William F. Buckley

The threats and counterthreats mount, as also dazed questions that attempt to segregate loyalties. Some are saying that sectarian divisions are distractions and that they will soon give way as transcendent concerns assert themselves.

In Malaysia, Muslim leaders are meeting, an emergency gathering of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They listened to the president of Indonesia, who remarked the deteriorating situation in the Middle East and rang in as one more man of influence talking about apocalyptic developments. "From (the existing situation) it will be just one stop away to that ultimate nightmare: a clash of civilizations."

Egypt's grand mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, declares that supporting the guerrillas in Iraq is a "religious duty." Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's General Guidance Council, had informed his flock that the United States' purpose in invading Iraq was to divide Muslims and that it was better to support a Hezbollah-Iranian agenda than an "American-Zionist" one.

U.S. analysts cannot expect to separate safely all the constituent factors involved in the Lebanon crisis. The challenge is to seek out salient considerations, and here, ironically, is one enunciated by Henry Kissinger, and a second enunciated by the British historian who is engaged in writing a biography of Kissinger.

Sir Alistair Horne introduces his essay, published last Friday (Aug. 4) in London's Daily Telegraph, by reminding readers of his deeply informed background. He served as an intelligence officer in Palestine right after World War II; seven of his books have been translated into Hebrew by the Israeli Defense Force, and two of these were hailed by Ariel Sharon.

Horne proposes a nuclear-free zone for the Middle East, "running from the Mediterranean to the frontiers of nuclear Pakistan. This would require an internationally backed, total clampdown on Iranian nuclear development. At the same time, it would involve Israel's relinquishment -- or at least mothballing -- of its nuclear capability. To protect Israeli interests, and assure its security, such a scheme would have to be backed by an American commitment to 'take out' instantly any Iranian, or other Middle Eastern, facility that threatened to cheat."

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

Be the first to read William Buckley's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.