President Obama made public a political position of which many are not surprised. What is surprising is the fact that the position was made so publicly. My interest is to whom was the President speaking.
Even President Obama is experienced enough to know that our enemies are unconcerned about our policies or pronouncements. Our enemies are interested in our abilities and they know that Presidents come and Presidents go. If the United States took some unilateral action that dramatically altered military capacity or long term capabilities, then they would take interest. No, Obama was not speaking to them.
And I feel certain President Obama was not addressing our friends, few that there now are. Israel certainly was not in mind when Obama altered the current threat response. Israel is capable of defending itself and has painfully been reminded that this President has no interest in coming to the aid or defense of Israel. Europe and NATO will doubtless make public statements of support for this recent development but they too know that Russia is unimpressed with policies or positions. The Russians do care deeply about supplies of oil and natural gas. Imagine what Russia would do if the U.S. suddenly decided to develop large reserves of natural gas and establish a commercial LNG shipping center designed to deliver large quantities of energy to Europe? No, Obama was not speaking to our friends.
I can easily and quickly determine that the President does not directly communicate to or with Conservatives in the nation. I doubt Rush or Glenn were on the list of recipients for this new world view. So who was in his mind? I fear the answer to that question a lot. For it seems to me only one group remains, the feckless and slobbering surrounding the Oval office. I believe the President was listening to himself speak. The President is very impressed with himself it seems and he thinks his own counsel quite wise. I fear this new nuke, no nuke plan, succeeds in persuading Obama that President Obama is very wise and will lead the world in a more peaceful century. I fear that President Obama will be cheered by those in and around him and they will support even greater "steps toward world peace" than this.
I am reminded of the counsel offered by Grima Wormtongue to King Theoden of Rohan. Alas there are evils in the world and we are missing Frodo. To understand how the deception of Obama continues, just read the biography of Grima and know where the Chief of Staff really plans on going.
So President Nobomba has decided he can avoid war by playing nice with our enemies. Now all he needs is Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella to complete the picture. But reliable Leftist Robert Sheer is rejoicing. The president finally is earning his Nobel Prize and “at last, a believable sighting of that peace president many of us thought we had elected," writes Sheer.
Sheer’s applause is not surprising but his reasoning is. The president is right to back away from the use of nuclear weapons in order to repudiate President Truman’s use of the bomb which was, to Sheer, “the most atrocious act of terrorism in world history.” Goodness. The most atrocious? Really, Robert, that honor surely goes to one of your Leftist heroes. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragically killed two hundred thousand civilians. Stalin killed thirty million, Mao sixty million, and Pol Pot’s killing fields annihilated Cambodia’s middle class—about two million more. Surely these would get some mention in Sheer’s “Most Atrocious” category.
But back to Truman. Leftists countenance no use of the military—unless they are murdering the bourgeoisie. Truman’s “act of terrorism” is precisely the kind of life-saving act the military is designed to produce. Consider:
**Truman wasted no time on whether or not to use the bomb. It was tested on July 21 and dropped August 6.
**The death toll for both cities was lower than the number killed in the “Rape of Nanking” by the Japanese military in 1937. (300,000—another candidate for worst atrocity.)
**The U.S. military calculated it would lose at least 500,000 men if they were forced to take the Japanese main islands by conventional means. That would have doubled our World War II death toll. Maybe Sheer would like to go to every one of those families and explain the deaths of their sons in order to avoid the “worst atrocity in world history.”
**The U.S. also calculated that the Japanese civilian death toll would have been upwards of 15,000,000 in a conventional siege. More deaths that Sheer is apparently OK with.
**The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave the crazed Japanese military a face-saving device and allowed the Emperor to capitulate.
**The bombs, tragic as they were, showed us how bad nuclear weapons could be and none have been dropped since. That’s why David Drehle of Time Magazine said the real winner of the Nobel Peace prize should be should go to the nukes.
Sheer is a typical Leftist. He has absolutely no sense of perspective. And the American military he despises have allowed him to live comfortably at peace and given him the freedom to spew forth his nonsense.
The bad news is that Nobomba’s foreign policy is based on “sheer” fantasy and has no correlation with the real world. The good news is he has never kept a single promise he has made. I hope he doesn’t keep this one.
