I just watched some video of stuff blowing sky high in Syria.
I won’t add to the speculation about whether they are bombing weapons intended for Hizballah, chemical weapons, or “military research installations.” I do think we can say without fear of being wrong that it is Israel that is doing it, for the second time this week.
Yesterday, I listened in on a discussion about whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about Israel’s survival. My thought was: “I am guardedly optimistic.” Recent events make me feel even more so.
The way I see it, long term trends are mostly in Israel’s favor, although there are serious short-term threats that have to be overcome.
One of the most important of the long-term changes is the erosion of the Muslim oil monopoly. New sources of oil and gas in Canada, the US, China, even some in Israel, will make it harder for Israel’s enemies to pressure the West or Far East, and will reduce the amount of excess cash available to buy politicians and universities.
Although the Islamist takeover of Egypt is often placed in the negative column, the fact is that Egypt — once Israel’s most formidable enemy — is falling apart, as it proves that as far as running a country goes, Islam is not the answer. Egypt’s economic problems are immense, and it will be a long time before it will be capable of using its US-supplied weapons for anything other than putting down demonstrations.
While there has never been anything that united the Muslim Middle East more than hatred of Israel, today the ideological and religious issues dividing it are more important than ever.
Syria, another formerly formidable enemy, is cratering itself as we speak. Although there are justifiable fears that a radical Sunni regime even more hostile than Assad’s may take over, it appears that a decision has been taken in Jerusalem that it is the lesser evil compared to an Iranian/Hizballah takeover. Anyway, whoever follows Assad won’t inherit his massive arsenal, because it won’t be there at the end.
Assad’s exit — as long as Iran is kept out — will cut Hizballah off from its source of weapons, money and expertise. This is important because Hizballah is one of the main short-term threats I mentioned above.
War with Hizballah still seems probable, although less likely than before. In the event of war, its 60,000 missiles will have to go somewhere — I expect some will be destroyed on the ground, others will be launched and intercepted, and some will hit their targets. Hizballah also has built formidable defenses against ground attacks in South Lebanon, and even has plans for incursions into Israel. One has to take the threat seriously, but on the other hand there’s no doubt that Israel would prevail.
Without support via Syria, Hizballah will be weakened, and opposing forces in Lebanon — who do not want to see their national infrastructure damaged yet again by a pointless war of Hizballah’s making — may restrain them.
Iraq is also out of the picture, riven by internal conflict.
What about Iran? There are both short and long-term considerations. In the short term, we can’t minimize the danger from its nuclear program. The probability of American action seems small, so if they are to be prevented from developing actual weapons — and they don’t have far to go — Israel will need to do it. It is certainly correct that the program can only be set back, not taken out entirely.
But for the long term, the regime is highly unpopular. Like Lebanon, there is a large, relatively advanced segment of the population who would prefer peace and development to belligerence and Islamic fundamentalism. The Persian people also have not displayed the degree of Jew-hatred that one finds among the Arabs, unless the present regime has succeeded in ‘reeducating’ them. There is a good chance that a more moderate regime can arise, especially if it is encouraged to do so by the West.
So much for the good. What about the bad and the ugly?
The PLO and Hamas have little military capability, but their hatred is implacable and they can be expected to continue doing whatever they can by means of diplomacy, terrorism and subversion to destroy the Jewish state. Thanks to the ‘educational’ program established by Yasser Arafat and continued by the present Palestinian leadership — despite promises to end incitement — today’s residents of the territories are more pathologically consumed by hatred than ever before.
Israel’s options are limited — it must continue security precautions, work to assure loyalty among its Arab citizens, and make sure that the rest of the world is aware of the true intentions of the ‘Palestinian’ leadership (insofar as it doesn’t share them — see below).
The only thing that can make this problem go away is time, and this only if incitement can be ended. Unfortunately, Israel has little or no power to control this.
What historically empowered the ‘Palestinian cause’ was the Soviet Union and Arab petrodollars. Russia is now more neutral in this particular conflict for various reasons, and the Arabs have fewer and fewer petrodollars to throw around. But there is another factor, one which was kick-started by those same forces, that has taken on a life of its own almost everywhere in the world — Muslim nations, Europe and the academic sector of the US — old-fashioned Jew-hatred, now transmuted into anti-Zionism.
I’m not going to discuss all the ways that Israel should respond, but one is based on a simple psychological principle: humans hate weakness and victims; they like strength and winners. The way to end Jew hatred is not to apologize or compromise with it, and not to appeal to the haters’ better natures, but rather to maintain our honor: to fight the enemies of the Jewish state with determination, to develop respect — love is not available — and deterrence, the political aspect of fear.
Bombing Syrian weapons depots is a good start.