- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

This is Friday, so this must be the day to say we understand why Israel insists that defending the security of Israelis is a good thing to do.

In fact, that’s just what the State Department spokesman said yesterday: “We do understand Israel’s first priority is security.” That was big of us.

But by Monday or Tuesday, if the past is a guide, the nancy men at Foggy Bottom will find a way to feel just a tiny bit of the pain of the killers in Jerusalem. Finding a way to feel the pain of the killers in Baghdad may take a little longer.

But wishful thinking, making nice and dancing-class manners are not confined to Foggy Bottom. Sooner or later, the White House will have to get serious about who’s doing what to whom, and face up to doing what it will take to stop it, and etiquette and friendships with rich and royal despots be damned.

Public-relations campaigns won’t do it. The famous “road map” is the most embarrassing bit of White House nonsense since Jerry Ford issued his famous WIN buttons to “Whip Inflation Now!” Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian “prime minister,” is no doubt somewhat more preferable (and considerably less loathsome) than Yasser Arafat, but only in the way that a migraine headache is not as bad as a mortal head wound. Mr. Abbas, like his friends in Washington, imagines that he can disarm the killers with tea and sympathy, and the latest outrage occurred even as Mr. Abbas was entertaining the chiefs of Islamic Jihad at a tea party to “discuss” the cease-fire.

He knows, as everyone in Washington knows, even when it’s impolitic to say so, that the terrorists never, ever intended to honor a cease-fire, and used the pause as they always will as an opportunity to regroup, rearm and retrain. Palestinian terrorists, like the terrorists of al Qaeda, have no intention of accepting a mere piece of what they want because they think they can get it all by grinding down the West. (They may be right.)

The antiwar left looks on the bomb at United Nations headquarters in Baghdad as a gift from heaven. Now they can ramp up the noise that Iraq is becoming “another Vietnam,” and if they’re lucky, there may even be a reprise of the sordid decadence of the ‘60s. Peter, Paul and Mary are even now tuning their guitars.

The idea of Baghdad-as-Saigon is absurd to anyone who observed the mismanagement of the Vietnam War up close and personal, but it’s the story the shrieking media, having all but forgotten Laci Peterson and Kobe Bryant and getting a little bored with California now that the Terminator is turning serious, is chasing with the enthusiasm of dogs after a meat wagon.

The Vietnam War was an authentic insurgency, fought by disciplined, indoctrinated and well-trained guerrillas. The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese regulars employed assassins, but also stood to fight in a way that Arab armies have not done in 800 years. The Vietnamese communists were led by men hardened by battle, contemptuous of the empty rhetoric of generals whose armies routinely crumble within a week (if not hours). Even so, American soldiers in Vietnam were squandered by criminal mismanagement, largely by the odious Robert McNamara. Two presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, shrank from doing what had to be done to redeem the blood sacrifice of brave men.

Theirs was a crime not likely to be reprised in Iraq. Americans, perhaps to their credit, are not very good at colonial enterprises. The British, who are, required the deployment of three divisions and three years to suppress disorder and organize a nation in Iraq between 1920 and 1923, and suffered 20,000 dead and wounded doing it.

The United States has three divisions in Iraq now, comprising about 20,000 troops, of which only about 10,000 are available for duty at any specific moment. “They need to be reinforced,” writes the distinguished British military commentator John Keegan in the London Daily Telegraph. “By how many is one question; where they should come from is another.” Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, insists he needs no more troops in Iraq. This will be a decision inevitably influenced by politics on the eve of an election year.

What is not a matter merely for speculation is that George W. Bush must get tough with “our Saudi friends.” This will require, first of all, discarding the notion that the Saudis can be trusted as friends. Rich or not, royal or not, they are part and parcel of the Islamist terror machine, supplying money, sanctuary and encouragement to evil men who are determined to kill as many of us as necessary to destroy the civilization of the West. September 11 was prologue.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times

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