The Debate on Negotiating with Terrorists
By Daniel Juster
JERUSALEM/July 2: Last May, a verbal firestorm erupted between President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. The occasion was President Bush's visit to Israel and his address to the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset). The speech was very well received. In spite of his poor approval rating in the States, the President is very popular in Israel. In his speech, the President sharply criticized those who believe that we should negotiate with terrorists; he equated this orientation with appeasement. The Israeli leadership applauded his stand. However, a few days later (much to Israel's embarrassment), the Jerusalem Post revealed that Israel had been negotiating via Egyptian mediation with Hamas for a cease fire.
Senator Obama took issue with Bush; he reacted as if he was the object of the President's criticism. Democrats cried, 'Foul!' countering that the President used a state visit to Israel to play politics and unfairly criticize Senator Obama. They asked John McCain to repudiate what Bush had said. Senator McCain, however, stood with President Bush and said that Senator Obama was naïve in saying that he would negotiate with sponsors of terrorism without preconditions. McCain asked, what would Obama say to convince them that their behavior was wrong and that they should change? Obama's position would undermine the public stand of the United States and European powers not to negotiate with Hamas as long as they do not accept the existence of srael. Negotiations would surely empower Hamas. The President believes that political isolation, economic boycotts and military intervention against terrorists is the right policy.
Senator Obama responded eloquently by stating that negotiation was neither weakness nor appeasement. Reagan negotiated with the Russian communists as did Kennedy, with respect to the Cuba missile crisis. However, Russia was at that time the leader of a communist empire that controlled one third of the world. Kennedy's negotiations with Russia included an ultimatum! I do not think that Obama has this in mind. Obama criticized the President for the predicaments to which the United States is currently exposed: the Iraq war, Iran becoming more of a problem and political and military failure in Afghanistan. He then went on to argue that a significant reason for these problems was the U.S. lack of strong engagement by negotiations. Surely, this topic will be a central part of the campaign in the fall.
Is the Problem Lack of Negotiation?
My view of the situation is at odds with Senator Obama; living in the Middle East has clarified my perspective on the issues. I do not believe that the problem is lack of negotiations. Rather, the issue is primarily an unwillingness to enforce standards. This is an endemic problem among Western powers. In addition, many Westerners do not believe that Islamic radicals really act primarily out of religious convictions; they assume they are motivated by politics as they themselves are. However, these convictions are unshakable. Any negotiated position, cease fire, etc., legitimizes the terrorists, proclaims Western weakness, emboldens Islamic radicals, and is only a temporary lull for the sake of building a more fierce and violent Islamic offense. This view has been confirmed in public by Hamas spokesmen. The religious motivation of Islamic fascism simply will not compromise, split the difference, or embrace long term peace.
I believe there is only one answer to Islamic fascism and that is to defeat it. The reason we have not made progress is not for lack of negotiation. There is plenty of that; a good example is the European carrot and stick diplomacy being attempted with Iran. The real problem is that the carrot is large and the stick is very small. The large carrot is not working, because Iran wants nuclear weapons. So far, the sanctions have been very limited and strong sanctions have been rejected by the U.N. Security Council, largely due to Russian and Chinese pressure.
Recently the Swiss and the Austrians have made significant business deals with Iran for gas production and trade. The United States howled, as did Israel, but to no avail. Iran is able to buy weapons, arm Hamas and Hezbollah and wreck havoc in Lebanon. When Reagan negotiated with the Russians, it was from a place of real strength, because the Soviets were in severe decline. They accepted an agreement that benefited the U. S. in order to save themselves from economic disaster. No such situation exists in Iran today.
Really, the central issue is not of talking or not talking; though I do not think we should lend credibility to terrorists by talks without preconditions. Rather, the issue is standing up to the terrorists and enforcing very strong sanctions. If that does not work, the Western powers should be prepared to use strong military action. Radical Islam despises the weakness of the West. The spread of radical Islam is partly fueled by the perception that they are winning against the weak and fearful West. President Bush's failure to de-fang Iran and Syria is not through lack of negotiation, but because the Western allies are not willing to grasp the nettle and take strong measures. So we talk tough and act weak. The President has not acted according to "cowboy diplomacy." Toughness has not been tried and found wanting. It has not been tried!
