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WorldWatch - May 18, 2008 - What Obama Should Have Said - The Ornery American


WorldWatch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card May 18, 2008

What Obama Should Have Said

It would have been so simple for Obama to handle this like a statesman instead of a whiner.

President Bush went to Israel to affirm America's ironclad support of Israel's survival as a nation. While there are Americans who don't agree with it, this has been the policy of the United States from the foundation of Israel on. President Bush didn't invent the policy, but he affirms it more vigorously and intelligently than most Presidents have done.

President Bush said, "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

Thus he stated, quite clearly, how delusional are those who think that what we have in our war with radical Islam is a "failure to communicate." There is no failure: communication has been crystal clear. Our enemies have announced their firm intention to destroy our civilization, to kill all the Jews, and to kill any Muslim who doesn't go along with their program. Iran has announced its intention, if they get nuclear missiles, to obliterate Tel Aviv. Al Qaeda has declared its intention to destroy the West.

We are not misunderstanding their intentions -- they have acted exactly according to these stated goals whenever they have had the power to do so.

There is nothing we can do, short of killing them or surrendering to them, that will stop them from acting as they have been acting for decades -- murderously and relentlessly. There is certainly nothing we can say.

There are no "root causes" we can address. Al Qaeda and Iran keep changing their statements of what we have done that provokes them. We withdrew our forces from Saudi Arabia -- and Al Qaeda no longer used that as their excuse for attacking us. But they kept on attacking. The excuse was the illusion -- the implacable hatred was the reality.

Nor have they misunderstood us. Those who hate us are among the best-educated people in the Muslim world. The more they know us, the more they hate and fear our civilization's influence on the Muslim world. They know that radical Islam is even less well-suited to deal with modern science and technology than fundamentalist Christianity, which has made its accommodations. To match the technological and scientific superiority of the West, they have to educate their children in something other than the Quran. Therefore they want to tear down the West and make sure everybody's children learn nothing but the Quran. In equal ignorance, the advantage of the West would disappear.

Furthermore, in the cases where we have negotiated with terrorists, they have almost never kept their word. When Ronald Reagan stupidly negotiated with Iran to buy, with American weapons, the freedom of hostages held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, our hostages were released (except those that had already been murdered) -- but they simply took more hostages. They finally stopped, not because of negotiations, but because the taking of hostages was no longer accomplishing what they wanted.

As for the Palestinians, they have never kept any agreement. Israel makes concessions; the Palestinians make promises. The Palestinians break the promises; Israel refuses to make any more concessions; and then the Palestinians scream that it's Israel that is not keeping the treaty. The Palestinians murder Israeli schoolchildren, and when Israel strikes back against terrorists, the Palestinians scream about Israeli aggression.

In short, there is no negotiation with people who have decided that everything we are and hope for and believe in must be torn down and destroyed. And it is amazing to me that the people most determined to rely on negotiations with these terrorists are precisely the people whose purported values are the first ones that these terrorists would destroy, if they were ever given the chance to decide how the West should live.

I'm glad we have a President who was willing to name these "negotiators" for what they are. Here's what he said: "We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is: the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

In Israel, where the consequences of appeasement are well-remembered, these remarks were met with a standing ovation.

Whom was President Bush talking about? Obviously, Jimmy Carter, who had just gotten through talking to the leaders of terrorist groups. And he was talking about all the people who are so foolish they think that our campaign in Iraq somehow provoked the terrorists -- even though every group of terrorists opposing us there was already killing Americans and Israelis prior to the beginning of our campaign in Iraq! All the people who think that if you just sit down and talk with Iran, with Hezbollah, with Hamas, with Al Qaeda, we can iron out our "misunderstandings."

Poor Barack Obama. He saw a shoe, he tried it on, and it fit. Then he blamed President Bush for attacking him!

Here's what he should have said: "I applaud President Bush for opposing any attempt at appeasement of terrorists. I agree with him completely that those who negotiate from weakness will accomplish nothing. Fortunately, when I am President I will talk to them from a position of strength, demanding that they comply with the rules of civilized behavior and put an end to terrorism. There is a middle way between blind war and mindless appeasement -- it is negotiation with a credible threat of force. What Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said: Speak softly and carry a big stick. Appeasers have no stick. President Bush has nothing but the stick."

Now, I personally think President Bush has acted more or less correctly in his dealings with terrorists and terrorist nations. But I was writing Obama's ideal campaign response. If he'd been smart, he'd have said, "President Bush is obviously not talking about me, because I have never called for appeasement."

Instead, he made President Bush's point for him by agreeing that President Bush had just described Obama's program.

Other clowns have chimed in. Joe Biden proved once again how glad we all should be that he was never made president, as he called President Bush an "appeaser" for negotiating with North Korea. As if Biden had never heard of China. The fact is that you don't mess with North Korea unless you want war with China, so it is not appeasement, it is realpolitik when President Bush treads softly with North Korea.

(Also, North Korea's people are starving, and it is only a matter of time before either China, the North Korean military, or a desperate popular uprising brings down the present insane, evil North Korean regime.)

What's particularly sad about Obama's response is that it is so hypocritical. He accuses President Bush of being "divisive" -- but Obama began that very speech by openly ridiculing the President of the United States. Obama attacks and ridicules the sitting president, but if the President affirms American policy and defends it against all critics, Obama declares that the President has stepped over some imaginary ethical line.

Here's a clue, Mr. Obama: George W. Bush is not running for President, he is President. It is not divisive for the President to declare what American policy is and to defend it -- that's his job.

If you don't want any divisiveness, Mr. Obama, then you will stop attacking American policy during wartime and stop promising that if you're elected, you will hand the victory over to our enemies.

