America's Sunni Islamist opponents must be ever
more strongly sensing that Allah truly is on their side. Currently, this perception
is due not only to the recent victory of the Islamist party Hamas in Palestine's
parliamentary elections, but more especially because of the U.S. reaction to
that success. That reaction probably has polished off any remaining belief in
the Muslim world – assuming there was any – that the United States is sincere
about building democracy in the Middle East. The reaction likewise has validated
Osama bin Laden's repeated warning that the hypocritical West supports democracy
only if elections further its plans to dominate and secularize the Islamic world.
The Palestinian election could have been the break in the Middle East that
America has needed, but so far Washington's bipartisan governing elite has kicked
that gift horse squarely in the chops. The from-all-reports fair and democratic
election of Hamas should have been a U.S. propaganda triumph, as well as a chance
for Washington to exit the morass of Palestinian-Israeli affairs. An aged, incompetent,
and putridly corrupt PLO was democratically defeated by Hamas, an organization
well-versed in delivering many government services. In this scenario, the United
States had a golden opportunity to show respect for a culturally compatible
democratic process in the Muslim world and to detach itself from the snare of
an endless war in which it has no interest. After 30-plus years of America exposing
itself to steadily increasing danger and expense because of the infantile inability
of Israelis and Palestinians to live together, we had a chance to walk away
and let the cards fall where they may. True, it surely would not have been fair
to both sides to do so; after all, the Israelis have a conventional army and
a large, undocumented array of weapons of mass destruction, while the Palestinians
have AK-47s, the less-than-mighty Qassim missiles, and a steady supply of martyrs
and rocks. Life is always tough, however, and the elimination of one or both
sides would have no discernible impact on life in North America.
Sadly, the opportunity went a-glimmering because of the three standby myths
that dominate what passes for thought among America's bipartisan foreign policy,
academic, and governing elites. The first holds that the survival of Israel
and/or a Palestinian state is a central national-security interest for the United
States. The second argues that all states have a "right" to exist.
The third is that no state is "legitimate" if it refuses to accept
the existence of a second state or argues that the second state should be destroyed.
The three myths amount to a comprehensive attack on the common sense of the
average American, as well as on U.S. national interests.
The first myth is insupportable in terms of the correct definition of national
interests: that is, issues that are matters of life-and-death for a nation.
If our elites' favorite analytic frameworks of saintly-or-evil Israelis, or
saintly-or-evil Palestinians, is avoided, and an effort is made to write down
a list of the genuine U.S. national interests – not emotional, religious, or
ethnic interests – that are at stake in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the result
would be a completely blank sheet of paper. This little exercise simply shows
that if both the Palestinians and the Israelis erased each other from the face
of the earth tomorrow, it would have no notable impact on America. Indeed, that
result would save a lot of U.S. money and get a lot of Americans out of harm's
The second myth is goofier than the first. No state – Palestine, Israel, America,
or Belgium – has any sort of a God- or man-given right to "exist."
States exist because they can defend themselves against predators, produce a
viable economy, and prevent terminal, internal societal rot. If every state
had a "right" to exist, the West would have kept the Soviet Union
alive and would be working feverishly to resuscitate such long-gone states as
Siam, the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, Sparta, and the Italian city states of
Venice, Pisa, and Genoa.
The third myth is an absurdity of more recent vintage: A government is only
legitimate, and can only be dealt with, if it renounces violence and recognizes
the right of all states to exist. In practice, this means that Palestine's new
Hamas government must unilaterally disarm in the face of a demonstrably brutal
enemy – backed by the unqualified support of the world's only superpower – and
willingly turn its back on a duty (jihad) that it believes derives from God's
word. In commonsense terms, this sort of voluntary national suicide and mass
apostasy seems a bit much to ask and, even more, to realistically expect to
For the United States, moreover, these demands are nothing short of nonsense
in terms of our nation's historical experience. What American, for example,
has not seen the film of a premier of the Soviet Union pounding his desk with
a shoe and stridently vowing that the USSR would ultimately "bury"
the United States? As if this denial of America's right to exist was not clear
enough, all Americans knew that that particular Soviet leader – as well as his
predecessors and successors – believed in the "science" of Marxism-Leninism,
which long-ago determined that America and all capitalist states would be annihilated.
Faced with such a foe, as I recall, America did not demand that the Soviets
unilaterally disarm, renounce their Marxist-Leninist faith, and avow America's
right to exist and flourish. Instead, we accepted the reality of the USSR's
existence as a mortal foe, armed to the teeth, and dealt with Moscow in a way
that protected U.S. national interests and led eventually to the demise of the
As U.S. history shows, we are seeking to impose on Israel's foe unachievable
conditions that we have never sought to impose on our own enemies. Insistence
on these unattainable conditions – along with demands based on the other two
myths – will only serve to prolong the conflict and involve America ever more
deeply in what is, for the United States, the distinctly peripheral Israeli-Palestinian
issue. It also will eventually elevate Hamas to what it has not been and is
not now – a threat to the United States.