American Troops on the Golan: Another Bad Idea
In a world awash with bad ideas and catastrophic consequences, it is not out of line to counsel caution and offer a bit of good sense to those who make the decisions that affect us all. A case in point is the hotly contested issue of Israel’s negotiations with Syria over a final settlement on the Golan Heights. It goes without saying that the decisions of the State of Israel concerning the Golan are strictly Israel’s business. Israel’s first concern, and that of all honest brokers of peace in the Middle East, must be the security and, consequently, survival of the nation and its Jewish citizens. Those of us who have invested time on the Golan and have seen up close the tremendous risks involved in allowing Syrians to retrieve positions from which, before 1967, they terrorized every Israeli settlement and citizen within reach of their guns, can understand why the majority of Israelis are insisting that their government give them the opportunity to have a say in how much, if any, territory is relinquished to the Syrians.
America’s role in the settlement, however, is a matter that should seriously concern the people of the United States, who may be required to send their sons and daughters to stand between Israelis and Syrians to “keep the peace.” A few months ago, we were being told that public discussions on posting American troops on the Golan were premature and should not muddy the waters of serious negotiations. But, in fact, arrangements were already in the works that would have American troops dispatched without the opportunity for sufficient debate in the Congress or the public forum.
If, indeed, Hafez Assad is serious about real peace with Israel, why do American troops have to assure that he is not launching another mission to destroy Israel? The Israelis have never been a threat to Syria’s existence. Every inch of territory Israel holds on the Golan was taken in direct response to Syrian military aggression. And while U.S. support has always been, and must continue to be, a major force in sustaining Israel, Israel has never sought or needed American ground forces to protect them. Whatever future relationship develops between Syria and Israel, the surest hope for Assad to behave will be his knowledge that aggression will be met with swift and certain destruction from aggrieved Israelis, unencumbered by the necessity of convincing foreign “peacekeepers” that they have reason to respond.
Then there is the problem of Syria’s de facto annexation of Lebanon and their unwillingness to rein in their Hezbollah terrorist allies—a fact that calls into question Hafez Assad’s earnestness in talking peace in the Middle East. Does he intend to take his troops home and allow Lebanon to function as the independent state it is supposed to be? Will he continue to encourage Hezbollah and the other terrorist cronies he has sheltered in Syria to harass Israel from Lebanon? If such is the case, and there is presently no solid evidence that it will be otherwise, it poses a grave threat to any U.S. forces stationed on the Golan. In the event of an outbreak of hostilities, peacekeepers could be threatened by a pincer movement originating from Syria and South Lebanon.
Above all else, we can be certain that Americans on the Golan will be squarely in the crosshairs of the world’s most vicious proponents of death by terror. Unlike the situation with peacekeepers in the Sinai, those on the Golan will be vulnerable to Iranian-sponsored suicidal fanatics who see killing sons and daughters of the “Great Satan”—America—as their own passport to paradise. Attacks on Americans would be virtually inevitable. The only question would involve Americans’ tolerance of such tragedies and the consequent strain brought to bear on U.S. commitment to Israel. One thing is certain: America is in no national frame of mind to sustain the impact of another Beirut, where 241 American troops fell prey to an Islamic suicide bomber—a terrorist of the same stripe as those Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who have strapped bombs on themselves and shredded buildings and bodies in Israel. America—and the world, for that matter—seemed to pay scant attention to the death and destruction on the streets of Tel Aviv. We can be assured, however, that such would not be the case should it be young American men and women whose body parts were scattered across the face of the Golan.
And while we’re talking good sense, perhaps a lesson from the life of the late Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir, will serve us well. In 1948, when the survival of the fledgling State of Israel was very much in question, Mrs. Meir was given five minutes to plead for funds from a group of American businessmen. She was not, she assured them, asking Americans to shed their blood to save Israel, but only to help provide the means for Israelis to have the chance to save themselves. So Americans gave the means and moral support, while Israelis fought and established the record for military heroism and self-sufficiency that we all so admire. Thank you, Golda. It was good advice. We hope that our leaders were listening.