WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "What do they want?" It's a query we hear a lot these days. By "they," of course, the questioner means the suicide bombers, the masked men in the videotape decapitating a hostage, the goose-stepping, black-clad legions parading with AK-47s. "They" call themselves Hamas, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat-Islamiyah, the Mahdi Army or any of a dozen other names for violent terror groups operating with impunity around the world.
Five years ago next month, "they" were al Qaeda -- thrust onto center stage aboard four aircraft turned into deadly missiles. This past spring, "they" were Hamas terrorists, firing lethal Qassam rockets from Gaza into neighborhoods in southern Israel. This week, it's Hezbollah -- the Iranian-armed and directed movement in Lebanon that ignited the current round of violence in the Middle East.
Some of the "theys" are Sunni Muslim. Others are Shia. In most of the world they are theological adversaries -- with a long sanguinary history of fratricide far bloodier than anything experienced in the Christian schism between Catholics and Protestants. In nearly every case, "they" have foundations in a local grievance, recruit followers by emphasizing perceived wrongs and have charismatic leaders who promote "martyrdom" as a means of making things right.
Regardless of origin -- Sunni or Shia -- "they" share critical common ground. They all despise Judeo-Christian values, institutions and individuals and are committed to "ridding" Islamic lands of Western "occupation." They are all "non-state" entities -- claiming independence of any government -- but rely on support from radical Islamic entities awash in petro-dollars. All carry out attacks with ruthless brutality without regard for their victims. All regard Israel and America as abominations, share the aim of "liberating" Jerusalem and envision a caliphate that extends from Casablanca in the west to Indonesia in the east. This is "what they want."
Unfortunately, in this era of shallow, "sound-bite" journalism and drive-by "action" coverage, these objectives -- routinely specified in the writings, speeches and sermons of radical Islamic political leaders and clerics -- are widely ignored by the masters of our mainstream media or dismissed as the ranting of fanatics with few followers. The consequence is a woefully uninformed public -- and an electorate so ignorant of reality that western political leaders can promote simplistic solutions like this week's calls for an immediate cease-fire, intensive diplomacy and the introduction of an international peacekeeping force leading to a negotiated end to the strife.
This theme, repeated in today's newspapers, magazines, newscasts and political stump speeches, is a minor variation on the kind of thinking that succeeded so brilliantly with Adolf Hitler. He too had written and spoken widely of his aspirations for global domination and ethnic cleansing. Yet, even after he had re-armed and commenced fulfilling his twisted dreams of "purification" and expansion, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was able to proclaim "peace for our time," after returning from Munich in September 1938. Less than a year later, the Fuhrer plunged the world into a global conflagration. The willful ignorance of weak-willed democratic leaders bent on appeasing evil did not spare their populations then -- nor will it today.
Those leading the call for the Israelis to cease their aggression in Lebanon and start immediate talks leading to a broader Middle East peace -- all part of the lexicon today -- need a healthy dose of reality. There is no "Middle East Peace" to keep.
Here at home, Sen. Richard "Dick" Durbin, D-Ill., Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and others in the "cut and run from Iraq" crowd in the U.S. Congress, are urging that the United States "reign Israel in" -- force them to "stop the shooting" by cutting off deliveries of fuel, ordnance and spare parts for the U.S.-made weapons and equipment used by the Israel Defense Forces. They claim that doing so will make it possible for the immediate introduction of a U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping force.
Though this course of action would indeed bring about a short-term cessation of hostilities, it is nonsense. U.N. "peacekeepers" have failed miserably at keeping peace, or preventing radical Islamic terrorists from recruiting, training or firing rockets into Israel from U.N.-run refugee camps. Though a strong, well-armed, competently-led multi-national intervention force is going to be essential in Lebanon, deploying such a corps is going to take weeks, not days.
In Washington, London, Paris, Rome and moderate Islamic capitals, there is a desperate need to see the crisis in Lebanon for what it is -- the latest battle in the global war on Islamo-Nazi terror. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah -- the Iranian-puppet who heads Hezbollah -- has ambitions to become the dominant political force in Lebanon and establish Beirut as another capital in a Shia-dominated caliphate -- but ultimately, he dances to Tehran's tune.
Stopping the Israelis from destroying Hezbollah's military capability will, in the short term, significantly endanger the troops in a multi-national intervention force. The destruction of the U.S. Marine and French paratrooper barracks in Beirut in October 1983 should have taught us that much. Worse, if Hezbollah -- and their Iranian Pasdaran allies -- are allowed to retain their arms and bases in the Biqa' Valley, it will lead to far greater bloodshed for the Israelis, Lebanese and Americans in the future if Iran succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.