“alternative foreign policy”

that’s how representative tom lantos (d-san mateo) has described his diplomatic efforts with speaker pelosi to syria, and now this successful duo is considering bringing their road show to misunderstood iran. but wait a second…i thought that pelosi and her delegation were merely passing on the views of the bush administration. that’s what pelosi has said she was doing. no harm in that right? it shouldn’t be a secret at this point that speaker pelosi doesn’t approve of the way the bush administration is handling foreign policy, and especially iraq. if that’s the case, then what would be the point of pushing said foreign policy (which she derides as a “poverty of ideas“) in meetings with assad (and possibly ahmedinejad)? the bush administration has made its case why syria isn’t interested in making the kind of concessions the united states wants it to make in order to facilitate any serious negotiation between the two countries. now there are more reports that iran is actively helping the iraqi insurgency. these two countries aren’t interested in concessions unless the concessions are made by the united states. this shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp, even for democrats like pelosi.

i am not suggesting that pelosi did something unprecedented in taking meetings with foreign heads of state without the approval of the white house, but it does raise a few red flags for me because of lantos’ comments about having an “alternative foreign policy”. it wouldn’t make sense for her to push what she sees as failed administration policies, so what exactly is she discussing with assad? i think it’s fair to ask questions about that, and if there are transcripts and audio clips available of their discussion that prove pelosi’s claims about that conversation, then there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get them and decide for ourselves.

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european diplomacy

i don’t think the resolution of the british hostage situation was any kind of success for diplomacy. if so, iran certainly didn’t get that message.

here’s why (hat tip: lgf):

Hardliners in the Iranian regime have warned that the seizure of British naval personnel demonstrates that they can make trouble for the West whenever they want to and do so with impunity.

The bullish reaction from Teheran will reinforce the fears of western diplomats and military officials that more kidnap attempts may be planned.

The British handling of the crisis has been regarded with some concern in Washington, and a Pentagon defence official told The Sunday Telegraph: “The fear now is that this could be the first of many. If the Brits don’t change their rules of engagement, the Iranians could take more hostages almost at will.

“Iran has come out of this looking reasonable. If I were the Iranians, I would keep playing the same game. They have very successfully muddied the waters and bought themselves some more time. And in parts of the Middle East they will be seen as the good guys. They could do it time and again if they wanted to.”

Americans also expressed dismay that the British had suspended boarding operations in the Gulf while its tactics are reassessed.

iran knew exactly what it was doing, and the release of the british hostages had nothing to do with anything tony blair said to ahmedinejad. surely prime minister blair is smart enough to know this, but for some reason he chose to go along with iran’s propaganda stunt. iran has done this before, and if they continue to get away with kidnapping people without any reprecussions, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t do it again in the future. iran learned that no country is willing to hold them accountable for their behavior, and that the UN won’t be able to stop whatever they want to do. this is a dangerous path we are on with iran.

it would be bad enough if iran kept kidnapping foreign sailors for propaganda purposes, but now they will have nukes too, and the UN will not stop them.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday the country’s nuclear fuel production program had reached “industrial” levels, setting Tehran on a fresh collision course with Western governments over its atomic ambitions.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said the announcement was “another signal Iran is in defiance of the international community.” Iran has already faced United Nations sanctions over its refusal to back down from developing nuclear fuel.

“Iran has succeeded in development to attain production at an industrial level,” said Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressing an audience at the Natanz nuclear facility as part of a ceremony marking the anniversary of the start of uranium enrichment at the plant.

“With great pride, I announce that as of today, our dear country, Iran, is among the countries of the world that produces the industrial level of nuclear fuel.”

Ahmadinejad vowed the fuel would be used for energy, “and for the expansion of peace and stability.”

it’s to our credit, i guess, that we are not buying the argument that iran will only use nuclear fuel for energy. we have been here before. the question is: what should we do next? if i’m the leader of a country with a stake in the outcome of this, i would insist on independent inspectors to keep tabs on iran and their progress to ensure that iran is only producing this nuclear material for peaceful purposes. i would also send to the UN a proposal for penalties to be assessed for non-compliance. the problem is that there seems to be no indication that the UN could credibly threaten iran, especially based on what we have seen from the UN in the past.

europe better wake up to the threat iran poses, or iran will continue to defy the international community and suffer no consequences for that defiance.

