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George Will’s Poor War Analogy

3:58 PM, Jun 23, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Al Qaeda had begun developing the tactical expertise for such attacks [note: the 1998 embassy bombings] months earlier, when some of its operatives – top military committee members and several operatives who were involved with the Kenya cell among them – were sent to Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon.

During the embassy bombings trial in 2001, U.S. prosecutors introduced Jamal al Fadl, an al Qaeda member, as a key witness. Al Fadl explained that Hezbollah showed al Qaeda “how to explosives [sic] big buildings” during the training.

“Big buildings” like the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Hundreds were killed in 1998, just as hundreds were killed in 1983. The embassy bombings were a mirror image of Hezbollah’s own twin suicide truck bombings – a deadly innovation in terrorism. Al Qaeda adopted Hezbollah’s modus operandi precisely because it exposed what the terrorists thought was America’s inherent weakness.

Thus, Reagan’s retreat from Lebanon was not a “strong” decision, as Will would have it. It not only emboldened Sunni and Shiite terrorists alike, it helped Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria turn Lebanon into a cauldron of terror for decades to come.

There is plenty of room for rational debate on the course ahead in Libya, but citing one of the weakest moments in American foreign policy decision making in the last thirty years does not help Will’s case.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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