Herzliya, Israel — The sun over this resort and conference center, twenty minutes north of Tel Aviv, is radiant. A refreshing breeze wafts in from the Mediterranean, four floors beneath my hotel room, where I lie recuperating from the rigors of jet travel. It has been a long flight from Washington, but I should be in a pleasant humor. This is a beautiful part of the world, and upon arriving last night I was cheered by someone in the lobby whistling one of my favorite tunes, the American national anthem! When I sought out the whistler I found it was a plump Israeli young woman. I doubt she spoke a word of English, but she was delivering a hearty rendition of a tune that was plenty familiar to her. Twelve hours after that impromptu concert I could stand a bit more cheering.
I am attending an international conference on “The New Strategic Landscape: Trends, Challenges and Responses.” Its focus is contemporary threats to peace. The threats are grave, graver than most of us have imagined and we Americans have responded far more astutely to the new threats than have Europeans. The morning’s lecturers, mostly generals and strategists, have elucidated the proliferation of weapons equally as horrible as nuclear weapons. They have adumbrated a set of aggressors as alarming as the old Soviets. After the respite of the 1990s, world-wide doomsday scenarios are again to be contemplated by intelligent people. Here in Israel carnage is impossible to ignore. During a break from the morning’s lectures I encountered another young Israeli woman hobbling around the conference’s media center. She used crutches to get around. From her skirt extended only one leg.
Israel has suffered the new aggressors and fears the imminence of the new weaponry. The West should be as vigilant. President George W. Bush, in his brief presidency, has been. Still, I cannot shake the sense that the new threats to peace being discussed here in Herzliya are reminiscent of the Cold War, a war I had thought unique and not to be repeated. After all, the new aggressors, a combination of international terrorists and tyrants from rogue states, cannot claim the awesome power of the old Soviet Union, vanquisher of Nazi Germany, captor of all Central Europe. Yet the new aggressors are possibly more dangerous than the Soviets. They are not as rational. They are enraged and their rage is unappeasable.
They are Islamic fanatics and megalomaniacs such as Saddam Hussein and the North Korean tyrant — all utterly insulated from reality. By comparison, Stalin was a gentleman.
Equally troubling they have access to weaponry that is as lethal as the Soviets’ nukes and more portable and elusive. Today’s biological weapons can be created cheaply. They can be delivered easily and are extremely difficult to trace. We still do not know the origin or even the extent of the anthrax attack on the United States. It is conceivable that there exists at this very hour enough biological weaponry to destroy all human life on the globe. In Iraq today Saddam only has to hide a few oil drums of biological weapons to create plague-like conditions as devastating as the Black Death. Is it likely that the United Nations inspectors are going to find those containers in a country as large as Iraq?
Most of the lecturers whom I have heard here at this important conference are Israeli generals. They are among the most competent in the world. They speak in analytical terms that weigh every detail, every eventuality, every weapon and enemy, every category of enemy. The blizzard of analysis convinced me that it would have been a dreadful waste of the taxpayers’ dollars to send me to West Point. Did Generals Grant or Lee ever study war in such detail? No wonder Grant took to drink. Why did not Lee? Undoubtedly generalship today requires this level of analysis with all the political considerations to keep in mind and the terrific multiplication of weaponry and of theaters of battle — the Golan Heights, a shopping mall! We as ordinary citizens can skip the analysis.
All we need to know is that the world is today more dangerous than it was during most of the Cold War. Possibly nuclear and almost definitely biological weapons are in the hands of aggressors who have vowed to kill us. They have already killed three thousand of us. Logic dictates that the rogue states be disarmed and rendered impotent. President Bush spoke presciently when he said we must destroy terrorism and anyone who harbors terrorism. I did not have to come to Israel to learn that, but those two Israeli women have steeled my resolve.
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