Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 6, 2008

Why Is Terrorism in Decline?

Now we are confused. For years, we were told that if Israel does not make “painful concessions” to the “moderate” Palestinian government run by Fatah, an “extremist” Hamas government will replace it — and that will be much worse. Then, Israel withdrew from Gaza, uprooting thousands of Jewish families and giving up actual land, with a promise of more to come. Reversal of Logic #1: Israel conceded painfully, then Hamas took power anyway, and within a fairly brief time turned Gaza into the very hell everyone had predicted.

So how bad is this for Israeli citizens trying to live their own lives? Unclear, in light of Reversal of Logic #2: According to reports by both the watchdog group Betzelem as well as Israel’s own Shin Bet security apparatus, despite the rise of Hamas, 2007 was the quietest year in terror since who knows when. Both Palestinian and Israeli deaths are way down. Civilian deaths on the Palestinian side dropped by half compared to 2006. Sure, Hamas and Jihad are launching rockets at Sderot and Ashkelon on a daily basis, but they are not too effective. At the same time, those terror attacks that do take place—such as the murder of two Israeli hikers near Hebron a week ago Friday—are as often carried out by members of Fatah as by the Islamists.

How do we account for the taming of the Hamas beast? Here’s a thought: Israel’s ability to fight terror is, like it or not, inversely proporti onal to the amount of international pressure, especially American pressure, put on Israel to restrain itself. The election of Hamas horrified the West, and Israel got a green light to defend itself. Israel stepped up operations, especially precision ones such as that which took out the Jihad’s military chief in Gaza last month, making the running of terror cells much more difficult. Unable to send suicide bombers across the border into Israel, Hamas and Jihad resorted to terrorizing by lobbing homemade flying IEDs into the town of Sderot — horrible for those who have to endure it, yet a far cry from the bus-bombings of a few years ago. Clarity about the enemy, it seems, is a key to effective self-defense.

And what about Fatah? Same logic, only in reverse. Because it is seen as moderate and the partner for peace, Israel has far less freedom to take out its terror groups, which continue every day to organize attacks on Israelis, just as they did under Arafat. It is true that Fatah under Abu Mazen’s leadership takes public positions that are significantly more measured than are those of Hamas. Yet as the IDF operation in Nablus over the last few days proves, their record in fostering terrorists in their midst is little better than Hamas. And it is unclear whether they have any more political freedom to stop the “resistance” in the West Bank than does Hamas to stop it in Gaza.

A senior defense official told Haaretz that the IDF’s success in 2007 is “as close as possible to a victory over terror.” Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But let’s hope 2008 is even worse for these organizations, and even better for Israelis and Palestinians looking for a future without fear.

Now we are confused. For years, we were told that if Israel does not make “painful concessions” to the “moderate” Palestinian government run by Fatah, an “extremist” Hamas government will replace it — and that will be much worse. Then, Israel withdrew from Gaza, uprooting thousands of Jewish families and giving up actual land, with a promise of more to come. Reversal of Logic #1: Israel conceded painfully, then Hamas took power anyway, and within a fairly brief time turned Gaza into the very hell everyone had predicted.

So how bad is this for Israeli citizens trying to live their own lives? Unclear, in light of Reversal of Logic #2: According to reports by both the watchdog group Betzelem as well as Israel’s own Shin Bet security apparatus, despite the rise of Hamas, 2007 was the quietest year in terror since who knows when. Both Palestinian and Israeli deaths are way down. Civilian deaths on the Palestinian side dropped by half compared to 2006. Sure, Hamas and Jihad are launching rockets at Sderot and Ashkelon on a daily basis, but they are not too effective. At the same time, those terror attacks that do take place—such as the murder of two Israeli hikers near Hebron a week ago Friday—are as often carried out by members of Fatah as by the Islamists.

How do we account for the taming of the Hamas beast? Here’s a thought: Israel’s ability to fight terror is, like it or not, inversely proporti onal to the amount of international pressure, especially American pressure, put on Israel to restrain itself. The election of Hamas horrified the West, and Israel got a green light to defend itself. Israel stepped up operations, especially precision ones such as that which took out the Jihad’s military chief in Gaza last month, making the running of terror cells much more difficult. Unable to send suicide bombers across the border into Israel, Hamas and Jihad resorted to terrorizing by lobbing homemade flying IEDs into the town of Sderot — horrible for those who have to endure it, yet a far cry from the bus-bombings of a few years ago. Clarity about the enemy, it seems, is a key to effective self-defense.

And what about Fatah? Same logic, only in reverse. Because it is seen as moderate and the partner for peace, Israel has far less freedom to take out its terror groups, which continue every day to organize attacks on Israelis, just as they did under Arafat. It is true that Fatah under Abu Mazen’s leadership takes public positions that are significantly more measured than are those of Hamas. Yet as the IDF operation in Nablus over the last few days proves, their record in fostering terrorists in their midst is little better than Hamas. And it is unclear whether they have any more political freedom to stop the “resistance” in the West Bank than does Hamas to stop it in Gaza.

A senior defense official told Haaretz that the IDF’s success in 2007 is “as close as possible to a victory over terror.” Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But let’s hope 2008 is even worse for these organizations, and even better for Israelis and Palestinians looking for a future without fear.

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Obama’s Curious Foreign Policy Advisor

Today on Fox News, Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisor Samantha Power stated that Obama is the only candidate who’s got Iraq right. Ms. Power’s own paper trail of mixed messages on Iraq, along with Obama’s stated Iraq stance, makes this claim quite a head-scratcher.

