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Jewish World Review August 15, 2001 / 26 Menachem-Av, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Bracing for war -- IT'S been a bad year for the Clinton legacy, in case you haven't noticed. Not so long ago our Man From Hope was driving hard toward his first Nobel Peace Prize, despite deploying more American soldiers overseas than any president since the end of the Second World War. His Nobel application rested on two widely hailed accomplishments: notably advancing peace in the Middle East, and bringing peace to Northern Ireland. The evidence for Middle East peace was a handshake, in Washington, between Rabin and Arafat. The evidence for Irish peace was that George Mitchell said so. Everyone was so impressed that Mitchell was later dispatched to the Middle East to work his magic there.

At the time, some of us rudely pointed out that it was all a hoax, because peace doesn't happen that way. Peace cannot be accomplished simply because some visiting envoy, with or without an advanced degree in negotiating from the Harvard Business School, sits everyone down around a table so they can all reason together. In every case I can think of, peace has come about at the end of a war in which there was a winner and a loser. The winner imposed terms on the loser, and those terms were called "peace." In each case of Clinton's Glorious Peace Legacy, one side (our "allies") was willing to compromise and the other (the "terrorists") wasn't, and insisted on winning. And in each case it was perfectly obvious at the time. The IRA's leaders assured the faithful that they weren't going to disarm, and Arafat and his cronies told their faithful that they weren't going to abandon their core policy of destroying Israel and killing all the Jews.

Only someone intent on deception - like Clinton - or a total dufus - like, say, Tom Friedman - could have believed that peace was at hand, and theirs was not a merely intellectual error. Belief in the phony peace process made things worse, produced more killing than the previously acknowledged conflict had, and made war more likely. Moreover, the phony peace gave the terrorists time to refine their tactics and improve their weapons, and undermined both the discipline and morale of the would-be peacemakers on the other side. Worse still, all the misleading peace talk has made it harder to talk seriously about war, which is a very serious matter.

Israel must now wage war against the Palestinians, and Great Britain will now have to resume its long battle against the IRA, and both democracies are groping for winning strategies. Sharon and Blair can both expect intense criticism, because only the butchers of Damascus, the long-celebrated Assad family, can get away with massive ethnic cleansing of Lebanese Christians without hearing a word of criticism from the learned moralists of the United Nations and the self-appointed guardians of human rights. If Sharon gets blasted by Secretary Powell (who has succumbed to the usual regimen of dumb pills apparently required of all permanent employees of the Department of State) for merely enforcing the Oslo Agreements and evicting the PLO from its squatter quarters in Jerusalem, we can expect a great clicking and clucking of foreign service tongues when British special forces take their first action against the IRA.

The real world can be terribly unforgiving, and even the most carefully crafted illusion of a legacy can be blown away by killers on the ground. W. should keep this in mind as he contemplates his big trip to China this fall. Just as Arafat and Adams pulled off their peace scams while preparing to escalate the armed conflict, so the Chinese leaders will strive mightily to charm and entrance the president. Jiang Zemin wants us to believe that China has no intention of expanding its territory in any direction, least of all through war against Taiwan, even as his military commanders ceaselessly prepare to invade. W. will do well to note the humiliation of his predecessor, and to commit to memory the wise words of the ancients: If you desire peace, prepare for war.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen