Suzanne Fields

If we could bind together all the rhetoric over the Middle East, it would fit neatly into the Old Testament's Book of Jeremiah. Beware, beware, beware.

Americans are only beginning to appreciate the issues there, and what they mean to us. We've been asleep, occasionally stirring only long enough to hit the snooze button. Before September 11, few of us had heard the words al Qaeda, jihad, Wahabi, intifada. We've had to learn them, like it or not, and parse their ominous overtones and threatening syllables of doom.

If our prophets once wandered in a wilderness of irrelevance, now they're roaring through a desert without directions or even a road map. (The "road map to peace," as we've learned, is but a chimera.) Arabic has replaced Russian as the language to learn in self-defense. A survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that the United States is disliked most by Muslim countries. That's no surprise, and the feeling is mutual, but we've lately realized that Islamist attitudes can be easily turned into action.

Newt Gingrich, the new Jeremiah, warns that Israel faces nuclear holocaust and the danger doesn't stop at the shores of the Dead Sea. The United States "could lose two or three cities to nuclear weapons, or more than a million in biological weapons," he says. The West has put itself at risk: "We don't have the right language, goals, structure or operating speed to defeat our enemies."

The former speaker of the House, who may be a candidate for president, has never minced words. But rarely has he been so outspoken about how our liberties are threatened: "Our enemies are fully as determined as Nazi Germany, and more determined than the Soviets . . . freedom as we know it will disappear, and we will become a much grimmer, much more militarized, dictatorial society."

Gingrich joined several other big names to speak by video to the Herzliya security conference outside Tel Aviv -- a mecca, you might say, for foreign policy experts and politicians eager to talk about the new threat to the West.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who also yearns to be president, echoes the Gingrich analysis. He calls Islamic jihad "the nightmare of the century" and warns against comparisons to the Cold War. "For all of the Soviets' deep flaws, they were never suicidal. Soviet commitment to national survival was never in question. That assumption cannot be made to an irrational regime that celebrates martyrdom." He's talking about Iran.

Sen. John McCain prescribes strengthening Israel's ties to NATO. "American support for Israel should intensify," he says. "The enemies are too numerous, the margin of error too small, and shared values too great."

Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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