In the aftermath of Monday's massacre in Tel-Aviv, IDF commanders recommended that the government officially recognize reality and declare the Palestinian Authority an enemy entity. They argued that such a declaration would facilitate IDF targeting of PA institutions, leaders and military forces that are presently transitioning to Hamas rule.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his colleagues Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz rejected the army's recommendation, arguing that they wish to preserve the international support they claim Israel now enjoys in the aftermath of the massacre (although with Italy's incoming leader Romano Prodi chatting on the phone with Ismail Haniyeh and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw expressing his deep desire to speak with Hamas, it is unclear what international support they are referring to). Rather than strike the PA, our leaders announced their intention to seek a UN condemnation of the attack.
Yet even assuming that Israel now enjoys some level of international support, the government's decision still raises the question: What good is that support if to preserve it Israel is required to refrain from taking actions that could protect its citizens from massacre? The government's preference for international declarations of sympathy over national security indicates that our leaders are in the grips of a deep conceptual confusion over what its actual responsibilities are.
But Israel's leaders are not unique in their confusion. Over the past few years another country targeted with international calumny for its actions against the global jihad has confused its desire for international support with its responsibility to safeguard its national security and international interests. This country is the United States.
Over the past few months not a day has gone by without Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad letting loose some threat against the US, Israel or global security. Barely a day has gone by without Tehran taking some action to show how desperately the mullahs need to be taught some manners by the 101st Airborne or Golani.
Given Tehran's constant provocations and the seriousness of the threat it poses to international security, it would make sense for states to be lining up to support US action against Iran. And yet today not even Britain is willing to support the use of force against Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile facilities. The question is why. How is it that aside from Israel, no state today is willing to contend with the obvious danger emanating from Tehran?
IN A nutshell, the reason that the international community is unable to contend with the threat Iran poses to international security is because today's dominant international institutions are constituted in a manner that protects those who endanger international security at the expense of those they target with aggression.
Today, most states in the world are neither stalwart US enemies like Iran and North Korea, nor stalwart US allies like Israel, Poland, Australia and Britain. They can roughly be divided into two groups.
First there are the states that do not share the US's perception of the threat of global jihad and those that believe that America's loss is their gain. China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa, and – depending on the weather – France, Norway, Sweden and Belgium are members of this group.
The second group is comprised of states that do share the US's perception of the threat Islamo-fascism presents to international security. States in this category have two main reasons for not wishing to join the US today in contending with Iran. First, some of these states assume they can sit on the fence and still enjoy an American security guarantee. This group of free riders includes Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and Western European states, which – again depending on the weather – sometimes include France, Belgium, Norway and Sweden. Second, many states are simply unconvinced the US has the staying power to win this war and as a result are unwilling to risk the potential repercussions of joining forces with America. This group includes states like Singapore, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Holland and Indonesia.
As was the case three years ago when the US worked to build an international coalition ahead of its invasion of Iraq, today its attempts to build a coalition against Iran suffer from two critical weaknesses. First, the US is not making a distinction between states that have no interest in helping it and those who wish it to succeed. Indeed, Washington seems more intent on currying the favor of inherently hostile states like China and Russia than in engendering the support of inherently non-hostile states like Holland, Denmark, Singapore and even Britain.
Second, the US is seeking to build its coalitions within the framework of the UN and NATO, which are institutionally incapable of advancing US interests. The UN is controlled by countries like China and Russia that do not share the US's perception of threats to global security, by states that believe their fortunes are improved by US failure like Egypt, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, and by states like France that believe that they can get away with opposing the US because America will protect them anyway.
NATO was established in 1949 to contain the Soviet Union. It remained relevant until the end of the Cold War because the nations of Western Europe wanted the US to protect them from Soviet invasion and the US wanted to prevent Soviet expansion. But today, in the absence of the Soviet Union, NATO has no real importance. In the 1990s it was hoped that the alliance would be able to reinvent itself as a US-led international security organization. But in light of France and Turkey's refusal to participate in the war against the global jihad, NATO has been rendered incapable of playing a role in today's international security environment. So against Iran today, like against Iraq three years ago, the US is unable to use NATO as the basis for an international coalition.
