“This Is Our War, Too.”

That’s Bill Kristol’s take on what’s going on in Middle East right now. Why? Because unlike past conflicts, this isn’t an Arab-Israeli war but rather an Islamist-Israeli war and, therefore, one which the United States has an obligation to fight. It’s a persuasive argument, if not a completely accurate one:

Why is this Arab-Israeli war different from all other Arab-Israeli wars? Because it’s not an Arab-Israeli war. Most of Israel’s traditional Arab enemies have checked out of the current conflict. The governments of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are, to say the least, indifferent to the fate of Hamas and Hezbollah. The Palestine Liberation Organization (Fatah) isn’t a player. The prime mover behind the terrorist groups who have started this war is a non-Arab state, Iran, which wasn’t involved in any of Israel’s previous wars.

What’s happening in the Middle East, then, isn’t just another chapter in the Arab-Israeli conflict. What’s happening is an Islamist-Israeli war. You might even say this is part of the Islamist war on the West–but is India part of the West? Better to say that what’s under attack is liberal democratic civilization, whose leading representative right now happens to be the United States.

An Islamist-Israeli conflict may or may not be more dangerous than the old Arab-Israeli conflict. Secular Arab nationalism was, after all, also capable of posing an existential threat to Israel. And the Islamist threat to liberal democracy may or may not turn out to be as dangerous as the threats posed in the last century by secular forms of irrationalism (fascism) and illiberalism (communism). But it is a new and different threat. One needs to keep this in mind when trying to draw useful lessons from our successes, and failures, in dealing with the threats of the 20th century.

Here, however, is one lesson that does seem to hold: States matter. Regimes matter. Ideological movements become more dangerous when they become governing regimes of major nations. Communism became really dangerous when it seized control of Russia. National socialism became really dangerous when it seized control of Germany. Islamism became really dangerous when it seized control of Iran–which then became, as it has been for the last 27 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But then Kristol takes it a little too far:

…we might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions–and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.

But such a military strike would take a while to organize. In the meantime, perhaps President Bush can fly from the silly G8 summit in St. Petersburg–a summit that will most likely convey a message of moral confusion and political indecision–to Jerusalem, the capital of a nation that stands with us, and is willing to fight with us, against our common enemies.

To answer Kristol’s questions about Iran, given the status quo, no reasonable person can think that Iran can be contained or will negotiate in good faith. But the notion that it would be “easier” now to deal with Iran rather than later is a questionable assertion, at best. So at the expense of making a couple liberals smile, I think it’s time for conservatives to start admitting that, regardless of how one feels about the war in Iraq, it has made anything else we would like to do in the world more difficult. And that includes any action against Iran–especially at a moment when it could further complicate if not exacerbate the turmoil in the region.

This is not an opportunity for the United States to strike Iranian nuclear capability save for an act of extreme provocation by Ahmadinejad’s regime. That’s not to say that Iran hasn’t been provocative in this conflict–its tentacles can be seen at many levels–but nothing so far has risen to the level which would justify what Kristol is advocating. September 11th brought us to Iraq with haste. Let’s not make this an opportunity to make the same mistake again.

Kristol is certainly right though that this is an opportunity for President Bush to show leadership. The very fact that the G8 is being held in Russia–which has seen a drastic erosion of democracy under President Putin–sends a message of “moral confusion and political indecision.” President Bush now has an opportunity which was not previously available politically: abandon the G8 to deal with the more pressing matters in the Middle East. And as Kristol suggests, make a trip to Jerusalem and send a more important message than any that would emerge from the G8: that no matter where it emerges–Canada, England, or India–the United States will stand with you against the threat of Islamic extremism. Because, yeah, this really is our war, too.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, Iraq War, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,


  1. Stormy70 says:

    Why does noone mention the fact that 130,000 troops with all their hardware would have no effect on how Iran or Syria will act? They are blustering and using proxies because they cannot do anything else with America smack dab in the Middle East. Iranians and Syrians will not be able to come to the aid of Hez. directly because America controls the skies and the seas.