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kidnapped. not rightfully stolen.

iran has released the british hostages. president mahmoud ahmedinejad says that even though these british sailors deserve to go on trial, he is willing to forgive them and set them free as a “gift” to the british people. sure. why not? he has gotten what he wanted out of this kidnapping, and has proven britain’s new weakness.

i agree with this NRO editorial:

…If there is a glimmer of hope in this shameful denouement, it is the possibility that the sheer brazenness of the kidnappings will shatter some of the widespread naïveté — particularly in the British and American diplomatic corps — about the nature of the Iranian regime. It has never been reasonable to think that this regime, whose guiding purpose is to export its particular brand of Islamism, could be made to act in accordance with the West’s interests. Its latest exercise in hostage-taking-as-foreign-policy underscores the unreasonableness of that view.

It’s right to be glad that the young Britons are headed home. But into that humanitarian feeling irrupts the darker realization that their good fortune comes at an unacceptable price. Unless Britain and her allies act quickly and cleverly to show that they are, appearances notwithstanding, powers to be reckoned with, a great many lives will be at risk for a long time to come.

if we are waiting for this incident to wake up europe and britain to the untrustworthiness of the government in tehran, we better pack a lunch, because it’s not going to happen any time soon. this whole affair doesn’t reflect well on prime minister tony blair, but i’m not sure how much differently the situation would have been handled under the leadership of gordon brown or david cameron. europe has a serious problem with being tough on islamic radicals, and they need to recognize that, and deal with that problem before something more serious happens.

no surrender

you can agree or disagree with the specifics of the president’s plan for iraq that he explained to us last night. it’s hard to say whether this will work or not, but i have confidence that we will hold up our end of the deal, at least as long as president bush is in office. the rest is up to the iraqis.  that is the strength and the weakness of this plan. it is time for some hard choices to be made by the iraqis, and i’m not sure their government has the courage and political will to make those decisions. i hope i’m wrong about that. even though i want this plan to succeed, there’s only so much we can do in supporting the iraqi government. it’s easy for us to insist that the iraqis should get past old sectarian conflicts and move forward together, but that hasn’t been their history. while i believe that sending more troops to iraq is the right thing to do, it is only part of a solution that must come with political and some economic concessions by the maliki government.

quite a few democrats (and several republicans) oppose the troop surge.  fair enough. there are convincing arguments to be made on both sides. there are some democrats, like ted kennedy for example, who actually propose de-funding this troop surge. talk is cheap. at least kennedy is actually acting on his convictions. that’s more than his democratic colleagues will do. cindy sheehan and her fellow anti-war pals will be sorely disappointed by the performance of the new democratic majority if they believe that anything serious will get done about bringing the troops home now.  oh sure, there will probably be investigations and threats.  as far as voting to bring the troops home now, or any proposal to withhold funds for reinforcements for the military men and women already in iraq — the democrats are all hat and no cattle.  it won’t happen.

now that the president has presented his plan, it’s the democrats’ turn. the american people gave them an opportunity to provide leadership and a new direction in iraq, and they don’t even put it at the top of their list of priorities, instead focusing on prescription drugs and the minimum wage.  the consequences of losing iraq are more serious than a black mark on president bush’s legacy.  i hope the democrats understand this, and that they will act in the best interests of our country when considering what’s next for iraq.



that is the best way to describe the majority of the baker/hamilton commission (ISG) report. it is long on analysis, and short on workable solutions. full text here(pdf). the most delusional part of this report is the part where the authors insist that neighboring countries such as iran and syria really do want a stable iraq. not only that, but if the united states would just sit down with them and talk to them, they would be willing to help us with stabilizing iraq.

look at recommendation 12 for example. it says:

The United States and the Support Group should encourage and persuade Syria of the merit of such contributions as the following:

• Syria can control its border with Iraq to the maximum extent possible and work together with Iraqis on joint patrols on the border. Doing so will help stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.
• Syria can establish hotlines to exchange information with the Iraqis.
• Syria can increase its political and economic cooperation with Iraq.

i can tell you without help from any commission how well this would work. concessions are only given when the opposition is in a position of strength, like the united states was after the initial invasion of iraq. that’s not where we are now.

even though the ISG acknowledges to some degree that iran is causing some of the instability, it still insists that iran could be persuaded to help us.

look at these recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 10: The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the United Nations Security Council and its five permanent members (i.e., the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) plus Germany.

brilliant. great idea. more talking and listening, but no effective threats of punishments or sanctions. that will show mahmoud ahmadinejad who’s boss.

