Do peace treaties produce peace?

Posted: Apr 24, 2002 12:00 AM
Europe has been at peace for an unprecedented nearly six decades. Why? It surely is not because of peace treaties between enemy states, and it's surely not because of disarmament. All that was tried before and failed. The best explanation for Europe's unprecedented period of peace is that it was an armed camp bristling with weapons. Both adversaries -- NATO, backed by the United States, and the Warsaw Pact, backed by the Soviet Union -- knew for sure that aggression would produce Armageddon. Another reason is that the previous aggressor, Germany, was utterly and completely defeated. Had the Nazis, seeing they were losing the war, successfully sued for peace and a cessation of the hostilities, there would not have been this unprecedented period of peace in Europe. The Nazis would have simply regrouped. The world can be thankful that today's mindset wasn't around during the 1940s. When we laid waste, through conventional warfare and firebombing, Dresden and other German cities -- and doing the same thing to Tokyo and other Japanese cities -- we didn't have to worry about the Red Cross and peace advocates going in afterward taking pictures and then holding us up to ridicule for "collateral damage." If they did, the public would have turned a deaf ear. After all, has there ever been war, at least during modern times, where noncombatants were not killed? Indeed, that is just one of the things that makes war so horrible. If we had captured Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler or Hideki Tojo during the war, would anybody have cared much about their civil rights, like some people are caring about the civil rights of Taliban captives in Guantanamo, Cuba? I'm not making an argument for cruelty, but what civil rights are owed those hell-bent on trying to destroy our civilization? During World War II, how many Americans would have demanded that a captured German spy or saboteur be supplied with a taxpayer-provided legal team and jail amenities? Historically, spies and saboteurs have faced the hangman's noose or a firing squad. This brings us to the Middle East crisis and the condemnation Israel has received for its military retaliation to Palestinian terrorist attacks. During U.S. Secretary of State Powell's visit, world news cameras captured a haggard, bedraggled Chairman Yasser Arafat asking: "Is this acceptable? Is this acceptable?" He was referring to the Israel Defense Forces' quarantine and destruction of his headquarters. I was trying to imagine the response of Americans, back in the '40s, to one of our Axis adversaries asking the same question. There's one weapon that international thugs have today that yesterday's international thugs didn't, and that's "world opinion." Palestinian terrorists set off bombs to murder innocent Israeli civilians. When Israel retaliates, imposing high cost, Palestinians call up their only defensive weapon: world opinion. World opinion was also used by Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War by bringing the Western media to see the destruction of a supposed baby-milk factory by coalition forces. How much should the Western world care about the opinion of those who demonstrate open hostility to the values that we hold, such as democratically elected officials, human rights and equality before the law? I say none whatsoever. At the same time, neither am I of the mind that we should interfere with their choices except to say that their acts of aggression should be met with harsh retaliation. Were I prime minister of Israel, I'd trade peace for land on these terms: in exchange for each six months of peace, I'd completely turn over, say, five square miles of land. And for just one terrorist attack, I'd send in the Israel Defense Forces to take it all back.