How About a Pre-Emptive Strike Against the Arabs?
Jude Wanniski
November 21, 2000


Memo To: Ira Stoll, “Smartertimes” publisher
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Thanks for keeping me on your “Smartertimes” mailing list. I enjoy much of your commentary on the foibles and fiddlings at the NYTimes, although I must say you generally are hysterical whenever the subject of Israel comes up. Your latest commentary on the Monday NYT is as nutsy as I’ve seen from anyone lately. When you attack Bill Safire, a fellow Jew, for not seeking “a wider war” with the Islamic world, I wonder if I should send the fellows with a butterfly net after you, but then recall that you are only 29 years old, subject to fits of irrational passions. Before I comment further, I will run the item here for my website crowd, so they will get the full measure of your kookiness:

War Process: Times columnist William Safire, who is usually sensible on Middle East issues, gives Israel's prime minister, Ehud Barak, some bad advice today. Mr. Safire says Mr. Barak "must not use too much firepower, lest he fall into Arafat's wider-war trap." Mr. Safire suggests that "a new Middle East war" is in Mr. Arafat's interest. In fact, a wider war would serve Israel's interests and America's better than would a continuation of the current low-level clashes between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Israel has a qualitative military edge and strategic superiority; a wider war would allow it to degrade the military capabilities of Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Syria and thereby pave the way for the emergence of free and democratic regimes in those countries. It would also put the spotlight on the fact that it is those undemocratic regimes that are coordinating and supporting the terrorist war against Israel and against American interests in the Middle East.

My thinking, Ira, is that with the Cold War over, Israel and its closest friends in the United States have to stop acting as if the Arab/Muslim world is going to put up with many more of Israel’s patented “pre-emptive” strikes. When the USSR was in its heyday, US/Israel could play one Arab state off against another, with Moscow ready to do the same. Israel’s role in promoting the Suez Crisis in 1956 in order to destroy then-President Gamal Nasser and smash Egypt is a hard-fact of history, which you should read up on to understand why there is such hatred of Jews in Egypt to this day. Israel’s pre-emptive strike in the 1967 war is celebrated in story and song, but when you throw the first punch, you have to expect the guys you punch out to smoulder for a long time in thinking about it. When Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear-power plant in a pre-emptive strike in 1982, every nation of the UN condemned the excuse of pre-emption -- except Israel’s Uncle Sam. There has been neither compensation to Baghdad or an apology, even though it is also fixed in history that the power plant was harmless. Saddam Hussein did not start building a nuclear capability until he saw Israel could punch him out with impunity, as long as it had a bomb and Uncle Sam behind it.

For you to sit in your cozy Manhattan apartment promoting a wider war against the Palestinians, on the grounds that you have the edge on them today and might not tomorrow, is sheer madness. You invite Armageddon, my friend, or at least the kind of relentless acts of terrorism that could lead to the destruction of another six million Jews.