In a recent speech, U.S. President George W. Bush presented his country with a worldview in the tradition of late President Ronald Reagan: no retreat in the face of terrorism, yes to pre-emptive strikes – including assassinations – against terrorist breeding grounds.
In word and deed, Bush has put forth an expanded version of Reagan's 1986 attack on Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi's political, economic and military infrastructure.
In contrast to his father, the president's worldview is influenced by lessons learned from previous U.S. disengagement plans in 1979 (Iranian hostage crisis), 1983 (a terror campaign that killed 300 American diplomats and Marines in Lebanon), and in 1993 (following the lynching of Marines in Somalia).
These disengagements poured gasoline on the flames of anti-American Islamic terrorism, resulting in major terror attacks on American targets in 1993,1995,1998,2000, culminating on September 11, 2001.
Bush is determined to prevent Clinton's mistakes. The latter chose to disengage from terror centers, made due with targeted, limited attacks on terrorist bases, and tried to enage in dialogue with terrorist-sponsoring regimes.
Clinton pressed for cease-fires and tried not to destroy infrastructure; his disengagements eased the infiltration of terror cells into U.S. population centers.
Texas and religion
In contrast, Bush's worldview is influenced by both his religious connection and his Texas upbringing. As opposed to his father, the Connecticut aristocrat, Bush is loyal to the old Texas saying, "You don't jump off the horse, especially when the horse is bucking."
Bush admires Moses, Joshua and Caleb, and is critical of the weakness displayed by the biblical spies who were intimidated by the nations of Canaan and who proposed disengaging from the Promised Land.
To Bush – and to Vice President Dick Cheney, the cowboy and historian from Wyoming – to disengage from terror would be a kick in the face to that religious, Texas tradition.
Disengaging from terrorism is opposed to Bush's struggle of good against evil, freedom against slavery, truth against falsehood.
In his speeches, Bush puts forward a worldview fundamentally opposed to the disengagement plan.
"The correct answer to terrorism is not to run away, but courage and bravery… the terrorists think they can force us to withdraw. They are wrong. The choice is between war on their territory and war on ours."
This is the reason the United States will not be funding the Gaza disengagement plan, a program that will cost the Israeli tax payer at least NIS 10 billion (USD 2.2 billion).
Bush has also not committed to any tangible guarantee.
Bush did not propose the program himself, but rather accepted it after four months of pressure from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (with support from the State Department, in order to prevent a political battle with Israel supporters in the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election.)
And the vice president, secretary of defense, and many congressmen have doubts about the disengagement plan.
Therefore, the president and Congress will not go to the wall should Israel call off the disengagement. They will make do with short-term pressure, which will be nothing compared to the brutal pressure that failed to move Israeli prime ministers from 1948 to 1992.
In 1981, Reagan imposed a four-month arms embargo on Israel, following the attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak.
But following the short crisis, Israel benefited from strategic cooperation that continues to this day.
President Bush has learned from Reagan (who disengaged from Lebanon), and has stood fast and strong in Afghanistan and Iraq. He admires Israeli democracy - which, like the American version, allows for checks and balances in order to slow down the army.
Does Sharon have the same character?