Watching the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza, which is at best suspended pending further hostilities, we need to ask a basic question: Can the Arab countries ever accept Israel as their neighbor? Or will they continue to work toward the day when they can "drive Israel into the sea," to quote Yasser Arafat.
Pat Buchanan tells a revealing story that helps clarify where we might be headed: In the summer of 1967 just as the Six Day War, the between Israel and Syria, Jordan and Egypt, had ended, former Vice President Richard Nixon and Pat Buchanan were traveling through the region and arrived at an Israeli medical tent in the Sinai desert.
Israeli doctors were treating the wounded, including captured Egyptian soldiers. An Israeli doctor asked an Egyptian soldier, “Look, we fought in 1948 and we won . . . then in ‘56 and we won. And now we have again won. Why do you keep fighting us?”
The wounded Egyptian fighter replied, “Because you may defeat us 12 times, but we will win the 13th time we fight.”
And, of course, that is the point. Israel is always on the verge of defeat by their neighbors (especially Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas), and their neighbors’ sponsor (Iran).
Israel, created out of the painful memory of the Holocaust, has always vowed to never again allow itself to be bullied. So they have created a strong and vibrant economy — out of an arid desert, no less — but they also built a juggernaut of a military force.
In the 60 years of Israel’s existence, their economy, coupled with copious U.S. military aid, has allowed Israel to develop a military force that includes nuclear weapons, although that has never been publicly acknowledged. The Israeli Defense Force has won every war since 1948, though it did struggle with the 2002 invasion of southern Lebanon when it tried to stop rocket attacks similar to those lobbed by Hamas. Many view the Olmert government’s response and preparedness as weak and soft.
But Israel’s clear military superiority over their enemies has allowed Israel to survive in a difficult neighborhood for 60 years.
However, the day is approaching when Israel’s enemies will acquire nuclear devices. Whether Iran develops its own, or oil-rich Arab potentates buy some on the black market, or Islamic radicals overthrow the Pakistani government and harness their already-operational nuclear arsenal, the radical Muslim enemies of Israel will soon have access to these weapons.
This should worry us all.
Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) has so far prevented Russia, the United States, China, Pakistan or India, from attacking each other with nukes. This is the rational understanding by both sides that if either side launched a pre-emptive nuclear strike, the other side would quickly retaliate with a nuclear attack. Thus, such a war was not winnable.
Of course, MAD is predicated on rational thinking by the leaders of nuclear-armed nations. As evil as the USSR was during the decades of the Cold War, Soviet leaders were rational enough to realize they could bluster and bully, but any first-strike nuclear attack meant retaliation in kind.
In that sense nuclear weapons have actually prevented wars or kept smaller wars from escalating. For example, these weapons may have kept the Soviets from invading Western Europe in the 1950s.
Now comes the key Mideast question: Can MAD work in the Arab-radical Muslim dispute?
Muslim fanatics are a different case. Their call to martyrdom counteracts the MAD rationality argument.
Indeed, these radical Jew-haters can be classified as madmen who have no regard for human life, including the lives of their own people.
Israel faces an uncertain and unstable future. If the anti-Israeli faction gets their hands on nukes, they may use them against Israel regardless of the consequences to their own population. That is why we all must keep trying to prevent these nations from getting their mitts on nuclear devices.
Otherwise, we may witness a second Holocaust.
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