Keeping terrorism alive

April 14, 2002|By Tal Ben-Shachar

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - In 1945, the Allies committed themselves at Yalta to the destruction of Nazism and German militarism. The implication of the decision was that Nazism was to be eradicated, not merely contained.

The Allies did not stop their attacks once the German army was driven out of France and the Soviet Union, or once attacks on London stopped. Nazi Germany was attacked mercilessly and, consequently, Nazism has never again emerged as a potent force to threaten freedom.

World leaders today must adopt the same resolute and uncompromising stance in the war against terrorism.

The Israeli incursion into Nablus, Jenin and other West Bank breeding grounds of terrorism proved that terrorism can be fought and ultimately eradicated. Within a few days, Israeli forces took over densely populated areas, killed or arrested hundreds of potential suicide bombers and killers and exposed weapons and explosives that were ready for use against Israeli civilians.

But before the Israeli army could complete its mission, the United States, succumbing to pressure from the rest of the world, intervened. Following criticism from President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who fears losing the support of Israel's only ally, agreed to hasten military operations.

U.S. pressure on Israel to stop short of destroying its enemy is a recurring pattern in Israeli-American relations -a pattern with dire consequences for the war on terrorism.

In 1956, with the help of France and Britain, Israel invaded the Sinai in response to Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, backed by the United Nations and the Soviet Union, exerted tremendous pressure on Israel to retreat unilaterally from the land it occupied without securing any concessions from Egypt. This conciliatory gesture toward Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser sowed the seeds for the 1967 war.

In 1967, the international community prevented Israel from occupying more land and then put pressure on Israel to propose the land-for-peace initiative. Never before has a country that won territory in a defensive war had to concede land to the countries that attacked it.

In 1973, after suffering severe losses, the Israeli military turned the tide, crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt and, on the Golan Heights, stopped within 25 miles of Damascus, the Syrian capital. Once again, pressure from the United States, which by then was Israel's primary weapons supplier, forced Israel to retreat to previously held borders.

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, a country that had become a breeding ground for terrorism, not only against Israel but against every free country in the world. The Israeli army was days away from crushing the Palestine Liberation Organization and other terrorist groups when the United States, once again, saved the day - for the terrorists.

The United States guaranteed Yasser Arafat and his senior leadership a safe route out of Lebanon, and the terrorist group set up its headquarters in Tunisia, from where it could peacefully plan its deadly operations against Israel.

In the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the United States, swayed by world public opinion, itself made a mistake when it stopped short of entering Baghdad and toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Consequently, Mr. Hussein was able to rebuild his military and brutally quell the popular uprising following the war.

Today, the United States, the rest of the free world and the Iraqi people are paying for the unjust generosity toward the evil dictator and his regime.

It is not enough to weaken, or even cut off, the branches of evil; unless the root is destroyed, new, more sinister and more powerful branches will grow.

To Mr. Bush's credit, he has declared an all-out war against terrorist groups. Now he must be resolute in warding off attacks from his own party, the opposition and other countries around the world that, like their naive predecessors in the 1930s, fail to recognize the gravity of the current situation.

At the same time, rather than restraining Israel, Mr. Bush must provide it with all the support that it needs to win this war. The United States, Israel and other countries committed to freedom must join forces and eradicate, not just contain, terrorism.

As in World War II, nothing short of a definitive victory will do - a victory that is final and conclusive, that allows the victor complete freedom in defining the new world order.

Tal Ben-Shachar, an Israeli, is a doctoral student in organizational behavior at Harvard University.

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