The Legacy of Restrained Engagement

The word and the actuality of "restraint" have different meanings and different results. "Restrained engagement" in the face of terrorism seems to be a formula of self-sacrifice for no reason whatsoever.

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Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
The word and the actuality of "restraint" have different meanings and different results. "Restrained engagement" in the face of terrorism seems to be a formula of self-sacrifice for no reason whatsoever.

US President George W. Bush and US Secretary of State Colin Powell have been insisting that Israel show restraint in punishing the Arab Palestinians after every major homicide bombing or shooting attack. While Bush and Powell may have enjoyed political advantage by uttering the word "restraint", Israel, conversely, experienced an even greater upsurge of terrorism for showing "restraint". The terrorists viewed the re-opening of checkpoints, allowing Arab Palestinian workers to enter Israel, all within the Bush/Powell policy of "restraint", as a sign of weakness and opportunity. The Bush/Powell concept of "restraint" was not reciprocal and so Israel has suffered casualties on a greater scale.

Applying the Bush/Powell injunction of "restraint" in America?s policy of dealing with global terrorism would likely deal a significant blow to the Bush war on terrorism. Let us say that Bush decided to show "restraint" in attacking the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Without the threat of American aggressive force, both the Taliban/al-Qaeda would soon start to retake the towns and cities they abandoned when American forces, not harnessed by "restraint", drove them into the mountains and safety. Regrettably, at the request of the Afghan resistance, the US did show "restraint", particularly at Tora Bora, allowing Osama bin Laden and significant militias of al-Qaeda forces to escape into Pakistan and elsewhere. This turned out to be a major blunder, as we see the Taliban and al-Qaeda beginning to re-assemble and challenge whatever government was glued together under American protection. In addition, American forces, as a direct result of "restraint", are now under heavy pressure close to US military bases. It was just announced by General Tommy Franks that American forces will stay in Afghanistan as long as necessary. Translate that "as a result of ?restraint?, the war on terrorism must be extended for an unknown period of time, with attendant exposure to casualties by the Taliban/al-Qaeda terrorists."

"Restraint" in the face of terrorism is a formula for more casualties, longer wars and always the probability of terror re-emerging after a "restrained" assault and early withdrawal. This, then, is the formula Bush/Powell has placed on the shoulders of Israel. Having done so has resulted in a rapid growth of terrorist organizations, who have learned from Israel?s "restrained" incursions and have now spread this learning globally. In effect, the Bush/Powell policy of "restrained engagement" has resulted in terrorists applying the lessons learned in Israel back in America and in Europe. Mr. Bush has shot us all in the foot.

The concept of "restrained engagement" is a by-product of the philosophy of pacifists, who believe that if you do not hit the enemy too hard, they will appreciate the "restraint" and show friendliness in the end. That is pure State Department appeasement, which has never worked, but gives that dead-wood organization called "Foggy Bottom" a raison d?etre. They have urged "restraint" in dealing with Saddam, which resulted in the U.S. having to go back a second time to finish him off. The State Department urged "restraint" on Israel in clearing out Arafat?s terrorists, on the theory that another Palestinian state will not become a base for all terrorist groups to coalesce. They urge "restraint" against Syria, which continues to assist and harbor at least ten terrorist organizations. The diplomacy of "restraint" is the disguise for appeasement, which nurtures and assists the growth of terrorist and dictatorial regimes like Iraq, Syria and Iran.

It?s hard to decide who is more dangerous, the polite diplomatic "restrainers", or the terrorists who benefit from their mantra of "restraint".
Emanuel A. Winston is a Middle East analyst and commentator.