Why has Iran decided to play its Lebanese card now? That is a question asked by Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri in the July 23 London Sunday Times. Part of the answer, he writes, "lies in Washington's decision last May to reverse its policy towards Iran by offering large concessions on its nuclear programme. Tehran interpreted that as a sign of weakness."
If expanded terrorism, unprovoked attacks and threats to dominate the Middle East and the world are the consequences of perceived weakness, what might the benefits be for exhibiting strength? Peace through strength was more than a slogan during the Reagan years.
Instead of talk about "appropriate" responses to unprovoked attacks, "proportional" military action and worrying about our "image," what might be the result of sustained, unremitting and effective military might that neutralizes Hezbollah and teaches a lesson to those who would kill us?
Imagine if we had been concerned about a proportional response at the beginning of World War II. Instead, America nuked Japan and firebombed Germany. We weren't after a "sustainable cease-fire," nor did we speak in diplomatic niceties or worry about "civilian casualties." Our goal was the enemy's unconditional and complete surrender. There haven't been any dictators in Germany or Japan since.
There will be no diplomatic solution to this war. President Bush has asserted that democracy burns in every human heart. I want to believe that, but am growing skeptical.
What we have is a problem that diplomacy cannot solve. It is a language problem, but even more than that. Languages can be learned and communication established. This is a religious divide. The president thinks people we see in bondage want to be as free as we Americans. In fact, many of them regard us as the ones in bondage and, in their religion, they see themselves as free. They regard our ways as decadent and our culture corrupt. They want no part of it. They are welcome to their 7th-century ways, but they are not welcome to impose those ways on the rest of the world.
In order to feel superior, one must be able to look down on others. It is difficult for these fanatics who have never invented, discovered or created anything but chaos and bloodshed to look up from the bottom of their pile of rubble to see that the world has long ago passed them by.
Their region of the world has taken in huge amounts of money from petroleum sales to the developed world. Has that money been used to upgrade people from their squalid lives? Have great universities been constructed, cures for diseases discovered, products invented to benefit all humankind, music composed and art created that the world envies and admires? They have not, so they blame their miserable existence on the Jews and the West who have done such things and more.
Unable to cope with their failings and to justify their guilt, they seek to bring others down to their level. They will not be stopped by diplomatic appeals, or reason. They have taken up the sword and they must be made to die by the sword in sufficient numbers that even they will see the futility of their ways and be forced to engage in less warlike pursuits.
As Amir Taheri notes, the stakes could not be higher: "The mini war that is taking place between Israel and Hezbollah is, in fact, a proxy war in which Iran's vision for the Middle East clashes with the administration in Washington. What is at stake is not the exchange of kidnapped Israeli soldiers with Arab prisoners in Israel. Such exchanges have happened routinely over five decades. The real issue is who will set the agenda for the Middle East: Iran or America?"
Right now, America doesn't appear to be in the lead.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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