The Corner

Seven Issues That Should Be Covered In Tonight’s Debate

First: A president and the nation he leads require a mission and a vision for the future.Central to that, I would argue, should be American leadership — not because we want to be No. 1, not because it’s good to be king, but because there is no acceptable alternative to American leadership.

After World War II, the British could say, “We’re tired, we don’t want to lead anymore, we want to stay home and build a welfare state. So we’re going to pass the torch to America.” But if America won’t lead in the 21st century, who will?

Iran’s rulers are eager for the job. Vladimir Putin would grab the reins in a New York minute. Maybe China, too. Do I need to explain where those roads would lead? 

And it is beyond naive to believe that we can rely on the U.N. to function as some kind of global government. In the U.N. Security Council, both Russia and China have vetoes. The biggest block in the General Assembly is the Non-Aligned Movement, which has just elected Iran as its president. The Non-Aligned Movement is largely controlled by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, most members of which are unfree, undemocratic, and Islamist — if you don’t know the difference between Islamic and Islamist, I’ll explain in a minute.

Second: I think it would be helpful if the next administration were to speak more incisively and more candidly about the most important conflict taking place in the world.

The Bush administration talked about a global War on Terrorism. But terrorism is just a weapon. You don’t wage wars against weapons. World War I was not a war against U-Boats. World War II was not a war against tanks and bombers.

#more#The Obama administration has been even less straightforward, talking about “overseas contingency operations,” and fighting “violent extremists” and sometimes a “war against al-Qaeda and its affiliates” but defining that phrase very narrowly and suggesting that killing Osama bin Laden is equivalent to killing al-Qaeda.

It should be acknowledged that what is being waged is a war Against the West. And it’s being waged by Islamists, those who believe in Islamic supremacy; those who believe, as the late Father Richard John Neuhaus put it, that “it is the moral obligation of all Muslims to employ whatever means necessary in order to compel the world’s submission to Islam.”

There are Islamist movements, Islamist regimes and Islamist  ideologies. If we’re to prevail, we’ll have to battle them all. That means not just fighting kinetic wars but also covert wars, and wars of ideas.

Third, if America is not strong economically, we can’t be strong in any other way.  Conservatives and liberals have different views on how America regains its economic strength but surely we should at least be wary about emulating Europe’s economic approach. There no is longer a single European nation that is militarily strong. In other words, the European-style welfare state correlates with military weakness. And there is reason to suspect a causal link between the two, as well.

Fourth and related to this: The West remains dependent for its transportation fuel — a strategic commodity — on dictatorships and autocracies that are hostile to us,  and hostile to Western values.  Reducing this dependence should be a priority. It’s not one for President Obama. Would it be President Romney?

Fifth: Afghanistan and Syria will be enormous challenges for the next administration. If the Taliban returns to power in Afghanistan, we’ll be back where we were 2,000 lives and hundreds of billions of dollars ago. That should not happen.

In Syria, if Assad falls, it will be a body blow to Iran’s rulers. If Assad holds on, however, it will be a great victory for the jihadist regime. So it makes a difference how this comes out.

Sixth: We need to reset the reset with Russia. 

Seventh and last: The next administration should not make it a priority to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the Islamist-Israeli conflict. The next administration should understand: They are all the same conflict, and linked to the global war against the West.

Israel cannot have a separate peace. Israelis cannot be the first to make peace. Realistically, Israelis are likely to be the last.

At the moment, and for some time now, Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, is not even willing to sit down and negotiate with Israelis unless he receives significant concessions in advance. According to Palestinian Media Watch, the official PA daily recently quoted from Mahmoud  Abbas’s Facebook page:

Our land is occupied and not disputed territory,  and this applies to all the territories that Israel occupied before June 1967.  [i.e., all of Israel]

And even if Abbas woke up tomorrow with a change of heart, wanting peace more than anything, imagine what would happen: Any deal he made that provided for Israel’s continuing security would be denounced across the Muslim world as a betrayal.  If Abbas were to shake Netanyahu’s hand on Thursday, I give you odds he would be dead before Sunday supper.  

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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