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Careful with that saber - Ed Brock

Certainly Israel is a good mentor to consult on fighting terrorism. They have plenty of experience in the subject.

Along the same line of logic, it's also good to seek marital advice from somebody who's been married many different times, because they, too, have a wealth of experience.

But in case you somehow haven't caught on to this, the fatal flaw in that reasoning is that if a person has had that kind of experience in marriage they clearly don't know what they're doing, no matter how much they might think they do.

By the same token, if Israeli counter terrorism tactics are so effective, why is there still terrorism in Israel?

Isn't the goal of a war on terrorism the actual end of terrorism?

It seems to me that Israel is certainly skilled at surviving a war on terrorism, but they clearly aren't able to win that war. It just keeps going on and on like a fire being fed from below by natural gas.

If you've ever sat sipping Hurricanes in the courtyard of Pat O'Briens in New Orleans, you've probably seen the fountain there in which such a fire burns at the crown of the fountain where the flames endure a ceaseless barrage of water.

The flame keeps burning because the natural gas line has equal power to keep the flame alive as the water does to extinguish the blaze.

But what do I know. My timing on war has always been bad.

I was around 7 years old when Saigon fell in 1975. I don't remember that war well from my direct experience. But the social side effects of Vietnam continued to ripple around me as I grew up. It was 1999 when I went to Vietnam in person, finally walking in the land that has so recently woven some fibers of its history with ours.

Likewise, I've been to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor, again seeing only the twisted metal skeletons that still mark these two battlefields.

For most of my formative years our country lived in peace, albeit an uneasy peace. The Cold War continued and we all became obsessed with nuclear destruction for awhile, but the military was considered just a job option when I graduated high school in 1986.

Despite this direct lack of experience with real, immediate war, I know that war is bad not only because of the things that are done to people in war but because of the things people must do in war. Also, one should consider that ironically the desperation for peace that occurred during the Vietnam War led to an extension of that conflict.

Certain options that would have won the war were not explored because politicians feared the wrath of the peace movement. We should learn from that and try not to repeat that mistake.

With all that in mind, I have to say a certain short sightedness seems to have taken hold of our field commanders in Iraq. It's certainly understandable, considering the hail of bullets and shrapnel that surround them day by day.

I just fear that, in the long run, we're only turning the gas up under the flames when we surround villages with barbed wire and put up signs that read as the following.

"This fence is here for your protection. Do not approach or try to cross or you will be shot."

Let's step back and examine the strangely clinical, paradoxical assessment shown in this quote from Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, battalion commander at a town called Abu Hishma where American troops are cracking down on Iraqi insurgents.

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."

Dare I hope that Sassaman and the sign writer are merely demonstrating their dry wit?

Abu Hishma is in the so-called "Sunni triangle," the area north of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein's hometown is located and where the resistance is strongest. According to the New York Times article in which I found the information listed above, our troops have also initiated a policy of demolishing buildings thought to be used by insurgents and even arresting family members of suspected rebels to encourage the bad guys to give up.

All of these tactics are similar to approaches taken by the Israeli army in the occupied Palestinian territories, and that's what concerns me. I consider the Israeli approach to be counterproductive at best, and even the White House has expressed the same sentiment from time to time.

There are different rules in war and I understand that. Considering the awful violence that's been inflicted on our troops, especially in the Sunni Triangle area, I'm not at this point saying all this has to stop.

I'm saying we need to keep a close eye on these policies with consideration for our long-term goals. Heavy-handed tactics like this may keep the peace of the moment, but if we play it too hard the resentment that is simmering in the hearts of the innocent people of Abu Hishma may make enemies out of potential friends.

It's interesting to note that at the end of the article they mention that Sassaman, despite his toughness (or more likely because of it) has earned the respect of some of the people in Abu Hishma.

Let's hope that continues to be the trend.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com.