Lowering Our Guard
May 14, 2002
For some reason, even Israels warmest
supporters havent picked up President Bushs description of
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. Unlike
axis of evil, the phrase just isnt catching on. Its a
bit like praising Arnold Schwartzenegger as this
generations Cary Grant. You can admire Arnold for many
things and dont we all adore him? but suave charm
isnt exactly his line.
Sharon is tough. Give
him that. And he refuses to allow his country to be swallowed up by
the international community, the United Nations, and
assorted acronymic agencies. Even when hes wrong, which is
usually, he sticks to his guns. Sharon consistently puts his country first
though this doesnt really distinguish him from most
American politicians, who also, just as consistently, put his country first.
officials have received information, unspecified and admittedly
unreliable, that we could have an exciting July 4 ahead of us this year.
Terrorists may have picked Independence Day as the date for an attack on
a nuclear power plant.
We are also getting
news reports and rumors, hard to pin down, that Israelis, in this country
illegally, have been arrested while engaged in curious activities: posing as
art students, driving a truck with traces of TNT and another explosive.
Its possible that these Israelis are here for innocent reasons, or
that their doings arent aimed against the United States: even if
they are Mossad agents, they may be friendly to this country.
But there is a darker
possibility. Some of them may be provocateurs whose mission is to stage
an event that will recharge American hysteria over terrorism and fuel
demands for immediate war with alleged terrorist states
which happen to be Israels enemies in the Middle East. It
would be far from the first time Israel had duped the United States in
pursuit of its own interests.
No politician will say
this publicly, but when it comes to Israel, U.S. security is very lax.
Security officials dread the ever-ready charge of anti-Semitism. And
when Israeli planes attacked the USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34
American sailors, or when the spy Jonathan Pollards rogue
operation turned out to have the full authorization of the Israeli
government, Congress, instead of investigating the incidents fully, chose
to turn a blind eye. It either didnt want to know what happened or
didnt want the American public to find out.
The real scandal is not that we cant trust the Israelis; by
now that should be a given. What is much worse is that we cant
trust our own government.
In Federalist No. 22,
Alexander Hamilton warned that one of the weaknesses of republics (as
opposed to monarchies) is that they afford too easy an inlet to
foreign corruption. Foreign countries and their partisans here have
often egged this country into war with their enemies: not only Israel, but
England and the Soviet Union.
Of course a terrorist
attack could come from many parties, including disaffected Americans or
hostile aliens already within our borders. No foreign government would
have to instigate or facilitate it.
But is it likely that
Iraq or Iran would sponsor such an attack, when the U.S. Government,
predisposed to blame them, would most likely respond by shooting from
the hip? By the same token, an enemy of Iran and Iraq might reckon that
enraging the United States with a terrorist incident, staged
by trained provocateurs, would be a convenient way of provoking the
destruction of both countries.
This is not to say that
Israel would actually do such a thing. The risks of failure would be
enormous. But security is a matter of anticipating all possibilities. With
millions of lives at stake, dismissing some scenarios as improbable is not
enough. The 9/11 attacks were improbable too. Thats why they
guard is up on many fronts. But on one front its guard remains
conspicuously down. Any president who can call Ariel Sharon a man
of peace with a straight face is in the wrong business. The
frightening thing is that he seems to believe this. If so, hes the
The previous President
Bush, for all his shortcomings, had a healthy suspicion of Israel. As a
former CIA director, he knew what he was dealing with. Hasnt he
tipped off his son?