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Jewish World Review Dec. 26, 2002 / 21 Teves, 5763

Seth Gitell

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Where does the war on terror go from here? | Looking for some holiday cheer? You won't find it on the national security front, where the year-end thumb-suckers foretell only more misery ahead. Particularly disturbing is this this piece by Barton Gelman of the Washington Post.

(Gelman is Post's version of Tom Friedman circa 1991, a reporter who has covered the Middle East, the State Department, and now the War on Terror. He's the reporter who broke the original story about Scott Ritter's battles with Saddam Hussein -- when Ritter was famous for his comments about Iraq's weapons capabilities -- back in 1998 and wrote the more recent story about Iraq's transfer of biological weapons agents to Al Qaeda.)

Gelman's latest story paints a picture of a Washington D.C. straight out of Dr. Strangelove. The top of his story, for example, goes into great detail about the administration's "Ring Around Washington" plan, where a grid of radiation sensors was established to detect the presence of an errant nuclear device. Gelman also gets a quote out of General Wayne Downing, the elusive former Special Operations General -- former military advisor to the Iraqi Opposition, by-the-way -- who served until July 8 as the deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism.

Even though Downing and other experts believe there are only a few dozen truly dangerous al Qaeda leaders left, they are, in Downing's words "probably more capable than before." More frighteningly, Gelman also quotes an unnamed counter-terrorism official whose office is next to Pennsylvania Avenue on al Qaeda's determination to strike at targets they've aimed at before: "They are going to kill the White House," the official says. "I have really begun to ask myself whether I want to continue to get up every day and come to work on this block."

Happy holidays!

Gelman's story drops at an usual time. War with Iraq is looking more and more inevitable. North Korea is threatening to"destroy the earth" should the US use nuclear weapons against it. So are we supposed to suspend all non-al Qaeda related efforts? I'd argue against that. Iraq's Hussein poses a threat notwithstanding our struggle with the al Qaeda.

Moreover, all three potential threats -- Iraq, al Qaeda, and North Korea --represent distinct military operations. Iraq will require a large number of troops over a relatively short period of time, the fight against al Qaeda is predominately a Special Forces/CIA "low intensity" mission (meaning not that the fighting is less dangerous, but that it takes place on a smaller scale than the Iraq fight), and North Korea, given its immediate nuclear weapons, is still on the diplomatic front.

All that said, kudos to Richard Byrne who wrote about the shadowy administration plan to target Hezbollah in the Boston Phoenix last week. Tuesday's New York Times story "HEZBOLLAH BECOMES POTENT ANTI-US FORCE" all but telegraphs the intentions by some in the administration to go after Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim terrorist group based in Lebanon.

Here's my theory on what will happen with Hezbollah. It's true that the US still has some old scores to settle with Hezbollah - the 241 US Marines killed in Lebanon in 1983; the murder of Lieutenant Colonel William Buckley of Medford, after he was taken hostage by Hezbollah in 1984; the slaying of a US Navy diver in a 1985 airplane hijacking. It's also true that Hezbollah has global reach: two major bombings in Buenos Aires in the 1990s have links to Hezbollah. But my thinking is the United States will delegate most military action against Hezbollah to Israel. It will play out this way. After the US begins airstrikes against Iraq sometime in February, there will be news that Hezbollah is readying missiles to shoot against Israel.

(Hezbollah is already saying it will do this.)

Then, America will green-light Israel to go after Hezbollah on territory its generals are far more familiar with than anybody from the US.

JWR contributor Seth Gitell is the political writer of the Boston Phoenix Comment by clicking here.

12/23/02: Why democracy never came to Iraq after the last Gulf War
12/20/02: Vermont governor Howard Dean hopes to bridge the gulf between New England and the Western states, and bypass the socially conservative South. Should John Kerry be worried?
12/18/02: No Gore 2004: Follow the Money
12/06/02: Gore, like Dicken's Jacob Marley, Dead as a Door-nail
10/24/02: War with Iraq may not happen, after all
10/22/02: Winning European hearts and minds
10/18/02: Lieberman makes 'em laugh --- on purpose
10/04/02: Hawking an interpretation (in which Scott Ritter tells our columnist to 'go to H-LL!')
09/13/02: Bush Challenge to U.N. Members: Are You Better than League of Nations?
09/06/02: Iraq attack: Ritter's reversal
08/30/02: Stick with comedy, Jon Stewart
08/16/02: Green around the gills: Nader Effect could cost the Dems the election in three states
08/01/02: Gore's low profile is no accident
07/31/02: President Hillary? Despite her denials, candidacy is not that unlikely
07/26/02: On the road with John Kerry
07/17/02: Meet the 'Clinton' of the 2004 New Hampshire primary
07/12/02: Ancient rivalry: Williams vs. DiMaggio
07/10/02: Warrior spirit
05/08/02: Hosting a TV show will keep Clinton off the streets
04/26/02: Truth in advertising in SaudiLand --- and ours
02/28/02: Time for hipsters to do a reality-check

© 2002, Seth Gitell