Virtual Talmud

Reading the news the other day, I felt like Frodo Baggins does as things look grim in “Lord of the Rings.” It seems we have our own Two Towers. On one hand, we have the Shiites: Hezbollah, rather than being castigated for hijacking Lebanese foreign policy, maintaining a private army that launched an unprovoked attack against Israel, and holding the Israeli hostages through it all, is being lionized for having “bloodied” Israel. Hezbollah’s equivalent in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas, is now also contemplating importing rockets to inflict similar damage. I’m sure Iran and Syria are enjoying the success of their puppets. If that were not enough to get us down, there is Al-Qaeda and their circle of Islamicist Sunnis, whose recent effort to destroy a large number of passenger planes was thwarted, thank God, by British authorities.

Like Frodo, I hate war, and the death, destruction, and pain it causes. But wanting peace can’t save Israel any more than it would have effectively saved Frodo and his Hobbits from Sauron and Saruman.

Why? Because, like Sauron and Saruman, Hezbollah and Hamas don’t want to live cooperatively and respectfully in peace. If they did, they never would have initiated their attacks on Israel, who had already evacuated Lebanon and Gaza. Hezbollah and Hamas, and Al-Qaeda, are very vocal about their goal: the elimination of Israel and the destruction of Christian/Western/modern economic and cultural influence/hegemony over the world, respectively.

Before this most recent war in Lebanon, it was widely believed that Israel’s strength lay in its ability to wield force as an effective deterrent.

No longer. Force alone does not work under the new conditions in which we find ourselves, facing a foe who cares little for civilian casualties, even its own.

That doesn’t mean there is no role for force, however. Israeli force did achieve a number of objectives: rockets are no longer raining down on Israeli cities, not because Hezbollah doesn’t want to but because their capability has been effectively limited, at least for now.

However, this war did damage the deterrence value of the threat of Israeli force. That may not be all bad, particularly since it was never totally true anyway. The first Lebanon war and decades of bombing terrorist sites in response to terrorist attacks against Israel did a little to stop the terrorism and a lot to raise another generation of terrorists. So there need to be some smarter answers. The problem, of course, is that no one seems to know those answers.

Tolkien’s trilogy is worth rereading. It is a very Jewish view, though Tolkien was not Jewish. There are those (like the King of Rohan) who think that if they stay out of the fray, the war will pass them by. But they finally realize it won’t. Pacification just allows the monster to get stronger.

Here’s the bad news: The Lebanon and Iraq “wars” are not really distinct wars at all. They are merely battles in a larger and longer war that is being waged between the terrorists and everyone else.

Here are the lessons I learned from “Lord of the Rings”: To win, we will sometimes have to rely on military power. We will always have to be smart about how and who we fight. We will have to have our morals clear and stick to them. We will have to mobilize diverse yet strong alliances. And ultimately we will have to just keep at it, as Samwise tells his demoralized friend Frodo, because to give up would ultimately mean disaster not just for the U.S. and Israel but the rest of the world.

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