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The Islamists are fighting for control of the world. We need a president who knows it.
Are you worried like so many Americans after the Fort Hood massacre about the growing threat of Islamist subversion and terror here at home? Worried, beyond that, about what we're doing or not doing militarily in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq? Worried about the growing reach and power of Islamist movements in Europe and South America, as well as Asia, the Middle East, and Turkey? Worried about the military alliances Islamist governments are forging with their secular mirror images: socialist-god governments in places like North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela?
Then focus like a laser on Iran, now, because Islamists will score major victories in all those places and more if we fail to prevent the ruling mullahs from openly, triumphantly making Iran the world's first Islamist nuclear power. The danger isn't only Iran's own catastrophic recklessness, once she gets the bomb, or the fact that all her Arab neighbors will respond by scrambling to go nuclear too. It's also that Islamists everywhere joined by growing masses of previously undecided Muslims will see Iran's success in achieving nuclear status the way Iran's mullahs see it: as a historic defeat for the West, blasting open the gate to a 21st-century world where Islam rules and Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists are subservient or worse. Islamist ranks will swell, everywhere, as confidence grows that the Islamist side is the winning side, and victory is near.
Most Americans can scarcely imagine an Islamist-ruled world. Most Muslims can, and they respond in one of three ways. Moderate Muslims wholeheartedly reject the Islamist vision and the support for jihad that is inseparable from it; Muslim extremists embrace it, many with growing fervor; and a third group sits on the fence, waiting and watching. Constant politically correct reassurances that only a minority of the world's Muslims support violence against us are based on the fantasy that only "Islamist extremists" do that; "moderate Islamists" don't. In fact, there is no such thing as a "moderate Islamist." All Islamists are extremists. It's an extreme creed. Moderate Muslims do exist, millions of them, many bravely fighting against the rising Islamist tide, but they aren't "moderate Islamists." Moderate Muslims are anti-Islamist Muslims, who oppose the imposition of Sharia and all the oppressive baggage that comes with it. They are on our side freedom's side and we should be on theirs. Instead, we mostly ignore them and fail to heed their warnings, reaching out to "moderate Islamists" instead, welcoming them into our critical institutions as our military, aided by the FBI, welcomed Major Hasan.
When it comes to Islamists abroad, poll data make it clear that they are the overwhelming majority in the Middle East. Iran and Turkey were the two great Middle Eastern exceptions, as Islamism swamped competing ideologies in all the Arab lands. Iran may still be, if popular majorities in that once great nation were allowed free choice, but they are governed by an Islamist regime more despotic than any Persian shah, ancient or modern. Turkey, once the freest, most proudly westernized and progressive country of them all, is on the verge of the same sorry fate. If you doubt that, look again at the new Turkey, governed by an Islamist party since 2002, a Turkey that is right now preparing to embrace Iran.
Focus like a laser on Iran now, because we have only months not years to prevent Iran from blasting through that history-making gate. Don't waste precious time on the pretense that negotiations and/or sanctions can save us. As John Bolton, Michael Ledeen, Rich Lowry, Andrew McCarthy, and a few other brave souls keep pointing out, we have been negotiating with Islamist Iran for 30 years now, offering the mullahs one sweet deal after another, and getting blow after blow in return. Even if mirabile dictu Iran signed an agreement promising to forgo nuclear weapons forever, it would be worth no more than the 1938 Munich agreement. Iran's mullahs are fanatics, like Hitler, not rational criminals we can make a deal with, as we did with the Soviets. MAD mutual assured destruction worked, because the Russians weren't mad.
As for sanctions, if there ever was a chance they could have worked, even in their most robust form a complete blockade of Iran's ports by America and the few allies who might have joined us that chance is long gone. Years ago, such a blockade might, arguably, have brought Iran's Islamists to their knees by denying them the refined gasoline they need to keep the machinery of repression rolling, giving Iranians who hate the mullahs a chance of overthrowing them. Today, regimes like Russia's and Venezuela's would supply that gas and more, over land, and we would be forced either to retreat in defeat, or to do what we should have done soon after we invaded Iraq as soon as it became clear that Iran was behind most of the IEDs that were dismembering our troops in Iraq.
