Friday, July 28, 2006

No Ideas versus Bad Ideas

George Will described the 1992 Republican presidential primary between Pat Buchanan and President George H. W. Bush as a campaign of bad ideas (Buchanan) against no ideas (President Bush). As harsh (and predictably partisan) as it sounds coming from a conservative Republican, the Democrat "debate" over foreign/national security policy is a bad ideas versus no ideas debate.

Before I get started I should acknowledge that there are a few Democrats who are serious about national security. The problem is that being such a Democrat is grounds for being booted out of the US Senate by one's own political party. Joe Lieberman's nip and tuck primary race against Ned Lamont is really exhibit A of Democrat weakness on national security issues. Lieberman has good hawkish credentials having voted for the first war against Saddam Hussain in January 1991 and the second in October 2002. And just to prove himself to be a real atypical Democrat, Lieberman hasn't given a "I was wrong to have voted that way" speech as have John Kerry, John Edwards, John Rockefeller and many others.

And to be fair there is a Democrat named Peter Beinart. He is genuinely serious about national security too. More on him later. But the rest of the Democrat party can divided into two wings on national security issues: The militant doves and the hard line poll takers.

The Militant Doves

The militant doves include Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Ward Churchill and much of the Hollywood crowd. Not all of them think that America is the real "axis of evil." Still, few among them really believe that America has much to offer the rest of the world and most would view a decline in America's influence in the world as a positive event. They think "the war on terror" is just a scam by Dick Cheney and his cronies to make a buck. Why Cheney decided to quit his job as CEO of Haliburton for the Vice Presidency when the VP job earns a faction of CEO pay as means of making a boatload of money is a mystery to everyone except those militant doves. Russ Feingold is probably the most coherent of this group and he has a serious shot of winning the Democrat presidential nomination in 2008.

The hard line poll takers

These Democrats are much harder to figure out because their views on the whether we should have toppled Saddam Hussain's regime or renewed the Patriot Act depends a lot on how popular such ideas are among the polled public. If the polls show that American people are supportive of the war in Iraq, these Democrats are too politically savvy to pass up a press conference where they can say, "Hasta la Vista, Saddam Hussain." But if the war becomes difficult and the American people reduce their support of the war, the Democrats are, again, too politically savvy to avoid those microphones and say, "My vote for the authorization (of the war against Saddam) was really a vote against going to war." Among these Democrats the words, "I actually did vote for the $ 87 billion before I voted against it," represent the kind of sophistication that they wish was more visible in the White House.

Here's where Peter Beinart's Washington Post column titled Pander and Run weighes in.
After years of struggling to define their own approach to post-Sept. 11 foreign policy, Democrats seem finally to have hit on one. It's called pandering. In those rare cases when George W. Bush shows genuine sensitivity to America's allies and propounds a broader, more enlightened view of the national interest, Democrats will make him pay. It's jingoism with a liberal face.
Further, Beinart writes:
[Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's] views were hardly surprising: Iraq is not only a majority-Arab country; it is a majority-Shiite Arab country. And in a democracy, leaders usually reflect public opinion. Maliki's forthright disagreement with the United States was a sign of political strength, one the Bush administration wisely indulged.

But not congressional Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid demanded that Maliki eat his words or be disinvited from addressing Congress. "Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East," wrote Reid and fellow Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Charles E. Schumer on July 24.

How, exactly, publicly humiliating Maliki and making him look like an American and Israeli stooge would enhance his "leadership" was never explained in the missive. But of course Reid's letter wasn't really about strengthening the Iraqi government at all; that's George W. Bush's problem. It was about appearing more pro-Israel than the White House and thus pandering to Jewish voters.

Reid's letter is not an anomaly; it is part of a pattern.
Winning in 2008

It's hard to see how the Democrats will be able to win with this sort of "tell me what to think on national security" attitude. A low moment in Bob Dole's 1996 Presidential campaign happened early on when Dole said, "I'm willing to be Ronald Reagan. If that's what you want me to be, I will do it." National security is a rare public policy issue where many voters will openly admit that they don't know what needs to be done and look to their politicians for wisdom. A freightening thought to be sure. But a practical necessity. Nearly five years after the September 11th attacks and the Democrats show no sign of delivering.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A History Lesson

Newt Gingrich has recently been speaking of the War on Terror evolving into the Third World War. Personally, I have felt that it was World War III when coalition forces went into Afghanistan. We knew it wouldn't end in that country and that we were in a battle for our lives just as we were in WWII. Just because this battle isn't against a specific country, like it was with Germany and Japan, does not make it different. As Newt pointed out, Iran and Syria with their terror group Hezbollah as well as Hamas, have no intention of negotiating and would see Israel and the West destroyed. Then there is North Korea and their missile launches. Why is this then, not considered a World War?

Part of it is attitude. We have many, here in the United States as well as countries in Europe (France), who would negotiate and appease rather than take a stand. There are also many who compare the War on Terrorism and specifically Iraq to Vietnam, that we shouldn't be there and that we are hurting more then helping. But it is only their attitude that is like Vietnam and their belief that we can achieve peace through negotiations, while all of the rest of us believe it is more like World War II and that we must make hard choices and take a stand.

Thomas Sowell speaks of that attitude and the differences and similarities in the way that the United States acted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and during World War II in his piece "Then and Now". He speaks of how everyone backed the president and the troops. Mr. Sowell also speaks of how appeasing and cease fires never work. Well, they do work but only for the aggressor, not for anyone else.

What if the people, institutions, and attitudes of today were somehow taken back in time to World War II? What would have been the result? Would we have ended up winning or losing that war?

What about the great cry of the hour, a cease fire?

It so happens that World War II had the biggest cease fire in history. It was called "the phony war" because, although France was officially at war with Germany, the French did very little fighting for months, while the bulk of the German army was in Poland and France had overwhelming military superiority on the western front.

Famed correspondent William L. Shirer reported on the "unreal" western front, with soldiers "on both sides looking but not shooting." German soldiers bathed in the Rhine and waved to French soldiers on the other side, who waved back.

During this period Hitler offered to negotiate peace with France and England.

Kofi Anan would have loved it.

On November 19, 1939, Shirer's diary reported: "For almost two months now there has been no military action on land, sea, or in the air." On January 1, 1940, he wrote, "this phony kind of war cannot continue long." But it was now exactly four months since war was declared. How is that for a cease fire?

Did this de facto cease fire lead to peace? No. Like other cease fires, it helped the aggressor.

It gave Hitler time to move his divisions from the eastern front, after they had conquered Poland, to the western front, facing France.

Now that military superiority along the Rhine had shifted in favor of the German armies, the war suddenly went from being phony to being devastatingly real.

Hitler attacked and France collapsed in six weeks.

You would have thought France would have learned something about cease fires and appeasing the aggressors, but no, they want to negotiate with Hezbollah, Hamas, insurgents and they believe that Israel is wrong to protect themselves. They, like others here and across the globe, do not understand that we are in a war for our lives. We are fighting a large group of fanatics, backed by terrorist regimes, who would see our way of life and indeed our very lives destroyed. These people would rule the world, make Islam the only religion and subjugate all women. This is not an outcome that we can abide. We must fight and continue to fight until they can no longer fight. If it comes to it, we need to be able to make the difficult decisions and take a solid stand that could further anger other people and/or other countries. If we don't show that we are serious, if we negotiate, appease, plead with those who would kill us, we are as good as dead.

Crossposted at A Rose By Any Other Name