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A "Cycle" on Nonsense By: Thomas Sowell
Townhall.com | Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Now that Israel has responded to rocket attacks and the abduction of its soldiers by terrorists by making military strikes into areas controlled by those terrorists, much of our media are deploring another "cycle of violence" in the Middle East.

For reasons unknown, some people seem to regard verbal equivalence as moral equivalence -- and the latter as some kind of badge of broadmindedness, if not intellectual superiority.

Therefore, when Palestinian terrorists ("militants" in politically correct Newspeak) attack Israel and then Israel responds with military force, that is just another "cycle of violence" in the Middle East to some people.

The "cycle" notion suggests that each side is just responding to what the other side does. But just what had Israel done to set off these latest terrorist acts? It voluntarily pulled out of Gaza, after evacuating its own settlers, and left the land to the Palestinian authorities.

Terrorists then used the newly acquired land to launch rockets into Israel and then seized an Israeli soldier. Other terrorists in Lebanon followed suit. The great mantra of the past, "trading land for peace," is now thoroughly discredited, or should be.

But facts mean nothing to people who are determined to find equivalence, whether today in the Middle East or yesterday in the Cold War.

Since all things are the same, except for the differences, and different except for the similarities, nothing is easier than to create verbal parallels and moral equivalence, though some people seem to pride themselves on their ability to do such verbal tricks.

Centuries ago, Thomas Hobbes said that words are wise men's counters but that they are the money of fools.

Regardless of fashionable rhetoric, there is no Middle East "peace process" any more than trading "land for peace" has been a viable option. Nor is a Palestinian "homeland" a key to peace.

During all the years when Arab countries controlled the land now proposed for a Palestinian homeland, there was no talk about any such homeland. Only after Israel took control of that territory as a result of the 1967 war was it suddenly sacred as a Palestinian homeland.

There is no concession that will bring lasting peace to the Middle East because the terrorists and their supporters are not going to be satisfied by concessions. The only thing that will satisfy them is the destruction of Israel.

Pending that, they will inflict as much destruction and bloodshed on the Israelis as they can get away with at any given time. This brutal reality is not going to vanish through verbal sleight of hand.

The terrorists have spoken in words and in deeds, including suicide bombers. They have what Churchill once described in the Nazis as "currents of hatred so intense as to sear the souls of those who swim upon them."

We saw that on 9/11 -- or should have seen it. But many, especially among the intelligentsia, are determined not to see it.

Of all the Western democracies, only two have no choice but to depend on their own military forces for their survival -- the United States and Israel. The rest have for more than half a century had the luxury of depending on American military forces in general and the American nuclear deterrent in particular.

People who have long been sheltered from mortal dangers can indulge themselves in the belief that there are no mortal dangers. Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran or North Korea -- and, through them, in the hands of hate-filled terrorists -- may be all that will finally wake up such people. But that may be tragically too late.

Those who keep calling for an end to the "cycle of violence" are what make such violence more likely. "World opinion" in general and the United Nations in particular can always be counted on to counsel "restraint" in response to attacks and "negotiations" in response to lethal threats.

What that means is that those who start trouble will have a lower price to pay than if those they attacked were free to go all out in their counter-attack. Lowering the price to be paid by aggressors virtually guarantees more aggression.

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Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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