The Return of the Weak Horse
What message are we sending to our adversaries?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chávez in Caracas, Jan. 9, 2012


Mona Charen

If you wish for peace, prepare for war. — Latin adage

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, a rough consensus emerged about the messages the Clinton administration was sending to potential adversaries. The failure to respond to the attacks on our forces in Mogadishu, the non-response to the bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and toleration of the assault on the USS Cole — all persuaded al-Qaeda that the United States was a “weak horse” that could be attacked without fear. Our limp response to provocations thus encouraged aggression.

It is a lesson that some never learned. The left wing of the Democratic party (and the Paulite fraction of the Republican party) believes that American misbehavior is what invites belligerence, and that if the U.S. can demonstrate sufficient peaceful intent, we, and the world, will be safer.

President Obama, though seeking tough-guy credentials by taking out selected terrorists and maintaining forces in Afghanistan, has been assiduously sending signals of peaceful intent to the Iranians — to the point of farce.

One of the president’s first foreign-policy forays was to send a New Year’s message to the Iranian regime expressing hope for a fresh start in bilateral relations. The mullahs’ response was one of contempt. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted toward the end of 2009 that “I don’t think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of positive response from the Iranians.”

That’s understatement. Besides mowing down its own people in the streets, Iran arrested four American hikers and placed them on trial for espionage. It continued to supply its agents in Iraq with IEDs for use against U.S. troops. Flouting international entreaties and sanctions, the regime continued its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Asked to establish a hotline with Washington, Tehran responded by saying, “The only way to end American concerns is for [the U.S.] to leave the region.” As recently as last week, President Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and mocked U.S. concerns about nuclear weapons. If we are building a nuclear bomb, Ahmadinejad smirked, then “the fuel of that bomb is love [for Chávez].”

Often, the timing of the administration’s actions seems almost calculated to curry favor with a regime that flagrantly defies all norms of international conduct. On Oct. 11, 2011, the Obama administration revealed a plot by the Iranians to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a Washington, D.C., restaurant. The Iranians were perfectly willing to murder scores of American civilians in the process. On October 21, the administration announced that the U.S. was withdrawing all combat troops from Iraq. At about the same time, the secretaries of State and Defense made public statements condemning the idea of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Over the course of the past few weeks, the United States has rescued three Iranian fishing vessels (which is fine as humanitarianism but should not be confused with foreign policy). Ron Paul has endorsed this as the sort of American benevolence that will serve the cause of peace.

While we’ve been plucking drowning fisherman from the Persian Gulf, Iranian boats have been harassing U.S. naval vessels, the Iranian regime has threatened to close the Straight of Hormuz, and a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy has warned U.S. carrier John C. Stennis not to return to the Persian Gulf. The provocations against American ships — usually by Iranian speedboats — are now daily occurrences, reports the Weekly Standard.


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