No phrase represents more of a triumph of hope over experience than the phrase "Middle East peace process." A close second might be the once-fashionable notion that Israel should "trade land for peace."
Since everybody seems to be criticizing Israel for its military response to the rockets being fired into their country from the Gaza strip, let me add my criticisms as well. The Israelis traded land for peace, but they have never gotten the peace, so they should take back the land.
Maybe a couple of generations of Palestinians in Gaza living in peace under Israeli occupation and a couple of generations of the occupation troops squelching the terrorists— "militants" for those of you who are squeamish— would set up conditions where the Palestinians would be free to vote on whether they would like to remain occupied or to have their own state— minus terrorists and their rockets.
Casualty totals alone should be enough to show that the Palestinian people are the biggest losers from the current situation, where the terrorists among them, firing rockets into Israel, can bring devastating retaliatory strikes.
Why don't the Palestinians vote for some representatives who would make a lasting peace with Israel? Because any such candidates would be killed by the terrorists long before election day, so nobody volunteers for that dangerous role.
We don't know what the Palestinians really want— and won't know as long as they are ruled by Hamas, Hezbollah and the like.
Whatever the benefits of peace for the Palestinian population, what are the terrorists going to do in peacetime? Become librarians and furniture salesmen?
So-called "world opinion" has been a largely negative factor in this situation. Nothing is easier than for people living in peace and safety in Paris or Rome to call for a "cease fire" after the Israelis retaliate against people who are firing rockets into their country.
The time to cease fire was before the rockets were fired.
What do calls for "cease fire" and "negotiations" do? They lower the price of launching attacks. This is true not only in the Middle East but in other parts of the world as well.
During the Vietnam war, when American clergymen were crying out "Stop the bombing!" they paid little attention to the fact that bombing pauses made it easier for North Vietnam to move more ammunition into South Vietnam to kill both South Vietnamese and Americans.
After Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, if British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had heeded calls for a "cease fire," that would have simply lowered the price to be paid by the Argentine government for their invasion.
Go back a hundred years— before there was a United Nations and before "world opinion" was taken into account.
An Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands at that time would have risked not only a British counter-attack to retake the islands but also British attacks on Argentina itself.
Anywhere in the world, attacks such as those on Israel today would not only have risked retaliation but invasion and annihilation of the government that launched those attacks.
Today, so-called "world opinion" not only limits the price to be paid for aggression or terrorism, it has even led to the self-indulgence of third parties talking pretty talk about limiting the response of those who are attacked to what is "proportionate."
By this reasoning, we should not have declared war on Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor. We should have gone over to Japan, bombed one of their harbors— and let it go at that.
Does anyone imagine that this would have led to Japan's becoming as peaceful today as it has become after Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Or is the real agenda to engage in moral preening from a safe distance and at somebody else's expense?
Those who think "negotiations" are a magic answer seem not to understand that when A wants to annihilate B, this is not an "issue" that can be resolved amicably around a conference table.
To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.