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thedrifter
07-24-06, 09:18 AM
To Hell with Hezbollah
July 24th, 2006



I worked for President Reagan at the CIA, and during those years I made quite a number of overseas trips. While having dinner one evening with some people from the local CIA station, I fell into a conversation with a young woman who had recently completed her training and was on her first foreign assignment. She was charming, eager, and razor-sharp – precisely the sort of young officer the agency recruited in those days, and the sort of officer who, in time, would rise to a leadership position. She told me that she had just worked a deal through which the agency would give her a leave of absence, with pay, so she could go back to school and get an MBA degree. That would enhance her management skills, she explained, and she thought these skills would come in handy as she moved up the ladder.

As we left the dinner I wished her luck in the MBA program, and asked her to stop by my office the next time she came to Washington to say hello.

“I will,” she replied. “And when I do I’ll tell you about another little deal I’ve worked out to see a part of the world I’ve never been to.”

I asked what she meant, and she explained that when one of our stations needed some help because of an unexpected personnel shortage – due to a combination of vacations and emergency sick-leave, for instance – they passed word around to stations in other parts of the world that if anyone had some vacation time to burn up and wanted to visit that country for a week or two with free accommodation, here was their chance.

“Sounds like fun,” I said. “So, where are you going?”

“Beirut.”

Ten minutes after she showed up for work, on April 18, 1983, Hezbollah blew up that embassy and killed her, along with seven other CIA officers including the station chief, Ken Haas, and the agency’s top Mideast analyst, Bob Ames, and 60 other people. Six months later, on October 23, Hezbollah launched an attack in Beirut that killed 241 of our Marines, sailors and soldiers.

President Reagan decided not to retaliate for either of these attacks, and I believe this was among the toughest decisions he ever made. What the President understood – and what so many people demanding retaliation back then did not – is that in 1983 we were in the final stages of winning the Cold War. This was the President’s great objective and achieving it would absorb all of his, and the administration’s, energies and efforts. He would allow nothing – not even Hezbollah’s attacks on our embassy and our Marines – to distract us from defeating the Soviet Union.

Now we are engaged in another global struggle, and this time Hezbollah is right in the middle of it. In the war on terrorism, Hezbollah isn’t a distraction. It’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran, and a partner of Syria – both of which are determined to stop us from winning in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today, through what appears to be its own miscalculation, Hezbollah finds itself at war with Israel. Good. This may be the best break we’ve had since 9-11. We ought to give the Israelis all the help we can – militarily, on the ground as well as in the air – to annihilate Hezbollah and all its leaders. That will weaken Iran and Syria, and by doing so help us win in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So why is our Secretary of State en route to the Mideast? Why is all the talk in Washington about how much time we ought to give the Israelis before we stop them? Why are so many members of Congress and commentators blathering on about cease-fires, balanced approaches, about “degrading” Hezbollah’s military power, of negotiations with its elected politicians, and of a “buffer zone” in Lebanon south of the Litani river? Why are we being drawn into endless arguments about the complex relationships between Shiites and Sunnis, about how to give Syria’s president Assad a “pathway out” of his diplomatic isolation, and about the “sensitivities” of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia?

All of this is super-sophisticated nonsense.

In World War II there was no talk of a “cease-fire” with Japan, or of a “buffer zone” between Japan and China. No one thought it made sense to merely “disarm” or “degrade” the Wehrmacht, or to just push Hitler back into Germany where his National Socialist party could continue to dominate the Reichstag. And no one who suggested that the fire-bombing of Dresden, or the D-Day invasion, were a “disproportionate response” to Hitler’s invasion of Poland was taken seriously.

When you’re in the middle of a war, of course you need to think before you act. But there is such a thing as over-thinking, and today we are in serious danger of making this mistake. In war there is nothing – absolutely nothing – that brings victory faster and more completely than the total annihilation of your enemy. Do that and everything else – what the late, great Senator Sam Ervine of North Carolina once called “the complex complexities” – sort themselves out.

Right now we have an unexpected opportunity to obliterate Hezbollah, and by doing so to increase our chances for victory in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’d be fools not to go for it.

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. His DVD on The Siege of Western Civilization has become an international best-seller.


Herbert E. Meyer

Ellie