Review Essay on Lewis Sorley’s A Better War(Centennial Fellow) In the sixty-five years since the end of World War II the most significant and formative single event in American history- beyond any question- is the Vietnam War. It reshaped our domestic politics, foreign policy, military doctrines, and popular culture in ways that still resonate powerfully nearly two generations after it ended. The Vietnam War was waged not just in the rice paddies of Southeast Asia but also in the streets and campuses of the American homeland. It divided families and regions in a manner not seen since the Civil War. It shattered the Great American Consensus that was forged in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and that had endured through the first half of the Cold War. Millions of Americans viewed opposition to the war as high idealism, while millions more saw it as bordering on treason. Politically the Vietnam War ultimately entirely captured the Democratic Party and profoundly influenced the Republican Party. Every military conflict involving U.S. forces since has evoked dire warnings about “another Vietnam”. A recent Newsweek cover story labeled Afghanistan “Obama’s Vietnam”. Our national conversation on foreign policy repeatedly invokes warnings against failure to heed the “lessons of Vietnam”. What are the “lessons of Vietnam”? The received wisdom that has become embedded in our national consciousness rests principally on three ”truths” : 1. The war was “unwinnable” from the start; 2. Vietnam was a “war of national liberation” in which the Viet Cong were legitimate representatives of the people; 3. The South Vietnamese government were essentially American “puppets” with no popular support or willingness to fight. Though the American phase of the war in Indochina lasted from 1960 to 1975 in the minds of most Americans the war ended in 1968. The “annus terriblus” of 1968 effected the most dramatic changes in American History since Pearl Harbor. The year began with the momentous “Tet Offensive” which thanks to television was graphically brought into nearly every American living room. What shocked Americans saw was not “light at the end of the tunnel” but a savagely determined enemy attacking virtually every corner of South Vietnam even including the American Embassy compound in Saigon. In short order following the perceived calamity of “Tet” the revered sage of America’s media Walter Cronkite declared the war a “stalemate” (“They won’t quit, and we can’t win”). Eugene McCarthy, and then Robert Kennedy entered the Democratic primaries on an anti-war platform intending to overthrow the sitting President of their own party, and with great suddenness the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson collapsed amidst the wreckage of his Vietnam policy. Additional high drama- King and Kennedy assassinations, race riots, Kids versus Cops in Chicago- punctuated a tumultuous presidential campaign in which both parties competed over who had the best plan to get out of Vietnam. After 1968 as President Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy accelerated, American troops and casualties diminished rapidly, and media coverage of the war declined proportionately. America’s last memorable snapshot of Vietnam was of those desperate people clinging to the skids of the last helicopter lifting off the roof of the American Embassy as the victorious North Vietnamese overran the entire country. That event in 1975 seemed to put the final seal on the first “lost war” in U.S. History. Though there was little general interest at the time, and even less among subsequent historians the question remains: What happened during those final seven years and should it matter to us? All of which brings us to an examination of Lewis Sorley’s masterful history A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. First appearing in 1999 Sorley’s book received limited attention even though – or perhaps because- it seriously challenged the conventional wisdom regarding the “lost war”. Nonetheless, given its’ highly impressive research base- tapping heretofore untouched primary sources- and simple but compellingly argued thesis the book was respectfully reviewed even by traditionally liberal outlets such as the New York Times (“ a comprehensive and long overdue examination of the immediate post-Tet offensive years”) and the Washington Post (“the post-1968 war clearly deserves more attention and a more positive appraisal than most historians have given it. A Better War helps fill the gap.”) Foreign Affairs described the book as “Forcefully and convincingly argued… a provocative and important contribution to the history of the Vietnam War” and the Wall St. Journal noted that “the successes in 1968-72 period have disappeared down the memory hole. Lewis Sorley fills in those blanks with his important new book”. A Better War has received a new prominence in recent years because of its great relevance to the American challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan. David Ignatius of the Washington Post called it “the hot book among Iraq strategists” and noted its presence on the bookshelves of senior military officers in Baghdad and in the speeches of Condoleezza Rice. A third generation graduate of West Point who also holds a doctorate in history form Johns Hopkins university, Lewis Sorley served as a tank commander in Vietnam and on staff at the Pentagon. He later was a senior civilian official at the Central Intelligence Agency, and since retirement has been the author of several well received military histories focusing on Vietnam. At its heart A Better War is about one horrible mistake that brought catastrophe to America and Vietnam, and one extraordinary man who heroically came very close to redeeming that mistake. The mistake was the appointment and sustaining of General William Westmoreland as supreme U.S. commander in Vietnam (1964-68). Westmoreland will go down in U.S. history as the most disastrous senior commander since George Mc Clellan led the Union armies in the Civil War. McClellan very nearly lost the Civil War for Abraham Lincoln. Westmoreland did lose the Vietnam War for Lyndon Johnson. Westmoreland was selected from a list of four senior generals submitted to Johnson in January 1964. He owed his appointment to a chance fortuitous encounter with John F. Kennedy and the behind the scenes machinations of General Maxwell Taylor. The three generals who were passed over all were advocates of and would have pursued a Vietnam strategy called “clear and hold”. Westmoreland thought differently. He inaugurated and for four years doggedly pursued a strategy called “search and destroy” predicated on the notion that if you killed enough enemy soldiers (hence the infamous “body counts”) they would eventually give up. To achieve this goal Westmoreland constantly asked for- and almost to the end always got- “more troops”. However even when he commanded over half a million men Westmoreland found that North Vietnam was replacing its soldiers even faster than he could kill them. The Tet Offensive was but the final and very public demonstration of the total bankruptcy of Westmoreland’s “search and destroy” strategy. David Halberstam’s classic The Best and the Brightest brilliantly chronicles this failure and the foolhardiness of the senior officials- L.B.J., McNamara, Taylor, etc.