The analysis is not new. Norman Podhoretz, the critic and former editor of Commentary, has said much the same thing for years. The Palestinians, as he put it, are to be likened to the Viet Cong in the '60s. Their mission was to infiltrate and to engage in terrorism, and to prepare themselves to do the same thing for year after year after year until South Vietnam, toppled by a final thrust of military force, succumbed.
Israel does not suffer notably from infiltration. The enemy is over there, at the other end of the line. Within Israel, there are no Viet Cong, though that too could change if Israeli Palestinians came to believe that the land of their forefathers might one day be returned to them. Many South Vietnamese were friendlier to the north when it became plain that the north was taking over the country.
Mr. Will thinks in terms of a war of three or four days, no less devastating for its brevity. Mr. Krauthammer pretty well goes along. Both agree that terrorists need to be hunted down and killed, that the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority should be destroyed, and that to do this includes the destruction of cultural facilities through which Arafat coaxes, poisons and deploys. Mr. Will mentions the broadcasting house that a while back enjoined that "all weapons must be aimed at the Jews ... whom the Koran describes as monkeys and pigs. ... We will enter Jerusalem as conquerors. ... Blessings to he who shot a bullet into the head of a Jew."
Will's own vitriol is directed at home. "The State Department, that brackish and bottomless lagoon of obtuseness, where Secretary of State Colin Powell has gone native with disgusting speed ..." Both Will and Krauthammer insist that Sharon needs to act very quickly, before the demoralization of Israel turns fatal.
Wasn't that tried, sort of, in Vietnam? Yes, it was tried, but it proved porous, both north and west. Wasn't that tried in Berlin? Yes -- and it worked, actually, but the radiations of Western thought penetrated cement and steel. The Palestinians, unless they reordered their cosmology, could hardly hope to threaten an Israeli wall with effective philosophical penetration.There are complications? Yes. The surrounding world in the Middle East. The indefensible Israeli settlements. The reliance of the Sharon administration on weak-minded Coalition members. The need for economic traffic, in men and goods, impeded by walls, as by tariffs.
Yet the single question emerges from it all. Can Israel do something about the rain of blood which is causing life in Israel to be that of a society at war, but without such psychological reassurance as is got from the prospect of victory at war?
And the move has to be Sharon's, without any direction from the White House. This isn't and oughtn't to be made Bush's war, no more than the terrorist war inside Ireland should get any closer to us than George Mitchell. But Mr. Bush can provide the essential superpower cover, which Israel will need.