RECOMMENDATION 11: Diplomatic efforts within the Support Group should seek to persuade Iran that it should take specific steps to improve the situation in Iraq.
Among steps Iran could usefully take are the following:
• Iran should stem the flow of equipment, technology, and training to any group resorting to violence in Iraq.
• Iran should make clear its support for the territorial integrity of Iraq as a unified state, as well as its respect for the sovereignty of Iraq and its government.
• Iran can use its influence, especially over Shia groups in Iraq, to encourage national reconciliation.
• Iran can also, in the right circumstances, help in the economic reconstruction of Iraq.

again, what does iran get out of the deal? concessions from the rest of the international community? acceptance of its nuclear ambitions? there would be a heavy price to be paid by the rest of the world to get iran’s help with iraq. the same is true with syria.

do we want to do what it would require to get the help of these two countries? that would be very unwise. it is a game we can’t afford to play. surrender is never is a good solution.


Half Baked – NRO editorial
Blogging the Release of the Baker Commission Report’s Recommendations– vital perspective (h/t atlas)
Asking for chaos –frederick kagan (nydn)
Grading the Report— dean barnett (townhall)

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i’m from iran and i’m here to help…

we’ve got mail…and it’s from our good friend the president of iran. wonkette provides a snarky interpretation here.

mahmoud ahmadinejad is underestimating the average american. we can tell the difference between what he’s doing, and what our own government is doing. have we made mistakes? of course we have, but we are able to debate issues freely without fear of being jailed for our beliefs. if we believe that a change of political leadership is needed, we decide that at the ballot box rather than resorting to violence and explosives. he has no moral authority to judge us until he starts giving some of those same freedoms to his own people. somehow i don’t see that happening.

msnbc.com has requested that we the people respond to his letter, so here’s what i have to say:

mr. president:

i’m not a diplomat. i don’t work for the United States government. i am just an average american, so i guess your letter was directed to folks like me. what a mistake that was. i see you for the threat to the safety and security of the united states and our allies that you are. whether we agree with the iraq project or not, i would say that most of us still don’t want to lose, and we definitely don’t believe that you have the best intentions of iraq in mind when proposing negotiations.

you don’t fool us. you may have charmed the drive-by media and the liberal talking heads in the US and elsewhere, but we know that we can’t trust you. words are just words, no matter how pretty they look on paper. you are asking us as americans to take you seriously as someone we can negotiate with in good faith.

sorry…mahmoud…find another sucker. the american people don’t buy your lies, and the administration shouldn’t either. stop wasting our time with your beautifully-written drivel. it’s not working.

other msnbc commenters were not nearly as polite, but i’m not going to link to them. we need the bush administration to take the same line the american people are taking with this guy. i hope that they will.

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newt’s got a few questions

it’s hard to buy the argument, if it is made, that iran and syria’s involvement will actually further the interests of the united states rather than their own interests. let’s not forget that iran is part of the problem. neither country is interested in a stable iraq as the united states would define it. syria isn’t even interested in a stable, independent lebanon. we need to evaluate the ISG’s proposals with that in mind.

newt gingrich has a few tests for the baker/hamilton commission here. this is an excerpt from his human events column along with his comments on each question.

Does the Commission Have a Vision for Success in the Larger War Against the Dictatorships and Fanatics Who Want to Destroy Us?

If Iraq were only a one-step process, the answer might be to leave. But the reality is that Iraq is a single campaign within a much bigger war and within a power struggle over both the evolution of Islam and the rise of dictatorships seeking nuclear and biological weapons to enable them to destroy America and her allies. If the Baker-Hamilton Commission does not take this into account, it is a dangerously misleading report.

Does the Commission Recognize That the Second Campaign in Iraq Has Been a Failure?