- who supported it. The bulk of Sorley’s book commences its account of the war at precisely the point where most American people and politicians had concluded that it was a lost cause. It revolves around that extraordinary man who came very close to retrieving the colossal blunders of Westmoreland and his superiors, and in fact very close to winning the “lost war” outright.That man was Creighton W. Abrams (1914-1974) who succeeded Westmoreland in 1968 and served four years as American commander in Vietnam. Though the war would be lost-not for military but for political reasons- after Abrams departure in 1972 his accomplishments during his four year tenure distinguish him as the greatest American commander since World War II.In 1944 the brilliant though egomaniacal General George Patton said “They say I am the best tank commander in the U.S. army, but I have one peer-Abe Abrams”. Building on his magnificent performance in the Battle of the Bulge which occasioned Patton’s high praise, Abrams served with distinction through twenty years, and in 1964 was one of the three men LBJ passed over to appoint Westmoreland.In mid 1968 Abrams succeeded Westmoreland and immediately implemented a dramatic change in both strategy and tactics. He abandoned “search and destroy” with its costly large unit sweeps through the remoter and thinly populated regions of Vietnam.Abrams decided to let the enemy come to him and fight him while protecting the Vietnamese people. Instead of the large unit actions where the enemy always knew what the Americans were up to and thus could always choose points of battle favorable to them, Abrams substituted constant “patrolling” by large numbers of small units (5 to 10 men) that continually probed the countryside gathering intelligence from local people, and destroying enemy supply caches and generally disrupting the foe’s movements before he could concentrate.Tet had been a propaganda triumph for the communists but a military disaster. The price they paid was the near total destruction of the indigenous Viet Cong. Thereafter-as Abrams knew-all enemy soldiers and supplies had to come from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia via the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Accordingly Abrams gave high priority to sharply upgrading both human and electronic intelligence so that soon Americans knew in great detail the movements of the thousands of Chinese and Russian made trucks ferrying men and supplies from North Vietnam. After 1968 the sharply increased volume and accuracy of American precision bombing at all junction points along the Ho Chi Minh Trail had devastating effect on North Vietnam’s ability to sustain its war effort.Very soon after the 1968 U.S. Presidential election Abrams knew that Richard Nixon’s plan for Vietnam involved a responsible but rapid draw-down of the 543,000 American soldiers under his command. Thus in Abrams view he had a specific “window of opportunity” to win the war- always his main objective- and hand over responsibility for the security of the country to a South Vietnamese government and military that could successfully maintain it at the very same time his army was heading home. (Does anyone doubt how closely Generals Petraeus and McChrystal read this book?)Westmoreland had essentially decided that Americans could win without much help from the South Vietnamese to whom he gave inadequate support and less respect. Abrams took the opposite approach. He knew that in the end the South Vietnamese would have to do the job without much help from the Americans. Accordingly he sought to gain their trust by offering a full measure of support and respect.In pursuing his tasks Abrams was fortunate to gain two extraordinary partners within the same year he arrived.Ellsworth Bunker, a courtly low-key septuagenarian international businessman turned diplomat replaced the often overbearing and manipulative Maxwell Taylor as U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam and rapidly built a trusting and respectful relationship with the country’s President Nguyen Van Thieu.Soon after taking command Abrams fired Robert Komer, the erratic and arrogant head of the rural pacification program and replaced him with the highly talented William Colby, a career CIA officer who would later head that Agency. Colby entirely reconstituted the pacification and strategic hamlet program and launched Operation Phoenix which rooted out the Viet Cong’s “shadow government” and in close cooperation with President Thieu swiftly spread an umbrella of security, support, and land redistribution throughout South Vietnam’s countryside.Together for four years this highly simpatico trio gave the American effort in Vietnam a cohesion, energy, imagination, and deep sense of mission that had been entirely lacking in the Westmoreland era.Central to their achievement was the vital growth of the popularity, effectiveness, and military capacity of the South Vietnamese government as it gradually and successfully took up the daunting challenge of standing on its own in the wake of the rapidly accelerating American troop withdrawals.By 1971 Ambassador Bunker could report his ability to travel throughout the countryside in an unescorted open Jeep- always wearing his signature suit and tie –for days without seeing any evidence of communist activity, and he also reported that the million plus residents of Saigon “enjoyed a higher level of safety, law and order than their counterparts in Los Angeles or Chicago.”Abrams took particular pride in the continued high morale and effectiveness of U.S. troops even as their numbers dwindled. He greatly resented the misleading media stories about rampant problems regarding drugs and race relations, and pointed to surveys showing that such problems among soldiers in Vietnam were significantly less than among service personnel serving elsewhere in the world and markedly less than among comparable populations in the United States.Abrams was also at pains to debunk the media myth that the Vietnam War was largely fought by draftees from the underclass. Of the 2.6 million men who served in the Vietnam theatre fully two thirds were volunteers and demographically almost a perfect reflection of the U.S. population as a whole. Surveys taken at the time and even twenty years later after the war had been lost showed, that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly took pride in their service and regarded their mission as an important cause.By 1972 Abrams command was down to a mere 49,000 soldiers. He wryly noted that it was the first time an American army had gone home and left its commander behind.In contrast South Vietnam had 1.1 million men under arms. In another major departure from the Westmoreland era Abrams gave high priority to seeing that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) received high quality equipment and training.The dramatically improved ARVN fighting qualities and their ability to hold their own against North Vietnamese regulars was shown clearly in the two largest set piece battles of the entire war. The first –Lam Son 719- in the spring of 1971 saw tens of thousands of ARVN troops entering the Laotian panhandle unaccompanied by any U.S. ground personnel to interdict a major North Vietnamese offensive aimed at the South. At the height of the battle the two armies had over 100,000 men in the field. The ARVN was severely mauled but the losses sustained