Nations Are Not Terrorists

Israel's attack on alleged Syrian terrorist camp will destabilize the region further

When Israeli missiles struck Syria last Sunday morning in what Israeli officials claimed was a retaliatory attack, they ended the 30-year truce between the two neighboring countries. Though the air strike against a disputed Syrian terrorist camp left only one person wounded, it also left many in the international community reevaluating when and how Israel should use its military force against other sovereign nations.

Following the act, Syria urged the U.N. to condemn the air strike, maintaining that it violated the U.N. charter as well as the 1974 disengagement agreement that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Similarly, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder denounced the attack, as did various leaders from Arab nations. Here in the United States, however, the Bush administration supported Israel’s attack as a fair defense tactic. President Bush argued: “Israel’s got a right to defend herself; that Israel must not feel constrained in terms of defending the homeland.” Likewise, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended Sunday’s attack as necessary retaliation to an earlier suicide bombing in Israel that left 20 people dead. “[It] was intended to send a message that no one can strike Israel with impunity,” Sharon said.

Despite its protective motivations, the strike and its aftermath will do little to promote peace in the Middle East—and peace is the very thing Israel and the region so desperately need to establish.

Instead, the attack will only make attaining peace in the Middle East even more difficult. Syrian senior officials have indicated that the attack will hurt already precarious Syrian-Israeli relations. Israel’s defiance of Syria’s sovereignty may also act as fodder for terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad and Hezbalah to recruit—creating more instability in the already volatile region. The attack may also jeopardize the United States’ already unstable position in Iraq by giving fundamentalist groups another reason to oppose American action in the Arab world. Though the war in Iraq successfully eradicated the former oppressive regime, its current mission—to establish a stable government for the Iraqi people—has not yet been accomplished and will only be successful if other Arab nations support the United States’ efforts in the Middle East.

America’s support for Israel’s bombing of the alleged Syrian terrorist camp reveals that the Bush doctrine toward the Middle East is not only flawed, but also fatally ineffective. States that harbor terrorists are not terrorists: if they were—or if the Bush administration followed that doctrine impeccably—the U.S. would have ousted the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for allowing terrorists to remain active there.

At best, this attack should prompt the United States to reevaluate its foreign policy doctrine as it applies to the Middle East. Everywhere around the world, but especially in that volatile region, foreign policy decisions must be made on a case by case basis. In this case, the Bush administration should have reminded Israel of the potential damage that blatant attacks on sovereign nations can illicit, and should discourage Israel from such aggressive action in the future.