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Israel's Strategic Blunder

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Steve Clemons makes several good points in this HuffPo post about the ongoing unravelling of the Middle East, but I want to focus on something he says near the end: According to one of his sources, Israeli leaders are "freaked out" by the quality of recent attacks against Israel, including the use of a radar-guided missile to hit an Israeli ship.

Well they better get used to it. For now Israel can complain (accurately) that these spooky weapons are supplied by state sponsors, but the direction of technological evolution suggests that state sponsorship is going to be less and less necessary for terrorists who want to freak a nation out.

"Model" airplane afficionados have used a remote-control GPS device to guide a commercially available airplane--weighing 29 pounds, with a 9-foot wingspan--across the Atlantic Ocean. And GPS gives you enough precision to land such an aircraft in a tennis stadium. Now use your imagination. (Hint: Plastic explosives don't weigh much, and anthrax is nearly weightless.)

This is just one of many examples of technological trends that empower terrorists. Such trends have led me to repeatedly warn about the "growing lethality of hatred"--the prospect that as time goes by, grass-roots hatred of America abroad will be converted into massive death in America with growing efficiency. In fact, this is a key theme in an op-ed I published in today's New York Times outlining a new foreign policy paradigm for Democrats.

But I really shouldn't put the point in terms of America, because in principle this growing threat applies equally to Israel or any other nation.

The upshot, in my opinion: Policies that may bring tangible tactical or strategic gains, but plant the seeds of long-term hatred, are a less good idea than they were, say, 30 years ago. Consider Israel's disproportionate response to recent terrorist provocations. Yes, conceivably, this response could gain some of Israel's strategic objectives. But the regional hatred of Israel that this response is enduringly intensifying will be more of a strategic threat to Israel tomorrow than today, and a still bigger threat the day after tomorrow. Israel is fighting a modern war with a pre-modern mindsight. It is ensuring that today's "freakout" is nothing compared to tomorrow's.