IN LIGHT of these realities, it is clear that if the US wishes to build an international coalition against Iran, it must fashion a new international organization that will provide incentives to countries like Germany and India to fight alongside the US. Three years ago, the US successfully convinced some 40 countries to join its campaign against Iraq. But that coalition of the willing was never institutionalized. Its members – like Spain and Italy – were free to come and go as they pleased.
As a result, it cannot be relied on today against Iran. While the task of building a new institutional framework for international action against Iran – and perhaps against Syria and North Korea in the future – seems daunting, the US has vast military and economic and cultural resources that it can offer as convincing incentives for joining.
Like Israel, the US is sensitive to the positions of Western European countries. Due to its historical ties and cultural affinity with Europe, it views these countries as it natural allies. And so European opposition to US (or Israeli) actions carries weight domestically that opposition from counties like Indonesia or Pakistan lacks. Unfortunately, Western Europe does not share the US perspective on the global jihad. Whereas for the US, the threat is largely external, for Europe with its large, growing and increasingly radical Muslim minorities, the global jihad is principally a domestic issue.
In testimony before the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried explained that Europe's Muslim minorities represent a separate front and a unique threat to the US in the war against the global jihad. In his words, "While Islamist extremism is a global phenomenon, we find the nature of the
problem in Western Europe to be distinct – both in its character and its potential to threaten the United States." European jihadists present a potential direct threat to the US (and Israel) due to their ability to travel with EU passports. But the indirect threat they pose to the US and Israel through their growing ability to influence European policy towards the global jihad is a far larger problem.
Two recent incidents exemplify this growing threat.
Last week, Jan Schoonenboom, a Dutch researcher who works for the government-affiliated Scientific Council for Government Policy, published a report recommending that the Dutch government relax its position on Islamic Sharia law. In his words, "We should not be so spastic about Sharia," which he claims can be "very much to the advantage of women's rights." Schoonenboom further recommended that the Dutch government adopt "an adventurous foreign policy" which would involve taking a more strident view against the US, Israel and Russia's actions in Chechnya. He also suggested that the Netherlands support the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hizbullah and Hamas.
Schoonenboom did not hide the fact that his main motivator was fear. In his words, he is motivated by "a real fear of dangerous developments. Do we want to go on living in a land that is plagued by fear of attacks? A cultural change is needed here. The Netherlands cannot save the world, but we can try to influence EU policy." While Schoonenboom was drafting Holland's declaration of surrender to Osama bin Laden and his friends, the heads of the EU were working on a new Muslim-friendly official lexicon. From now on terms like "jihad," "Islamic terror," and "Islamo-fascism," will be expunged from the vocabulary of EU officials in order to prevent any unnecessary insult to the sensitivities of European Muslims.
To prevent Europe's increasingly inexorable transformation into Eurabia, the US is in need of institutions capable of launching what Fried referred to as a "battle of ideas," in Europe. At a time when the universities, media and movie industries in the US and Europe (and Israel) devote their energies to demoralizing their publics, there is an urgent need for new institutions and cultural networks that will be capable of instilling Europeans with a willingness to fight to preserve their way of life.
IRAN POSES an unacceptable threat to both Israel and the US. It is true that both countries have the wherewithal to effectively target Iran's nuclear installations unilaterally. But both the US and Israel recognize that the costs of such unilateral action will be very high. And so both have a clear preference for acting within an international coalition of states.
The developments in Europe represent a looming danger to Israel and the US that in the medium and long terms will be far greater than Iran's nuclear weapons program. Both Israel and the US have a distinct interest in seeing Western European countries act now to protect their culture and heritage. The longer they wait the greater the probability that Europe's ultimate civil clash with its Muslim minorities will spur a renewal of European fascism.
The international system, as presently constituted, only exacerbates the threats to global security constituted by Iran and Europe's increasingly radicalized and burgeoning Muslim minorities. In order to contend with these threats, the US must cease looking to the existing system for solutions and turn its energies to building new institutions specifically fashioned to contend with them.
For its part, Israel – which of course has no ability to build an alternate international system – must stop confusing its national interests with the interests of the international system whose current structure ensures its consistent support for Israel's enemies.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.