Roll, Israel, Roll

Posted: Jul 27, 2006 12:01 AM

This column's beginning will certainly offend those at England's Cambridge University, who lectured and tutored me on the way to helping me earn what has proved to be a relatively useless but much-appreciated advanced degree in International Relations.

But here goes.

Roll, Israel, roll. Don't stop. Don't look back. Don't let diplomatic pressures keep you from getting the job done in Lebanon.

Public opinion tells us that there is little hope among most Americans that there will ever be lasting peace in the Middle East. They're probably right.

Now many in the international community are saying that what started as Israel's reaction to the kidnapping of two of its soldiers is fast becoming either World War III -- to quote my mentor, Newt Gingrich -- or is simply the continuation of a long-standing conflict.

But I would argue that the Israelis have rightfully chosen this moment to treat the events of the past weeks not as a response to ongoing hostilities, but as the necessary management of an international crisis.

Let me refer readers to a collection of essays called "Managing International Crisis."

While the 1982 publication date may seem out of touch with the realities of the new millennium, rest assured that its fundamental ideas still apply.

In this collection of essays, the late Karl W. Deutsch, then Stanfield Professor of International Peace at Harvard University, wrote a chapter entitled "Crisis Decision-Making: The Information Approach."

Deutsch helped develop The World Society Foundation, an organization devoted to researching and advancing the idea that what often appear to be issues facing individual nation-states are actually issues that are global in their implications.

Professor Deutsch would likely disagree with my use of his essay. I'm employing his work as a way to illustrate that a legitimate nation-state -- in this case, Israel -- should use every measure at its disposal to completely destroy a non-nation-state -- Hezbollah.

The truth is that it's the traditional definition of an international crisis, as defined by scholars like Deutsch, that has consistently allowed Hezbollah and many other terrorist groups to survive, and to strike again and again. His reasoning is cited by many experts today as prima facie evidence that Israel is not justified in its aggressive actions, and that in fact no genuine "crisis" exists.

I'll use Deutsch's own reasoning to justify my rather bold premise.

Deutsch wrote that there are four characteristics of a true crisis.

First, he argued, there must exist a major turning point, so that there are strongly different outcomes possible.

I would argue that Israel's pursuit of Hezbollah in Lebanon, where the terrorists have established themselves, will have one of two results. Either Hezbollah will be completely dismantled, or Israelis will keep being murdered for years to come.

Second, the late professor suggested that a true crisis is a situation in which a lasting decision is inescapable. As an example, he cites the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

I agree. With Cuba, there was the chance that one nation-state might have launched weapons without provocation. A crisis, indeed.

That's a fair corollary to the unprovoked attacks by Hezbollah on Israel. That non-nation-state Hezbollah is now launching missiles from the nation-state Lebanon unfortunately makes Lebanon a part of the crisis.

Third, Deutsch says the crisis must place at stake the values of at least one of the parties. This one does. Israel respects life and takes action only when provoked. Hezbollah takes innocent lives at random and without provocation.

Finally, according to Deutsch, the situation must not be a "chronic crisis." But therein is the fallacy of his definition. Unless a nation-state such as Israel chooses to treat a situation such as that with Hezbollah as exigent in nature, then the situation will by its very nature become chronic.

Let's face it. The United Nations, Western Europe and the world of international diplomacy demand that every situation be "managed." But does anyone really believe that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is an unbiased referee, given his immediate accusations against Israel following the loss of UN personnel several days ago? He's not.

The fact is that even the legendary Karl Deutsch said he didn't believe all conflicts should be "managed." His belief was that conflict was irrational if the point of contention could be resolved at some lesser cost -- hopefully, cooperation of some sort.

Sorry, folks. In this case, cooperation turns an emergency crisis into "a chronic one." And a chronic crisis is just what terrorists thrive on.

With all due deference to the great scholars such as Deutsch, whose writings I followed, I stand by my rather pedestrian declaration -- roll, Israel, roll.