by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were so severe that they were unable to launch any further offensive activity for the remainder of 1971.The second major battle was the Easter offensive of 1972 which the NVA launched directly across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Vietnam. This proved to be an even more devastating defeat for the NVA which suffered over 100,000 casualties-about 40,000 killed – and lost over half its tanks and artillery. These losses were so severe that the NVA was unable to launch another major offensive for three years, and also led to the removal of the NVA’s legendary commander General Vo Nguyen Giap.While the might of U.S. air power-from helicopters to B-52 bombers- was a critical difference maker for ARVN, these troops again and again showed themselves in combat to be as tough and tenacious as their enemy.While the focus of A Better War is on events in Vietnam, the book like the war itself unfolds against the critical backdrop of the political situation in the United States and the ongoing peace negotiations in Paris.By the end of 1972 Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” policy had achieved a remarkable level of success. Ninety percent of the 543,000 American troops serving when he took office had been withdrawn from Vietnam; their combat role successfully taken over by ARVN troops. Vietnam had been pacified, the government of President Thieu enjoyed wide popular support, and had shown it was capable of defending itself against North Vietnamese aggression.In giving Nixon a landslide re-election victory over Democrat George Mc Govern the American people affirmed their support for the former’s approach to ending the war on honorable terms.Absolutely essential to sustaining the success of “Vietnamization” was America’s determination to continue strong logistical and financial support for South Vietnam much as we had done for South Korea.When North Vietnam withdrew from the Paris peace negotiations in December 1972, Nixon demonstrated such determination by ordering resumed B-52 bombing of rail yards, marshalling areas, petroleum storage facilities, missile storage sites, docks and warehouses in the Hanoi- Haiphong area. North Vietnam’s official history- which Sorley utilized extensively- conceded that “Nixon proved extremely obstinate and reckless, and did things Johnson never dared to do”.After eleven days bombing Hanoi reversed their bargaining position and on December 28th announced they would return to the peace talks.Describing what he called the “ultimate irony” historian George Herring stated that “the U.S. position in South Vietnam was stronger at the end of 1972 than at any previous point in the war.” Respected Vietnam authority Sir Robert Thompson said that the U.S. at this point could have dictated peace terms and that “the war could have been won, in that a real and enforceable peace could have been obtained”. He further added “In my view, on December 30, 1972, after eleven days of those B-52 attacks on the Hanoi area, you had won the war. It was over!”So, if the “unwinnable” war had been won- confirmed by the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on January 27, 1973- how was “defeat snatched from the jaws of victory?”Sorley answers this question persuasively by using the words of North Vietnamese leaders as found in their extensive memoirs and official histories. Ever since the U.S. domestic upheavals of 1968 North Vietnam’s leadership saw U.S. political turmoil as their best hope of victory. NVA Colonel Bui Tin wrote how “Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American anti-war movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda and former aAttorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses.” The North Vietnamese were also keenly aware of the Democratic controlled Congress’ visceral antipathy toward Richard Nixon, a sentiment strongly shared by American media and intellectuals.Though all American troops were gone soon after the signing of the Peace Accords, and the NVA – in violation of the Accords- almost immediately began launching attacks, the South Vietnamese more than held their own. As U.S. observer Major General Ira Hunt reported “for about two years (1973-74) the ARVN were cleaning their clocks. The South Vietnamese were giving more than they were getting, there’s no question about it. But when we pulled the plug logistically there was no way they could carry on.”And “pull the plug “ was exactly what the Democratic Congress did in rapidly escalating budget cuts during the same two year period until by early 1975 all support- from air power to money- was completely cut off- all this at the very same time that both Russia and China were dramatically increasing their support and supply for North Vietnam.The Democrats ability to do this so completely was greatly facilitated by the political destruction of Richard Nixon by the Watergate scandal of 1973-74. As the NVA’s Colonel Bui Tin observed, the resignation of Nixon on August 9, 1974 was final proof to North Vietnam’s leaders that they would win the war.Though ARVN fought valiantly in the final six months of the war, at the end many of their troops were reduced to having to purchase their own bullets and grenades, while their enemy bombarded them with a limitless supply of artillery shells made in Russia and China. This led Sir Robert Thompson to observe “that perhaps the major lesson of the Vietnam War is: do not rely on the United States as an ally.”The title of Sorley’s book comes from an observation made in Saigon in 1969 by the New Yorker correspondent Robert Shaplen: “You know its too bad. Abrams is very good. He deserves a better war.” Many years after the war ended someone reminded the eldest of Abram’s three sons –all army officers- of Shaplen’s remark. Without hesitation young Creighton replied “He didn’t see it that way. He thought the Vietnamese were worth it.”Among other things Sorley’s superb book is a rumination on the element of chance in history. What if the general LBJ selected in 1964 was Abrams not Westmoreland. What if Abrams had successfully pursued his preferred strategy in the four years prior to 1968 when the American people, the Congress, the Democratic Party, and even the media supported the war rather the four years after 1968 when all of the above had essentially given up.How different might the outcome have been for a still polarized American Society? How different for the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam, or the 275,000 ARVN killed in action, the 465,000 dead civilians, the 65,000 executed by their liberators, the 250,000 who perished in the brutal “re-education camps”, or the 2,000,000 who became refugees?When another great war hung in the balance Winston Churchill memorably observed that “the terrible ifs accumulate.” America today is still haunted by the terrible ifs of Vietnam.______________________________________________________________________William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissior. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and Human Events.Note: A Better War is available in paperback from Amazon. com
(Centennial Fellow) In the classic musical My Fair Lady, Professor Henry Higgins plaintively asks “Why can’t a Woman be more like a Man?” Similarly Americans perpetually wonder “Why can’t other countries be more like us?”