  2. Bithead says:

    That�s Bill Kristol�s take on what�s going on in Middle East right now. Why? Because unlike past conflicts, this isn�t an Arab-Israeli war but rather an Islamist-Israeli war and, therefore, one which the United States has an obligation to fight.

    it’s not an Islamist/Israeli war, it has always been an Islamist / everyone- else- on- the- planet war. The sooner we stop angling over that one point the center will be able to get the rest of the world involved with the defense against these animals.

  3. Ginny Desiderio says:

    Mr. Kristol has once again taken a logical argument to an illogical conclusion. We do need to stand with Israel, but bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities in the middle of this chaos would escalate an unstable situation. There may come a time when we do have to do that, but let’s see if Israel needs our help first.

  4. ATS says:

    Why is anyone still listening to Bill Kristol? Especially when we now have the real article, Bibi Netanayu, providing the Eretz Israel line every hour or so on CNN.

    A bit inconvenient though that the formidable Sy Hersh is reporting that the US military is feeling very dubious about all these plans, starting with what Iran actually has, where it is, and whether we could strike it if we tried.

  5. Doeac says:

    This war has nothing to do with America. If we’re smart we’d close our airbase in Isreal and cut off the checks. It is a good time to leave. Isreal is just another M.E. country that is all that’s over there.

    If they wan to invade more countries like Syria and Iran, let them. They can fight for generations.

  6. Bithead says:

    Doeac, have you that short a memory?

  7. Moe Lane says:

    Bithead: the real question is whether or not Doeac thinks that we do.

  8. Jason says:

    President Bush does need to show leadership. This war will quickly evolve and every nation is going to need to take a stand. Bush should use the G8 to push for European nations to stand with Israel.

    By the way, Doeac, you may not believe it, but the minute we turn our back on Israel, we are done. Read Samuel 2:30.

  9. Bithead says:

    Bithead: the real question is whether or not Doeac thinks that we do.

    Point well taken. Certainly, those pressing that kind of thought have spent the last generation are so banking on the short memory of the electorate to keep getting reelected. That said, there’s some indication of that memory is lengthening given the paper no longer being reelected in such numbers as they were.

    Jason’s point is well taken also. However I don’t think that Biblical prophecy is going to carry much weight with him. Rather I think an appeal to logic will come in handier. Logic such as ;

    Once these animals blow through Israel, does he really think that they’re going to stop there?

  10. anjin-san says:


    Israel has crushed everyone who has ever attacked them. They have inflicted defeats of historic proportions when attacked by several nations at the same time (at great cost, to be sure). They enjoy massive military superiority over their enemies.

    So how exactly is anyone going to “blow thru” Israel?

    You sound a bit hysterical dude… certainly there is no logic to be found in that statement.

  11. Bithead says:

    Israel has crushed everyone who has ever attacked them.

    Have they indeed?
    Where are the attacks coming from then, I wonder?

  12. Bithead says:

    So how exactly is anyone going to �blow thru� Israel?

    Well, for starters…. America could…

    close our airbase in Isreal and cut off the checks.

  13. anjin-san says:


    Are you for real? Do you really think that Israel needs a US airbase to survive? You might want to read up on the history of the Israeli AF before you start dissing them. As for US funding to Israel being cut off, it is not on the table, and it never has been. It is a political impossibility.

    Why do you need these pathetic scare tatics? Its almost as lame as Bush’s’ “If we cut and run they will follow us here nonsense. Arguments crafted to appeal to not-too-bright 14 year olds.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Say Bit, since you feel so strongly, why not go to Israel and join up?

    On second thought, cheering for war on a blog beats the crap out of actually fighting one and getting your ass shot off…

  15. Bithead says:

    It is a political impossibility.

    it is also a practical impossibility. The fact of the matter is that we’re not Israel there we would have the whole of the Islamic world following such as Hezbollah.

    I’ve got news for you my friend. You show complete lack of understanding of the aggressors in this situation. (And No, the US is not the agressor, here… gee how’d I know he was going to say that?)

  16. McGehee says:

    since you feel so strongly, why not go to Israel and join up?

    There he goes again. <checks watch> …and right on time, too.

  17. LJD says:

    Along the same lines, why not go volunteer to be a human shield?