The Right Coast

September 22, 2004
The Israeli Fight Against Terrorism
By Mike Rappaport

Take a look at this essay by Yossi Halevi and Michael Oren on how Israel has (so far) won the war against terrorism. There is plenty in it for hardliners and some for those who take a more moderate stance. The authors argue that the real hero turns out to be Arial Sharon. I would agree. His cleverness, flexibity, and focus on the essentials have been the key. In my view, no one from Labor would have been able to do it, nor would Benjamin Netanyahu, who appears to be better at engaging in debate than holding together a coalition and responding to real world problems.

The last paragraph of the piece summarizes the lessons for the US:

Americans would be wise to study this final lesson, too: Perhaps the greatest danger in fighting terrorism is the polarizing effect such a campaign can haveā€”not just internationally, but domestically. To avoid this pitfall, a strong political consensus for military action is necessary. That means the president must actively reach out to domestic opposition. But American leaders must also heed Sharon's other lessons. That means an ability to endure criticism from abroad and even to risk international isolation, a willingness to define the war on terrorism as a total war, and a commitment to focus one's political agenda on winning, not on divisive or extraneous concerns. Fulfilling those conditions does not guarantee success. But it does make success possible--as Israel is, at great cost, showing the world.
I agree that a national consensus is needed -- think how much easier Iraq would be with one -- but sadly that does not seem possible. And I would put most of the blame here on the Democrats who have been too consumed with Bush hatred to support his policies. Still, the President would have done better to have made more of an effort to seek the support of some of the more conservative Democrats -- the Joe Liebermans of the world. (He got Zell Miller already.) Should there be a second term for Bush, it is possible it might paradoxically be easier for him to get some Democrat support, since the Democrats will no longer expect to be running against him or Cheney in 2008.