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"We can't return to the status quo ante," declared Condoleezza Rice in Rome, sending a pleasurable chill up the spine of Israel. Those who remember how then secretary of state Alexander Haig squirmed in 1982, denying what he was reported to have said and to have permitted in that Lebanon war, can only be amazed by how far American policy has come since then.

But that's not the point. Because when Rice says "we," what does she really mean? Has the war suddenly become an American war? Have we finally been "accepted" into the global terror-fighting club?

And why not? When a terrorist border incident in which Israeli soldiers are kidnapped and the army bombs bridges to prevent the kidnappers from taking them into Lebanon is transformed into ambition for a new order - once again a new order in Lebanon - why not add much weightier strategies to the party: damaging Iran's dignity, slapping Syria in the face, teaching a lesson to Hamas, who knows, maybe tomorrow, we'll see in this war the foundations for the war against bin Laden and his graduates.

After all, all of Islam and the Arabs are on our head and America's. That's why the responsibility Israel and the U.S. are assuming is so weighty, as if losing or winning this war will determine the outcome of the entire war against terror, the entire axis of evil. Here it comes, once again, "the most just war Israel and America have ever fought."

Because the theory of it all being intertwined has been pulled out of the moth-eaten drawers and already, someone - with that tempting simplicity - has tied what is happening in Palestine with what is happening in Lebanon, or the streets of Iraq. As if each of those places brimming with pus does not have its own reasons for its infection. But what is more convenient than to shout "Islam" to blur the differences. Who will notice that even in Lebanon, let alone Iraq or Saudi Arabia they have a problem with the all-encompassing packaging of "Islamic terror." Is it Sunni or Shi'ite, Shi'ite-nationalist or global Shi'ite, political Sunni or transnational Sunni? Is Hamas terror or Islamic Jihad terror religious, or against occupation and what about the campaign in Saudi Arabia against the extremist Wahhabi?

Those opening such a broad umbrella to include all the organizations that must be fought are going to lose the enormous forces that exist in each country for self-defense against those groups. Those are the same forces that prevented the Iranian revolution from spreading, the same forces that are struggling in each country, against the Al-Qaida cells and local terror, the same forces that have gradually imposed rules of behavior on Hezbollah.

But the Lebanese government, which might understand the complex political structure of itself and the Lebanese state, might not understand the need to "defeat terror." Like beggars, its representatives, symbols of the only democracy in the Middle East, stood at the Rome Conference to hear an explanation that this is not their war but a war against terror. That the 700,000 or 1 million local refugees, who might right now be sowing the seeds of the next civil war, are not interesting, and that without "defeating terror" there won't be a cease-fire. Let the Lebanese ask the Palestinians - they know the slogan very well. First eliminate the terror and then maybe, if there is time and we're in the mood and if it doesn't complicate other plans, we'll also talk a little about political solutions.

Rice was right. "We" cannot return to the status quo that existed before the war. It is more correct to say it is impossible to return there, because this war is already producing the offspring who will register at the same schools where the war in Iraq or Afghanistan was learned. There, too, they began with a big boom of "shock and awe."