This is the hardest thing for Washington-centric bureaucracies to accept. There was a very successful 23-day campaign to drive Saddam out of power. It used America’s strengths, and it worked. The second campaign has been an abject failure. We and our Iraqi allies do not have control of Iraq. We cannot guarantee security. There is not enough economic activity to keep young males employed. If the Baker-Hamilton Commission cannot bring itself to recognize a defeat as a defeat, then it cannot recommend the scale of change that is needed to develop a potentially successful third campaign.

Does the Commission Recognize the Scale of Change We Will Need to Adopt to Be Effective in a World of Enemies Willing to Kill Themselves in Order to Kill Us?

We need fundamental change in our military doctrine, training and structures, our intelligence capabilities and our 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. 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. Yet we have to learn to win.

Learning to win requires much more than changes in the military. It requires changes in how our intelligence, diplomatic, information and economic institutions work. It requires the development of an integrated approach in which all aspects of American power can be brought to bear to achieve victory. Furthermore, this strategy for victory has to be doubly powerful. For three years, we have failed to build an effective Iraqi government, and we now have a shattered local system with many players using violence in desperate bids to maximize their positions. The plan has to be powerful enough to succeed despite Iraqi weaknesses and not by relying on a clearly uncertain and unstable Iraqi political system.

Does the Commission Describe the Consequences of Defeat in Iraq?

What would the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq look like? Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute recently offered this chilling picture:

“The pullback of U.S. forces to their bases will not reduce the sectarian conflict, which their presence did not generate — it will increase it. Death squads on both sides will become more active. Large-scale ethnic and sectarian cleansing will begin as each side attempts to establish homogeneous enclaves where there are now mixed communities. Atrocities will mount, as they always do in ethnic cleansing operations. Iraqis who have cooperated with the Americans will be targeted by radicals on both sides. Some of them will try to flee with the American units. American troops will watch helplessly as death squads execute women and children. Pictures of this will play constantly on Al Jazeera. Prominent ‘collaborators,’ with whom our soldiers and leaders worked, will be publicly executed. Crowds of refugees could overwhelm not merely Iraq’s neighbors but also the [Forward Operating Bases] themselves. Soldiers will have to hold off fearful, tearful, and dangerous mobs.”

read more of newt’s column.

any commission charged with fixing iraq must understand all the implications of bringing in partners we cannot trust.  these are some serious questions that need serious answers before we can implement any of the recommendations made by the baker/hamilton commission.

it’s smart to be talking about foreign policy if you want to win the white house. the next president will have to deal with a dangerous world, and we need to have confidence that this person knows how to confront those challenges.  newt gingrich may not be any sort of front-runner for the ’08 republican nomination for president, but he is the only one who is talking in depth about foreign policy. we need to see more of this from the other contenders.

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the price of surrender

andrew cline in the american spectator:

Generals often make the mistake of fighting the last war. On Iraq, Democrats are doing exactly that. They just cannot get past Vietnam. Someone might want to remind them of two important lessons of Vietnam they seem to have forgotten: 1) In the absence of U.S. troops, the Communists slaughter of innocents continued unchecked; 2) Our retreat taught the world what the North Vietnamese already knew: To defeat the United States you don’t have to win a single battle, you just have to kill enough Americans to turn public opinion against the war.

The irony is that only if Democrats have their way and U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq before the mission is complete will Iraq be another Vietnam.

we lost in vietnam. we didn’t consider the consequences of withdrawing our troops from vietnam and surrendering to our enemies in this war. public opinion changed the course of this war. we thought that vietnam was unwinnable, just like iraq seems to be. the situation couldn’t possibly have gotten any worse there than what the american people were seeing on the evening news. then we left vietnam to destroy itself and learned a painful lesson for our efforts there. we weren’t defeated because our military couldn’t do the job. we were defeated because we lost the will to fight the battles necessary to win that war.

we are learning the wrong lessons from vietnam. iraq won’t become more stable if we pull our troops out tomorrow. it could get much worse than it is now. the insurgents believe that we are close to giving up on iraq. the results of the election might point them in that direction. the increased violence certainly doesn’t hurt their attempts to make that case to the american people. that said, i still think that we want iraq to succeed, even though most of us are not convinced that the bush administration had the best plan to do that.

