The Magazine

The Lebanon Debacle

Does Israel's retreat mark the beginning or the end of its demoralization?

Jun 5, 2000, Vol. 5, No. 36 • By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
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The enemies are not vague, and they are no longer far away. They will be there every night on Israeli television, as they were just a few nights ago, dancing at the Israeli border fence, chanting "I will kill you" to the Israelis on the other side.

That change in perception might be accompanied by a renewal of will. It has happened before. America was deeply demoralized and in general retreat after the Vietnam War. It took a series of setbacks in that annus mirabilis 1979 -- the invasion of Afghanistan, the communization of Nicaragua, and most important, the fall of the shah and the seizure of American hostages in Teheran -- to shock America out of its geopolitical lethargy. There's nothing like an acute humiliation to wake up a sleeping giant.

Israelis are exhausted. But they are also tough. At some point, their neighbors may push a little too far. It won't take a Pearl Harbor. Israelis wanted to get out of Lebanon, but they did not like the way they were expelled. Israel's adversaries certainly have the upper hand today. But they would be wise not to push their luck too far tomorrow.

Charles Krauthammer is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.