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6/21/2017 8:25:40 PM
Posted: 6/5/2001 5:06:37 PM EDT
THE NEW YORK POST June 5, 2001 HOW POWELL IMPERILS U.S. By John Podhoretz THE position the United States is taking on Israeli retaliation for Palestinian terrorist attacks poses a serious theoretical and practical danger - to the United States. The danger it poses to Israel, which I believe is also very real, isn't as important. U.S. foreign policy should primarily be devoted to U.S. national security and only secondarily to the security problems besetting our allies. But the way American officials react to events abroad offers clues about how they will react if similar difficulties beset the United States. And the "restraint" doctrine that Secretary of State Colin Powell is relentlessly articulating as guidance for Israel is an ominous clue indeed about how the Powell State Department views the use of force as a national-security tool. After the horrific beach-disco bombing on Friday night that killed 21 Israeli teenagers and injured 150 more, Powell said he would "encourage" Israel "to keep having this measured response so that we don't get into another cycle that takes us off into, frankly, worse than just another direction of terror, but into an abyss that we might not be able to get out of." The term "measured response" is barely disguised code for "no response," since Israel had not responded with any show of force. It had only secured its borders with Palestinian-controlled lands and halted flights from the Palestinian airport in Gaza. Now, if any event in recent times has called for a sustained military response, it was this very bombing. Let's try a thought experiment: If the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst act of terror ever committed on American soil, had been the work of an organization or nation operating outside the United States, the American people would properly have demanded a reprisal - and not merely out of vengeful emotion. A strike would have been necessary as an act of deterrence - to signal plainly to future terror planners that their actions would be met with overwhelming force and thereby to put a real scare into them. Indeed, when Americans were the victims of a disco bombing - in Berlin in 1986 - the Reagan administration followed up with an air raid against Libya's Col. Muammar Khadafy. Deterrence has been the animating military and foreign-policy doctrine of the United States since the advent of the Cold War. America is unique among the world powers of history in having no territorial ambitions, no desire to use its strength to increase its land holdings: Our country maintains its decisive military strength as a quiet but ever-present threat to nations and terrorist groups that might decide to chip away at us. The message: Don't start up with us in the first place, because you can't finish what you start - and the pain we will inflict on you isn't worth the petty satisfaction you might derive from messing with the world's premier power.
Link Posted: 6/5/2001 5:07:12 PM EDT
Alas, when the secretary of state counsels an ally to not respond to an assault like the bombing in Israel, he is unthinkingly calling into question the validity of deterrence. Powell is also doing inadvertent violence to the meaning of "restraint" as an approach to a horrendously difficult security problem. Israel already operates with restraint: An unrestrained Israel would have long since reoccupied the West Bank and Gaza in response to the uprising that began last September. Most other nations would have - and, tragically, the restraint Israel has shown thus far has only increased the danger to its own people. Powell is, in essence, asking Israel to eschew a policy of deterrence in favor of something far more vague and, the evidence suggests, far more destabilizing. And herein lies the danger to the U.S. Deterrence is not a risk-free policy. It requires the occasional spilling of blood in response to real-world events. It has required us to make some very difficult choices in the past half-century, both to glorious effect (the collapse of the Soviet Union) and tragic effect (the misguided war in Vietnam). On balance, deterrence has been an astonishingly robust approach. But if we do not believe in it for other nations, how long can we continue to employ it ourselves? Can we really preach one doctrine to other countries while embracing another for the United States alone? There have always been utopians here and abroad who find deterrence a discomfiting approach and are constantly seeking to replace it with a more touchy-feely and pacifistic foreign policy. They have had their way with Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, to disastrous effect. It can happen here, too, with similarly disastrous results - and Colin Powell is undermining the argument against the enemies of deterrence by opposing its utility in Israel. That's more terrifying than any single terrorist attack, because it invites the possibility of an untold number more. E-mail: podhoretz@nypost.com http://www.nypostonline.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/31849.htm
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