Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Its a Mad, Mad World

Let us count the ways

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

The Palestinian Authority and spokesmen from the Arab world are now advancing a new party line by comparing their own struggle to our American Revolution — with overt associations between the Founding Fathers and Mr. Arafat and his associates! This is a slur against our American heritage and should be noted as such.

Despite an expected natural evolution in morality over the centuries, our leaders in 1776 were still far more humane folk than the present-day Palestinian gunmen. When waging war in a similarly asymmetrical conflict, they nevertheless did not blow up their enemy’s women and children. When outgunned, they still did not name streets after killers who went through the countryside bombing shops. When lacking in cannon and warships, their citizens still were not given cash bounties for murdering British infants. And they were fighting for constitutional government — not something corrupt like Mr. Arafat’s regime, which does not tolerate a real opposition, regular elections, or a free press. And if the Palestinians are so critical of America, why do they now invoke our own revolution as a model? And if they really do approve of our own past, will they similarly now adopt something like the American Constitution?

Throughout the debate over the current crisis we have heard a refrain of “Apaches and F-16s” raised by Palestinian critics to chastise American aid to Israel. We hear constant calumny about America’s tilt toward the Jewish state — yet almost nothing about the nature and size of its massive aid to Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian authority. Moreover, Israel received almost no help from America in its first three wars, when the Arab world had an enormous advantage in planes, tanks, guns, and manpower. So we know that historically, American arms do not per se ensure to the Israelis the military edge. We know as well that many of the Israeli’s own weapons are produced at home — unlike the Arab world, which must import almost everything in its arsenal from Europe, China, or the United States. Is the real moral quandary that the United States gives state-of-the-art aircraft to a modern democracy whose citizens are our friends, or that we are providing sophisticated weapons — such as M1 tanks — to a dictatorship in an unfree Egypt, whose citizens and state-controlled press regularly express hatred for Americans?

Why is a small state surrounded by millions of enemies deemed the Goliath of the Middle East — when it is clearly a David on the world scene? If it garners no admiration for pluck because it is deemed too strong in comparison with the Arabs, why does it in turn win no sympathy because it is too weak in relationship to the entire world?

The United States worries that “moderate” Arab regimes are “tottering” and “on the verge.” Is Israel likewise “tottering” and “on the verge” of a similar revolution? If not, why not? How can any autocracies “totter” unless they are illegitimate to begin with?

Should Mr. Sharon announce his warm amity with Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, he might lose an election and be exiled to putter in retirement at his farm; but what would happen to King Hussein, Mr. Assad, and Mr. Mubarak should they call Israel a “friend”? And where would they then go? Southern France? Las Vegas? Perhaps, now, Afghanistan?

Why are those who killed 3,000 Americans on September 11 — along with Saddam Hussein, Qaddafi, and the countries who supplied the manpower for al Qaeda — all on the same side against Israel, while Israel in turn is alone sympathetic to our own losses — and why are we ourselves then neutral about all this? Is there a pattern here?

If there is no real Palestinian army in uniform (as we are told ad nauseam), and if Israelis are dying, then who is killing them — if not civilians? And how can a man with a bomb or a gun be a killer when he bombs or shoots — but then suddenly be reclassified as an innocent civilian should he be shot at in return and killed?

If the idea of fighting autocracy and imposing democracy upon defeated tyrannies in the Muslim world is ill-conceived and impractical, why is what now serves as a fragile government in a war-torn and impoverished Afghanistan still far more humane than what is called rule in an oil-rich Iraq, Iran, or Kuwait? Why are Mr. Karzai and his associates more legitimate rulers than the Saudi sheiks? And why does America find Germany and Japan among the most confident, humane, prosperous — and friendly — nations in the world today? Why are the Germany and Japan that we once brutally defeated far more understanding of and equitable to America than the France which we magnanimously saved?

Why are the streets of Afghanistan and Pakistan quiet now when, a year ago, they were the most fanatically anti-American of all Middle Eastern states and nearly rioting in favor of pro-Palestinian terrorists?

In the 1967 and 1973 wars, the Soviet Union — which had a decided preference for unfree regimes — habitually pressured us to stop the successful Israeli response to Arab aggression. In 2002, long after the demise of the Communist empire, a socialist Europe has taken upon itself exactly the same role, threatening to install sanctions against Israel, condemning the United States, and seeking to pass anti-American and anti-Israeli resolutions in the U.N. If we were once hostile to the purveyors of such shenanigans, why are we now so tolerant of their successors?

The Vatican now reels from charges that a vicious pederasty that destroyed hundreds of innocent young men was (and is) endemic among its priestly corps — and has been tolerated or ignored by its hierarchy. Recent church histories suggest that in the 1930s — and perhaps during the war itself — its role in opposing anti-Semitism and the Holocaust was not impressive. Given such recent troubling questions about its own principles in general and its past attitudes toward Jews in particular, why does the Vatican now, at this particularly embarrassing time, appeal to morality in condemning Israel’s recent response to the terrorists’ murdering of women and children? And why — as armed gunmen broke into the holiest site in Christendom, the birthplace of Jesus — did the Vatican admonish the Israelis, but say little about the intrusion of combatants upon its own holy premises? What would have been the reaction of the Arab world had 200 Christian gunmen taken over a shrine in Mecca?

Why is it that in televised news debates, Palestinian spokesmen filibuster, interrupt, and often are told by their hosts to behave — or have their microphones cut off? Why do their Israeli counterparts less often engage in the same boorish behavior? And why do enraged Palestinian interlocutors demand indulgences from American moderators in a fashion that they would never allow at home to any but themselves? Does such a dichotomy, between the comportment of Israeli and Palestinian debaters, have anything to do with the larger antithesis of a culture of democracy versus a culture of autocracy and censorship?

If al Qaeda blew up 3,000 innocent Americans, bragging that it did so to stop American material and spiritual hostility to the Palestinians, and we in turn responded militarily to eliminate that terror and murder-why, when similar killers blew up hundreds of Israelis and said it was to stop Israeli hostility to the Palestinians, did we call on Israel not to respond to eliminate that terror and murder? Can we at least say that we act not out of principle, but rather from strategic concerns or worries over oil or political expediency — so that we might at least be honestly inconsistent, rather than hypocritical?

Guests from the Middle East and Arab Americans themselves did not stage demonstrations on our campuses and in our streets to protest the butchery of 3,000 Americans on September 11. If not because of their present support for other Middle Easterners who use tactics similar to al Qaeda to blow up civilians — why are they now suddenly marching to condemn deaths abroad on the excuse of a heartfelt objection to “terror”?

Does the “right of return” apply to the expelled Jews of Cairo, Damascus, and Baghdad? To the Greek Cypriots? To the South Vietnamese? To the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama? Cambodians? Pakistanis? Ionians? Indians? Germans?

Why do American academics, who preach the need for a strong democracy at home, worry over purported restrictions of a free press, protest about the treatment of prisoners, and monitor our judiciary, nevertheless praise Palestinians — who forgo elections, censor the news, execute the untried, and have no habeas corpus — while castigating the Israelis, who vote, air their views, give rights to the accused, and have judges who overrule government legislation?

Why are we in such a mad, mad world? Simple. What people now say has nothing to do with reality. And why is that? Because the reality is now far too frightening to admit: A tired world simply finds a small, democratic Jewish state — opposed by 500 million Arabs, anti-Semitic, autocratic, with oil and terrorists — too much of a liability, and so desperately invents inconsistent moralities, false principles, and situational ethics each day to mask a consistent amorality that won’t go away.

©2002 Victor Davis Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

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