American Enterprise Online | 7.24.06
By Alan Dowd
Israel is fighting a five-front war against Hamas, Hezbollah, a Lebanese government unable to control its borders, an Iranian government unwilling to stay within its borders, and a Palestinian government at war with itself. Whether or not the American people recognize it, they are in the same war.
Throughout this fortnight of war, the experts have been raising the possibility that this latest chapter in the Middle East conflict could draw in the United States. (The oft-used “Arab-Israeli conflict” would be inaccurate here since Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran are Persians, not Arabs.) In the same segments, sometimes in the same breath, the experts say Hezbollah’s quarrel is with Israel, not America, before adding parenthetically that Hezbollah killed 241 US servicemen in 1983. That, of course, led to a precipitous US withdrawal from Lebanon, which sent a message to jihadists all around the world—a message understood in every language: America has no stomach for sticking it out. The US has been dealing with the ramifications ever since. Indeed, Osama bin Laden still references the retreat from Beirut.
In other words, the US was drawn into this war long ago.
Once upon a time—in the autumn of 2001, to be exact—the American people realized that.They understood that Israel’s grim history would be America’s foreseeable future—that what Israel did in 1967, when it struck preemptively to avoid encirclement, so would America do to forestall a series of 9/11s; that what Israel did after the Munich massacre, when it hunted down the guilty one by one, US Special Forces would do in the jungles, deserts, and cities that breed terror; that what Israel did in 1981, when it leveled Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility, the United States would do on a global scale to prevent something much worse than 9/11. Indeed, in a wordless, instinctive way, they connected the dots from terrorist groups to terrorist states, and from 9/11 to a future deformed by a nuclear- or biological-armed alliance of the two.
Their president, who shared their instincts, unveiled a doctrine to confront an age of terror. “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them,” he explained. “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
He, too, connected the dots; and as he did, an “axis of evil” came into focus. North Korea, Iran and Iraq got all the ink in the next morning’s newspapers. But it pays to re-read the full quote. “States like these and their terrorist allies,” he explained, after mentioning Kim Jong-Il’s prison-state, Saddam Hussein’s thugocracy and the mullahs’ terror regime, “constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”
Some dismissed it as a rhetorical reach; others said there was no proof of collaboration, let alone alliance, between these states and the stateless organizations that war against the West. But the reality then—so clear amid the soot and smoke of 9/11—was that whether or not they comprised an axis in the classical sense, these groups and states did exist, did have a common enemy and did pose a threat to the civilized world.Some had money, some had intelligence capabilities, some had technology, some had personnel, some had weapons, and all of them had motive.
Those realities are unchanged today, although, happily, the axis is changed, having lost two important pieces in the intervening years. But now we have circumstantial evidence—and more, in some cases—to show that there is more than coincidence at work:
· With the US and its allies focused on Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons, North Korea test-fires a fusillade of missiles. Representatives from Iran observe the launches. There should be no surprise here. North Korea, after all, has been peddling its missilery to the mullahs for years.
· Then, as the world’s major powers turn their attention to North Korea, the mullahs reject the West’s Chamberlainesque offer of trade and investment in exchange for their promise to abide by a treaty they have already signed.
· Then, as those same powers prepare to refer Iran to the UN for violating that treaty, Hamas and Hezbollah launch raids into sovereign Israeli territory—territory that only the far fringes of Islamic militancy reject as Israel’s. As if to underscore just how far on the fringes the Iran-Hezbollah axis has traveled, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal calls Hezbollah’s actions—not Israel’s—“unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible.” Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, the UAE, and Bahrain reportedly concur. Even so, other Arab states are taking the old line, supporting Lebanon’s and proto-Palestine’s “right to resist occupation by all legitimate means.” The only problem here is that Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005. In other words, when the axis started to snatch Israeli troops (from Israeli territory) and lob rockets (into Israeli territory), there was no occupation.
· When Israel responds to the aggression, the world’s attention snaps to Beirut and Gaza—just as Iran expected.
· During the fighting, we watch an Iranian-funded, Iranian-trained, Iranian-armed micro-military pelt Israelwith an arsenal of rocketry, which comes to Hezbollah courtesy of Iran by way of Syria. As the war drags into its second week, Israel even reports that Iranian troops could be providing on-the-ground assistance to Hezbollah, meaning that this is no longer a proxy war for the mullahs.
· As the war escalates, the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran warn Israel not to attack the Sunni secularists in Syria. Their Hezbollah henchmen then threaten America openly: “We have 2,000 volunteers who have registered since last year,” howls Iran’s Hezbollah spokesman. “We are ready to dispatch them to every corner of the world to jeopardize Israel and America's interests.” Again, there should be no surprises here: A full year before the attacks on Manhattan and Washington, the FBI arrested 23 members and supporters of Hezbollah—in suburban North Carolina of all places. In fact, before 9/11, Hezbollah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group on earth.
· Amid the chaos, the UN Security Council passes a resolution asking North Korea to abide by existing resolutions. And just to bring us full circle, North Korea threatens to fire off more missiles.
I daresay the original Axis powers seldom coordinated their plans so well.