The terrorists are winning

July 06, 1996|By Daniel Berger

THE TERRORISTS of Saudi Arabia cannot take on United States armed forces in combat. They cannot even stand up to Saudi police.

But through the publicity value of their fuel tanker bomb near Dhahran, they have undermined the Saudi monarchy and sowed distrust between it and the U.S. government.

They have helped the Dole campaign chip away at American confidence in the Clinton administration and they have fomented American popular disapproval of stationing U.S. troops near the Persian Gulf oil fields.

Not a bad pay-off for a day's work.

The terrorists of Gaza, the West Bank and the Palestinian diaspora cannot fight Israel and have only made it stronger in a half-century of pinpricks. They cannot stand and fight the Palestinian Authority police.

But they provoked Israel's government into reprisals and security measures which would destroy the Palestinian economy and have embittered Palestinians against the peace and alienated Lebanese from Israel.

Their real coup was to provoke the election by Israelis of Benjamin Netanyahu, to foment a process of distrust between those Arab authorities that wanted peace and Israel. This should not only prevent further progress that another Peres regime in Israel might have achieved, but may unravel what has been accomplished.

Irish Republican Army terrorists have not been able to bring British government of Northern Ireland seriously into question or to intimidate its unionist majority or to whet the Irish Republic's appetite for digesting a million unwilling neighbors.

Finally, they declared a cease-fire after Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA's legal alter ego, Sinn Fein, was convinced that violence was counter-productive and his own considerable political skills would go further in a constitutional process based on demographic and nationalist realities.

But a change in the command structure of the IRA brought opponents to the fore without dislodging Mr. Adams from his perch atop Sinn Fein. And so a demonstration of terrorism has prevented his participation in constitutional talks.

It raised the percentage of votes in Northern Ireland for parties opposed to any settlement from about one-fifth to slightly better than one-third.

It brought back the dismal pall of security measures and probably aborted the peace process though the Irish and British governments do not yet admit that.

The goals of terrorism are often not what the terrorists say: Not to overthrow Israel but to prevent peace between it and neighbors; not to create an Islamic regime but to replace one with another; not to liberate the nationalist minority of Northern Ireland but to keep their life hell so that no status quo will be legitimated.

Success breeds success

And terrorism is like crime and graffiti. When people see others getting away with it, more join in.

Americans have been complacent that terrorism is only what happens in other countries. Not so. We are good at it.

Whoever is burning black churches in the South is getting all sorts of people angry with all sorts of other people, preventing accords, frightening and embittering multitudes.

The bombers of the federal building in Oklahoma City were classic terrorists. And now the federal authorities have broken up a ring of copycats that apparently saw them as role models.

The Viper Militia of Arizona were not taking technical assistance from a hostile regime but reportedly were training and equipping themselves for terror when the law enforcers struck.

Terrorism will never be wholly abolished. It will be driven down only after it is repeatedly shown to fail its purposes.

Daniel Berger writes editorials for The Sun.

Pub Date: 7/06/96

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