December 01, 2003
National Review Online
We can't continue this way.
It's not just our diplomats who do not believe we are in a real war. The Japanese victims of terrorists in Iraq on Saturday were headed for a meeting in Tikrit, to evaluate whether or not the power station there was a worthy recipient of aid. But since the Japanese refuse to acknowledge that they are participating in a war effort, they weren't particularly careful about security, so their car was not armored, they had no weapons with them, and so they were easy prey.
Add them to the growing list of scores of people who have died in Iraq because they assumed that the terrorists wouldn't confuse them with the evil Americans. This little conceit led to such folly as U.N. officers in Baghdad insisting that the Americans remove cement blocks from the approach to their offices, the Red Cross declining protection, and so on. It reminds me of a terrible story some years ago, about a very nice girl from southern California who went to South Africa to help the victims of apartheid. She, too, assumed that she would be protected by her innate goodness, and went to the wrong township one night. Her body was flown back to America a few days later.
This sort of foolishness would not have been possible in the days right after 9/11, but our instant understanding of the world after the terror attacks has long since been diluted by the usual triumph of old reflexes and bureaucratic emphasis on procedure at the expense of content. Thus, we seem not to know who is "behind" the killings (even though the Iranians, Saudis, and Syrians brag about it almost daily), and the Pentagon puts Paul Wolfowitz in one of the most dangerous buildings in Baghdad. Thus, we have Iraqi leaders who are clearly in great doubt about our seriousness and resolve. That, I take it, is the explanation of Ayatollah Sistani's recent catering to Iranian calls for the "Islamization" of Iraq, after devoting his life to the principle of separation of mosque and state.
Our diplomats are so intent on pretending that we can "work with" Iran, that they failed to take any serious steps to prevent the recent appeasement of the mullahs' covert nuclear program. If we had been serious, then Secretary Powell could have told his friend British Foreign Minister Jack Straw that it was a very bad idea to fly to Tehran with his French and German colleagues. Everybody knew that the trip was designed to cut a deal with the Islamic Republic, and once we failed to denounce it, we were trapped into proclamations of great joy at the toothless warning that came out of the United Nations nuclear crowd.
Meanwhile, the Turks caught the leader of the terrorist group that savaged Istanbul sneaking into Iran. Imagine that.
It seems that the administration has decided to "manage" Iraq until Election Day, and then take stock of the situation. That, too, is a suicidal conceit, for no matter how marvelous our armed forces are, it gives the entire initiative to our enemies. And, as General Patton once remarked with his usual bitterness, fixed defenses are a tribute to the stupidity of the human mind. Yes, we are defending ourselves better, and yes, we are rounding up lots of bad guys, and yes, we are killing them in mounting numbers. All to the good. But the terrorists are looking at a target-rich environment, and we cannot defend all the targets.
Managing Iraq, which means taking it easy on Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, also means condemning lots of people to death who could be saved if we waged war against our enemies.
Take Syria, for example. When the Israelis bombed a terrorist training camp in Syria a couple of months ago, we suddenly and unexpectedly heard things from the State Department that we had never heard before. They said that the Syrians had been unhelpful in the war against terrorism, whereas previously they had always said that the Syrians were helping, and that it was only a matter of time before good old Bashar Assad did what Powell, Assistant Secretary William J. Burns, and various intermediaries from good old Jim Baker down in Houston had asked: Cooperate with us.
If we were serious about waging war against our enemies, we would have put enormous pressure on the Syrians to shut down the network of terrorist facilities in Lebanon, and expel Hezbollah, which Deputy Secretary Armitage has called the most dangerous terrorist organization. But it was only words. Foggy Bottom's compulsive confession of failure after Israel's gesture quickly faded away, and we're back to "managing" the thing.
Take the Arab-Israeli matter, for another example. It is simply humiliating to see the State Department acting as if a deal conjured up by bunch of unelected and unrepresentative people from the PLO and a splinter group from Israel were somehow worthy of support. But instead of the back of our hand, it gets a drooling French kiss.
And all this in total defiance of the president's call for a democratic revolution in the Middle East! If we were serious about that, we would condemn the wildcat diplomacy of the unelected poseurs who are wasting time, and Swiss-government money (which probably means some secret subsidy from us) on the latest wasted effort to "solve" a problem that can only be properly addressed once the terror masters have been defeated.
No amount of presidential bravery, no number of magnificent speeches, can save the lives of our people and of our allies, and give the Middle East a hope for real peace, if we insist on "managing" the terrorist war and play pretend diplomacy, which is what we're doing these days. The terror masters know they must drive us out of Iraq. They know they must split off our allies. They believe the best way to do this is to kill more and more Americans, Italians, Spaniards, Japanese, South Koreans, Turks, Poles, and Iraqis.
They are not running for reelection, and they are not trying to be loved. They want to be feared.
Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute. http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen200312010830.asp