Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Commentary

Stop the Dream of an 'Arab Bomb'

April 03, 2002|RANAN R. LURIE

A good friend of mine, the senior correspondent for a major Arab newspaper, told me a joke: "I have great news for you," said the psychologist to his patient. "You are not suffering from an inferiority complex. You are inferior."

We were musing about the military situation in the Middle East. "Can you imagine," my friend said while staring at his martini, "a people 122 million strong who couldn't militarily beat a group less than 4% of its size? All of this repeating itself again and again and again for 54 years?"

The drama of Arab military inferiority to Israel is entrenched in the Arab psyche. It was underscored in the June 1982 air battle between Syria and Israel: 94 Syrian fighter jets were shot down; the only Israeli plane lost was downed by ground fire.

We in the West are aware of Israel's "might" and its "victories," and we forget the insult these two words present to the proud Arab people.

That is why the Arab nations hope that Saddam Hussein will create the long-awaited "Arab bomb."

Vice President Dick Cheney is still unpacking his luggage from a tour that was supposed to persuade Arab nations to support the United States in an attack on Iraq--the only Arab nation that has a realistic chance of creating what seems to be the only way to bypass Israel's military superiority.

So, because the only way the Arab nations can overcome Israel is to nuke it, and the only person who is close to this capacity is Hussein, our effort to get other Arab leaders to end his potential nuclear capacity is similar to training a camel to fly.

Here is the certainty: When Iraqi scientists present their dictator with the bomb on a given morning, it will detonate over Israel that afternoon. For those smart, civilized strategists who say that Hussein would not endanger his Palestinian brethren, I would like to remind them that he already has killed more than 100,000 of his own people in "police actions."

In December 1977, I interviewed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for "The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour" on public television. After the interview, Sadat recommended that I meet Field Marshal Mohamed Abdel-Ghani Gamasi, commander of all of Egypt's forces. When I met with the tall, handsome field marshal, he said, "You, people of the West, must understand that until we find an answer to the Israeli bomb, we won't sleep well. When we snore, you won't sleep well either."

The U.S. can forget about any cooperation with an Arab country in attacking Iraq.

To the contrary: We may anticipate their cooperation with Iraq against us, not necessarily by fighting us on the ground but by aiding Iraq with intelligence, moral support and threats of an oil embargo. Unfortunately, Hussein's Arab bomb will be their ticket to military equality with or even superiority over Israel. No Arab leader would dare dampen that Arab dream.

We must get used to the idea that we are alone in this battle--and like it or not, the earlier we attack Iraq, the less the chance of Israel or the United States being nuked.

*

Ranan R. Lurie, a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, is a syndicated columnist and political cartoonist.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|