Website of Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Haaretz Op-Ed Piece, Sunday, June 23, 2002.
Send more teaspoons
by Doron Rosenblum
With what surprising indifference we received the chilling conclusion of the FBI and CIA - published in The New York Times - that America's war against Qaida in Afghanistan has actually failed. Not only did the indiscriminate revenge and carpet bombings not eliminate terror, but in fact they may have doubled the threat. The terror organizations have apparently branched out and turned into a global jihad movement, with 10 times more motivation to seek vengeance and wreak destruction.
Since we worked so hard to draw a parallel between our war against terrorism and America's war in Afghanistan, this conclusion should be all the more disturbing to us. In our equation, we were America and the Palestinian Authority was Qaida. But when the Pentagon admits defeat, what are little we (and the mighty Uzi Landau) to do? Apply more force? Drop more bombs?
Maybe. But America's conclusion is particularly worrying now that the taste of so-called victory in Operation Defensive Shield is already turning sour. Even the most militant analysts dryly conclude that the operation, which weakened the Palestinian Authority, has only boosted Palestinian motivation to launch terror attacks to unprecedented dimensions and ruled out any possibility of curbing this motivation. To suppress the terrible realization that we are losing the battle against terrorism, we use more force, we personalize the fight, and attribute to Arafat black magical powers.
The magic solution is therefore obvious - if we get rid of Arafat, the conflict will dissolve at once into thin air. According to these intricate conspiracy theories, Arafat is an unparalleled strategic genius - Dr. No, Goldfinger and Prof. Moriarty all rolled in one. Indeed "terror" itself is an ingenious demon of sorts, an evil mastermind always on intellectual alert, picking the time and place of terrorist attacks with diabolic precision and pinpointing our weak spots with strategic ingenuity.
Unfortunately, reality is even more petrifying. Testimonies from the suicide bombers, their aides and dispatchers express a vicious numbness more than anything else. The mental picture is of criminal arbitrariness, a murderous "banality of evil" in which the perpetrators attach little meaning to their own existence, let alone that of their victims.
"I drove him to the scene;" "I put explosives on her and told her `go blow yourself up;'" "they told me `detonate yourself today and take your high school exams next week;'" "they sent me;" "I saw people standing and eating, so I went over and blew myself up."
Would that this were some strategy, even demonic; that it had any purpose, no matter how satanic; that our opponent was ruthless, but logical - such adversaries may at least be countered with equal cunning, with military rationale. But what can you do with this trance-like assassinationism? Any thought of teaching such an enemy a lesson with tanks and jets seems just as irrational as the terror itself.
What then should we do? Apparently, being faced with this dullness of the mind, we have developed an obtuseness all of our own. At the start of the intifada, the Shin Bet chief cautioned that fighting Palestinian terrorism without a parallel political process and without physical partition between the two populations would be tantamount to "emptying the sea with a teaspoon." Instead of heeding this warning, they have apparently turned it into a strategy.