View Full Version : Relearning Old Lessons

08-26-2006, 09:58 AM
26 August Washington Times commentary - Relearning Old Lessons (http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20060825-084926-1611r.htm) by Victor Davis Hanson.

From the recent Israel-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon to the jihadists in Iraq's Sunni Triangle to the repeated efforts by Islamists across the globe to trump the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, what old lessons about terrorism are we in the West finding ourselves having to relearn?

(1) Death is the mantra of terrorists. In urban landscapes, they hide among apartment buildings, use human shields and welcome all fatalities -- friendly or hostile, combatant or civilian. Death of any kind, they think, makes the liberal West recoil but allows them to pose as oppressed victims...

(2) Windfall petrodollar profits (now around $500 billion annually) fuel radical Islam. Iranian cash allowed Hezbollah to acquire the sophisticated weaponry to achieve parity in ambushes with the Israeli Defense Force. Unless the U.S. can find a way to force oil prices back down below $40 a barrel, Islamists may eventually be better equipped with weapons they buy than we are with munitions we make.

(3) As Israel's experience in Lebanon demonstrated, air power alone can never defeat terrorists. Precision bombing is a tempting option for Westerners since it ensures there will be few, if any, casualties of our own. But jihadists, by using human shields and biased photographers, are able to portray guided weapons as being as indiscriminate as carpet-bombing.

(4) Use of old shoot-and-scoot missiles -- Katyushas, Qassams and worse to come -- is altering the strategic calculus, as they now number in the many thousands. The fear of Hezbollah's near limitless mobile launchers enabled terrorists to put whole Israeli cities in bomb shelters and almost shut down the country's economy...

(5) Intelligence remains lousy. The lapses are not just an American problem but stymie the Israeli Mossad as well. The latter had little idea of the antitank weapons and impenetrable bunkers of Hezbollah, located a few miles from the border. Western reliance on drones and satellites yields little on-the-ground information. Meanwhile, free societies broadcast on TV much of their own debates and plans...

(6) There is little evidence of the efficacy or morality of the vaunted "multilateral" diplomacy. The French have steadily downsized their proposed contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. Cash-hungry Russia sold its best weapons to terrorists. And oil-hungry China supplies Iran with missiles.

(7) And the reputation of the international media in the Middle East for both accuracy and fairness has been lost. In the recent war in Lebanon, news agencies were accused by bloggers of publishing staged photos. One agency, Reuters was embarrassed when it found out -- thanks again to the work of bloggers -- that one of its freelancers had doctored war-zone photos...

Despite the enormous advantages of Western militaries, there is no guarantee we can keep ahead of terrorists -- especially since they are becoming more adept while we seem tired and unsure about whom, why and how we should fight.

So far, the U.S. has been able to dodge the latest terrorist bullets. So far, Afghanistan and Iraq cling to their new democracies. So far, Israel has been able to survive Hamas and Hezbollah, and these groups' state sponsors in Iran and Syria.

But unless we in the West adapt more quickly than do canny Islamic terrorists in this constantly evolving war, cease our internecine fighting and stop forgetting what we've learned about our enemies -- there will be disasters to come far worse than September 11.