As a conservative, I obviously found difficulties in a number of issues and statements raised in the Democratic debate last night (April 16). But the candidates response to the issue of the war in Iraq – particularly framed as it was against the even greater issues of a looming nuclear Iran and the threat of a nuclear arms race in the most violent, terrifying, and paranoid region in the world – was downright disturbing.
As I listened to the Democratic candidates, I had a dizzying moment of “deja vu all over again” as I recalled the historic lessons of the disasterous liberal failures that enabled World War II. And I could not help but remember the biblical narratives prohecying that total future apocalypse commonly known as “armageddon.”
MANDY GARBER of Pittsburgh asked the following question: “So, the real question is, I mean, do the candidates have a real plan to get us out of Iraq or is it just real campaign propaganda? And you know, it’s really unclear. They keep saying we want to bring the troops back, but considering what’s happening on the ground, how is that going to happen?”
CHARLES GIBSON followed up: “Let me just add a little bit to that question, because your communications director in your campaign, Howard Wolfson on a conference call recently was asked, “Is Senator Clinton going to stick to her announced plan of bringing one or two brigades out of Iraq every month whatever the realities on the ground?” And Wolfson said, “I’m giving you a one-word answer so we can be clear about it, the answer is yes.”
So if the military commanders in Iraq came to you on day one and said this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set back all of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you’re going to order those troops to come home?”
SENATOR CLINTON replied: “Yes, I am, Charlie. And here’s why: You know, thankfully we have a system in our country of civilian control of the military. And our professional military are the best in the world. They give their best advice and then they execute the policies of the president. I have watched this president as he has continued to change the rationale and move the goalposts when it comes to Iraq.
And I am convinced that it is in America’s best interest, it is in the best interest of our military, and I even believe it is in the best interest of Iraq, that upon taking office, I will ask the secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days. I will make it very clear that we will do so in a responsible and careful manner, because obviously, withdrawing troops and equipment is dangerous.
I will also make it clear to the Iraqis that they no longer have a blank check from the president of the United States, because I believe that it will be only through our commitment to withdraw that the Iraqis will begin to do what they have failed to do for all of these years.
I will also begin an intensive diplomatic effort, both within the region and internationally, to begin to try to get other countries to understand the stakes that we all face when it comes to the future of Iraq.
But I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin to withdraw troops within 60 days. And we’ve had other instances in our history where some military commanders have been very publicly opposed to what a president was proposing to do.
But I think it’s important that this decision be made, and I intend to make it.”
CHARLES GIBSON addressed Senator Obama with the same question: “And Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, when he is — this is talking about you — when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most; there should be no confusion about that.
So you’d give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order: Bring them home.”
SENATOR OBAMA: “Because the commander in chief sets the mission, Charlie. That’s not the role of the generals. And one of the things that’s been interesting about the president’s approach lately has been to say, well, I’m just taking cues from General Petraeus.
Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And unfortunately we have had a bad mission, set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer.
Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics. Once I’ve given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately in an orderly fashion out of Iraq and we are going to have our combat troops out, we will not have permanent bases there, once I’ve provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration; but ultimately the buck stops with me as the commander in chief.
And what I have to look at is not just the situation in Iraq, but the fact that we continue to see al Qaeda getting stronger in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, we continue to see anti-American sentiment fanned all cross the Middle East, we are overstretched in a way — we do not have a strategic reserve at this point. If there was another crisis that was taking place, we would not have a brigade that we could send to deal with that crisis that isn’t already scheduled to be deployed in Iraq. That is not sustainable. That’s not smart national security policy, and it’s going to change when I’m president.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS then turned attention to the issue of Iran and the threat it represented to the region: “Senator Obama, let’s stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?”
SENATOR OBAMA responded: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one of our top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities when I’m president of the United States.
I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we’ve got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is.
Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: “So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?”
SENATOR OBAMA: “As I’ve said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we — one whose security we consider paramount, and that — that would be an act of aggression that we — that I would — that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.”
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: “Senator Clinton, would you?”
SENATOR CLINTON: “Well, in fact, George, I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.
You know, we are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. They continue to try to not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons but they are intent upon and using their efforts to intimidate the region and to have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.
And I think that this is an opportunity, with skillful diplomacy, for the United States to go to the region and enlist the region in a security agreement vis-a-vis Iran. It would give us three tools we don’t now have.
Number one, we’ve got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran, and we want the region and the world to understand how serious we are about it. And I would begin those discussions at a low level. I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad, because even again today he made light of 9/11 and said he’s not even sure it happened and that people actually died. He’s not someone who would have an opportunity to meet with me in the White House. But I would have a diplomatic process that would engage him.