A case in point is our current relations with China which to American eyes seems willfully stubborn in its refusal to cooperate on sanctions against Iran. Similarly China seems inexplicably furious over the U.S. decision to sell six billion dollars worth of new weapons to Taiwan. Add to this China’s recent dire warnings against any U.S. officials meeting with the Dalai Lama.
Realistically Americans should understand that Chinese behavior is deeply rooted in the values and experience of their own 3,000 year history and hardly at all influenced by the values and experience found in little over 200 years of U.S. history. Furthermore the things Americans constantly preach e.g. democracy, human rights have virtually no resonance in Chinese history or the “world view” of those men in Beijing who are charting China’s future. It could be fair to say that currently the three central imperatives of Chinese policy are in ascending order of importance:1.developing a military establishment capable of projecting power on a global scale; 2. achieving economic might competitive with the U.S.A.; and 3. solidifying the regime’s legitimacy, stability, and territorial integrity. These goals are mutually reinforcing. China knows it cannot attain global military influence without a world class economy to support it. Finally China will have neither military nor economic clout if the regime fails the test of long term stability. It is hard for Americans to grasp the compelling force of these three objectives because all of them are things we achieved long ago and now take for granted. What drives China’s obsession with stability as evidenced by their harsh attitudes regarding Taiwan, Tibet, Uighurs, Falun Gong, Japanese history books and even Google? The answer is that all of Chinese history can be divided into two constantly recurring cycles. The first: long periods of unity, power, and prosperity under stable and legitimate regimes (dynasties). The second: long periods of ruin occasioned by the breakdown of central authority which commonly led to civil war, feudal chaos, and foreign invasion. Examples abound. Early in the 13th century Mongol raiders appeared on the northern borders; within three generations they had conquered all of China. Early in the 19th century “peaceful traders” from the West appeared in Chinese ports; by the end of the century they had totally humiliated China’s rulers, and carved the country up into foreign “concessions” and “spheres of interest”. The Japanese invasion and occupation beginning in 1937 visited unimaginable horrors upon millions of Chinese. To Chinese the lessons of their long history are clear: small problems can lead to large catastrophes. Thus small problems must be aggressively attacked, and constant vigilance is demanded. When China looks at its great U.S. rival it sees a contracting military power (mothballed carriers, defunded missile defense, etc.) greatly stressed by nine years of combat deployment, an economy racing towards a cliff owing to metastasizing deficits and debt (mainly owed to China), and a national leadership desperate to push its burdens of world security toward a hopelessly fragmented United Nations or a toothless European Union. In this environment for China to succumb to U.S. pressure regarding Iran would not only be out of character historically but also a clear violation of its national interest. A nuclear armed Iran may be a game changing threat to U.S. interests but the view from Beijing is very different. To abandon Iran would clearly signal that China is an unreliable ally vulnerable to U.S. pressures such as the unusually blunt public warning recently made by Secretary Clinton in Paris. China portrays the U.S. as a declining power that cannot be relied upon as evidenced by its impatience to leave Iraq and Afghanistan and inability to successfully deal with either Iran or North Korea. In contrast China portrays itself both economically and militarily as the rising world power that stands by its friends and its commitments, a nation that has both the desire and the capability to be the avatar of a new post-American world order. For thousands of years the Chinese have regarded their civilization as superior to all others, a self-perception not unlike “American Exceptionalism”. History will reveal which vision shall own the future.
Centennial Fellow William Moloney was previously Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Human Events.
(Centennial Fellow) WASHINGTON, JAN. 17 - When judgment is rendered on the success or failure of U.S. foreign policy in 2010 the verdict will depend more than anything on the outcome of our confrontation with Iran. The threat to U.S. global interests from Iran is immense, but so too is the opportunity for a historic and transformational advancement of those interests. Converging circumstances in both Washington and Teheran strongly suggest that a decisive turning point is at hand. The sudden leap of Yemen onto the front pages of U.S. newspapers has underlined how far reaching are the dangers Iran poses for the United States and its allies. Both the Bush and Obama administrations chose to narrow the focus on Iran to that country’s nuclear ambitions correctly seeing that issue as the most critical and most likely to rally international support.
