Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Is Bill Clinton Still President?

Michael Ledeen, National Review Online:
From time to time various wags have suggested that we send Bill Clinton to negotiate with the mullahs on our behalf. It turns out it isn’t necessary; we’ve just adopted his methods. Apparently those in charge of our Iran non-policy concluded that the appeasement of North Korea worked so well, we should do the same thing with Iran. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Condi borrows one of Albright’s big hats, and goes to Tehran to dance with their dictator.

The architects of this latest foolishness are whispering the same reassuring nonsense as their predecessors did about North Korea: We’re offering light-water reactors, which aren’t as dangerous as heavy-water reactors, we won’t give them anything unless they agree to stop enrichment, blah, blah, blah. All of which is true, and totally insane, since a madman is, famously, a person who thinks that he will produce a different outcome by doing the same thing over and over again. READ MORE

It is utterly fanciful to think that Iran will negotiate away their nuclear-weapons program, whatever the combination of diplomatic carrots and sticks. They have no interest whatsoever in giving away their bombs, whatever the actual status of their arsenal. For them, the only point of negotiations is to gain more time to pursue their war against us, to kill more Americans and Brits in Iraq, to mobilize more jihadis all over the region, to threaten our regional friends and allies, to enlarge their terror network throughout the world, to stuff their war chest with petrodollars, and to enlarge their arsenal.

I do not believe any of the Europeans seriously believes that the mullahs will abandon any of their war plans, whether it is enrichment or terrorism or political subversion or the intimidation of lesser regional players. I think the Europeans view the negotiations as a method of restraining us, not bringing the Iranians to heel. They have long since adopted a policy of total appeasement. To her shame Chancellor Merkel came to Washington a few weeks ago and begged President Bush to play along. And he shamefully agreed.

The much-heralded announcement that we were willing to sit down with the Iranians if they halted their enrichment program was either a total collapse or a gambit designed to expose the Iranians’ unwillingness to play by the international rules. If the latter, it was too clever by half, as shown by the sorts of Western offers that are now trickling out of the foreign offices. We have actually set a clever trap for ourselves. The carrots are precisely what negotiations were supposed to be all about, and here we’ve offered them in advance of talks.

The Iranians are certainly smart enough to say “well, that’s interesting, and maybe if you make the pot a bit more caloric, we might even agree to suspend enrichment. Let’s talk about it.” The Europeans and our statesmen will declare a diplomatic triumph and they will say to Bush that we do indeed have to talk about it, and then we will have lost even this little gambit. We will have undertaken negotiations, and the Iranians will not have ceased enrichment. We will still not have an Iran policy, we will still have done nothing to support freedom in Iran, and we will still be pretending it is possible to win a regional war by playing defense in Iraq alone.

The political consequences of such foolishness are very hard to calculate, but it is certain that any Iranian contemplating risking his or her life on behalf of a free Iran will be discouraged at the spectacle. It is also certain that this demarche-to use a word much beloved by the diplomats—will reinforce the extremely dangerous conviction in Tehran that they are winning, and we will do nothing to threaten them. This is what makes the latest gambit so self-destructive. It will encourage the mullahs to intensify their attacks—real attacks, not merely verbal ones—on all fronts. They think we are headed out of Iraq, in abject humiliation, as a result of their terror war against us, and they will now redouble those efforts.

Would you not do the same in their position? Of course you would, and you would do it even if you were not a fanatic, you would do it if you were a student of Bismarck and Clausewitz and Sun Tzu.

But these are fanatics, millenarian fanatics who believe that the world is headed for a final and decisive confrontation between the forces of Islam and the infidels and crusaders. They believe that the final days are at hand, and that they are the instruments of Divine power and glory. They have no doubt about their ultimate triumph, and everything they see in the West only reinforces their confidence, and leads them to redouble their murderous efforts.

Their vision is not world peace, but world domination, accompanied by the slaughter of their enemies. And we are encouraging them in that vision.

I do not believe we will surrender and give them a free hand, but our current behavior only makes the ultimate confrontation with Iran more difficult and likely more violent than it need be. No matter how unwilling Western leaders may be to respond to their 27-year war against us, we cannot escape it, because they will not permit us to escape. It is a conflict we can either win or lose, but we cannot opt out of it. Eventually we will be compelled to respond.

At the moment, most of our leaders are trying desperately to convince themselves that there is a way out, that we can make a grand bargain, that we do not have to confront the mullahs. It is the illogic of appeasement so well described by Churchill after Munich. Chamberlain, he said, had to choose between war and dishonor. Chamberlain chose dishonor, and he got war. This is the risk our leaders are running today.

And the hell of it all is that the mullahs are terribly vulnerable, loathed by their own people, our natural allies in what is after all a political and ideological conflict. Our failure to support the Iranians’ cry for freedom is a dark stain on our banners, and worse: Our dishonor leads directly a war that we should not need to fight. We can defeat the mullahs the same way we defeated the Soviet Union, by mobilizing their own people against them, and by consistently stating and supporting our own ideals. Instead we are sending our young men and women into the field to fall alongside innocent Iraqis to whom we promised a better fate.

Faster, please. Please.

- Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.
Sadly, a must read.