A while ago, a reader named “Steve” dropped the phrase “honor the threat” in a comment around these parts. That phrase stuck with me, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for some time.
“Honor the threat.” Treat every single threat as serious, until proven otherwise. It’s something I’ve always believed, but never really put into words until I saw Jay Solo (Correction: Steve) spell it out in those simple three words.
In that piece Steve commented on, I made analogy comparing Islamic extremists to a seven-year-old boy who threatens to kill you. Let’s set aside that hypothetical situation, and look at some real-world examples.
1) The Palestinian Authority talks about “peace” with Israel, but as thoroughly documented on their web site, their idea of “peace” doesn’t jibe with most people’s. The maps they show of “Palestine” show it completely covering the entire area that is now Israel. There is absolutely no room for a Jewish state on their maps, or by extension in their “vision” for a peaceful future. Yet people still talk about the “peace process” and how “both sides want a peaceful future, with two states living side by side.” That’s not what they’re saying, folks, and putting words in their mouths won’t make it true.
2) Al Qaeda/Osama Bin Laden. In the early 90’s, they declared war on the US and announced their plans to “destroy” us. We largely ignored them. They tried to blow up the World Trade Center, and we sicced lawyers on them. They tried to blow up two of our embassies and sink one of our navy’s destroyers, and we yelled a lot and fired a couple of missiles, and sent more lawyers on the hunt. And on September 11, they showed us what they thought of a couple dozen Tomahawks and indictments.
Since then, we haven’t captured Bin Laden or decisively crushed Al Qaeda, but we have dealt them enough blows and kept them on the run enough that they’ve only pulled off two major operations (Bali and Madrid), neither against the US. And while I would like to see Bin Laden’s head on a pike as much as the next guy, I’m content for now that he’s been kept from doing anything else against us for the past four years.
3) The repeated Arab/Israeli “ceasefires.” The Arabs kept calling for a “ceasefire” with Israel, and everyone was just thrilled down to their socks at that — until a couple of wise guys looked at just what they were saying. They kept using the word “Hudnah” (or however it’s being spelled). A little digging showed that the original Hudnah dates back to Mohammed.
It seems Mohammed wanted to conquer Mecca. The only thing was, the people didn’t want to be conquered, and they told him so forcefully. So Mohammed signed an agreement (“Hudnah”), agreeing to not attack again for ten years.
Then he promptly went home, raised a new army, came back two years later, and conquered Mecca. A “Hudnah” is not a cease-fire, it is a pause to regroup, rearm, and prepare for the next fight.
To me, the argument against “honoring the threat” in international relations smacks of racism. People tell themselves that “that’s just talk, that’s not what they really mean, that’s just how they express themselves.” Apparently they believe that other people are congenitally incapable of speaking exactly what they think — and then acting upon it.
It’s a popular belief. If you want more evidence, just look in the history books — because that’s where such people tend to end up, and always referred to in the past tense.