by Victor Davis Hanson
A strange contrast
If one can endure the creepy, multifarious Hamas recruiting videos of Gazan children with suicide belts, camouflage uniforms, and toy AK-47s shouting to “kill the Jews”, and then collates all that with the images of young Hamas males with hoods and masks, RPGs and rocket launchers, screaming about the death to come to Israel with the now boilerplate “Day of Death” and “Day of Punishment” — with all the bizarre use of the vocative (“O Israel, you will see your rivers of blood” or “O Olmert, we will cut your head off!”) — then it is hard to comprehend the switch to a sudden victimization mode, in which weeping Hamas operatives appeal to Europeans, the news agencies, and other Arabs for relief from the suddenly militarily competent and fierce Jews.
This is all very tribal — the radical turn-about from praising the law of the jungle and fighting to the death to appealing to the guilt of the stronger power for exemption. It reminds me of Bernal Diaz Del Castillo’s description of the Spanish-Aztec confrontation. The Japanese, as I mentioned, never in extremisasked for quarter on Iwo or appealed to the League of Nations, whose laws they violated.
Fair and balanced
It is also terribly depressing to see the coverage. Each time I watch the melodramatic dispatches of a CNN reporter or read a Reuters dispatch, I ask, “Where were you when the Russians blew apart 40,000 plus Muslims from the center of Grozny? Are you upset about the Turkish Muslim occupation of Cyprus now in its fourth decade? Didn’t Israel give more up of southern Lebanon and Gaza and the West Bank than China ever did in occupied Tibet? And were there more Palestinians lost in Gaza or recently in Zimbabwe, Congo — or fill in the blanks in Africa? Is Russia now occupying parts of Georgia?
What was Israel thinking?
For all the talk of Israeli failure, they are doing to Hamas what they did to Hezbollah in 2006 and Fatah in 2002. And in each of these respective cases there was a cessation in offensive attacks following an incredible degree of material damage. Israeli goals? Risks? (1) They are gambling that the IDF can show Hamas to be weak, isolated, and largely a costly puppet of Iran without a lot of sympathy from, or indeed covert support from, either the Arab capitals or Fatah/PA or both; (2) They are gambling that they can establish another quid-pro-quid protocol in which a Hamas or Hezbollah understands that every time they wish to start another round of killing and fighting, they will kill only a few Israelis at a cost of hundreds of their own and billions in material losses; (3) They are gambling that they can so discredit and humiliate Hamas that the Palestinian Authority gains in stature and shows a greater willingness to negotiate; (4) They are gambling that they can kill enough Hamas leadership and blow up enough caches to reduce the rocket attacks, or at least convince the Egyptians to shut down the tunnel accesses; (5) They are gambling that if the world and the U.N. and the E.U. all choose to side with a terrorist entity like Hamas, then they have lost all leverage with the Israelis, and, thereby, are shown to be bankrupt and impotent in their ability to change conditions on the ground.
We were told for 7 years that Iran was in the driver’s seat and we had only empowered it by invading Iraq, but consider. Oil prices have crashed, depriving it of tens of billions of dollars. Iraq looks like it made it, and its free media will prove more destabilizing to a censored society in Iran than Iranian agents were to democratic Iraq. The tab to clean up for Hezbollah after 2006 was reported in the billions. Replacing the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza won’t be cheap. All of Iran’s surrogates “win” only by getting pounded and requiring billions in terrorist replacement subsidies. The Arab world is in near lockstep against Iran. So why the conventional wisdom that it is ascendant? (And why talk to a foul murderous regime when it is tottering?)
Advice to Obama:
If you do cut back on the Bush anti-terrorism policies (and, rhetoric aside, I doubt you will to any great degree [see below]), and we suffer any sort of 9/11 attack, in the national clamor afterwards, expect those aides who lobbied you the hardest for repeal, will be just those sure to court the press and explain why and how their insightful advice about keeping the Bush era statutes was ignored — by you.
The other foot
A year from now, say January 2010, will we read an AP headline like “Obama wrestles with Guantanamo”? It will be followed by a lead-in like, “In yet another pernicious legacy from the Bush administration, President Obama is perplexed by the problems of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, given that some deadly terrorists still reside there, and yet there is as no adequate solution in either trying them or releasing detainees to their parent countries.”
But wait, why imagine a year from now? — Obama has already done that! Cf. the latest in which we suddenly learn that Bush the Law Shredder was, well, facing tough choices. Here’s the most recent ABC interview transcript:
“It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” the President-elect explained. “Part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it’s true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”
Was that Bush or Obama?
Yes, that was Barack Obama you just heard — not George Bush circa 2002. (Perhaps his only escape line will be that he has to keep Gitmo open since Bush “tortured” three terrorists by waterboarding, and ensured that they will get off on a technicality in a court trial. So they have to stay there for now. [But most others were not water-boarded, so why not just let the vast majority go?] And are we to believe that the campaign rhetoric of Bush “trampling over habeas corpus” is now inoperative given “people who are intent on blowing us up?”)
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson