Thursday, September 28, 2006

Terrorism: Nature vs Nurture

The recently leaked, and now partly declassified, National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and global terrorism has served as a kind of inkblot test, offering insight into the worldviews of the public and politicians who are arguing over its contents.

First, there are those of the "nature" persuasion. These people argue that terrorists are born, not made, and so our actions in Iraq or anywhere else do not -- indeed, cannot -- make terrorism worse. With regard to the NIE, the argument expresses itself this way: "It's silly to argue that the war in Iraq is making terrorism worse. After all, we weren't in Iraq on 9/11."

(For a nice illustration of the "nature" point of view, see Tony Blair's Sept 26 speech).

Second, there are those of the "nurture" persuasion. These people argue that terrorism is a response to western policies; that through its policies the west has created terrorism, and that by adjusting those policies we can ameliorate it. With regard to the NIE, the argument expresses itself this way: "Abu Ghraib, foreign soldiers doing house-to-house searches, collateral damage... all are radicalizing Muslims and creating new terrorists."

Both arguments are half right. And both are entirely wrong.

Probably there are individuals who are born to fanaticism. If they're born Muslim in the middle east, they become Islamists. If they're born Catholic in Northern Ireland, they would be IRA. The problem is in their genes, or in some equally irreducible aspect of their environment, and almost no external influence could have diverted them from extremism.

And probably there are individuals who never would have dreamed of carrying out a suicide bombing, but who decide to do so in response to some western policy, for example the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia to protect the kingdom from Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. In other words, individuals who "but for" (as the tort lawyers like to say) western policy would never have become terrorists.

What's misleading about the terrorist nature/nurture argument isn't just its fallacious assumption that all terrorists are either born or made, when a little common sense quickly suggests that both types exist. The real problem is that the argument focuses on cases that are almost certainly exceptional. After all, isn't it likely that the vast majority of people exist somewhere in the middle range of the nature/nurture continuum? They're not born to extremism, but the right combination of events can lead them into extremism's embrace. Some are more susceptible, others less, but for most people, the environment matters. So the appropriate question isn't, "are or are we not creating terrorists," but rather, "How are our actions enabling terrorism? And can we fine-tune to mitigate while still accruing the benefits of the actions in question?"

The language choices in these questions are important. We're always talking about "the terrorists" -- as though terrorist/non-terrorist is a binary category (remember "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists"?). But what enables terrorists is much more than just the people who strap on suicide vests. What about financiers? People who provide safe haven or other assistance? People who could have provided a warning or other intelligence, but now decide not to? Asking whether our policies create or don't create terrorists is misleadingly narrow. We need to ask as well whether our policies foster conditions that enable terrorism, as well.

For every suicide bomber, I'll bet there were at least a hundred active or passive accomplices and enablers. Those accomplices and enablers are the marginal cases, the fence sitters, the ones who our policies -- including our blundering in Iraq -- are most likely to tip one way or the other.

In other words, even if no western policy could possibly cause even a single additional Muslim to don a suicide vest, are we confident that no policy could tip others into mindsets and behaviors that enable the suicide bombers to carry out their atrocity?

Another problem in the debate is that nature proponents make their point too strongly. Rather than claiming that Iraq isn't worsening terrorism, they claim that Iraq can't be worsening terrorism. The first point badly needs to be discussed (Robert Kagen's piece in the Washington Post is an excellent start, IMO). The second is just silly. It flies in the face of the lessons of every counterinsurgency campaign ever conducted. If the right tactics can quell an insurgency, how could it be that the wrong ones couldn't create, enflame, and sustain one?

Here's a thought experiment. Should we airdrop pig offal and American flags onto Mecca and Medina? Why not? If our actions can't create terrorism, what difference could it make?

If you're a "nature" proponent, don't try to wriggle out of the experiment by saying "there would be no benefit." Maybe not, but if you believe our actions can't fuel terrorism, you have to accept that there would be no cost, either. In which case, the offal and flags would do no harm, right?

I think part of the reason the nature crowd tends toward a "we can't make terrorism worse" line of argument is because suggesting that we have some influence over terrorism sounds close to suggesting that we're responsible for it. But the two concepts are not the same. Effective policing can reduce the crime rate. That doesn't mean the police are responsible for crime. It does mean they're responsible for effective policing.

Let's stipulate that our actions can worsen terrorism. Let's stipulate too that we are not responsible for terrorism. Now we can get down to the hard work of asking what "worsening" terrorism really means, of examining how we might be worsening it, of weighing costs and benefits, of taking informed risks and making difficult choices.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Iraq War Increases Terror Threat

A leaked National Intelligence Estimate, which represents the consensus of the sixteen US spy services, concludes that the war in Iraq is fueling Islamic terrorism.

The logical possibilities:

1. The NIE is wrong. The war in Iraq is beating back Islamic radicals and we should "stay the course" there.

2. The NIE is right, but the war's strengthening of Islamic radicals is an unavoidable consequence of a larger, long term strategy that will eventually weaken Islamic radicalism to below pre-war levels. IOW, some medicines make you feel sicker before they start to improve your health, and the war in Iraq is one of them.

3. The NIE is right, and if we maintain our current approach in Iraq Islamic radicalism will continue to benefit. We must therefore change our approach.

I don't see any other high level logical possibilities -- am I missing any?

Democrats have predictably (and, in my view, rightly) seized on possibility #3. It'll be interesting to see what Republicans have to say. What I've seen so far, from John McCain and Bill Frist, are variations of #2. Despite the obvious temptations, I don't see how the administration can suggest that the answer is #1; if it did, people might start asking why we're spending so much on all these intelligence services (and do we really need sixteen of them? Couldn't policymakers just read The Economist instead?). The closest the White House can reasonably come to a #1 strategy is to say that excerpts have been taken out of context -- which it has done, declaring that the New York Times report is "not representative of the complete document."

The always superb Tom Barnett has a somewhat contrary take on the import of the report. To oversimplify a bit, Dr. Barnett's argument boils down to "terrorists are going to get angry no matter what we do." This is a fair point, but if the war is indeed fueling Islamic radicalism, I think we need to measure that cost against the war's benefits, and also ask whether there are alternatives that offer a better cost/benefit ratio. You don't have to be a naysayer to ask whether there's a better way.

In related news, Iraqi political leaders have agreed to discuss a bill that would turn Iraq into three largely autonomous countries. The Kurds and Shiites want the autonomy option; the Sunnis have been blocking it. I know I'm a broken record on this, but... how are we going to keep these people married when 80% of them want a divorce?

The legislation won't take effect for 18 months after it is approved. If it's approved six months from now, it'll take effect just in time for the 2008 US presidential election. At that point, I expect both nominees will be talking about "respecting the will of the Iraqi people" and similar such rhetoric, and using the Iraqi parliament's vote for tripartite autonomy as the fig leaf we need to substantially reduce our military presence there.

So -- no surprise -- we'll be "staying the course" for as long as the war's architects are in office. We'll be changing course immediately afterward. This has nothing to do with politics and egos, of course, and is all carefully calibrated to do what's best to protect America and reduce the threat of Islamofascism.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let's Talk Torture

It's not easy to talk torture. First, you have to get around the verbal pitfalls. Are we talking about rules, or a lack of rules? Are the people being interrogated detainees, or prisoners? Terrorists, or suspected terrorists? Prisoners of war, or enemy combatants?

I'm going to try to avoid those verbal traps by jumping straight to the HOTM. Which we can get to via two questions: (1) what is torture; and (2) does it work.

What is torture? It's easy to define torture at the margins, but the margins are always easy. An ocean view room at the Ritz Carlton Maui is not torture. Having your fingernails pulled out is.

But somewhere in the middle things become much more subjective. Is keeping someone in an uncomfortably cold room torture? What if the room has inadequate light? Is interrogating someone for four hours straight torture? Eight hours? Twenty-four? Intruding into someone's personal space? Yelling in his face? What about solitary confinement? Silence vs noise? Insults? Threats of violence?

Let's put aside the first question for a moment and examine the second. And then we'll see how they're linked.

Doe torture work? That is, does it lead to effective intelligence? I'm not sure. I've never tortured someone and I've never been tortured. But my guess is that the answer is, it depends. On the kind of information you're after; the amount of information you already have (by which you can judge the quality of what's extracted); the kind of torture employed; perhaps most of all, on the strengths, weaknesses, determination, susceptibility, and other idiosyncrasies of the person being tortured.

In other words, the honest answer to the question of "Does torture work?" is probably... sometimes.

Okay, then. Why not just employ the practice wholesale? When it doesn't work, nothing lost. When it does, much is gained.

Let's back up there a minute, and take a look at that notion of "nothing lost." If torture really did cost nothing, we'd be doing it all the time. And we wouldn't stop at waterboarding, either... as Ving Rhames' character Marsellus Wallace put it in Pulp Fiction, we'd just "get medieval." That we're not suggests some inherent awareness of torture's inherent costs as well as its possible benefits.

I can imagine several costs. First, the practice brutalizes its practitioners and by extension the society that condones it. Second, it spreads easily because it's an easy substitute for more exacting, nuanced, and effective forms of interrogation. Third, it produces a lot of false data along with the occasional actionable intelligence because the person being tortured will offer up anything to make the torture stop.

Let's look at two extremes. First, we torture wholesale. By doing so, we extract every bit of meaningful intelligence the subjects have in their minds. But we also incur enormous costs, as detailed above, including so much false information that the real leads are largely obscured and rendered useless in the process. Conclusion: wholesale torture doesn't make sense.

Second, we do everything we can to make interrogations pleasant. We keep the subjects in five star hotel rooms; we feed them three gourmet meals a day; we submit questions to them only with their express consent and desist the moment they tell us they're tired. We incur none of the costs detailed above. But we get no useful intelligence, either.

It seems, then, that somewhere in the middle lies an optimum balance -- tactics tough enough to be effective (what is torture?) without being counterproductive (does it work?). And the fact that those tactics are effective without being counterproductive enables our society to justify them, and to bear them, as an ugly necessity.

Torture offers benefits, but also costs. Opponents ignore the former; proponents, the latter. The uncomfortable truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Roots of Arab Muslim Sickness: Part 3, Solutions

1. Many Causes

In the first post in this three-part series, I discussed the roots of Arab Muslim sickness: failure; blaming an external party for that failure; implicit belief in one's own powerlessness; rebellion against that sense of powerlessness by demonstrating an ability to hurt the external party; chosen means (suicide bombs) that can only cause my condition to worsen; more suicide bombs; cultural stagnation and moral depravity; repeat. In the second part, I discussed these roots as they manifest themselves in Palestinian culture and ongoing failure. The question I'd like to address here is, what can the west do to cure, or at least contain the spread of, the sickness?

We need to start by asking what conditions permit the propagation of the disease. The question is initially daunting, because there seem to be so many factors at work: among them, the nature of Islam; Arab history and culture; political repression and economic despair; the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And many others.

Take a step back, though, and you'll find there's some good news here. Because although the causes of the disease are many, they aren't redundant. That is to say, if we can find a way to inhibit even one causal factor, we can dramatically reduce the incidence and effects of the disease.

Think malaria for a moment. What causes it? Malaria parasites? Mosquitoes that carry the parasite? Mosquitoes biting people? Swamps where the mosquitoes breed? The climate that permits the swamps?

All of the above. But you don't need to (and anyway couldn't) eliminate every one of these causes to dramatically reduce the incidence of the disease. If you can attack even one cause cost effectively, the benefits can be significant.

As it happens, pesticide-treated nets, each of which costs just a few dollars, seem to be the most cost effective way of bringing malaria under control. Is there an equivalent we can bring to bear on the sickness propagating from Muslim Arabia?

There is indeed, and it's the one the Bush administration has at best ignored and more often undermined: reducing our dependence on petroleum.

2. The Most Treatable Cause

As NYT columnist Tom Friedman has pointed out in The First Law of Petropolitics, there is an inverse relationship between freedom and the price of a barrel of oil. If Friedman is right about this inverse relationship -- and logic, common sense, and empirical evidence indicate he is -- and President Bush is right in thinking that the root cause of Islamic terrorism is a lack of freedom in the Arab world -- then Bush's implementation of the so-called "Freedom Agenda" is impossible without a dramatic decrease in the price of energy.

I think Bush is right in believing that repression contributes to terrorism. And I think Friedman is right is suggesting high oil prices contribute to repression. But the link between oil prices and terrorism isn't just indirect, in that petrodollars prop up some of the world's most repressive (and dangerous) regimes. Petrodollars also directly contribute to the spread of the disease. Saudi Arabia uses them to fund madrasses that inculcate children with intolerance and hatred of the west. Iran uses them to arm Hezbollah -- "The Party of God" -- in Lebanon and pursue nuclear weapons of its own.

The most important US security imperative today is to reduce the price of a barrel of oil. We can't hope to contain the disease by killing mosquitoes one by one. We have to drain the swamp. For how to do it, read Gasaholic Communists.

If we succeed in reducing the price of oil, all our other initiatives against the disease -- public relations, security, law enforcement, intelligence, and military, can succeed. If we fail in the primary imperative, we will fail in everything else.

3. Iraq is a Distraction

Is there reason for optimism?

Some. The efforts of the Bush administration remind me of what Winston Churchill is supposed to have said about America: "You can always count on America to do the right thing... after it has exhausted all the other possibilities."

The Bush administration certainly is exhausting those other possibilities with Iraq. What were our first priorities after toppling the Taliban? Capturing or killing Bin Laden and his #2, al-Zawahiri and building a stable Afghanistan. This morning, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, al-Zawahiri released another video. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, opium production is at record levels and the Taliban is resurgent. By diverting so many military, intelligence, financial, and other resources to Iraq, Bush reduced the chances that we would successfully complete the dismantlement of al Qaeda and the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We can argue about the relevance of Iraq in the overall battle against the disease of Islamofascism. But I don't see how we can argue that, in attempting three monumental undertakings simultaneously instead of only two, the Bush administration dramatically increased the likelihood that we will fail at all of them.

I believe Iraq is the greatest foreign policy mistake in US history. We lost many more people in Vietnam, and we were there for longer. But how did General Abazaid, the commander of US forces in the Middle East, put it recently? "If we leave, they will follow us." No one ever said that about the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld famously asked in a leaked memorandum whether we had metrics to determine whether we were capturing and killing more terrorists in Iraq than we were creating. As far as I know, the administration never provided an answer. But maybe they didn't need to. Thanks, Paul, for the painfully hilarious link.

4. Getting Out of Iraq

How do we get out of Iraq? First, we have to change our rhetoric. The story we need to tell the world -- and ourselves -- is that "we already won the war; the rest is up to Iraqis. If they prefer civil war to unity and prosperity, we can't help them. If by their actions they indicate that they prefer a breakup of the country, we won't stand in their way. Our task was to topple Hussein and verify no WMD; that mission has been accomplished."

Back in April, I suggested breaking the country into three. In May, Joe Biden endorsed the idea, too. Since then, events on the ground have continued to create momentum for a three-state solution.

A breakup won't be smooth. Probably there will be a civil war, worse than the relatively low intensity Sunni/Shiite conflict already raging. But if the Sunnis and Shiites want to fight each other, why are we trying to stop them (and how long can we keep them from going at it)? Cold-blooded realpolitik suggests that we'd be better off with Islamofascists divided along sectarian fault lines rather than being brought together, as Hezbollah has partly managed to do by inspiring Egyptians and Saudis.

But most likely, we're going to waste another two and half years in Iraq. I believe it's politically, emotionally, and psychologically impossible for the architects of the war to acknowledge the magnitude of their mistake. Instead, they'll try to hold on and leave it to the next administration to get us out of there -- at which point, they will write in their memoirs that we had turned the corner and Iraq was won, but that the cowards in the new administration snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

There is a similar school of thought on Vietnam: that by 1972, we had destroyed the Viet Cong and rearmed the South sufficiently so they could stand up to the North. But after the Cambodian incursion came to light, Congress cut funding for the whole enterprise and the South was then helpless against the continued Soviet and Chinese supplied onslaught from the Northy. If Bush can just keep us in Iraq until the next administration takes over, he will have created the conditions for a similar fig leaf argument for himself.

It's possible, though, that things will get so much worse so rapidly in Iraq that Bush will be denied his fig leaf. In August, the Marines concluded that Anbar province, including much of the Sunni Triangle, is a lost cause.

And the troops we've repositioned to save Baghdad must have left a vacuum behind them. The news coming out of Iraq is only going to get worse.

So sooner or later, we'll get out. We'll rethink our strategy and refocus our resources. Here's what I hope to see then.

5. After Iraq

First, meaningful steps to reduce the price of oil (actually, I hope we don't have to wait years before implementing those steps, but I'm sure we will).

Second, expanded but refined law enforcement and intelligence work. Assassinations, kidnappings, and interrogations on a small, discreet, deniable scale (actually, I don't want to see the assassinations, kidnappings, and interrogations -- if I do, it means it's been done sloppily and will be counterproductive).

Third, devotion of appropriate resources to securing loose nukes. Absent WMD, al Qaeda doesn't threaten our civilization (only our own overreactions and stupidity can do that). But there's little doubt that if AQ could acquire and deploy WMD against America, they would. The Soviet Union had the means but was deterrable; AQ is undeterrable but lacks the means. We must make those means unavailable to them.

Fourth, less bombastic war rhetoric. If Bush really believes we're engaged in the "decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century," why did he commit so few troops to Iraq? If Rumsfeld really believes “we face similar challenges [to the rise of Nazi Germany] in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism,” why is the country not mobilized as was during World War II?

Fifth, more cleverness, less venting of rage. It's natural to want to lash out after a terrorist provocation might seem to offer a temporary salve for our collective ego -- this was the emotional underpinning for the march into Iraq -- but ego ought to have little to do with our objectives. It may be that we'll have to exercise patience and restraint in the face of horrible provocations. Doing so will be difficult, but as James Fallows argued in the September Atlantic Monthly, our own overreactions will be the biggest obstacle to victory in this fight (thanks David Terrenoire for the link).

Sixth, examination of new approaches to Israel and Palestine, based (ironically) on the rise of extremism in the region. It used to be that repressive Arab regimes like Egypt and Saudi Arabia used Israel to distract their populations from the government's domestic repression, inability to provide jobs, and other failings. Now, hatred of Israel is fueling the rise of Iran and Hezbollah -- the hatred is slipping out of the control of these governments and becoming more dangerous than it is useful. Accordingly, conditions might exist for accommodation from Egypt, Saudi, and elsewhere. A long shot, but possible.

Finally, we may need to reconsider the feasibility of bringing freedom to people the name of whose religion, which provides the core of their identity, means "submission."

6. A Different Metaphor

Less than a generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world is again engaged in a great game for power. Our opponent this time is not communism, but Islamofascism. But the roots of that earlier conflict provide a framework for understanding the nature of this new one, and could, if sensibly applied, help us to prevail once again.

Communism was an ideology that by its own tenets was guaranteed to fail in competition with the west. Command economies are inefficient; they cannot win in a capitalist foot race any more than a runner who insists on tying his shoelaces together can win against an opponent operating under no such self-imposed handicaps. The only way for communism to "win," then, was to sabotage its opponents. Married as it was to its own stunted ideology, it really had no choice.

Islamofascism is the same. A society that eliminates half its productive workforce by refusing to permit women to drive or vote or go out unaccompanied by men cannot compete against societies that lack similar constraints. The unconstrained societies will inevitably prosper and progress; the constrained societies will inevitably weaken by comparison. The only choice for the constrained is to try to bring the unconstrained down.

For a while, anyway. In 1989 I wrote, "'Workers of the world, unite!' was the birth cry of communism; 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em,' sounds like its death knell." If we effectively contain Islamofascism, there is hope that eventually it will undergo a similar metamorphosis (for possible philosophical models for modernized Islam, read George Packer's excellent "The Moderate Martyr" in the Sept 11 issue of The New Yorker).

If that metamorphosis does occur, the Arab psyche can rightly be flush with pride at its own positive achievements. The sense of indignity, humiliation, and helplessness in which the disease has taken root will pass, and the Arab middle east could become a productive part of the 21st century. If it doesn't, the Arab middle east will become an isolated seventh century theme park. Geopolitically, either outcome would be acceptable to the west.

What's most encouraging, but in some ways, most nerve-wracking, is that the outcome is largely up to us. Islamofascism appeals outside the Arab Middle East only by contrast to the perceived depredations of the west. If we stop perverting the implementation of our ideals by our addiction to oil, if we rediscover our better, truer selves, if we choose our means carefully, the disease will go into remission.

To put it another way: Islamofascism can't win this struggle. Only we can lose it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Roots of Arab Muslim Sickness: Part 2, Palestine

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the roots of Arab Muslim sickness: failure; blaming an external party for that failure; implicit belief in one's own powerlessness; rebellion against that sense of powerlessness by demonstrating an ability to hurt the external party; chosen means (suicide bombs) that can only cause one's conditions to worsen; more suicide bombs; cultural stagnation and moral depravity; repeat.

We all evaluate our own worth in part by reference to others, and how do Arabs feel when they compare themselves with Israel, a thriving democracy with no oil and yet a first world economy, a world class technology sector (in May, Warren Buffet invested four billion dollars for an 80% share of Iscar, an Israeli precision tool manufacturer. When Buffet invests ten figures in an Arab manufacturer... well, it's hard to imagine, and that's the point), and a military that has repeatedly fought off its numerically superior Arab neighbors?

The comparison must be painful for all Arabs, but particularly for the Palestinians, given their greater proximity. Do they have a legitimate grievance? Yes. Thousands were indeed displaced, many of them deliberately expelled, during Israel's war of independence. They live in refugee camps in Lebanon, as second class citizens in Jordan, and under Israeli military rule in Gaza and the West Bank.

But it's been nearly sixty years, and Palestinians have a decision to make. Nurse their grievance, indulge in self-righteousness by clinging to maximalist demands, and gradually worsen their circumstances and diminish their future... or compromise and achieve something concrete?

Sadly, Palestinians have repeatedly chosen the first course. The tragedy of their society is that they have become all about means, and no longer care about ends. Or, to put it another way, their means have become their end.

If the end Palestinians willed were an independent state, they could have had it many times. Most recently, all they needed to do was choose hunger strikes as their weapon instead of suicide bombs. Armed with the unique benefit of a politically powerful and favorably disposed movement (Peace Now) within the country that occupies the land they claim, and the parallel advantage of numerous sympathizers in the UN and Europe, hunger strikers could have won the Palestinians a two-state solution forty years ago.

If an objective is repeatedly attainable, and someone repeatedly fails to attain it, at some point it's fair to ask whether the party really wanted that objective to begin with... or whether, in fact, their objective was always something else. The Palestinians have had many opportunities to have their own state. They do not. What is it, then, that they really want?

Primarily, to hurt Israel. Palestinian self worth is so low that the society can salve its collective ego only through the basest refutation of a sense of powerlessness: an ability to hurt their enemy. Menacham Begin is famous for saying, "I fight, therefore I am;" the Palestinian equivalent has become, "I can hurt you, therefore I matter."

It follows that a negotiated solution with the Palestinians is impossible. Israel couldn't even give the Palestinians what they profess to want, because what they really want is not be given anything, but to take everything.

It's hard not to pity a culture like this one. Palestinians have become so obsessed with their enemy that they now define themselves exclusively by reference to that enemy. They seem to mean nothing to themselves outside their ability to blow up Israelis. They must feel there's nothing else they can achieve, and apparently there is nothing more they desire.

The status quo of military occupation, bombings, and assassinations has gone on for a long time. After many failed negotiations, Israel attempted to change that status quo by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza behind a wall. The Hamas rockets that followed Israel's withdrawal from Gaza (and those of Hezbollah, which followed Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000) have proven unilateral withdrawal to be a failure. So the status quo continues. But for how long?

If Israel can find some cost-effective way of suppressing the rocket fire as it has the suicide bombers, the status quo could continue for a long time. But if Israel can't, and the provocations continue or worsen, eventually, perhaps very soon, there will be another war.

In the next war, Israel will not attempt to occupy territories and rule local populations. It will instead drive those populations out, as indeed it did in 1947. Expulsions will probably end the peace with Egypt and Jordan. But they will prevent rockets from reaching Israel proper and eradicate the threat inside Israel's borders. Wars after that will be only against external enemies and conventional armies, an arena in which Israel has proven itself capable.

It's a bleak assessment, but I don't see alternatives. Over the course of six decades, the Palestinians have consistently demanded, explicitly and implicitly, something Israel can't give. Their circumstances have correspondingly consistently worsened. The next step in the progression of this dreadful combination of maximalist demands and worsening circumstances will be the Palestinians' loss of everything, even the territory they currently administer and de facto own by virtue of their physical presence there.

In some ways, Palestinians are like someone who owns stock that has been steadily losing value. Every day they realize they should have sold yesterday, when they could have gotten out in a better position. Now they've lost so much they prefer to hope for recovery by holding on than to lock in their losses by getting out. And so their losses worsen.

Well, there are times when things must get worse before they get better, if they can ever get better at all. The Palestinians have made such a situation for themselves. No, they weren't dealt a great hand. But they are responsible for the way they've played it, and therefore for the increasingly miserable outcome of the game.

Next week: Part 3, Solutions