The fact that Iran by supplying sophisticated weaponry to its proxies in both Iraq and Afghanistan is killing American soldiers has been downplayed by both administrations. The fact that murderous violence aimed at Israel and the United States in Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and Yemen has been powerfully fueled by Teheran’s money and fanatical ideology has similarly been acknowledged but in a very low key.
Both Bush and Obama repeatedly denounced the wickedness of al-Qaeda but failed to connect the dots regarding the obvious implications of the religious zealotry and violent strategies that are common to Bin-Laden and the Iranian mullahs e.g. pathological hatred of Israel, predilection for blowing people up, and determination to take the battle to the heartland of the Great Satan America.
Bush’s Iran strategy was to isolate and not talk to them. Obama reversed field and opted for engagement. Both approaches utterly failed to modify Iranian objectives; Teheran’s response to both isolation and engagement has been a mix of arrogance, insult, and continued bad behavior culminating most recently in Ahmadinejad’s bombastic demand that Israel and America give up their own nuclear weapons as a precondition for any Iranian response.
Obama’s oft declared end of year deadline for positive Iranian response has come and gone. He now must be prepared to implement those “serious consequences” he has long spoken of. This will not be easy, particularly in light of China’s recent declared intention of using its veto to block sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.
Given the U.N’s almost limitless capacity for procrastination Obama’s best hope for support lies with the European Union, but despite encouraging rhetoric from Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy, action from that multi-lateral body is far from certain.
In the end Obama must consider an approach he has long decried: unilateral United States action.
So, amidst these growing threats, where is the grand opportunity?
It principally lies in the very realistic chance of achieving “regime change” in Iran by boldly siding with the growing opposition in that country. Once they merely sought honest elections. Now clearly their goal is the overthrow of the dictatorship. The Iranian people- now chanting in street demonstrations “Obama, are you with us or them?” – are the most educated and sophisticated populace between Israel and India and as they showed in 1979 they have the capacity to bring down an intolerable regime.
In his Nobel Address President Obama eloquently stated some realities that much of the world sometimes forgets. He said that evil exists, and that peaceful means would not have stopped Hitler and will not stop al- Qaeda. He reminded his audience that American power had for half a century been the principal guarantor of their freedom, and while collective security is always preferred, sometimes one nation i.e. the United Stated must act alone.
Many saw President Obama’s speech as a justification of his Afghan escalation, but he was also laying down a marker for Iran and clearly signaling that he was ready for a major course correction is his own approach to world affairs.
Absent a pathologically hostile regime in Iran, U.S. foreign policy challenges from Pakistan to Israel dramatically shift in our favor, the entire Middle East is transformed, and U.S. global influence, and the cause of freedom reaches a pinnacle unmatched since the Second World War.
Heady stuff. Not easy, not certain, but once again History offers America an opportunity to be the great catalyst for human progress.
Centennial Fellow Bill Moloney was Colorado Education Commissioner, 1997-2007. His columns have appeared in the Wall St Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post.
('76 Contributor) When the President solemnly vows to “get to the bottom of all this and bring these violent extremists to justice”, he is telegraphing the following:
1. He is NOT connecting the violence to Islamic Jihad, which IS the main ideological threat to the United States. Islamic Jihadists generate markers that fit the facts on the ground. With these markers, we can proceed to watch the Mosques where Jihadist groups are formed, we can read their literature and understand their doctrine, we can listen to the Imams and anticipate their actions. But “violent extremists” generate nothing! How do you define one? You can’t! The media continues their apologist approach, describing the million and first “disturbed young man”, and of course Islam has nothing to do with it. They also strive for “balance” and are sure to mention “right wing extremists” in the same breath, even though there has been a weekly Islamic Jihad incident since July of this year, and nothing from “right wing extremists” since Oklahoma City.
2. The President, by avoiding the mention of Islam, is also letting us know he buys into the false narrative about Islam perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood and its front organizations such as CAIR, ISNA, MPAC, MAS, and all the rest. This false narrative would have us believe that Islam is the “religion of peace”, that all Muslims are moderate, and only a “fringe” are violent, owing to our policies. The reality is, Jihad is built into the faith. Jihad is the solemn duty of ALL believers. Jihad can be waged four ways: with the mouth, the pen, the money and the sword. Note that our misdirected “War on Terror” only deals with Jihad by the sword, leaving the other three modes unattended!
3. Also, to “bring violent extremists to justice” reveals a view that the war with Islamic Jihad is a police problem. A question: how to you deter suicide attacks with the threat of fines and imprisonment? The legal straitjacket we have put ourselves in is this: everything is legal until a crime has been committed. What happens when this “crime” is the detonation of nuclear weapons in a half dozen cities? Also, we see Jamaa’t al-Fukra training thousands of soldiers for Jihad in the United States. A steady stream of young men are going to the Middle East to the battlefields of jihad and are gaining combat experience. They are returning to the United States as seasoned combat veterans and trained killers. They are becoming the training cadre and the backbone of a Muslim Jihad Army being built before our eyes right here in the United States! And we are turning a legalistic blind eye lest we “offend the Muslims”?
