‘Let us begin’

The United States can wait no longer to step between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Bombs continue to explode in the West Bank, killing mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, civilians and soldiers alike. The two sides’ historical and current actions give no signs the killings will ever stop. And for those who question whether this is a U.S. problem, the answer came Wednesday when the FBI reported that members of the Jewish Defense League attempted to blow up a prominent Los Angeles mosque and kill a U.S. congressman of Middle Eastern descent. The plague of hatred has spread into our country and has become our problem.

According to The New York Times, one of the would-be terrorists said the bomb was to be a “wake-up call” and that he wanted to “hunt down” Palestinians to prove the Jewish Defense League was “still alive in a militant way.” Had they succeeded, some militant U.S. Muslim group would have likely retaliated, splitting apart our country like the hydrogen nucleus of a triggered atomic bomb.

Before U.S. lands are set ablaze by the rampant hate that burns through the blood of Palestinian and Israeli terrorists, the United States must establish containment. Initially, they tried to do that by supplying the Israelis with superior weapons. It didn’t work. The Stanford prison experiment provides an empirical reason why. Unchecked power leads to abuse. However, if the United States provided a military presence it would not be unchecked for two reasons. One, we would have every eye in the world watching us, waiting to scream foul. And two, the United States’ own system is constructed to provide a check against perverse power.

Only through containment is there any hope of creating peace in the area. Generations have grown up with killings and hatred. Israeli children lose their parents in car and bus bombings. Trigger-happy soldiers shoot innocent civilians. Palestinian children grow up watching F-16s bomb their neighborhoods. They play with discarded U.S. military supplies, which are not always benign. Both sides are emotionally disfigured with loss, pain and ensuing rage. And it’s a perpetual disfigurement, meaning it breeds itself. We must stop that process, extinguish its growth and wait for the fire to run out of fuel. Only when a generation has grown up without terror and hatred as a way of life will there be hope of establishing permanent peace. Stopping the killings is the only means for this process to begin. And the U.S. military can provide that beginning.

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finishing in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” ñ John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1961.