Jewish World Review Sept. 28, 2001 /11 Tishrei, 5762
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- PART of the horror of Sept. 11 was watching the unthinkable become reality -- an event that required an act of will to impose mental order on the senselessness of it all. As weeks pass, we may yet have to steel ourselves against another kind of blow to the collective brain: this one, only theoretical to date, but no less surreal for being self-inflicted. What Americans may have to come to grips with is the logic-defying notion of fighting terrorism with -- not against -- what might well be called terrorist-friendly nations.
Granted, the Bush alliance is still on the drawing board. But early reports from the diplomatic front reveal an ongoing effort to found an international coalition on a dangerous lie: that the global terror network now threatening Western civilization has no identity, that the explosive forces of militant Islam have neither religion, nor ethnicity, nor sense of nationhood. Led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, the diplomatic wing of the Bush administration seems to be negotiating the booby-trapped world stage by carefully sidestepping this crucial issue.
It identifies the enemy as generic "terrorists" who commit generic "terrorism." By opening the doors of alliance to an array of Arab nations whose embrace of such "terrorists" ranges from tight, to secret, to (at best) arm's-length, the United States could very well create a broad-based coalition -- but one marked by a grievous moral vacuum that would surely undermine any American-led war effort to save the civilized world from the forces of violence, fear and instability.
Judging by bulletins from the Middle East, such a vacuum is already being filled by an Arab effort to base any cooperation with the United States on two points: a strategic isolation of Israel, and an untenable philosophical distinction between the terrorism inflicted on Americans two weeks or so ago and the terrorism inflicted on Israelis on a daily basis. Aside from its moral debasement, this concept defies logic. There is no separating Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization from, say, Hamas or Islamic Jihad (al Jihad); nor is there any meaningful distinction to be made among their various fronts against the West, democracy and the modern age -- in short, civilization -- whether they lie in New York City or Tel Aviv. (One possible difference among them might be that Osama bin Laden appears to consider Israel small potatoes next to the Great Satan.)
Already, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon have rejected the parallels between bombing the World Trade Center and bombing the Israeli pizza parlor. (Or disco. Or school bus.) While such "news" isn't likely to put any pacemakers on the fritz, it must be said that such twisted logic packs a certain wallop. Lebanon, for example, "is all for a war to crush terrorism," Reuters reports, "so long as the battle starts with Washington's Mideast ally, Israel, and excludes groups who fight it." Then there's Iran. Even as it is wooed by the European Union, Iran declares, according to AFP, that the "'war against terrorism' ... must start by curbing the Jewish state" -- which, of course, Iran refuses even to recognize.
But perhaps no one puts it quite like Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the 22-nation Arab League. Calling any strikes against any Arab states (including Iraq) "unacceptable," he has let it be known that "if Israel takes part in the alliance, say good-bye to this alliance." IF Israel takes part in the alliance? The very concept clouds the moral purpose of the West's mission, not to mention its chances of surviving militant Islam's assault.
And what of Arab "moderates"? The Associated Press reports on the evident discomfort in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states over any war effort that could include the terrorist networks Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Hizbullah., while Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II say they would just as soon see the fight against terrorism take place in the United Nations -- not in the countries that harbor them. Editorializing on President Bush's declaration that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," the Egyptian Gazette, an English-language government daily, recently chose to echo some of Mubarak's concerns (on the whole, not surprising in a government daily). The editorial's title says it all: "Foe or friend policy: A divisive formula." Someone should mention to Cairo that such "divisiveness" -- drawing a straight line between sponsoring terrorism and defending civilization -- is precisely the point of Bush's strategy.
Meanwhile, moderates and extremists alike recoil from connecting an Islamic or Arabic identity to terrorism, insisting, as King Abdullah and Mubarak have jointly put it, "terrorism has no religion or homeland." This statement is false. Its religion is militant Islam and its homeland is any nation that doesn't seek to eradicate
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.