The Ruthless Grip of Logic

by | Dec 10, 2001

Memo to the world: Reality cannot be cheated. Politicians and diplomats like to pretend that you can cheat the laws of logic, that there is no need to commit to absolutes, and that there is something to be achieved by “constructive ambiguity.” The past week has been a great demonstration that reality is not ambiguous […]

Memo to the world: Reality cannot be cheated.

Politicians and diplomats like to pretend that you can cheat the laws of logic, that there is no need to commit to absolutes, and that there is something to be achieved by “constructive ambiguity.” The past week has been a great demonstration that reality is not ambiguous and does not allow contradictions.

Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar just got a good lesson in logic. After years of preaching death to America and three months of declaring that the Taliban will fight to the death — taking advantage, he said, of their “best opportunity for martyrdom” — he found that it is very hard to reverse yourself and try to live. A proposed surrender, under which Omar would have remained alive in Kandahar under the protection of a local chieftain, fell through when Secretary Rumsfeld told our Afghan allies that America won’t forget Omar’s rhetoric about a war to the death. Mullah Omar is now on the run and enjoys unprecedented new opportunities for martyrdom.

The Bush administration has also, reluctantly, come face to face with the logic of its Middle East policy — or rather, the illogic of its support for terrorist leader Yasser Arafat. The absurdity of this policy has become too obvious even for hardened State Department operatives to deny. As one radio commentator put it: How can the United States fight terrorists half a world away, then tell Israel it cannot fight the terrorists next door? There is no answer to that question — at least, no answer that logic will allow. Hence, after three months of shameful betrayal of Israel, the Bush administration showed signs of bowing to logic. They stopped calling on Israel to show “restraint” against Palestinian terrorists, and news reports indicated that Bush was preparing to drop his support for Arafat.

Yasser Arafat then found himself in the ruthless grip of logic. For almost a decade, he has gained the support of the United States by claiming to renounce terrorism and seek peace with Israel. But Arafat tried to have his cake and eat it, too. He publicly renounced terrorism, while broadcasting terrorist propaganda on Palestinian television and in Palestinian schools, and periodically unleashing Hamas terrorists to attack Israel. But now, faced with the withdrawal of his chief sponsor, the United States, he has to try to appear as if he is serious about his anti-terrorism rhetoric. So he has rounded up dozens of Hamas leaders and sent his riot police into the streets to suppress Palestinian mobs.

This is a lesson in logic that the administration needs to take seriously. We have been told, by apologists for the “peace process,” that the only way to stop the “cycle of violence” in the Middle East is to urge restraint on both sides, to regard Israeli and Palestinian claims as equal, and to reassure Arafat that we will support his quest for an independent state. But when we did all of these things, the terror attacks continued unabated. The moment we throw up our hands and threaten to abandon Arafat — the moment we take sides against the Palestinian Authority and stop urging Israeli restraint — that is the moment Arafat takes some actual steps to suppress terrorism.

But that puts poor Yasser in another bind. Palestinians are engaging in what American reporters quaintly term “protests.” (The idea, apparently, is to stand up for your right to terrorize.) Arafat’s Fatah faction is locked in a fateful struggle with the more bloodthirsty Hamas, which doesn’t believe you should stop killing Jews, even temporarily. Arafat’s life is widely considered to be in danger from his own people.

Once again, logic is demanding its due. Arafat has been dubbed “the father of modern terrorism”; he pioneered the use of kidnapping, assassination and random bombings as tools of politics. His Palestinian Authority has sponsored summer camps training teenagers in terrorist acts; it has offered stipends to reward the families of suicide bombers; its schools and TV stations have lionized anti-Israeli bombers and rioters. And Arafat is terrorism’s greatest model of success: after 35 years of killing, he was rewarded with his own little dictatorship and seemingly unlimited aid and tolerance from the United States.

Now Arafat finds that it’s difficult for a terrorist leader to convince the people he trained to be terrorists to stop engaging in terrorism. Funny how that works.

No, you can’t cheat reality. And if you get caught cheating — as Arafat and Mullah Omar may soon discover — you usually get expelled.

Robert Tracinski was a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute from 2000 to 2004. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Mr. Tracinski is editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist and TIADaily, which offer daily news and analysis from a pro-reason, pro-individualist perspective. To receive a free 30-day trial of the TIA Daily and a FREE pdf issue of the Intellectual Activist please go to and enter your email address.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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