Assassination Tango

Like it or not, Israel's war with Hamas is America's, too

(Page 2 of 2)

America need not and should not approve of whatever measures Israel chooses to take in its war with Hamas. The two countries' interests and positions differ, and the fact that a terrorist can legitimately be killed does not always make killing him smart. Many people, including Israelis, think the Yassin assassination will prove counterproductive and will undercut Palestinian secularists without weakening Hamas. As yet, no one can claim to know.

What is clear, however, is that what America is doing against Al Qaeda and what Israel is doing against Hamas are the same kind of thing, and that thing is not "extrajudicial killing" or "terrorism," but war. Denying that the war is a war has consequences—among them, reluctance to do what is necessary to win. A clever combatant knows that wars are won by many means (many of them nonmilitary) but that killing the other guy before he kills you is one of them. Is killing a Yassin or a bin Laden "extrajudicial"? Yes, but so is the war against militant Islamism. And our side didn't start it.

And it is one war, not many, albeit one war waged on many fronts. Hamas and Al Qaeda are organizationally distinct but ideologically joined at the hip. Both are anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and dedicated to extinguishing secular politics in what they regard as Islamic lands. Although Hamas has concentrated on Israeli interests while Al Qaeda concentrated on American ones, even that gap is narrowing—inevitably, now that America is making a priority of bringing secular democracy to the Middle East.

It was no accident that Rantisi, in one of his first actions as Yassin's successor, declared that President Bush is the enemy of Muslims and that God has declared war on the United States. Hamas has connected the dots—even if many people, including many Americans, have not.

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