If all the candidates of both parties had pledged their support for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, then our battlefield success would translate into political success as well. Instead, because both Clinton and Obama have promised to surrender as soon as they are elected, they daily encourage our enemies to keep fighting, keep killing Americans, endure long enough for victory to be handed to them by the Democratic candidate.

This is why, for so many years, it was the policy of both parties to leave foreign policy out of election campaigns. Because when candidates for the job of commander-in-chief of the American military pledge to withdraw in the face of the enemy, regardless of whether we're winning or not, regardless of whether losing the war will have dire consequences -- well, folks, that is direct interference with the President as he carries out his duties.

We reelected George W. Bush in the midst of this war. It was the will of the people in 2004 that Bush be allowed to run it for four more years. That's Democracy.

Obama and Clinton have spent many months now doing everything they can to undercut the duly-elected President and to subvert the accomplishments of our troops. By Obama's own admission, his policies are precisely the "appeasement" President Bush was warning against.

President Bush is not the one who is divisive. He is not the one who is out of line. He is the one who was elected to conduct American policy and who is leading American troops in war.

It is Obama who is divisively undercutting him at every step, Obama who is promising to give our enemies the enormous prestige and, yes, victory of sitting down with the American President without so much as hinting that they would give up terrorism against Americans or war against American troops.

It is almost hilarious that Obama accuses Bush of not playing fair by "attacking" Obama in a speech to a foreign parliament. It does not seem to occur to Obama that he has followed no rules of civility in his scorn and ridicule of our President, that he has followed no rules of patriotic support of American troops in his promise to undo all the accomplishments of our military.

Since Hillary Clinton has been every bit as stupid as Obama in her foreign policy declarations, we have to give her credit for having the brains not to put on the shoe and declare that it fits. Instead, she has sat back silently, letting Obama declare himself to be the appeaser that Bush was talking about.

Here's the political reality: If this election hinges on the war, John McCain will win it and the Democrat -- whichever one it turns out to be -- will lose. Americans hate to lose wars, and it will be easy to make the case that surrender in Iraq will promote terrorism everywhere -- because it's the obvious truth.

In fact, we need our forward positions in Iraq because if Iran gets a nuke, we will have no choice but to destroy Iran's present government as quickly and ruthlessly as possible, precisely because they have stated their intention to use any such weapon to commit monstrous attacks against civilian populations.

On 23 August 1864, Abraham Lincoln seemed to be headed for electoral defeat at the hands of Democrat George McClellan, one of his more popular but less effective generals during the Civil War. McClellan, like Obama and Clinton, had already pledged to give up the war and declare defeat. He would "negotiate" with the Confederacy -- which could only mean allowing the Confederacy to continue to exist, which would mean accepting the dissolution of the Union and the continuation of slavery. In short, it would have been complete defeat for the Union cause, and complete victory for the Confederacy. There was no other meaning that "negotiation" could have under those circumstances, and everybody knew it.

That is, of course, precisely what "negotiation" with terrorists and terrorist nations means today: If you negotiate with them, you have already accepted their right to exist as terrorists, and that means you have already lost the war because you have legitimized them.

Lincoln, facing probably defeat in the election, called together his cabinet and handed them a sealed memorandum, which he directed that they should sign as witnesses, so that when, after the election, the document was opened, they would know that this was what Lincoln had written at that time.

Here's what was in that memo:

"This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probably [sic] that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the Government President elect, as to save the Union between the Election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards."

(It is nice to note that Lincoln, though eloquent indeed, was capable of making errors in his writing; George W. Bush may be clumsy of speech, but it doesn't prove him to be stupid or even wrong.)

Lincoln's point was plain: McClellan had so bound himself to the promise to declare defeat by negotiating an end to the war that Lincoln had to make sure that between the election and the inauguration the war was won so there would be nothing for his successor to negotiate.

Furthermore, it is an obvious historical fact, supported by evidence from the South, that because McClellan was running with the pledge to let the South have its victory in the Civil War after all, the Confederacy based all its hopes on prolonging the war long enough for McClellan to become president.

Campaigns that subvert an ongoing war effort -- campaigns like the ones both the current Democrats are running -- offer hope to and stiffen the resolve of a nearly-defeated enemy, leading to the deaths of more American soldiers than would otherwise have occurred. That these candidates are free to run such a campaign is undisputed. That it is contemptible for them to do so is my heartfelt opinion.

In those days, the inauguration did not take place until March 4th, so that there were four months between the election in early November and the inauguration of the new president. It happens that -- in large measure because of the absentee ballots cast by the soldiers themselves -- Lincoln was reelected. But it also happens that he did effectively win the war before inauguration day.

President Bush will have only two months between the election and the inauguration of the new president. If the president-elect is McCain, as I think most likely, President Bush will not need to carry out any extraordinary military actions before that time.

But if the president-elect is Obama or Clinton, and if Iran seems to have, or is about to have, nuclear weapons which it can deliver against targets in the Middle East or Europe, President Bush will have no choice but to take military action, because it will be plain that, like McClellan, the Democratic candidate will have "secured his or her election on such ground that" he or she cannot possibly take the action that will be necessary to prevent either monstrous acts of nuclear terrorism or blackmail consisting of threats to do so.

Thank God the appeasement candidate lost in 1864. The Civil War was far bloodier than this war, and it was fought on American soil; but the consequences of defeat would have been scarcely more terrible.

If President Bush has not already written his version of that memo, it's probably time for him to write it.

Meanwhile, Obama, by his own admission, is precisely the kind of candidate who makes the writing of such a memo necessary.

http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2008-05-18-1.html

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