- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

On March 12, 1947, President Truman went before a joint session of Congress and promulgated what was to become known as the Truman Doctrine. Greece was in danger of being overrun by communist guerrillas. Turkey's sovereignty was threatened by Soviet demands. Read today 55 years later, Mr. Truman's words have an uncanny relevance to the tragic events in the Middle East:

"At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world."

The enemy then was an esurient Soviet Union which, having swallowed up Eastern Europe, had imposed a totalitarian system on countries just liberated from Nazism. Would a beleaguered democratic Israel fit the requirements of the Truman Doctrine?

From its beginnings in 1948, Israel chose democracy as its way of life. The only other democracies at the time in the Middle East were Lebanon and Turkey. Today Lebanon is a Syrian satellite, its once democratic institutions eradicated. Except for Turkey and Israel, there are no other democracies in the Middle East nor is there any likelihood that the sheikdoms and dictatorships that rule the Muslim masses will miraculously become adherents of human-rights conventions in the coming decade.

Does Israel represent a free people? Obviously, yes. There is a sector of Israeli opinion that opposes the Sharon policy of retaliation and says so daily and freely in Israeli media. And, amazingly, of a population of 6 million, some 1.5 million are Arabs, with full civil rights including representation in the Israeli Knesset,or parliament.

Is Israel resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities? Yes, suicide bombings, rockets from south Lebanon. Volunteering for suicide bombings against Israelis has become a popular expression in Egypt so much that Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, told the Israeli Arab weekly Kul Al-Arab, "Two days ago, in Alexandria, enrollment began for volunteers for martyrdom [operations]. Two thousand students from the University of Alexandria signed up to die a martyr's death."

Is Israel being subjected to "outside pressures"? The European Union governments, particularly France, have sided with the Palestinian leadership. U.S. policy , however, has been ambiguous. If the Truman Doctrine were still part of American foreign policy, Israel should be getting all-out support since, as Mr. Truman put it, "[t]he free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms."

Adding to all its troubles, Israel has another enemy, the United Nations. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan seems to have forgotten that on March 25, 1999, he called for a "broader fight" against anti-Semitism. Mr. Annan, whose view of an embattled Israel is highly ambiguous, admitted:

"I know that the United Nations is regarded by many as biased against the state of Israel. I know that Israelis see hypocrisy and double standards in the intense scrutiny given to some of its actions, while other situations fail to elicit the world's outrage and condemnation."

Israel is in an unenviable position, one faced by few, if any, of the 190 members nations of the United Nations. Germany lost two world wars, but its continued existence as Germany was never in question. Spain lost to the U.S. in 1898 but its existence as a country wasn't affected. France lost in Algeria and the U.S. in Vietnam, but there was no question of France's and our continued existence. But if armed minorities subjugate Israel, that's the end of Israel. Let there be no misunderstanding of what's at stake.

There have been seven military confrontations between Israel and Arab nations since Israel was created. And today there is a new and unrivalled military power in the area Iran, armed to the teeth with the most modern weapons and a backer of Hezbollah terrorism. Iraq, as everyone knows, has built up a supply of weapons of mass destruction.

Most important of all, the Muslim countries in the Middle East, all or some, have demonstrated as of September 11, 2001, their ability to project military power far from their bases. We are defending ourselves against a different kind of enemy as we never had to do when Adolf Hitler declared war against us on Dec. 8, 1941. The front was in Europe and the Pacific. The home front was safe no anthrax, no smallpox, no paper cutters, no skyjackings and no suicide bombers. No more.

What Mr. Truman and his "wise men" Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Averell Harriman, John McCloy and others understood was that, again to quote Mr. Truman, "If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world."


Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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