So now we know who our friends are

February 05, 1991|By Edwin Feulner

OPERATION Desert Storm should dispel any myths about the identity of America's true friends. The British, whose commitment to the multinational force is second only to the United States, and the Israelis, whose restraint continues while the Iraqis attempt to rain terror upon their civilian population, stand as giants.

And what's in it for them?

With their huge North Sea reserves, the British certainly don't need Middle East oil. They're in the gulf because punishing Iraqi aggression is the right thing to do; they see it as their obligation as one of the leaders of the democratic West.

You can't say that about the Japanese. These "friends," who are entirely dependent on foreign oil, have only been able to rally meager support for the war effort, originally offering to contribute just $4 billion to a war kitty that could eventually reach $70 billion or more. Under considerable pressure from the international community, they begrudgingly promised another $9 billion. But beyond that, all the Japanese appear ready to offer is their scorn: Public opinion polls indicate that most Japanese oppose the international effort to crush Saddam Hussein.

It's enough to make you think twice before you plunk down your hard-earned money for a Japanese import, when an American- or British-made car would do just fine, thank you.

The Israelis, though not part of the U.S.-led coalition, are showing what friendship really means. Who could ask more of an ally than the United States has asked of the Israelis: Sit tight while enemy rockets rain on your people. Once again, they have become targets because they are Jews.

Israel is enduring the threat and the casualties for several reasons. Among them: 1) as a demonstration of their loyal friendship to the United States, which requested that they not strike back and thus widen the war; 2) because even Israel's legendary air force probably could not have done anything to put the Scuds out of commission that U.S. and other allied aircraft weren't doing already; and 3) in the midst of war, Israeli restraint offers at least a glimmer of hope for a wider peace.

Maybe the gulf war will open some eyes, and some minds. When it ends, Israel and its Arab neighbors will have an historic opportunity to make peace. The one time the Israelis were presented with such an opportunity, by the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, they grabbed it, and made the concessions necessary to bring it about.

The objective of the United States should no longer be merely the destruction of Iraq's war-making capacity. The objective should be broader than that: peace between Israel and America's Arab allies.

The United States has shown both sides that it is an honest broker. U.S. officials have deftly negotiated the terms of military engagement. In the aftermath of the war, maybe they can just as deftly negotiate a lasting peace in the region.

Edwin Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

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