Hope Amid Despair?

A reluctant world begins to confront reality.

by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

Pessimism is now the conventional wisdom about the wars in the Middle East , and, indeed, it is hard to find any good news in the recent ceasefire.

Syria and Iran stage celebrations as news emerges from the ruins of southernLebanon revealing just how well-armed Hezbollah was — and how impotent the Lebanese “government” really is. The only suspense remaining is whether the United Nations peacekeeping force or the Lebanese army will prove the most craven in giving Hezbollah a green light to rearm and terrorize.

The old Arab agenda of recapturing “stolen” land has been superseded by a new Islamist jihad that is as fanatical as it is inhuman. The Islamists care not a whit for ground, but only for the abject destruction of the Jewish state and to finish the Holocaust that they claim did not take place. Few of the pundits now clamoring for “engagement” care to recall that Syria probably murdered Rafik Hariri, or that Iran promises to wipe Israel off the map.

The near criminal indifference of the international community is cause for greater depression still. No one says a thing about horrific Arab racism and anti-Semitism that brazenly offer the world pictures of our Secretary of State as a primate and constant hate speech of Jews as apes and pigs. And here at home, a celebrity actor, the staff of a failed congresswoman in Georgia, and a crazed Muslim with a gun in Seattle all shout about the evils of the “Jews” — a good cross-section of just how insidious is the growing anti-Semitism.

The globalized media is absolutely discredited after the coverage of Lebanon . Reuters has destroyed its reputation, gained from 150 years of world reporting, by releasing doctored pictures and tolerating staged photo-ops. Almost all the Western media outlets failed to distinguish Lebanese civilian from military casualties — as if the Hezbollah terrorists they never filmed and never interviewed never died.

Indeed, thanks to the unprofessional reporters abroad, and their disingenuous chiefs back home, the world never saw the killers who sent the rockets nor many of their civilian victims on the ground in Israel . Nor did the reporters apprise their audience of the different landscapes in which they worked: candor in Israel might win loud disagreement; truth in Lebanon meant death. It would be as if Reuters, AP, or the New York Times embedded its reporters within the Waffen SS, beaming daily reports back home about the great morale and noble suffering of the Wehrmacht as it advanced into the snowy Ardennes.

There was greater lunacy still. Hezbollah bragged of the deadliness of its antitank rockets purchased with Iranian petrodollars — as if weapons that it can’t fabricate or even maintain are signs of its own expertise.

In the world of southern Lebanon , terrorists celebrate their victory in the ruins of their bombed-out hideouts by setting off fireworks — as if to remind themselves of the fiery spectacle of more Israeli bombs. And then that craziness was topped by the Lebanese defense minister reminding the world that the Lebanese planned to renege on their responsibilities to disarm Hezbollah, whining that if Israel couldn’t do it, how could the Lebanese — as true as it was surreal to confess.

Nasrallah, Assad, and Ahmadinejad blabbered ad nauseam about their newfound sense of “honor” and “pride,” as if they were talking heads in some stale Viagra infomercial. Once more, the pathetic obsession of the Middle Eastwith lost manhood is explicable by a society immersed in gender apartheid, patriarchy, and tribalism. It is as if the Middle East fundamentalist and dysfunctional family has been elevated to the national government, and then its resulting adolescent insecurities are aired for the long-suffering world.

Iran promised relief aid to Hezbollah — and, of course, immediately sent thousands of chadors.

Mike Wallace interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pronounced him charming, but never quite got him to explain his promises to wipe Israel off the map, much less his role in the 1979 storming of the American embassy in Tehran, his conversations with the lost imam, or whether Osama bin Laden was ever given sanctuary in Iran. Instead, the fascistic Iranian president proved he’s attuned to left-wing politics inside the United States : Howard Dean-like, he mouthed tired complaints about mythical high American unemployment and our poor health care!

Yet, all is not lost, since lunacy cuts both ways. Iran and Syria unleashed Hezbollah because they were both facing global scrutiny, one over nuclear acquisition and the other over the assassination of Lebanese reformer Rafik Hariri. Those problems won’t go away for either of them — nor, if we persist, will the democratic fervor in Afghanistan and Iraq on their borders.

We still don’t know the extent of the damage that Hezbollah suffered, but it perhaps took casualties ten times the Israelis’ — losses — not to be dismissed even in the asymmetrical laws of postmodern warfare. Hezbollah’s leaders were hiding in embassies and bunkers; Israel ’s were not. For all the newfound magnetism of Nasrallah, he brought ruin to his flock, and fright to the Arab establishment around Israel .

A surprised Israel now has a good glimpse of the terrorists’ new way of war, and probably next time will attack the supplier, not the launcher, of the rocketry. And when the Reuters stringers go away, the “civilians” of southern Lebanon, off-camera, might not be so eager to see more real fireworks lighting up their skies — or far-off, pristine Syria and Iran in safety praising the courage of the ruined amid the rubble. Note how Hezbollah already is desperately racing around the craters to assure its homeless constituency that it has enough Iranian cash to buy back lost sympathies.

Even the ceasefire can come back to bite the Islamists and their supporters. Hezbollah won’t be disarmed as promised, much less stay out of Katyusha range of the border. And that defiance will only reveal the impotence of the Lebanese and the U.N., reminding both that they have talked themselves into a corner and now are responsible to keep caged their own pet 7th-century vipers. This can only work to Israel ’s favor when the next rockets go off, since no one then will be proposing an “international” solution — although it will be interesting to see whether Jacques Chirac talks of the “nuclear” option once his soldiers begin to be picked off by Hezbollah.

In a larger sense, the foiled London terrorist plot won’t endear either Islamists or their appeasers to millions in the world who face travel delays, cancelled flights, and body searches — on top of paying billions more to the Arab oil producers who in response whine even more in their victimhood.

As the cliché goes: the Middle East needs to wake up and disown Islamic fascism. Otherwise, insidiously the entire world is turning against it, as radical Islam proves to be every bit as frightening an ideology as German Nazism or Soviet Communism — whether this is ascertained from the use of human shields, tribal lynchings and beheadings, Joseph Goebbels-like propaganda, Holocaust-denial, racist rants, or primordial hatred of Jews.

Three years ago no one was talking about profiling at airports. Now the British are exploring how best to do it. Indeed, one of the stranger developments in recent memory is now taking place the world over: Young, Middle-Eastern, Muslim men are eyed and studied by passengers at every airport — even as governments still lecture about the evils of the very profiling that their own millions are doing daily. Muslims can thank al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and an entire culture that won’t condemn terrorism for such ostracism, which only increases with each suicide bomber, human shield, hijacking, kidnapping, and macabre reference to genocide and Jew-killing.

In an amorphous war of self-induced Western restraint, like the present one, truth and moral clarity are as important as military force. This past month, the world of the fascist jihadist and those who tolerate him was once again on display for civilization to fathom. Even the most timid and prone to appeasement in the West are beginning to see that it is becoming a question of “the Islamists or us.”

In this eleventh hour, that is a sort of progress after all.

©2006 Victor Davis Hanson

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