Politics & Policy

Amoral Euphemism

Is "outsourcing" multilateralism?

Senator John Kerry has recently opined, “Why hasn’t Osama Bin Laden been captured or killed, and how will he be destroyed before he next appears on tape to spread his disgusting message?”

Then the senator argued that bin Laden lives “because Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon didn’t use American troops to do the job and instead outsourced the job of killing the world’s #1 terrorist to Afghan warlords, this cold blooded killer got away.”

About the same time, Senator Clinton intoned of Iran, “I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don’t believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines.”

This liberal saberrattling is born of an understandable desire to restore their lost credibility on national security, but they have failed to notice two problems with their newfound approach.

First, if the United States did seek to engage mostly indigenous Afghan troops or Pakistani soldiers, or if we did allow Britain, France, and Germany to run negotiations with Iran, then such “outsourcing” might be better described as “multilateralism.”

Such joint efforts are precisely what Democrat stalwarts like Kerry and Clinton prefer to the old “going it alone,” “unilateralism,” and “alienating our allies,” when the United States largely handles problems itself. I have no doubt that daily missile-firing Predator sorties across Pakistan, or American planes over Iranian nuclear sites, would be met by howls from Europeans, Middle Easterners, and, at the opportune crest of popular indignation, Kerry and Clinton themselves.

Second, the new bellicose language of Kerry and Clinton suggests that both have some better ideas about how to solve the problem of catching bin Laden and stopping Iran from going nuclear. But in both cases, there are, to be frank, only awful and God-awful choices. And if either presidential aspirant were intellectually honest, then he (or she) would describe the glum alternatives in detail when trashing the present policy.

Quite simply, to catch or kill bin Laden and Zawahiri, the United States–after the apparent failure, thus far, of diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, billions in debt relief, earthquake aid, cash largess, constant cross-border incursions, Predator attacks, and multimillion-dollar bounties on al Qaeda hierarchs–must put sizable troops onto the sovereign soil of Islamic and nuclear Pakistan. President Musharraf is a moderate dictator, an oxymoron reflecting the conventional wisdom that he is only as liberal (or at least claims to be) as his radical constituents will stomach–provided that he leaves the mullahs alone, pumps up national pride, sneers at India, and garners cash from the West.

If thousands of American troops go into the Pakistani borderlands to hunt down bin Laden in remote villages, expect Islamic unrest over “American imperialism.” If we do not move, there is no guaranteeing that missiles, agents, bribes, bounties, Pakistanis, earthquakes, weather, illness, or depression will kill bin Laden–and thus more of Kerry’s rants about incompetence and outsourcing.

Alternatively, a third choice–namely, supporting Pakistani democratic leaders and oppositional reformers to evolve Pakistan into a democratic partner against Islamic terrorism in the fashion of an Afghanistan, Iraq, or Turkey–would of course be derided as naïve, or conspiratorial “neocon” democratic engineering.

So the present policy is simple pragmatism–push, cajole, threaten, appease, and flatter Pakistan, as much as possible, to allow us to go after bin Laden, up to the point that there is not a blowup in the Pakistani street, an embarrassing military declaration of martial law, a nuclear exchange, or the creation of an Iranian-style nuclear Islamic republic right in between India and Afghanistan. Yet again, abandon our present pressure, and bin Laden & Co. may, with impunity, be putting the finishing touches on something to trump September 11.

Senator Clinton should drop the vague feel-good stump speech and get frank about Iran.

For real appeasement and outsourcing, look at her husband and current adviser. Bill Clinton praised Iranian “democracy” at Davos in 2005. He compared it favorably to American and Israeli-style voting, urged us to defer to the European negotiations, and apologized to the murderous theocrats for the shah, for Saddam, for CIA plots in 1953, and for anything else he could think of. They were not impressed. And so we still had an Iranian nuclear program began on his watch.

There are really only two bad choices, Senator Clinton. One is the present “outsourcing” course: Let the Europeans exhaust negotiations, pressure the Chinese and Russians to allow the matter to go to the U.N., bolster Turkey and the Arab Gulf states and advise them to build a regional coalition to contain the problem, hope that Ahmadinejad alienates the world even more. Then, perhaps, sometime during this process, a popular uprising or even a right-wing worried cleric will thwart the nuclear party in Iran before this latest Great Mahdi gets the bomb, and with it impunity through national adulation.

All that is slow, often humiliating, and easily caricatured work; but what Secretary Rice is now doing is pretty much what liberals and Democrats also prefer–except for, apparently, the exasperated and now hawkish Senator Clinton.

The other unmentionable alternative–if we set aside the real appeasement of letting the mullahs have the bomb, or the equally cowardly policy of gently suggesting that the Israelis do the deed, or some Lord of the Rings fantasy about a grand aerial armada of NATO, American, and Russian jets descending in bombing formation over the modern forge of Mordor–is a preemptive (or in-sourced) American “air strike.”

But the singular form of the noun “strike” is disingenuous, more so when it is cloaked in the now-squishy “no option will be taken off the table” lingo.

Instead, if she wants to raise the stakes and contemplate the consequences, the senator should at least apprise her upper-West Side constituents of what the word “strike” entails: Perhaps two or three weeks of messy bombing, shown on CNN round-the-clock. Unavoidable collateral damage served up hourly on Al Jazeera as “genocide”. Missed targets, followed by worries about retribution from terrorists, now armed with nuclear waste and righteous indignation, vowing to “avenge” the infidel attack. Shiite turmoil in Iraq. Investigations into overflights of Muslim airspace. Contention over American use of Turkish, Iraqi, or Kuwaiti facilities to attack another Muslim country. Iranian-backed Hezbollah incursions into Israel. Fierce denunciations from the Russians and Chinese. Private glee and public “remorse” from the Europeans. Pulitzer-prizes and whistle-blower adulation for CIA leakers and Washington Post up-and-coming reporters. More Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky rants, reverberated by yet more shrillness from Sens. Boxer, Durbin, and Kennedy. Sky-high oil prices with the attendant conspiratorial talk about oil grabs and Zionist plotting. And more still.

All that mess is what killing bin Laden and stopping Iranian nukes may well be about, if we don’t “outsource” responsibilities–however glib that sounds on a Democratic blog or thrown out as a gnarly bone to an oohing and aahing academic audience.

Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author, most recently, of A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.

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