And secondly, we’ve got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can’t go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say: Well, don’t acquire these weapons to defend yourself unless you’re also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup and we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.”
Now, I am glad that both candidates want to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, want to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the region, and want to promise to protect our allies in the region. I believe these are all very good things.
But I want to focus attention on the fact that withdrawing from Iraq will actually have the very opposite effects from these goals, and will virtually guarantee that none of these goals would be attainable. If the United States abandons Iraq, it will put us on a trajectory toward disaster.
In an earlier article, I attempted to draw some of the parallels between our abandonment of Vietnam between 1973 and 1975, with what would almost certainly happen were we to similarly abandon Iraq. In short, the United States pulled its forces out due to domestic protest after it had painstakingly attained a stable military situation. The 1968 Tet offensive had been a military disaster for the Communist North, and the Viet Cong guerrillas had been annihilated in the American counteroffensive. But the domestic protests, and the scandal that undermined the Nixon presidency, forced the United States to negotiate with the North. Nixon claimed a “Peace with honor,” but the Democratic-controlled Congress refused to honor the American commitment to South Vietnam. Military aid ceased; funds were cut off. And when North Vietnamese tanks rolled on Saigon, the Republic of South Vietnam had nothing to stop them with. A bloodbath of massive proportions followed that spread from Vietnam to Cambodia to Laos. Three million died after the war, and untold numbers of refugee “boat people” perished at sea.
American prestige was terribly undermined as our enemies realized we truly could be defeated, and our allies realized that we would not necessarily keep our promises. The United States soon withdrew its commitments elsewhere, including its backing of the Shah of Iran, who had been the closest American ally in the region. To this very day, our enemies believe that the United States can not stand a prolonged war with casualties, and that we will withdraw – “cut and run” – from our allies and our interests if they can pile up enough bodies.
I think about these things. And I greatly mourn that we may very well be in the process of repeating our same mistakes in nearly exactly the same manner. Only this time the stakes are much, much higher, and the disaster that will surely follow will be much, much worse.
As a student of history, I remember the abject failure of the Western allies to grasp the growing threat of their enemies throughout the 1930s. I remember the refusal of the liberal governments of the Allied powers to comprehend what are now known to have been fundamental realities of naked aggression and looming war. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain abandoned his country’s commitment to Czechoslovakia with a promise from Hitler of peace. The liberal, “anti-war” Chamberlain returned home saying, “I believe it is peace in our time!” Chamberlain saw Britain’s policy as a willingness to compromise and a desire for peace. But Hitler saw only weakness, hesitation, and cowardice, and became emboldened for total war. Again and again, the West had had an opportunity to demonstrate its genuine resolve to Hitler, and again and again the West had failed to stand.
In our present day, the Democratic Party has demonstrated a shocking degree of treachery in regard to Iraq. It is their war as much as it is Republicans’ war – because it should be America’s war.
In his 1998 State of the Union Address before the United States Congress, President Clinton told the world, “I say to Saddam Hussein: You cannot deny the will of the world. You have used weapons of mass destruction before. We are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again.” A week later, President Clinton said, “I will say again, one way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.”
On 31 October 1998, President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law, saying, “It should be the policy of the United States to seek to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace the regime.”
After the horror of the 9/11 attacks, the full horror of Islamic terrorists murderous intent was nakedly revealed to a shocked United States. Military and civilian national security authorities alike immediately realized that the attacks would have been far, far worse if the terrorists had been able to obtain WMD capability. And they knew that major terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda were determined to obtain WMD.
President Bush confronted Saddam Hussein over his country’s weapons program, but the Iraqi dictator refused to give the United States a clear picture of his capability. The United States Senate voted 77-23 to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq in 2002; the United States House of Representatives approved the resolution, 296-133. The vote wasn’t even close. The resolution actually passed by wider margins than the 1991 resolution that had empowered President George H.W. Bush to go to war to expel Iraq from Kuwait. That 1991 measure passed 250-183 in the House and 52-47 in the Senate. Furthermore, a clear majority of Democrats in the Senate supported the October 2002 war resolution: 29 Democratic Senators voted “aye” and only 21 “nay.”
On 17 March 2003, Senator Hillary Clinton said on the eve of war, “Tonight, the President gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to avoid war, and the world hopes that Saddam Hussein will finally hear this ultimatum, understand the severity of those words, and act accordingly. While we wish there were more international support for the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein, at this critical juncture it is important for all of us to come together in support of our troops and pray that, if war does occur, this mission is accomplished swiftly and decisively with minimum loss of life and civilian casualties.”
