Third, just as the U.S. neither invaded North Vietnam nor seriously challenged communist safe havens in Cambodia and Laos, Mr. Sharon effectively
created terrorist safe havens by giving fair warning of where he would strike, and where he would not. Thus the IDF gave 12 hours' notice of its raid into the Balata refugee camp,
plenty of time for Palestinian gunmen to clear out but not much time for innocent civilians. Similarly, in its first incursion into Ramallah last month, the Israeli government made it clear it
would not attack Arafat's sprawling Mukata compound. No surprise, then, that that is where Palestinian terrorists fled, and why Israel now finds itself having to go in with main force.
But Mr. Sharon's gravest error was explicitly to assure Mr. Arafat this his grip on power would not be challenged. So long as Israel insisted that its goal was a negotiated settlement,
not the destruction of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Arafat had nothing to lose personally from waging war, and thus little incentive to stop it. That his people have suffered terribly as a
result has so far only accrued to his diplomatic advantage.
Now, it seems, everything has changed. No longer is Mr. Arafat merely "irrelevant" to Mr. Sharon. He is "a bitter enemy." And no longer is the IDF engaged in what amounts to a
game of diplomatic gestures. It is, by Mr. Sharon's own declaration, at war. But again, the question is, how will it wage that war?
Here, too, Vietnam offers an instructive parallel. In April 1972, following the withdrawal of most U.S. military personnel from South Vietnam, Hanoi launched a major military
offensive, to which the U.S. responded with a naval blockade, the mining of Haiphong harbor, and the commencement, after a four-year lull, of B-52 raids on the North. These steps
repelled the North's offensive and brought a resumption to peace talks -- which Hanoi once again used to stall and regroup. Finally, in December 1972, President Nixon resumed
"Linebacker," an aerial bombardment so intense it brought the North to its knees in 11 short days. After years of sterile negotiations, a peace treaty got signed within the space of a
Even as Colin Powell prepares for yet another "peace" mission to the Mideast, the lesson for both Israel and the U.S. is clear. If what they desire is a negotiated settlement with the
Palestinian Authority, nothing but the severe application of force will do. Any resumption of a "peace process" with Mr. Arafat before Palestinian gunmen are thoroughly beaten,
Hamas and Islamic Jihad members imprisoned in large numbers in Israeli jails, Palestinian arms caches seized and the Palestinian Authority's military forces brought down to the sizes
stipulated by the Oslo Agreement, will at best bring a brief reduction in the violence. It will then resume, with greater ferocity, following the next, inevitable, suicide attack.
But there are long-term lessons, too, for Israel as well as for the U.S. The 1973 peace accord did not, of course, bring peace to Southeast Asia. It merely got the U.S. out of South
Vietnam, which was then left to the mercies of a neighbor whose political leadership, ideological stripes and territorial ambitions remained unchanged. Any deal Israel might reach with
Mr. Arafat -- even one involving the creation of a Palestinian state roughly within the territorial lines proposed at Camp David -- will suffer the same handicap.