As I and a very few others argued then, we should have responded with an overwhelming air strike, not just on Iran's nuclear facilities, but on Iranian planes, ships, and tanks, and on the Islamist commanders who control those weapons in the Revolutionary Guard, the Basij, and the regular military. Only a strike that decisive can give Iranians who despise the mullahs a fighting chance to overthrow them and create something better for themselves, and less threatening to us. Only a strike that powerful can shake the growing confidence of Islamists everywhere, forcing millions to rethink the wisdom of joining the reignited global jihad against us, the long-dormant, 14-century-old religious war against the Christian West, and against non-Muslims everywhere. Let's call this war what it is, for us: the war for freedom of religion in the 21st century, a fundamental freedom that includes the right to disbelieve. To mount a critical strike in this war only after a failed blockade of Iran that would increase the involvement of the Russians and unhelpful others makes no sense. It would sacrifice the advantage of surprise and needlessly increase the risk of an even wider war.
That's what we need to do, now deliver a crushing blow to Iran's Islamists to begin to turn the tide in the war for the survival of freedom in the world. Religious freedom, after all, is inseparable from freedom itself, the freedom we enjoy because our fathers defended it with America's full might, twice in the century just past. Tragically, the odds that we will rise to freedom's defense again in the next few critical months are almost nil. Some in our military and Defense Department are struggling, against the odds, to speed up the delivery of Massive Ordinance Penetrators (MOPs) capable of destroying Iran's deeply buried nuclear facilities, but they can't supply our most critical lack.
Eight years after the bloody attack of September 11, 2001, we still don't have a commander-in-chief willing to order pilots with MOPs into action. Eight years after 9/11, we still don't have a president willing to face the scope of this war. Our military is the most formidable on the planet still, but we are forcing it to fight piecemeal wars, tied up in peacetime restraints, with murky goals. Eight years after 9/11, we still don't have the president we need: a president who will rally the country behind our cause freedom's cause and order our fighting men and women to do everything we must do for the victory we must have.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, ordinary Americans did rally, spontaneously, much as we did in 1941, when Pearl Harbor was bombed. We came together as Americans, not just with flowers and tears, but with flags and fists, vowing to fight back and win. To do that, however, we needed a commander-in-chief with clarity of vision and an unshakeable commitment to victory a Roosevelt, a Truman, a Reagan and at first it seemed we might have one in George W. Bush. He made a brave start in 2002, calling Iran, Iraq, and North Korea what they were, "an axis of evil," but he rejected similar clarity about our Islamist enemies, in and out of government. In his rhetoric, the Islamists who had attacked us so viciously almost always morphed into nameless "terrorists." That lack of clarity about whom we are at war with hurt us, but at least Bush knew we were at war, and at first he fought it vigorously, winning swift initial victories against Islamist killers in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he failed to put America on a war footing by moving with equal swiftness to make us energy independent. He chose to re-embrace Saudi and Gulf State Islamists instead, and he told us all to go on about business as usual, squandering the national unity and commitment the attack had engendered.
Worst of all, Bush refused to face the fact that the Iranian government isn't just evil; it's actively at war with us it has been since 1979 and we are all but alone in pretending it isn't. Islamists in every corner of the globe were keenly aware of Iran's war against us from the start. For three decades now, they have watched Islamist Iran strike blow after blow against the American power they once feared, and pay no price for it. No price for our diplomats in Tehran in 1979, no price for our Marines in Beirut in 1983, no price for a long list of other American victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks from Somalia to South America. Islamists everywhere remember these American losses, even when we don't. They connect the dots we leave unconnected, and the pattern that emerges convinces many that Islam is, once again, a rising power, destined to subjugate the world as it did in centuries past. We are the main obstacle to that goal, and emboldened Islamists relish seeing us as a declining power, a once-mighty nation that no longer has the will to stand up against aggression in any sustained way. Still, there was an undercurrent of anxiety, a nagging doubt about whether that thesis would hold if we were struck a mighty blow on our home soil. After 9/11, Islamists everywhere wondered if things would be different now, if America might actually be a sleeping giant, awake at last, ready to strike back with its full might against any enemy who dared attack us.
