Peace Through Strength: Lessons From History

by | May 19, 2002 | POLITICS

Imagine if your child were being bullied on his school playground. You would do one of two things: either urge your child to fight back, if he can, or insist that the school authorities take responsibility for restraining if not expelling the bully. You would not attend endless meetings, for years on end, in which […]

Imagine if your child were being bullied on his school playground. You would do one of two things: either urge your child to fight back, if he can, or insist that the school authorities take responsibility for restraining if not expelling the bully. You would not attend endless meetings, for years on end, in which the bully and your son were treated equally as victims — after which, when the adults had gone home, the bully would again attack your child with more violence than ever before. What our government has been doing for years in the Middle East — most outrageously, during the Clinton-Bush Administrations of 1993-through the present — makes not one bit more sense.

It’s interesting to read the late Anwar Sadat’s account of the October 1973 Egyptian war against Israel. As Sadat tells it, Egypt was crushing Israel at first — largely due to the advantages of a sneak attack and an unusual determination on the part of the Egyptian army, still suffering from a devastating loss at the hands of Israel six years earlier, to succeed at regaining its morale.

The United States, under then-President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, behind the scenes made no bones about the fact that they would intervene to protect Israel and, of course, they did. To the United States, the stakes were especially high because, at that time, the Soviet Union was allying itself with Egypt (though in reality, as Sadat pointed out, the Soviets could not be counted on for anything).

In one memorable conversation, Kissinger told Sadat that if Egypt did not back down from its war against Israel, the U.S. would attack Egypt — plain and simple, doing “whatever it takes.” From intelligence information, Sadat knew that Kissenger spoke the truth.

Kissinger’s backed-up threat led to Sadat’s immediate call for a cease-fire and eventually, after several years, forging peace with Israel — an Egyptian-Israeli peace which (though fragile, like absolutely everything in the Middle East) lasts to this day. The lesson: peace comes through strength and decisiveness, not insisting that both sides are equally wrong and lecturing them to work it out. Sadat makes it very clear, in his book, that he would never have pursued peace with Israel had it not been for the United States’ immense power and its unwavering willingness to use it in defense of Israel.

Those who credit this peace to Jimmy Carter, take note: Carter was merely the lucky recipient of a conclusion Sadat had already come to on his own, thanks to U.S. military strength prior to Carter’s term in office. Sadat wrote that he was well aware of what the U.S. had done to Germany and Japan in World War II, and certainly did not want Egypt to suffer the same fate.

What went on earlier this month behind the scenes, with Colin Powell, President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon? Nobody knows for sure, and we likely won’t know for decades. Evidently the meetings had only begun when — lo and behold — the bully was at it again. Sharon cut his meeting with President Bush short and rushed home to his country — once again under terrorist attack. Surprise, surprise. The Palestinian homicide bombers didn’t listen to Colin Powell’s call for peace, brotherhood, and harmony. Imagine that!

If public policy and words are any guide, you can better believe that Israel does not enjoy nearly the support now that it did against Sadat’s Egypt, a mild-mannered adversary when compared to the likes of Osama bin Laden and the mullahs of Iran who collaborate with Arafat. The most that today’s Israel can count on are expressions of “disappointment” from an American President who otherwise rigidly holds to the belief that the best way to deal with a murderous bully is to plead, negotiate, and attend “peace summits” with him, over and over, no matter how much the bully continues with the violence.

Keep in mind that the Nixon Administration, like many in the current Bush Administration, consisted of a group of people committed to a range-of-the moment, largely unprincipled foreign policy in which the primary goal was to put out fires rather than negotiate a long-range peace through strength. They also had their hands full with the utter disaster of the Vietnam War. Yet even Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger could still find the stomach to stand up for Israel when the going got tough, because they understood that it also meant standing up to the Soviet Union, and for freedom throughout the world.

Today’s enemies, it seems, need not fear such backbone from the likes of Colin Powell and the incarnation du jour of George W. Bush. Of course, next week or next month the more principled Bush might re-emerge — though the damage done by his failure to support Israel in its most recent crisis will be around for a long time to come.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

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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