Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bibi and Barak

[an Israeli cartoon, 1998]

The leader of Likud is Bibi Netanyahu.   A few years back, quite a few now, he published a book titled, "Fighting Terrorism".  I read it expecting a rousing defense of all things good and an occasional right-wing absurdity.   Much to my surprise, the premise he argues is simple, reasonable, and hard to argue with.

Netanyahu argues that terrorism is essentially military.   It is armed assaults on specific targets.  And like all militaries, it needs bases in which to assemble, to train, to amass weapons, maintain communications, and so forth.   Without bases terrorists are no more dangerous than other criminal gangs and can be arrested by local police when detected.  

 Netanyahu says that terrorism can be defeated by denying them the use of bases.  He argues that these bases have to be somewhere, on some nation's sovereign soil.  And that assumes the support or at least connivance of the government of the nation on whose soil the terrorists have their base. 

Netanyahu's prescription for what to do about it, is to pressure the government conniving to permit or sponsor the terrorist base.   Pressure it by every means available, both public and covert.  Since Israel is scarcely in a position to apply meaningful diplomatic or economic pressure to terrorist-harboring countries, the book is meant as advice to Bibi's fellow Americans (born in Tel Aviv, came to US at 14.  High school near Philadelphia.  BA & MS from MIT.)  Indeed it is a book addressed primarily to American presidents.

George W. Bush read Netanyahu.  So apparently has his successor.   In his press conference yesterday, President Obama referred several times to "safe havens" for terrorists in Pakistan and his intention to "assist" the Pakistani government to suppress them.

The mark of a brilliant idea is that once one has been shown, it seems something obvious that one has always known.  Once one has been shown.   For example, the wisdom of collecting fares only one way on Bay Area bridges is now obvious to everyone.  Yet tolls were collected both ways for 50 years.   Holding terrorist host countries only peripherally responsible for their proteges was global practice for 50 years as well.  Holding them centrally responsible  is Netanyahu's contribution to world understanding.

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