The A-Word

Mark Steyn examines St. Barry’s A-word phobia:

…It says something for Democrat touchiness that the minute a guy makes a generalized observation about folks who appease terrorists and dictators the Dems assume: Hey, they’re talking about me. Actually, he wasn’t – or, to be more precise, he wasn’t talking only about you.

Yes, there are plenty of Democrats who are in favor of negotiating with our enemies, and a few Republicans, too – President Bush’s pal James Baker, whose Iraq Study Group was full of proposals to barter with Iran and Syria and everybody else. But that general line is also taken by at least three of Tony Blair’s former Cabinet ministers and his senior policy adviser, and by the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and by a whole bunch of bigshot Europeans. It’s not a Democrat election policy, it’s an entire worldview. Even Barack Obama can’t be so vain as to think his fly-me-to-[insert name of enemy here]concept is an original idea.

Increasingly, the Western world has attitudes rather than policies. It’s one thing to talk as a means to an end. But these days, for most midlevel powers, talks are the end, talks without end. Because that’s what civilized nations like doing – chit-chatting, shooting the breeze, having tea and crumpets, talking talking talking. Uncivilized nations like torturing dissidents, killing civilians, bombing villages, doing doing doing. It’s easier to get the doers to pass themselves off as talkers than to get the talkers to rouse themselves to do anything.

And, as the Iranians understand, talks provide a splendid cover for getting on with anything you want to do. If, say, you want to get on with your nuclear program relatively undisturbed, the easiest way to do it is to enter years of endless talks with the Europeans over said nuclear program. That’s why that Hamas honcho endorsed Obama: They know he’s their best shot at getting a European foreign minister installed as president of the United States.

…In his 2002 letter to the United States, bin Laden has a lot of grievances, from America’s refusal to implement Sharia law to Jew-controlled usury to the lack of punishment for “President Clinton’s immoral acts.” Like Barack Obama’s pastor, bin Laden shares the view that AIDS is a “Satanic American invention.” Obviously, there are items on the agenda that the free world can never concede on – “President Clinton’s immoral acts” – but who’s to say most of the rest isn’t worth chewing over?

This will be the fault line in the post-Bush war debate over the next few years. Are the political ambitions of the broader jihad totalitarian, genocidal, millenarian – in a word, nuts? Or are they negotiable? President Bush knows where he stands. Just before the words that Barack Obama took umbrage at, he said:

“There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously.”

Here are some words of Hussein Massawi, the former leader of Hezbollah:

“We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.”

Are his actions consistent with those words? Amazingly so. So, too, are those of Hezbollah’s patrons in Tehran.

And The Wall Street Journal editorial page:

…Forget the complaint that Mr. Bush used a Hitler analogy. It’s the here and now that has these Democrats upset. The fuse that set them off is any suggestion inside the context of a live presidential campaign that the Democrats are soft on national security.

This has been a particular Democratic vulnerability since at least the George McGovern campaign in 1972. The most famous and destructive image from a Democratic presidential campaign the past 25 years was the helmeted Governor Michael Dukakis in a tank. In 2004, John Kerry tried to run on his biography as a Vietnam vet. Didn’t work.

If Barack Obama has an Achilles’ heel, this is it. He first exposed it last July in a Democratic debate when he replied, “I would,” to a question of whether he’d meet as President with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “without precondition.” Even Mrs. Clinton took a shot at that one, calling the Senator’s comment “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Speaker Pelosi’s own April 2007 sojourn to Syria is remembered mainly for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert feeling obliged to correct Ms. Pelosi’s announcement that Mr. Olmert had told her he was ready to start peace talks with Syria. Untrue.

Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi announced in Damascus: “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.” There must be a word for this somewhere. Just last month, former President Jimmy Carter met with leaders of Hamas to promote, among other things, “human rights.”

But Barack Obama is the party’s presumptive standard-bearer for 2008. Thus, let’s try to bring this dispute into sharper focus.

Mr. Obama asserted again yesterday that he will not meet with terrorists. He is, however, willing to meet with Iran or Syria. Virtually no serious person disputes that Iran has shipped weaponry to terrorists in Iraq and that Syria has provided safe haven to these terrorists and let them cross from Syria into Iraq. In turn, these jihadists have killed U.S. soldiers. At a minimum, one might expect that ceasing this lethal activity would be a “precondition” before committing the office of the presidency to meet with either.

These columns have regularly criticized the current President and Secretary of State for failing to execute any discernible policy to stop the participation of these two state sponsors of terror in causing U.S. casualties in Iraq. This is the real mismatch between Mr. Bush’s rhetoric and record, and where Senator Obama, if he chose, could hit hard. We doubt he will.

The Bush Administration has finessed the Iran nuclear problem by handing it to the E3/EU “process” – taken nowhere by the world’s top diplomatic talkers from France, Germany and the U.K. For two years, Condoleezza Rice’s State Department has played footsie with whomever speaks for Iran, to no effect. For either Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi to suggest that they know better how to talk Iran’s mullahs into an acceptable deal is, to put it gently, grandstanding.

…Mr. Bush is right about one thing: At bottom this dispute is about understanding the nature of the enemy in Iran, Syria and other sponsors and practitioners of Islamic terror. If the tempest over his indelicate words causes the Democratic presidential nominee to think twice about the political cost of trafficking with Tehran or Damascus, uttering “appeasement” will have been worth it.

And The New York Daily News:

…Friday, the customarily unflappable Obama rather flappably chose to go on a tear over President Bush’s remarks to the Israeli Knesset. He called those remarks “appalling” and “divisive” and much else, presenting himself as the victim of an untoward attack.

He is no such thing.

Here is what Bush said, before the Knesset on a visit celebrating Israel’s 60th birthday: “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them that they have been wrong all along. 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.”

Nothing that has not been said many times, by Bush and by others.

Nothing that was inappropriate when speaking to the elected officials of a country that is surrounded by genocidal anti-Semites who have vowed its destruction – among them Ahmadinejad, who intends to attain nuclear weapons to get the job done.

And nothing, let it be noted, that specifically cited Obama, or anyone else, by name. Bush might easily have been talking about warm and fuzzy Jimmy Carter, who lately did such a swell job of winning over the hearts and minds of Hamas.

Ah, but Obama has said he would treat unconditionally with Ahmadinejad. While far short of appeasement, that’s a problem.

And so he emphatically replies that certainly he’ll be tough on those Holocaust-denying, death-to-Israel-hoping, nuke-seeking Iranians, isolating them until they give up their doomsday desires. Isolation in this case, though, wouldn’t count a meeting with President Obama. Which is not really very severe isolation at all. What is the man talking about?

Until the Iranians relent on their crazed aspirations, Tehran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state. Obama pledges he’ll always be with Israel. But it’s not Israel that’s causing him so much trouble. It’s his own insufficiently formulated thinking.

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