August 17, 2006
Having relocated from Beirut to northern Israel via Tel Aviv, Michael Totten explains how living in the midst of an ongoing battle tends to mitigate the natural fear instinct. It is the kind of insight that only first-hand experience can bring:
Fear forces you to think hard and fast about what you can do to protect yourself. As soon as you become 100 percent convinced that there is nothing more you can do to protect yourself, fear becomes a useless emotion. Then it goes away all on its own. You can't talk yourself into or out of this mental space. It's just something that happens.
This is the fatal weakness of terrorism.
In other words, the random destruction of Hezbollah's rockets is not only militarily useless, but the terrorizing impact tends to dissipate over time as well. His photos and descriptions of what life is like in northern Israel are as riveting as anything you'll see on the evening news. In an earlier post that was chock full of amazing up-close war photos, he referred to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as "catastrophically unfit." He's asking for contributions to support his independent journalistic endeavors, and I chipped in a little.
In Tuesday's Washington Post, George Will rued the delusions that underlie the contemporary conflicts taking place in various parts of the world. Hezbollah has suffered heavy casualties but remains intact, demonstrating, he says, the futility of Israel's previous policy of unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Gaza, and parts of the West Bank. The United Nations is pressing ahead with plans for a peacekeeping force, notwithstanding the fact that its past resolutions calling for Hezbollah to disarm itself have been ignored. Never mind! Meanwhile, Iraq seems to be descending into tribalistic civil war, with Shiite death squads allegedly operating out of the Interior Ministry. When asked about the need to step up cooperating with police agencies in foreign countries in response to the airline bomb plot in England, a Bush administration official sniffed that the international "law enforcement approach" of John Kerry doesn't work. Goodness. Just because this strange, amorphous conflict with Islamic terrorists is most usefully regarded as a war does not mean that the tools of law enforcement should be arbitrarily set aside.
Will links these various examples of self-defeating policies as indicative of a blind, dogmatic attitude of unrealism, and I think he is on to something. President Bush deserves credit for displaying firm resolve and occasional diplomatic tact in the war on Islamic terrorism, but he is often too stubborn to listen to alternative suggestions. As his second term unfolds, time is running out for him to tap new advisers who might fashion a more realistic strategy for winning the war within the limits of our resources.