They got their answer when Iran attacked us in Iraq, again and again, with her own men and with proxies, and, once again, we did nothing. Islamists everywhere watched for six long years as George W. Bush stubbornly refused to strike back at Iran or her subject state, Bashar al-Assad's Syria. Feeble diplomatic noises aside, Iran paid no price. Bush lost his way, preferring the fantasies Condoleezza Rice and other apostles of instant Middle Eastern democracy fed him, to the hard truths and good advice he got from Rumsfeld and Cheney advice to strike back at Syria and Iran. Bush turned a blind eye to both, fired Rumsfeld, ignored Cheney, and left the American people frustrated, dispirited, and leaderless. They thought Obama couldn't be worse, but they were wrong.
Bush knew we were at war with somebody, even if he refused to act on the fact that Iran was the most dangerous of those somebodys. Obama denies we are at war, substituting euphemisms like "overseas contingency operations," then embarks on overseas apology tours and placates our enemies with the serial abandonment of our threatened allies like Georgia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Colombia, Honduras, and Israel. See, also, his cool rejection of courageous Iranian protesters, persecuted Turkish secularists, the Dalai Lama, and Israeli settlers. Contrast that with his warm praise for Arab states in his Cairo speech, states like Saudi Arabia, still number one in the world in funding Islamist terror. In Ankara, his praise for Turkey's Islamist globalists was just as fulsome. His approach to Russia, China, and Iran follows the pattern. The promised missile-defense role for our Czech and Polish allies that Moscow opposed? Forget it, and don't worry about our missiles at home either; under Obama, we're cutting back, unilaterally, even as Russia forges ahead, violating treaties. Deadlines to actually do something about North Korea and, above all, Iran? Obama doesn't do deadlines, even if he occasionally uses the word. His modus operandi is supplication and sweet talk, a never-ending supply of ever more costly carrots, and it has an impact. Enemies of freedom around the world applaud him, along with sycophants and fools, like the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway.
Popularity prizes aside, here are the results of Obama's diplomacy for America's vital interests: China still refuses to put any real pressure on North Korea or Iran; Russia takes a bite out of Georgia, menaces the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, and helps Iran's mullahs; while an increasingly cocksure Iran openly mocks us, broadcasting its coming nuclear triumph to the world.
Call it a strategy of pre-emptive capitulation, call it a post-national foreign policy, but Obama's fundamental assumption is that America is not an exceptional nation; we're just one of the many components of a new, transnational world where more and more of the rights and duties that once belonged to sovereign nations are ceded to international organizations like the U.N., organizations that loudly proclaim the lofty abstract goals Obama, too, embraces, in his rhetoric. Ignore the rhetoric, citizens. Look at the reality behind it. The U.N. is cowardly in the face of real danger remember Rwanda and a politically correct lynch mob in its absence. Time and again, it has failed to maintain the peace, security, and freedom that only American power can guarantee.
Discouraged? Don't be. All is not lost, because those who love freedom have two great trump cards: the fundamental honesty and good sense of the American people, and the back-against-the wall courage of the Israeli people.
