"Men cry peace," cried Patrick Henry, updating Jeremiah the prophet, "when there is no peace."
The normal disposition of people -- "men," in the usage of Patrick Henry's day and long afterwards -- with normal lives to lead is to look for ways not to go to war. "I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier," they were singing in 1916, right up to 1917, when millions of American boys unexpectedly became soldiers. Sentiment favors the Colin Powells, winging their way to the hot spots of the world, seeking peace or at any rate a stand down from killing.
And then the Powells get to work. It transpires -- sometimes -- that there is no peace.
Experience teaches that men stop fighting when they are ready to stop fighting -- or else when they can't stand up any longer. We need to apply this wisdom to the present state of affairs in the Middle East.
In appraising prospects for peace over there, why don't we take seriously what the Arabs and Palestinians tell us? Don't we know there's a jihad on? Not to mention an intifada? How could we not know? They tell us every day: different words, different throats, the same bleak, bloody meaning, which is death to the Israelis, not to mention any Americans or Britons who get in the way.
The "martyrs" (now roasting on the coals, one imagines, alongside the Gestapo death squads and the Mongol Horde) don't blow themselves to smithereens for the sheer delight it gives; nor do the Palestinians sustain three times the number of Israeli casualties in order to decrease the Malthusian surplus population. They want the Jews out; they want them out now. The more Jews they kill, sparing them, of course, the indignity and trouble of packing up, the better for the Palestinian cause, it is reasoned. Provided a concept like "reason" -- a key component of civilization -- can be invoked in such a context.
It would seem to most people that you take seriously people who talk about killing you. You don't inquire into the causes of their "anger," their "injuries." You try to stop them from killing you -- as the United States did in Afghanistan. As Arik Sharon is doing on the West Bank.
It is hard to know what Powell and the other Arabs and Palestinians will talk about this week, as long as the Arafatists and their well-wishers in every Arab capital carry out or support the killing of Jews. We know what incentives to offer the Arafatists:
Juden raus , as was scrawled on German walls in the '30s; "Jews out." What incentives the Jews in question might be willing to entertain -- that's another matter.
In fact, what the Jews mainly want is the right to go to a Passover dinner or a pizza parlor without the prospect of being blown up by some "martyr" or other. Can Mr. Powell entreat this on their behalf? He can try, but of course when the other side wants to kill you or run you out of the country, the prospects for compromise -- for peace -- are not encouraging.
We hear frequently about Arab "moderates." "Where are they?" is the question. True Arab moderates, with a presumable interest in peace, would stifle the terrorists. It would seem they live too much in terror of their own people -- also ill-disposed toward the Jews -- to attempt any such thing. If they did, their own people might turn on them. The Arab world boldly leaves it to the Americans to fix a problem that exists chiefly because Arabs can't scrunch over enough to accommodate fellow Semites whose gift for civilized and democratic existence eclipses anything presently to be found in Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, or the West Bank.
Men cry peace -- and here come the Americans on the run. But, alas, Americans can't do it by themselves. Don't we know there's a jihad? That's the one compliment we could pay those who make this sordid and blithering boast -- to take them earnestly at their word.