- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

As we all from presidents and pundits to the suffering people of the Holy Land stare helplessly and hopelessly at the unfolding horror of events, I thought of Ecclesiastes 7 verses 13-14: "Consider the work of God; who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider; God has made the one as well as the other, so that mortals may not find out anything that will come after them."

I suspect that President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and their fellow world statesmen are feeling particularly mortal right at the moment. I certainly have rarely felt more mortal. I am astounded at the arrogance of some of my fellow commentators who smugly chastise Mr. Bush for having an incoherent Middle East and terrorist policy. As we careen through the blackness into an unknowable future every hour, what in the world would a coherent policy look like this afternoon?

With a seemingly endless supply of armed lunatics enrapturedly blowing up the solid political facts with which we thought only a few months ago the world was constructed, around what knowable future facts, principles and relationships would a policy cohere?

Or, if your taste does not run to my opening biblical expression of human limitations, consider Albert Einstein's lamentation late in life when he realized he would never discover a unified field theory that would explain all physical matter: "The mathematics is fine and good, but Nature is leading us a dance. The whole idea must be carried through and it is of strange beauty; above it, however, hovers the marble smile of implacable Nature, which has given us more longing than intellect." And that from perhaps the smartest man in human history.

While we must, of course, continue to strive with all our wit and cunning to return the current chaos to some serviceable order (always remembering that God originally assigned himself that task), this is a moment not to take too seriously the blustering certitudes pronounced by various know-it-alls in and out of government.

Only a few weeks ago, the world was focused on Mr. Bush's presumed plan for a reasonably prompt invasion of Iraq (with all the unknowable consequences that will unfold from that tectonic event). Well, that fact hasn't gone away. Nor should it. The nuclear dangers that plan is intended to avert remain palpable in the minds of our government leaders.

But now all our bleary, half-obscured eyes are on the Middle East. Government officials and commentators continue to talk about returning to the peace process much as Britain's Neville Chamberlain thought he was involved in a peace process with Herr Hitler in Munich. Actually, he was. Unfortunately, Herr Hitler was involved in a war process at the time.

Even the hard-eyed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems confused about the condition he finds himself in. He talks about "wiping out the terrorist infrastructures from their foundations," but privately acknowledges that world opinion will probably only give him "weeks, not months" in the Palestinian West Bank to accomplish it. He is busily trying to arrest as many terrorist organizers as possible, which is useful.

Yet his dovish, socialist foreign minister, Shimon Peres, stumbled on a larger truth in expressing his indifference to international criticism: "We are not fighting a war of prestige here, we are fighting a war of existence."

That larger truth should make us all shudder, because such a war is not merely against Yasser Arafat and his "infrastructure" it is against the minds and bodies of the Palestinian people whose souls have been disfigured with the bloody passion to reclaim all of Israel for themselves. Such a war will not be concluded in "weeks." Nor will it be concluded in months. Nor will it result in a few hundred or a few thousand deaths.

A people's passion can only be extinguished with a people's blood. Even the old warrior Mr. Sharon may not have the stomach for that magnitude of slaughter. And yet neither can he (nor any possible successor) accept the continuing bloody slaughter of his own people. So if events pull lsrael deeper into its "war of existence," it may well force the Arab powers to engage Israel in conventional battle (or risk rebellion from their own inflamed masses). Yes, I know, the much-belittled "Arab street" may yet live up to its old reputation.

And just at that moment, we are probably planning to go into Iraq to "change the regime." What God has made crooked will not be easily straightened by man.


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