The Response of the West
The history of backing down before Islamic radicalism is not pretty and has produced a very dangerous world. President Carter failed to stand up to the terrorists who kidnapped the U.S. embassy staff in Iran. This only served to embolden the radicals. At the time it may have seemed as if they could not truly be players on the world stage but the West's lack of fortitude has allowed a rogue nation to export terrorism across the globe. The Shah's regime had many flaws but is far preferable to the Islamic fascist dictatorship under the Ayatollahs. During the Reagan administration the U.S. failed to act in Lebanon. After the terrorists bombed the U.S. marine barracks and killed over two hundred personnel, defense secretary, Casper Weinberger, unilaterally disobeyed Reagan and refused to convey the order to retaliate. Reagan backed down!
I watched this with grief and dismay. The U.S. should have retaliated and demonstrated to the terrorists that their actions would bring swift and painful consequences. Instead, the U.S. pulled out. Lebanon was meant to be a safe haven for Arab Christians - half of them have now fled the country. It was a truly lovely country but the U.S. did nothing to counter the radical Islamic agenda.
The same lack of resolve moved the U.S. to push for Palestinian elections. The consequences were a disaster, with Hamas being elected. When will the Western politicians learn that absolute democracy is not necessarily just? 51% can vote to destroy the 49%. Political parties that espouse terrorism should be illegal. The Nazi party is illegal in Germany and other parts of Europe. Why did the U.S. force elections on Israel where Hamas could run? How foolish!
How Dangerous is Islamic Fascism?
When Senator Obama says that the threat from Iran and Islamic radicals is less than the former threat posed by the Soviet Union, he is really missing the main issues. The Russians were interested in preserving the world. In addition, they were a disciplined world force with centralized power in Moscow. If Moscow had fired a nuclear missile, there would have been an assured and instant retaliation. The calling card would be clear. This prevented Russia from doing so.
Would Iran send a nuclear missile against Tel Aviv if they acquire the ability? Perhaps, but that would be dangerous for them, since the world would know who was responsible and retaliation would be swift, certain and punitive. But here is the danger: the Islamic radicals are decentralized and fight an asymmetric war of terror. They would be glad to secretly plant a nuclear bomb in New York, Washington or Tel Aviv. A whole city and more could be destroyed. Against whom do we retaliate? Iran could as easily arrange for one of their proxies to put a device off shore from Tel Aviv and set it off, or plant a suitcase bomb in Washington. Terrorist nations would deny involvement. Who do we bomb? Do we bomb Tehran? Do we bomb the Al Qaeda camps? The danger is enormous.
Has President Bush Acted with too much Belligerence?
President Bush has stood up against Islamic terror more than any world leader, but he has had little support from Congress and the Western allies. The issue is not too much bluster, but too much bluffing. The U.S. cannot even get significant military contributions from Europe in the Afghan theater. The radicals know the West is weak. Unless we wake up and realize that we are in World War III, we will soon be in deep, deep trouble. We should heed Islamic terror scholar Steve Emerson on these matters. Emerson explains that the goal is not just to destroy Israel, but to conquer the whole world and establish a global Muslim caliphate. The vilest methods are acceptable. Western nations are mired in relativism and do not act with strength.
Islamic Hatred for Israel is a Source for Hope!
The central focus of Islamic terror and hatred is Israel, all other foci - the U.S., the West and India - are secondary, and yet we have great hope. Why? Because the destiny of Israel is to be a supernatural power to break the back of Islamic terror. This will lead to a great harvest in the Muslim nations of the world. We live in an impossible situation in Israel but in these difficult days, more and more Israelis are finding their Messiah, eshua of Nazareth. This is the situation that the prophets foresaw long ago. Whatever plans men or demons may have they are not taking the One who sits in heaven by surprise. The sure Word of God will prevail - this is our unyielding anchor of hope.