Let's deal with the Israelis first, and face the facts. Israel is a small country; her six million cannot do what our 300 million can and must do. They cannot give Iran's evil government the overwhelming death blow it merits. But they can forestall total disaster by doing enough damage to Iran's nuclear sites to buy us a little time, and the odds that they will do just that in the next few months are at least 50-50. They have no choice, if they are to survive. Iran has made it clear to anyone who listens that she will use her nuclear weapons to wipe out Israel first, before she uses them against us, most likely in the form of a terrorist attack. If Israel does act to save herself along with the home and heritage of the Judeo-Christian world it will give us a second chance to do what we must do to save ourselves and what is left of the free world. That is what we must concentrate on now: how to rally the American people behind a new leader who will fight for America, and for the survival of religious freedom in the world.
I don't know yet who that new leader will be, but I know we will be able to recognize him or her by the positions he takes, before and after the Israeli strike against Iran. The commander-in-chief we need will refuse to echo any part of the chorus of condemnation that will greet Israeli action. He will give voice to America's relief at being given a reprieve from the imminent threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and he will forcefully defend both Israel and the U.S. from all attempts at retribution, whether from Iran's mullahs and the Islamist terrorist groups they control, or from the hypocritical bullies at the U.N. and the EU. He will reach out to the Iranian people, too to the young people who despise the mullahs and offer them the help Obama denied them. But he won't limit his efforts to the Middle East. He will re-embrace our allies in Poland and the Czech Republic, encourage the Georgians, the Colombians, and the constitutional government of Honduras. He will strengthen our ties to Azerbaijan, even as the new Turkey turns its back on its old pro-western, secular-friendly Muslim ally.
At home, our new leader will do what any serious commander-in-chief of a nation at war would do. He will insist on an all-out national effort to increase our own supplies of energy as rapidly as possible. He will pay no obeisance to the ideologues who pretend that wind, solar power, and bio-fuels alone can make us energy independent in a practical amount of time. He will demand that we lift the self-defeating strictures that prevent us from drilling for oil in Alaska, on both coasts, and in the Gulf, and he will press for the rapid development of our nuclear power, but he won't stop there. He'll shake us awake to the stunning fact that, as Boone Pickens has pointed out, we are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, and he'll spur us on to make rapid use of it in our cars, buses, and trucks. Finally, the new leader we need will be serious, at long last, about sealing our borders against illegal immigrants, and about prosecuting and deporting Islamists who are here already, working to undermine our government and destroy our freedoms.
The American people are more than ready for such a leader. Faith in the fundamental honesty and good sense of most Americans undergirds this prediction; poll data support it. Deluged by politically correct propaganda, most Americans still manage to keep a pretty firm grip on reality. President Obama, especially, has worked tirelessly to downplay the Iranian threat, demonize the Israelis, whitewash the Palestinians, and convince Americans that the U.N. can be our savior.
The great American majority buys none of it. In the Pew poll of American attitudes toward 22 nations, only three got a favorable rating from fewer than 20 percent of us. Iran was dead last with 8 percent. Her two competitors for last place were North Korea with 12 percent and the Palestinian Authority with 14 percent. Israel ranked near the top. Despite overwhelmingly negative press coverage, 71 percent gave her a favorable rating. In Rasmussen polls, American voters see Israel as one of our top three allies, along with Canada and Great Britain, and they see Iran as our worst enemy. Eighty-two percent believe the Iranians are deter-mined to develop nuclear weapons, and a majority believe Obama's response to Iran has not been tough enough. Only 43 percent think he's doing a good job in protecting our national security overall perhaps the same 43 percent who, in October, thought we were winning the War on Terror. In November, that number dropped by nine points. Now, only 34 percent of Americans think we're winning. Even fewer see the U.N. as our ally: 27 percent. Similar poll data show most Americans don't buy politically correct propaganda on energy and homeland security either.
All this poll data points to one heartening conclusion: The great American majority has a much better grasp of the realities we face than our current leaders. A new American leader who speaks to those realities with clarity and force can rally the American people behind him, and renew this country's commitment to fighting and winning the great war for freedom in the 21st century.
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Barbara Lerner is a frequent contributor to National Review OnLine (NRO).
This article was published December 3, 2009 on National Review Online
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