When “Zero Hour” arrives, (and this is their term, not mine), and these thousands of combatants rise up in armed insurrection, what will the government do then? Threaten to file suit? Threaten to pull their 503c status?
(Centennial Fellow) In my article on "Afghanistan: The Untold Story" back in May, I noted President Obama’s oft-stated assertion that Afghanistan was the “right war”, the one we “had to win” and commended his decision to send an additional 17,000 troops. I concluded optimistically saying that “In continuing along this necessary road of many difficult steps he deserves our strongest support”. In October with General McChrystal's call for 40,000 troops still stuck in the White House “In-Box”, public sniping at the general, the eruption of the Democrat’s left wing, the emergence of the “Biden Alternative”, endless meetings, spreading confusion, and “dithering” to the nth power, I perceived a Viet Nam obsessed Democratic Party consumed by fear that once again an unpopular foreign war would doom their precious domestic agenda. Accordingly I wrote (“Escaping Afghanistan: Democrats Hunt for Excuses”) that “Obama –true to form- will try to have it both way, splitting the difference between his military and political advisors” and thereby- like Lyndon Johnson before him – “ spawn a series of self-defeating half measures that will bring disaster upon himself, his party, and his country”. Last week at West Point the President began that baleful journey of contradictions. Telling us that the 30,000 troops he was sending who wouldn’t be fully deployed for six months would start leaving twelve months after that was literally unbelievable and made a mockery of his assertion that the stakes in Afghanistan were of worldwide importance. The near universal incredulity that greeted these remarks led to the subsequent parade of “clarifiers” –Gates, Clinton, McCrystal, Eikenberry etc- whose message was effectively “Obama didn’t mean what he said”. All of this created suspicion, uncertainty, and confusion in Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. To our enemies it is yet further evidence that with a little patience, and pressure this guy Obama can be had without serious risk to themselves. What is clear is that the Democratic Party badly-very badly- wants to be out of Afghanistan ASAP but doesn’t know how to say it or do it without committing political suicide. Therefore they say and do things they don’t believe in, and hope their bad faith will go unnoticed. In the inner councils that led to all of this Obama’s heart was with his little known but long trusted political advisors Axlerod and Emanuel but his head told him he dare not face down his well known but little trusted senior Cabinet members Gates and Clinton who vigorously supported the analysis and requests of Patraeus and McChrystal. Reliable reportage portrays Obama as frustrated, unhappy with all presented options, furious over pressure building “leaks”, and feeling very trapped. This goes far to explain the repeatedly postponed decision masquerading as “due diligence”. At the heart of all this confusion are two blatantly absurd and arrogant policy conceptions:
1. Afghanistan is a deeply flawed and corrupt democracy unworthy of continued American support.
While rampant government corruption and dicey elections are the exception in the U.S.A., they are the rule throughout most of Africa and Asia. American troops are in Afghanistan for the same reason they turned up in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and other places – not to promote democracy or nation building, but rather to defend America’s vital national interests. Throughout our history we have been quite properly willing to associate with some pretty unsavory characters (e.g. Joe Stalin) whenever doing so advanced those interests.
2. If the Afghans and the Pakistanis don’t “step up” and more vigorously attack the enemy they are unworthy of continued American support.
These two countries have had far more of their soldiers and policemen killed than has the U.S., not to mention the thousands of their civilians who have been blown up. Whatever their political, religious, and historical imperfections it is repulsive to suggest that these people have no “skin in the game”. Every one of their officials who publicly associates with Americans knows he has an excellent chance of having his head cut off soon after the U.S. heads for the exits. That’s commitment.
The United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are in partnership because it is in their current national interest. Throughout History this is the stuff of which alliances are made. This is called reality. Unfortunately the present American regime is devoted to agendas quite apart from this reality. This disconnect poses the gravest danger to our national security.
William Moloney is a Centennial Institute Fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore sun, Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Post.
(CCU Faculty) Interrogation in normal police procedures is intended to gain information about a crime, with the ultimate goal being to gain a conviction. When police question a suspect or person with knowledge of a crime, they are trying to build a case that will be substantial enough to ensure that the guilty parties are punished for their offense. What is most frightening about our current Democrat leadership is that they view the capture and interrogation of terror suspects with this same mindset.
The purpose of interrogation in a time of war is not primarily about securing convictions. It is about gaining information about your enemy so that you can defeat them. When we capture a terrorist, we want to learn about their organization, their plans, their current location, etc. We do this in the hope of preventing imminent plans from coming to fruition, while at the same time improving our strategy for their ultimate defeat.
This is not the priority of the current administration. The Democrat Party’s dangerous pre 9/11 mentality can most clearly be seen in two comments, one by Attorney General Holder and the second by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
When questioned on November 18 by Republican Lindsay Graham about whether or not Osama Bin Laden would need to have a Miranda warning read to him immediately upon capture, Holder unconvincingly responded that we would probably not need to Mirandize him because the evidence is “overwhelming.” While being interviewed on C-Span, Senator Leahy reiterated General Holder’s point: “For one thing, capturing Osama Bin Laden – we've had enough on him, we don't need to interrogate him.”