A Los Angeles Times opinion piece on March 5, 2007 finds Power hopeless on the prospect of a troop surge success. In her plea for the U.S. to withdraw, she writes:

It would be nice to think the surge of troops to Baghdad would help to staunch the flow. But with only one-third of the new troops on duty at any given time in a city of 6 million people, they will have no more success deterring the militias intent on carving out homogeneous Shiite or Sunni neighborhoods than U.S. forces have had to date.

She was wrong. Which she may have realized by July 29, when the New York Times ran her admiring review of the Petraeus-driven U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. In her recognition of the fact that the U.S. must dig in, She writes:

Sewall [author of the book’s introduction] rightly calls for the “risks and costs of counterinsurgency” to be spread across the American government, but notes this is not an overnight job.

[…]

The manual shows that the demands of counterinsurgency are greater than those the American public has yet been asked to bear. Sewall is skeptical that the public — now feeling burned by Iraq — will muster the will. . .

Now, as advisor to a candidate who deems any counter-insurgency cost too high, and who’s vowed to ask the American public to bear nothing in the way of the burden, Power says her boss has it right.

This “change” thing is getting out of hand.

Today on Fox News, Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisor Samantha Power stated that Obama is the only candidate who’s got Iraq right. Ms. Power’s own paper trail of mixed messages on Iraq, along with Obama’s stated Iraq stance, makes this claim quite a head-scratcher.

A Los Angeles Times opinion piece on March 5, 2007 finds Power hopeless on the prospect of a troop surge success. In her plea for the U.S. to withdraw, she writes:

It would be nice to think the surge of troops to Baghdad would help to staunch the flow. But with only one-third of the new troops on duty at any given time in a city of 6 million people, they will have no more success deterring the militias intent on carving out homogeneous Shiite or Sunni neighborhoods than U.S. forces have had to date.

She was wrong. Which she may have realized by July 29, when the New York Times ran her admiring review of the Petraeus-driven U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. In her recognition of the fact that the U.S. must dig in, She writes:

Sewall [author of the book’s introduction] rightly calls for the “risks and costs of counterinsurgency” to be spread across the American government, but notes this is not an overnight job.

[…]

The manual shows that the demands of counterinsurgency are greater than those the American public has yet been asked to bear. Sewall is skeptical that the public — now feeling burned by Iraq — will muster the will. . .

Now, as advisor to a candidate who deems any counter-insurgency cost too high, and who’s vowed to ask the American public to bear nothing in the way of the burden, Power says her boss has it right.

This “change” thing is getting out of hand.

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Karlinsky Saves the Day

In response to my Wall Street Journal article, “Of Braveheart and Bush,” about the futility of the Middle East “peace process,” I received one of the all-time great letters to the editor. It comes from Joel Karlinsky, and he agreed to let me share it with contentions. After reading it I’m sure you’ll agree that Karlinsky, a doctor from Massachusetts, has succeeded where Bush and Rice will fail: He’s solved the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Dear Mr. Boot,

I agree with your premise that there will never be a reasonable resolution between Israel and the Palestinian people. It’s impossible given the nature of religion and history and the inherent stupidity of human beings.

However, I have a solution which might work. It’s based on the idea that the Arabs have oil and lots of money. Simply put, the Arabs should buy the Israelis out. Give a couple of million or so dollars (even though the dollar is relatively worthless) to every Israeli man, woman, and child. The Israelis would use the money to move to Nevada, which geologically is very much like Israel, and could open casinos. There is precedent in the US for this as many Indian tribes run casinos, and we Jews were organized along tribal lines. There could be orthodox, conservative, and reformed casinos. It’s definitely win, win.

Anybody that believes that a supreme, all-knowing being gives a shit about a little strip of land on this cosmic pebble is severely deluded. Let the Arabs have it. If God doesn’t like it, he can do something about it. Or not.

One more thing. Apparently, you’re a Bush supporter. If you think that this Iraqi war was about anything other than securing oil supplies for the next fifty or so years, and control of the Middle East for American hegemonic interests, you’re a fool. It’s unfortunate that the oil belongs to the Iraqis. But hell, they don’t matter, do they?

Have a nice day,

Joel Karlinsky

In response to my Wall Street Journal article, “Of Braveheart and Bush,” about the futility of the Middle East “peace process,” I received one of the all-time great letters to the editor. It comes from Joel Karlinsky, and he agreed to let me share it with contentions. After reading it I’m sure you’ll agree that Karlinsky, a doctor from Massachusetts, has succeeded where Bush and Rice will fail: He’s solved the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Dear Mr. Boot,

I agree with your premise that there will never be a reasonable resolution between Israel and the Palestinian people. It’s impossible given the nature of religion and history and the inherent stupidity of human beings.

However, I have a solution which might work. It’s based on the idea that the Arabs have oil and lots of money. Simply put, the Arabs should buy the Israelis out. Give a couple of million or so dollars (even though the dollar is relatively worthless) to every Israeli man, woman, and child. The Israelis would use the money to move to Nevada, which geologically is very much like Israel, and could open casinos. There is precedent in the US for this as many Indian tribes run casinos, and we Jews were organized along tribal lines. There could be orthodox, conservative, and reformed casinos. It’s definitely win, win.

Anybody that believes that a supreme, all-knowing being gives a shit about a little strip of land on this cosmic pebble is severely deluded. Let the Arabs have it. If God doesn’t like it, he can do something about it. Or not.

One more thing. Apparently, you’re a Bush supporter. If you think that this Iraqi war was about anything other than securing oil supplies for the next fifty or so years, and control of the Middle East for American hegemonic interests, you’re a fool. It’s unfortunate that the oil belongs to the Iraqis. But hell, they don’t matter, do they?

Have a nice day,

Joel Karlinsky

Read Less




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