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on 15 December 2003 after celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein, she declared, “I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote” and was one that “I stand by.” The speech she gave that evening is noteworthy given the abject treachery she would come to show in repudiating everything she said that evening.
Democrats can’t just walk away from a commitment to a war that this nation elected to undertake, can they? But that is exactly what they did. To paraphrase the famous John Kerry flip flop of his failed 2004 presidential campaign, “I voted for that war before I voted against it.” We were at war, but the Democrats turned and ran on Republicans the moment the fighting got fierce. And for simple political opportunism they have spent the five years since talking about Republican war-mongering rather than their own moral cowardice.
UPI reported on story titled, “Negative U.S. media linked to increased insurgent attacks.” The article begins: “Researchers at Harvard say that publicly voiced doubts about the U.S. occupation of Iraq have a measurable “emboldenment effect” on insurgents there. ‘We find that in periods immediately after a spike in anti-resolve statements, the level of insurgent attacks increases,’ says the study, published earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a leading U.S. nonprofit economic research organization.”
Can anyone believe that when major Democrats say things such as, “The war is lost” (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) that this doesn’t embolden our enemies to stay in the fight?
Somehow, both Democratic presidential candidates as well as the very nearly the entire Democratic political apparatus believes that they have absolutely no responsibility for the war, or to the people of Iraq. They believe they can simply blame it all on Bush and the Republicans and count on an ignorant and increasingly amoral America to go along with their revision of history.
But when they abandon the commitment to Iraq that better and more honorable Americans made to that country, they will be undermining the future of America.
Democrats will be mouthing the mantra, “I believe it is peace in our time!” Even as they set the stage for total Armageddon. Iran – just as Nazi Germany – will see what the Democrats view as high-minded liberal foreign policy as weakness, hesitation, and cowardice. And the next Democratic president will either see that Armageddon arise during his/her own administration, or else he or she will set it up for the next presidential administration just as Jimmy Carter set up the modern state of Iran by betraying the Shah and enabling the Ayatollahs to take over in his stead.
Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama agreed that we must not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. But how will the Democrats – who now universally and roundly condemn President Bush’s decision to attack Iraq without total proof of WMD when he had used WMD repeatedly on his enemies – arrive at the threshhold of certainty? The fact is, we can never be certain what is going on iside a totalitarian state such as Iran (or Iraq). Further, when the Democrats have spent the last five years proclaiming that the war in Iraq was a mistake, how are they now going to be able to say with a straight face, “And we’re willing to make the same mistake with you” to Iran?
Iran will know that 1) all they have to do is continue to develop their nukes in some degree of murkiness, because Democrats can’t go in unless they are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN Iran has such weapons. So we won’t ever be able to go in there under a Democratic administration. And 2) Iran will know that even if Democrats DID go in (Which they won’t!), they wouldn’t stay the course if the fighting got tough (which it most certainly would). All Iran has to do is keep piling up bodies – even if its just the bodies of their own – and Democrats will turn and run. It is what they do. More than anything else in our generation, cutting and running defines the Democratic Party.
Clinton and Obama also let it be known that Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt will trust them when they pledge to defend them from Iran, making their own nuclear programs unneccessary. The problem of a nuclear Iran goes beyond a nuclear Iran: it creates an imbalance of power that will force Sunni nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt to develop their own nuclear programs to balance the Shiite Iranians. Think of a nuclear arms race going on in the most radical, terrifying, murderous, and paranoid region in the world. And Sunnis – who we know DON’T get along real well with Shiites, will trust the United States to stick by them through thick and thin? Yeah, right; the Democrats who have spent five years vowing to cut and run from staying in Iraq will now stand by their word to help you, Saudi Arabia and Egypt? (“But we really mean it this time!”).
Allow me to guarantee you that a Democratic administration will see a nuclear Iran. Given their policy on Iraq, it becomes an implicit campaign promise. And it will see a nuclearized Middle East. Democrats have spent forty years proving that they are cowards who will not stand by their allies, and their actions will come home to roost.
A Republican president can say to the Iranians, “We went in to Iran when we thought they might attack us, Iran. And I promise that will do the same to you if you continue your weapons program.” And no one can question that. A Republican president can say to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt, “We stayed with Iraq and defended them even when it was difficult, and we’ll do the same for you.” and no one can question that.