Of all the entities that inhabit the pantheon of Leftist loathing, the United States and Israel surely occupy a special place of honor. And the slightest hint of cooperation between the two halves of this demonic duo is enough to send so-called ‘progressives’ into paroxysms of rage.
So when the NY Times reported in December 2003 that the US military was using Israeli urban warfare tactics to combat Iraqi insurgents, the Leftwing blogosphere went berserk. The World Socialist Website proclaimed: “The Bush administration is about to launch a campaign of wholesale killings in Iraq with the assistance of the Israeli military.” And Ivan Eland warned on the Left-leaning Alternet website that the adoption of the “failed Israeli model” would be “disastrous.”
Never mind that Israel’s counter-terrorism strategy has proved remarkably successful in reducing both the frequency and severity of Palestinian suicide attacks. And forget about the fact that Israel has decimated the Hamas command and control structure through a finely focused campaign of special ops raids and air strikes.
But the real irony stems from the fact that the Left has adopted the same methodology in the PR war that the US military has implemented in the shooting war. Just as American officers have copied the operational techniques of their IDF allies, American anti-war activists are mimicking the political playbook of their Israeli fellow travellers.
And nowhere are the fingerprints of Israeli Leftist thought more readily apparent than on the anti-war advocacy campaign of bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan. After languishing for months in the media doldrums, Sheehan managed to recapture the headlines by getting herself arrested at the Capitol Building during the President’s State of the Union address.
From her made-for-camera theatrics to her invocation of a unique parental moral authority, Sheehan’s shenanigans are directly modelled on Israel’s “Four Mothers Movement.” The catalyst for the creation of the “Four Mothers” was a tragic collision between two Israeli Air Force helicopters in 1997 that claimed the lives of 73 soldiers. Organized by parents with sons doing national service in combat units, the movement coalesced around a demand for an immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Lebanon.
The ‘helicopter disaster,’ as it came to be known, was a non-combat-related accident. It had nothing to do with the bitter irregular war that Israel soldiers were then waging in the hills and wadis of southern Lebanon against Hizbollah Islamic radicals
Yet in a flash of tactical brilliance, the ideologues of the Israeli Left recognized the political opportunity that lay at the heart of what was seen in Tel Aviv living rooms as a national calamity. The sight of parents pleading for the safety of their children resonated with those elements of Israeli populace that were frustrated by their nation’s 15-year entanglement in Lebanon. Within months the ‘Four Mothers’ burgeoned into what the Jerusalem Post described as “one of the most successful grassroots movements in Israel’s history.”
But this Leftist public advocacy campaign constituted a triumph of political perception over operational reality. During the final year of its presence in Lebanon, the Israeli army suffered a total of seven combat deaths while inflicting many times that number of fatalities on Hizbollah. The Israeli public was unaware that IDF’s dedication to tough, realistic training meant that more Israeli soldiers were annually killed in live-fire field exercises than were lost to enemy action in 1999-2000.
Despite the fact that the IDF’s casualty rate in Lebanon was militarily negligible, in May 2000 Prime Minister Ehud Barak summarily instructed Israeli forces to depart from Lebanese soil. And the pell-mell nature of the final redeployment added insult to injury, creating the impression that the Israeli army had retreated under fire with its tail between its legs.
The decision to withdraw the IDF from Lebanon was the result of an extraordinary lapse of moral fibre on the part of Ehud Barak’s Labour government. One Tel Aviv columnist famously wrote that if Israeli society had shown similar irresolution during its 1948 war of independence, then the Jewish state would never have survived the Arab onslaught that accompanied its birth.
Writing a year after the Lebanese pullout, Brigadier General (retired) Shlomo Brom of Tel Aviv University stated: "it appears that the withdrawal from Southern Lebanon had a great influence on the Palestinians. It reinforced the perception among them that Israel is vulnerable to terrorism and guerrilla warfare, and that the staying power of the Israeli public has been damaged."
And since the implementation of Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy last August, we hear renewed shouts of jubilation coming from Muslim extremist elements in the West Bank and Gaza. The popular narrative that Israel was expelled at the point of an Arab bayonet resonated disastrously at the polls during last month’s Palestinian parliamentary elections. Hamas was able to translate the prestige garnered from its portrayal of a humiliated Israel into a landslide ballot win that delivered ruling power into jihadist hands.
The current insurgency in Iraq poses a similar dilemma to the American people. The anti-war Left makes the seductive claim that the US will reap substantial gain by cutting the pain of its military engagement in the Middle East. But if the United States were to leave without a credible claim to victory, the resulting perception of American failure would constitute a strategic calamity of the first order.
The political lexicon of radical Islam does not recognise the concepts of compromise, comity or conciliation. The only language that is understood by Palestinian jihadists in Ramallah and their Iraqi counterparts in Fallujah is the violent dialect of total victory or total vanquishment. Islamic fanatics like abu-Musab al-Zarkawi are either at your feet, or at your throat.
In the zero-sum world according to bin Laden, American failure is, ipso facto, seen as an al-Qaeda accomplishment, and nothing succeeds like success.
To retreat from Iraq would be akin to emptying a bag of offal while swimming through shark-infested waters – it might initially lighten the load, but it is ultimately bound to prove very painful. Ululations of jihadist jubilation would echo from rooftops throughout the Islamic world, attracting legions of new recruits to the cause
Despite the blandishments of Cindy Sheehan, et al, we must understand there will be no quick fixes in this war. The war that has been forced upon us by jihadist Islam will yields more than its share of pain and suffering. Yet, we must overcome our tears and fears to persevere and carry on. The only other option would entail humiliation and surrender, and that is an alternative too terrible to even contemplate.
Ted Lapkin formerly worked as communications director for NY Republican Congressman Rick Lazio. He now lives in Melbourne Australia and is Director of Policy Analysis at the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.
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