Germany: Where Is the Enemy?

The enemy of the Western world wears a mask. People want to tear that mask from its face, using any means possible. The mood in the United States is clear: Hit someone, anyone! Show them that we will not tolerate such terrorism.

The problem is that terrorism cannot be suppressed through military reprisals or international morality. There is deeply rooted hostility in wide parts of the Arab world against the West and, especially, against the United States. There are many factors. Have we forgotten the photos of burning American flags? The determination of the Hamas members when they attack Israel?

If today Afghanistan is cleaned out, then tomorrow extremists will arise in southern Lebanon. If southern Lebanon were then suppressed, terrorists would gather in the areas under Palestinian control. If these were eradicated, then more would spring up in Syria or in Iraq or someplace else. Even if the whole world were in flames, the problem would not be solved.

The Arab countries that stood by the West’s side during the Gulf War will now play a key role. Some of their leaders are new. Jordan’s King Abdullah or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak will be won over. But what will [President] Bashar al-Assad in Syria do? And what about the religious leaders of Iran?

Israel has been in precisely this situation for a long time: surrounded by enemies that destabilize it by means of terrible small attacks. It is apparent that military force does not solve any problem. Nor do offers of peace. All the mediators have seen that to be the case. Bleeding the region dry is the solution; that is the dirty little secret.

For the United States this is not an option. The United States will, with the backing of the Alliance, defend itself. It must punish the perpetrators. But it must consider what will happen at the end of such an operation. Weighing what actions to take against the attackers, and then carefully carrying them out, will be the greatest challenge that the politicians, military, and diplomats have faced since the end of World War II.