Monday, August 21, 2006

Many statesmen, diplomats and others cast the prime warring parties in Lebanon — Israel and the terror group Hezbollah — as morally equivalent. Espousing this view enables them to argue that diplomacy alone can resolve this conflict. They’re wrong.

During the dark days leading to World War II, many European and American leaders mistakenly thought they could bargain with, or isolate their countries from, sinister forces threatening mankind. Their failure to recognize right from wrong, and good from evil, prevented them from promptly acting collectively against that gathering threat. As a result, 60 million died, including 6 million Jews.

With the dark cloud of Islamic fascism hovering over the world today, another generation of appeasers, pacifists and isolationists clamor incessantly for diplomatic solutions to this global threat — even if it means cutting deals with untrustworthy terror masters and maintaining the status quo in the freedom-deprived Middle East region. According to the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur, such behavior “begets new and bloodier war.” It has already resulted in substantial spilling of innocent blood, and its full consequences are yet to be determined.

Israel, the lone democratic outpost in the Arab region, sits in the most precarious position of all Free World nations. It is flanked by many hostile Arabs on northern, eastern and southern borders with the Mediterranean Sea to its West. This nation exists on 8,000 square miles of land (roughly the size of New Jersey) with 6.4 million residents, about three-quarters of them Jews.

The Jewish state is dwarfed in size and population by neighbors. The Arab world consists of 21 countries and the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank. Its land mass encompasses 5.2 million square miles and it is populated by 333 million people. It also owns the distinction of being the world’s pre-eminent terrorist breeding ground. According to the State Department, 19 terror organizations operate in the Arab world. Many Middle East observers believe they do so with winks and nods from Arab hosts.

Suffering devastating losses in five major conventional wars, Israel’s Arab enemies have resorted to terrorism as a way to achieve their penultimate aim of destroying the Jewish state and greatly diminishing U.S. regional and global influence. They view Israel as an illegal, Western foreign imposition on their soil and their hatred extends to the United States because it is viewed as the ultimate guarantor of Israel’s survival.

Ironically, many of Israel’s critics have described the current conflict in Lebanon in David and Goliath terms, with Israel being the villain simply because of its military’s superior firepower. In doing so, they endanger the very foundation of the international nation-state system.

Israel is a law-abiding state rooted in democratic principles and liberal ideals, seeking to live in peace with its neighbors within borders established by the United Nations after it became an internationally recognized state in 1948. It abides by the laws and customs of war. Its soldiers wear military uniforms, carry arms openly and do not purposely target civilian non-combatants during operations.

Hezbollah is the antithesis of Israel. It has defied the international mandate to dismantle and disarm as required by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 and is the provocateur in the latest conflict. The group is tethered to a nexus of terror lifeline stretching from Iran to Syria to its base of operations in Southern Lebanon. During the current conflict with Israel, its Khomeini-inspired shia militia disguise themselves as civilians, embed in civilian populations, and use civilians as shields. They also store weapons in, and fire them from, mosques, schools, hospitals and civilian residences. They have also intentionally targeted Israeli civilian non-combatants for death with suicide bombers and Katyusha rockets as they attend schools, ride buses, shop in marketplaces, dine in restaurants, and innocently go about doing other daily affairs.

In the 1980s, Hezbollah suicide bombing missions destroyed two U.S. embassies in Beirut as well as barracks containing U.S. Marine and French troops with heavy loss of life. They also are responsible for a series of kidnappings and killings of Americans.

The U.N. Security Council recently voted unanimously for another cease-fire resolution intended to end the fighting between Israel’s defense forces and Hezbollah’s outlaw militia. Like previous diplomatically arranged U.N. peace-deals, this one is also doomed to fail because it doesn’t authorize international peacemakers to do what the Lebanese military is unable or unwilling to do, forcibly defang the terror group.

A sustainable peace can only emerge after the civilized world collectively accepts and acts on the fact that Hezbollah leaders and militia, and others like them, are not “freedom fighters” and morally equivalent to free-state leaders and armies, but despicable “war criminals” seeking to destroy the civilized way of life.

Fred Gedrich is a foreign policy and nation security analyst who served in the State and Defense Departments. Retired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely is a military analyst for Fox News and “Stand Up America” radio host.

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