At first I, too, thought the Iraq Surrender Commission Report was a total downer. But I’m more and more convinced that it was a great blessing. Not that they intended it to work out this way, but the Wise Men (and the token Lady) have elevated Iran to its rightful place in our national squabble over The war: dead center.
The Surrender Commission Report underlines the basic truth about The War, which is that we cannot possibly win it by fighting defensively in Iraq alone. So long as Iran and Syria have a free shot at us and our Iraqi allies, they can trump most any military tactics we adopt, at most any imaginable level of troops. Until the publication of the report this was the dirty secret buried under years of misleading rhetoric from our leaders; now it is front and center. Either deal effectively with Iran, or suffer a humiliating defeat, repeating the terrible humiliation of Lebanon in the Eighties when Iran and Syria bombed us out of the country (thereby providing the template for the terror war in Iraq).
The Surrender Commission members do not shrink from humiliation. They want American troops out of Iraq, and therefore they advocate appeasing the Syrians and Iranians. But a considerable number of Americans don’t want to be humiliated by the clerical fascists in Tehran, and I think it’s fair to say the recommendations have largely bombed, despite the flattering photos in Vogue, and the fawning attention from the MSM, including Time’s respectful parroting of (what they must know is) mullah disinformation, and reporting, with an obvious tone of sadness, that the Baker/Hamilton call for talks is more popular in Tehran than in America.
Most Americans are disgusted at the thought of an American president kissing the Supreme Leader’s turban, as are Jim Woolsey and Jon Kyl, who put it very nicely in an open letter to President Bush. Talking to the mullahs is wrong for many reasons, they say:
First, such negotiations will legitimate that increasingly dangerous regime and reward its violent and hostile actions against us and our allies. We should rather endeavor to discredit and undermine this regime. Second, such a course will embolden our enemies who already believe they are sapping our will to resist them. Third, such an initiative would buy further time for the Iranian mullahs to obtain and prepare to wield weapons of mass destruction. Fourth, entering into negotiations with Tehran’s theocrats will create the illusion that we are taking useful steps to contend with the threat from Iran — when, in fact, we would not be. As a result, other, more effective actions — specifically, steps aimed at encouraging regime change in Iran — will not be pursued.
Notice that Woolsey and Kyl are not just talking about Iraq; they have a commendable focus on Iran itself. They call it dangerous, violent, and hostile, they want its downfall, not its good will. They want a policy to promote regime change instead of further blithering that will give the mullahs more time to rout us and our allies all over the Middle East.
Maybe the sight of the Iranian hangman is beginning to concentrate the minds of our political class. I wish other members of the Senate had had the courage and coherence of Senator Santorum, who voted against the Gates nomination because he didn’t find Gates tough enough on Iran. A big ‘no’ vote, accompanied by criticism of appeasement of Iran and Syria, would have sent a message to the entire administration. But courage and coherence are always in short supply in this town, and it’s nice to hear a broad-based Bronx cheer for the Surrender Commission.
It would be far nicer to see some real action from this administration. For starters, the president and the secretary of state should finally educate the American public about the real dimensions of the Iranian threat:
Somalia, where the Iranian-backed “Islamic courts” have seized a large part of the country and imposed the usual medieval methods made infamous in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Notice the (Shiite) support for these Sunni fascists;
Lebanon, where Iranian-backed (indeed, Iranian-created) Hezbollah is laying siege to the freely elected government, demanding its surrender. Moreover, Iran has rearmed Hezbollah forces in the south, providing new rockets and missiles for another round of the ongoing war against Israel;
Palestine, where Iranian-backed Hamas, in open defiance of the usual calls for negotiations with Israel, has renewed its vow to never recognize the existence of the Jewish state. The most recent such proclamation came in Tehran, on the eve of a conference on the Holocaust, designed to both deny it ever happened and encourage its repetition;
Iraq, where, after three years of official denials, the U.S. has confirmed what our troops have long known, namely that the Iranian regime is manufacturing weapons and providing them to terrorists for use against our soldiers and Iraqi military and civilian personnel. And in recent days, the U.S. has finally confirmed that Hezbollah is training Shiite terrorists in Iraq.
In short, Iran is waging war against us and our allies throughout the region, and a real debate about Iran may, at long last, force us to face the real (regional) strategic problem. If that happens, we can take the Woolsey/Kyl letter as a starting point for a serious war-winning policy, which must have as its basic mission the removal of the regimes in Tehran and Damascus.
Faster, Please! Good old Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton have unexpectedly given us a window of opportunity, don’t run away from it.
— 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.