What both of these quotes make clear is this: the Democrats simply want to arrest Bin Laden so that they can punish him for his previous crimes. While Bin Laden most certainly should pay for the evil he has done, his value, as well as that of his fellow members of al Qaeda, should not be based on how much we punish him for his guilt; it should be based on how our interrogations of them might lead to the destruction of their terror organizations.
One final note: the fact that we are even having a debate on when terrorists are entitled to be Mirandized, which naturally presents the potential for the invocation of the exclusionary rule against the masterminds of the September 11 attacks, makes clear that the current administration does not view the war against terrorism as a war at all.
(Centennial Fellow) Here's a sampling from the major news outlets this morning and how they are covering this story. Note these key points: 1) Most barely touch on the fact that Hasan was Muslim, despite the fact he shouted "Allahu Akbar" before killing 13 people at Fort Hood. 2) The commander of the base and the investigators are still "stumped" as to the motive of the shooter. 3) Nearly all reports contain a portion of the press release from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR - known Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas entity). 4) The New York Times and CNN make no mention of the facts that Hasan is Muslim, went to Mosque, or attended the Muslim Community Center, Silver Spring, MD.
Remark: They say Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” before shooting, yet investigators are still stumped as to the motive.]
Their angle... Still unexplained last night was the motive for Hasan's attack. Asked if it could be considered a terrorist attack, Cone replied, "I couldn't rule that out" but said the evidence does not point to that
Their angle... Hasan's motive remains unclear, although various sources said he is a devout Muslim who is opposed to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and was upset about an imminent deployment. He also had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Their angle.... Before Thursday's shooting, Hasan reportedly gave away all of his furniture along with copies of the Koran to neighbors, KXXV-TV reported… Authorities have not ruled out that Hasan was acting on behalf of some unidentified radical group, a senior U.S. official in Washington said. He would not say whether any evidence had come to light to support that theory….The motive for the shooting wasn't clear, but Hasan was apparently set to deploy soon, and had expressed some anger about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, said generals at Fort Hood told her that Hasan was about to deploy overseas
Remark: No mention he is Muslim, attended mosque or Muslim Community Center
Their angle... A senior U.S counter-terrorism official said Thursday night that the Army and FBI were looking into whether Hasan, who is Muslim, had previously come to the attention of federal law enforcement officials as the suspected author of inflammatory Internet comments likening suicide bombers to heroic soldiers who give their lives to save others.
(CCU Student) The war in Afghanistan today has increasingly taken on more and more dimensions and complications. Our soldiers are fighting in a place that has for thousands of years been called the “graveyard of empires” and the media is now making it look like that will be our fate. Unfortunately, our military has been forced to fight in impossible terrain with little civilization or access to support. Now adding to the growing frustrations, the Obama administration has ordered a new set of rules of engagement that prevent our soldiers from doing their jobs.
Talk to anybody that has been in a firefight and they will tell you that it is one of the most frightening and stressful situation known to man. Thanks to excellent training, however, our soldiers act in a professional and disciplined manner under fore and they get the jobs done quickly and efficiently even when the odds are not in their favor. But now our troops are forbidden to do their jobs because of a new set of rules that come directly from the White House.
The new rules of engagement state that American forces are ordered to break contact when fired upon from an area that may contain civilians such as a compound, house, or village. When questioned about this, commander in Afghanistan GEN Stanley McChrystal stated that his measure of our forces’ effectiveness will be the “number of Afghans shielded from violence” — not the number of militants killed. Our men are now ordered to try and get away from the fight if at all possible without putting our men at “unnecessary risk.”
Now as good as this plan sounds, there are many areas where both the administration and the brass are sadly mistaken. The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces we are facing today are not stupid; they have demonstrated numerous times that they are able to quickly learn our tactics and base their attacks on how we react. It will not take long before these fighters simply occupy all areas where the civilians hang out and they will safer than if they were in a cave. From these populated areas they will be able to launch attacks at US and NATO forces without fear of major retaliation.
Because of this, our newly emboldened enemy will grow stronger as they retake Afghanistan and subjugate the population as they have already done in the border areas with Pakistan and in the province of Waziristan across the border. And while they do this, our men will have only the desert and the wilderness to defend. We will see increased US casualties in the near future if the Commander in Chief and the brass do not do away with these rules.
Our military has already invested greatly in preventing collateral damage and civilian deaths. We have invested billions precision munitions and non-lethal weapons so that the innocent do not have to die. Unfortunately, in war people die. We cannot expect to get through this war and emerge victoriously without inflicting some casualties on the population. Some civilians are going to die no matter what happens. The question is how many we will allow to die because of this war. If we allow the Taliban to retake control of the population, then the Afghanis will be faced with the oppression, and mass murder that comes with the Taliban.
I believe that General MacArthur had it right when he said, “In war there is no substitute for victory,” and also, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” We would be wise to learn from these wise words and act on them before it is too late for our country and for the people of Afghanistan that look to us for freedom.
Jacob DeLargy is a CCU freshman and Army ROTC cadet