Joshua Muravchik speculates in a Wall Street Journal editorial that we are on the brink of a major war in the Middle East. The irrational actions of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah can only be interpreted as the strutting of tyrants who think they have their enemies on the ropes, and are itching to finish the job.
But the outcome may be predetermined:
Democracies, it is now well established, do not go to war with each other. But they often get into wars with non-democracies. Overwhelmingly the non-democracy starts the war; nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, it is the democratic side that wins. In other words, dictators consistently underestimate the strength of democracies, and democracies provoke war through their love of peace, which the dictators mistake for weakness.
Today, this same dynamic is creating a moment of great danger. The radicals are becoming reckless, asserting themselves for little reason beyond the conviction that they can. They are very likely to overreach. It is not hard to imagine scenarios in which a single match–say a terrible terror attack from Gaza–could ignite a chain reaction. Israel could handle Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, albeit with painful losses all around, but if Iran intervened rather than see its regional assets eliminated, could the U.S. stay out?