About a year ago I saw a Russian television broadcast in which Vladimir Putin, riding a noble steed, reaches the edge of a lake, deftly removes his shirt and in an impressive display of muscle, leans over and washes his face in the crystal- clear water.
That is when I began to worry. The leader determined to restore the great nation’s lost honor and days of glory was playing the macho worship card. It reminded me of an old Italian propaganda film in which Il Duce – Mussolini – is riding in his official car when he sees a farmer struggling to load bundles of wheat onto his wagon. Il Duce descends from his car and – just like Putin – takes off his shirt and, with an impressive display of macho and muscle, quickly loads the wheat onto the wagon of the grateful farmer. Both Hitler and Stalin also played the macho worship card.
Thus, the Russian invasion into Georgia did not surprise me at all. Whoever thinks that the latest Russian offensive is in retaliation against Georgian provocation does not – in my opinion – understand Putin. When Hitler annexed the Sudetenland, some pundits thought that he would be content. And in truth, millions of Germans did live in the “separatist regions” of Czechoslovakia – and the Western world was eager to “understand” the Germans. After all, what did everybody want – a Second World War? So the Sudetes were sacrificed to appease Hitler. In Churchill’s words, “You were given the choice between war and dishonor . . . you chose dishonor, and you will have war.”
It would have been easy then to stop Hitler. The Czech army alone was larger than the German army and its Skoda factories produced topnotch weapons. But the post-World War I world craved quiet. It chose to give Hitler what he wanted in the hopes that he would just leave well enough alone. Hitler got what he wanted and the world got a brief respite. The rest is history.
Putin will not suffice himself with Georgia. The Georgian test case has provided him with all the incentive he needs. We do not yet know exactly where or when the next eruption will occur. But if Barack Obama wins the U.S. presidential election and the process of disintegration there continues, the new Russian bully will feel confident enough to initiate more wars.
Does Russia present a direct threat to Israel?
The Syrians have explicitly invited the Russians to man both their ground and naval bases. It is possible that Russia will begin to expand in our direction. That is a most undesirable eventuality. But if it happens, it will not be the first time. Israeli pilots have already waged air skirmishes against Soviet pilots who defended Egyptian skies during the War of Attrition. The Israeli pilots even downed a number of Russian-piloted planes.
Israel is not Georgia, and the Russians know that. But Israel today is not the Israel of the War of Attrition. Today, Israel displays a weakness that tempts every neighborhood and international bully to come in for a piece of the action.
The restoration of Israel’s deterrence factor is not a matter of increasing the security budget, as the security lobbyists would have us believe. Just two years ago, Israel’s army collapsed in the face of an enemy the size of a mere division – in a war that Israel itself initiated. The problem was not budgetary. The problem was a loss of our sense of justice and common goals that create our cohesiveness and national might. Our lack of deterrence is not due to a lack of tanks or fighter jets. Our lack of deterrence is due to the fact that our enemies think that our society is disintegrating and that the State of Israel is “weaker than spider webs,” in the descriptive words of Hizbullah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah.
I would not invest one more shekel in security. The huge sums that the security lobbyists are demanding should be funneled to Israel’s social needs. A just society understands what it is doing in its land and can produce the power of deterrence that Israel used to have – when it believed that it was right.
(Translated from the article that appeared on Israel’s NRG website.)
Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit, the largest faction inside the Likud party. Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) strives to restore Jewish values, pride and integrity to the State of Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, The War of Dreams, visit www.jewishisrael.org.