enemies — our enemies — have learned is that we will allow them to choose the time and place of the decisive engagement. That must change.
Endgame conservatives understand that our enemy is moving slowly toward its own endgame. The radical Islamists are committed to win, and nothing will do more than slow their progress until they are defeated decisively, or until they win.
We have to face one simple fact: democracy depends on a separation of church and state that is impossible where Islamic law prevails. Democracy provides us with the freedoms we wish for everyone. But we cannot allow those who wish to destroy it to succeed because of our naive desire to impose it in their lands. It is still our choice to win decisively or lose inevitably. But soon that choice will no longer be ours to make.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004) and, with Edward Timperlake, Showdown: Why China Wants War With the United States (Regnery, May 2006 — click here to obtain a free chapter).
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