nibras kazimi, hudson institute, writes:

There are legitimate concerns over where things stand in Iraq. Those who are genuinely worried about the welfare of the Iraqi people as well as about America’s long-term interests should be commended for fretting over what is a fatefully decisive issue. However, these anxieties are being preyed upon and manipulated by dark and cynical forces whose affirmed goal, from the very beginning, was to declare the democratic experiment in Iraq a “failure.” Within Iraq, the jihadists and Baathists are among these forces, joined by the intelligence services and news bureaus of regional state actors such as Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Inside Washington, these forces include some who are in the pay of the Saudis, and bureaucrats safeguarding their careers. Coming in third are those who would rather win local congressional elections than a very serious battle in Baghdad.

there are serious consequences to losing iraq, just as there were serious consequences to losing vietnam. that’s why we need to find a resolution to this conflict that will stabilize iraq before we start withdrawing our troops.

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the stakes

victor davis hanson:

…So we are at a crossroads of all places in Iraq. The war there has metamorphosized from a successful effort to remove a mass-murdering dictator into the frontlines of the entire struggle between Islamic radicalism and Western liberality. If we withdraw before the elected government stabilizes, the consequences won’t just be the loss of the perceptions of power, but perhaps the loss of real power. What follows won’t be the impression that we are weak, but the fact that we are–as we convince ourselves we cannot win against such horrific enemies, and so should never again try.

That stumble will send a shudder throughout the so-called West that will be felt worldwide. It will insidiously show that the premodern world proved the master of the postmodern, as al Qaeda’s Alfred Rosenberg, the pudgy Dr. Zawahiri, boasted all along–whose followers will not be happy with a successful defense when they think they can go back on an even more successful offense.

In the end, the Islamicists’ best way to blow up the world’s Starbucks or to turn off freewheeling American television is ultimately with a whimper, not a bang. They need not plant a hundred thousand bombs across the Westernized globe, but simply to cauterize its very spinal cord in the United States–the willingness of the American public, as in the past, to confront only the latest challenge to their freedom and all the ripples from it.

read it all here.

no concessions

the american people didn’t believe that the president’s current plan for iraq was good enough, and they wanted to force him to try a different approach. that’s part of what happened on november 7th. we obviously need to find a workable strategy for iraq. the ideal plan should be a plan to stabilize iraq, not a plan to surrender control of iraq to its enemies. unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what the iraq study group has in mind. asking for the help of iran and syria with iraq is a questionable proposition at best. at worst, it destroys the possibility that iraq will end up supporting the united states rather than islamic fundamentalist states like iran. if we make the wrong move here, this will end up costing us more than iraq. it will look like surrender to the terrorists we are fighting. it will make us look weak to rogue nations pursuing nuclear programs. if our allies know that they cannot trust us to keep our promises, they will be less likely to stick their necks out to help us with north korea and iran. these are the stakes. this is why iraq is so important.

the proposal goes something like this: iran gives up its nuclear program, stops supporting terrorists, and stops interfering with iraq. we provide some economic incentives and threaten sanctions if iran doesn’t play by the rules. i seriously hope that this kind of deal won’t even see daylight. what are the odds that this could ever work? if you take iran’s president at his word, then i don’t see any possibility that iran will give up its nuclear program. it doesn’t matter what incentives are offered. as far as sanctions are concerned, that didn’t work so well with iraq. there will always be enablers like china, russia, and france, as well as others at the UN, who are perfectly happy to let iran say and do whatever it wants to do.

iran is watching us and it sees the current political situation here in the united states, and our negative attitude toward the iraq project. it would be easy to them to conclude that if they wait long enough, they will get everything they want. that’s the image we are projecting right now. do we really want to depend on the UN to keep iran on the straight and narrow? apparently the IAEA (international atomic energy agency) has found unexplained traces of plutonium and highly enriched uranium traces in a nuclear waste facility in iran. i’m pretty sure the explanation doesn’t involve a delorean and a flux capacitor. it should alarm the international community that the IAEA is depending on iran’s co-operation to determine their intentions.

so where do we go from here? i don’t know, but offering concessions to countries we cannot trust is never the best solution.

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