It’s been a difficult week for American resolve.
We lost a thinker and a leader who, through her courage and uncompromising commitment to principle, helped America achieve victory in the Cold War.
And we gained a report that, if followed, will lead to American surrender in the emerging Third World War. Its lack of courage and its abandonment of principle must be rejected if America wants to defeat the forces of militant Islam the way we defeated the forces of Soviet communism.
Core Misconception: Believing Syria and Iran Are Fit Partners for Peace
On Wednesday, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group issued its report on Iraq.
In its underlying philosophy and its specific recommendations, the Baker-Hamilton Commission report is nothing less than a prescription for American surrender.
The failure of the report centers on its core misconception: believing that the Iranian and Syrian governments can be responsible partners in helping to shape a stable and prosperous Iraq.
Two weeks ago in “Winning the Future,” I described a set of 11 key tests to evaluate the Baker-Hamilton report. This week, I outline here how the Baker-Hamilton Commission report measures up to each of these 11 tests. But at a broader level, it is important to understand how dangerous the thinking is that underlies this report.
The Instincts of Neville Chamberlain
In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany where he had signed the Munich Agreement with dictators Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini that provided for the partial dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the surrender of the Sudetenland territory of Czechoslovakia to Germany.
After hailing the agreement in front of 10 Downing Street for providing “peace in our time,” Chamberlain later praised Hitler and Mussolini before the British House of Commons for their helpful part in the capitulation to Germany:
After everything that has been said about the German Chancellor [Hitler] today and in the past, I do feel that the House ought to recognise the difficulty for a man in that position to take back such emphatic declarations as he had already made amidst the enthusiastic cheers of his supporters, and to recognise that in consenting, even though it were only at the last moment, to discuss with the representatives of other Powers those things which he had declared he had already decided once for all, was a real and a substantial contribution on his part. With regard to Signor Mussolini, … I think that Europe and the world have reason to be grateful to the head of the Italian government for his work in contributing to a peaceful solution.
Hitler and Mussolini Make Good on Their ‘Emphatic Declarations’
Five weeks later, the Nazi regime unleashed the violence of Kristallnacht. On November 9 and 10, almost 100 Jews were murdered, thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed, and approximately 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.
Six months later, on March 15, 1939, the German army entered Czechoslovakia and quickly crushed all resistance. The nation of Czechoslovakia, divided internally and overcome by foreign aggression, ceased to exist. World War II had begun.
From Munich to Tehran and Damascus
The Baker-Hamilton Commission’s instincts and prescriptions are eerily similar to those of Neville Chamberlain. The commission evidently believes that the United States can achieve peace in our time by flying our secretary of State to Tehran and Damascus and signing this generation’s version of the Munich Agreement with respect to Iraq.
The report and its principal recommendations require an exercise in willful ignorance of the nature of the Iranian and Syrian regimes, their clearly stated ideological aims, and their ongoing war against the United States. It outlines a policy of appeasement, predicated on American weakness. It fails to outline a clear policy of victory predicated on taking specific and urgent steps to add to American strength.
A Churchill — Not a Chamberlain — Policy
To win in Iraq and around the world against a growing alliance among terrorists, dictatorships, and a fanatical wing of Islam, the United States requires fundamental change in its military doctrine, training and structures, its intelligence capabilities and the integration of civilian and military activities. The instruments of American power simply do not work at the speed and detail needed to defeat the kind of enemies we are encountering in Iraq and elsewhere. The American bureaucracies would rather claim the problem is too hard and leave, because being forced to change this deeply will be very painful and very controversial. We have to learn to win — again.
Yes, the dangers are greater, the enemy is more determined, and victory in Iraq has turned out to be substantially harder than we had expected in 2003. Yes, we need to change to win. But the Baker-Hamilton Commission report that prescribes a “new way forward” is the wrong prescription in the wrong direction.
Because it fails to define the scale of an emerging Third World War against an alliance of dictatorships and the terrorist forces of militant Islam — with Iran at the epicenter of this threat — the report does not outline how difficult the challenge is and how big the effort will have to be.
Because it fails to define victory in this larger war as our goal, the report does not help to mobilize the energy, resources and intensity needed to win.
And because it puts insufficient emphasis on setting clear metrics of achievement for the bureaucracies of the U.S. government, the Baker-Hamilton Commission report does nothing to bolster support for replacing leaders, bureaucrats, and bureaucracies as needed to achieve these goals.
The release of the report confirms a Washington establishment desire to avoid conflict and confrontation by “doing a deal.” In the 1930s, that model was called appeasement, not realism, and it led to a disaster. Today, we need a Churchill not a Chamberlain policy for the Middle East.
Jeane Kirkpatrick: In Memoriam
As I mentioned at the beginning of this edition of “Winning the Future,” America lost a heroine this week.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was a great thinker, a patriot and a remarkable defender of America and American principles.
I first got to know Jeane when she was representing America at the United Nations for President Ronald Reagan. Her courage, intellect and ability to take on enemies of America and argue them right into the ground were amazing.
I also remember working with her at the American Enterprise Institute. She understood the vulnerabilities of communism. She knew it was possible for America to win and dictatorship to lose. And she brought the same insights and the same courage to dealing with terrorism and the modern war we find ourselves in today.
All of us who knew Jeane will miss her. She was aggressive, competent and hardworking. We’ll miss her, but she’ll also be a role model for every American to know that you can serve your country by having the courage to speak the truth, even when it’s hard. And you can make a difference by standing up for your principles.
P.S. – Free Speech or Free Terrorism?
Last week in “Winning the Future,” I called for a serious debate about the 1st Amendment in light of how terrorists are abusing our free-speech rights to threaten and kill Americans. In case you missed it, this week there was a report that an Illinois man planned to set off hand grenades in a shopping mall during the holidays as part of his desire to wage “violent jihad” against Americans.
How was he stopped, you ask? By an FBI informant who reported conversations with the man in which he expressed his desire to attack American targets. All the usual left-wing groups such as the ACLU are objecting to the use of FBI informants and using terrorists’ words against them. But I say congratulations to the FBI. The 1st Amendment doesn’t protect people who want to kill Americans — even if liberal judges and left-wing activists think it does.
P.P.S – Another Milestone for Rediscovering God in America
My book about the role of our Creator in the history and heritage of America, Rediscovering God in America, hit another milestone this week. It reached No. 8 on the Border’s religion bestseller list. Thanks to everyone who has rejected the secular left’s attempt to rewrite history by buying a copy. Remember, it makes a great Christmas gift.