Liberals Still Don’t Get It: Peace through Strength

By: Guest Authors

By: Jeffrey Schmidt

Presidential politics is a game of high stakes poker. Last week, Barack Obama tipped his hand. In Senator Obama’s lashing out at President Bush for his generalized remarks on appeasement to the Israeli Knesset, he revealed that his intention to parlay with the unstable and dangerous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a vulnerability.

What plays well with liberal voters doesn’t necessarily play well with mainstream voters, even those many who are weary of the Iraqi war. Most Americans still harbor a visceral distrust of liberals on matters of national security and foreign policy. And well they should.

Obama’s willingness to go wheels down in Tehran, or Pyongyang to talk with Kim Jong-il, another unstable and dangerous thug, smacks of the same loopiness demonstrated by Jimmy Carter. Carter’s recent engagement of Hamas, against the policies of the United States, led to what? Giving those terrorists and killers of the innocent a smidge more legitimacy than they previously enjoyed?

The lanky Illinoisan is reluctantly making adjustments. Within the last few days, he’s characterized the Iranian regime for what it is, though without much vehemence. Whether he continues to do so depends on a few key factors. Will voter reaction trend negatively in coming days? Will Senator McCain and the Republicans keep up the heat? Will Obama’s egotism make him revert to defensiveness?

Whatever he does, in the meantime, it isn’t stopping liberals from rushing to protect their man.

J. Peter Scoblic, the executive director of the New Republic, is one liberal defender. In an opinion-editorial in last Saturday’s Los Angeles Times (“Negotiating isn’t appeasement”), (source) Scoblic trotted out an attack on conservatives for having been wary of negotiating with the Soviets during the Cold War. To read Scoblic’s article, you’d think that negotiation was the cornerstone and hallmark of the Cold War.

Negotiation with the Soviet Union was a feature of the Cold War. Or, in other words, a tactic. The aim of the Cold War was to defeat the Soviet Union, its allies and client states. Victory is typically the aim of wars, hot or cold, especially wars involving the United States.

For any liberal readers, does that need to be repeated to sink in?

For those not old enough to remember the history, in the latter stages of the Cold War, liberals weren’t about victory. They were about accommodation. For them the Cold War was best regarded as a protracted stalemate. Starting in the late 1970s, the left intelligentsia bruited the argument that the United States and the Soviet Union were morally equivalent. If the Russians were evil, well, so were the Americans. While the Soviet Union had its gulags, the United States had Vietnam.

European leftists and American liberals had hissy fits and took to the streets to protest President Reagan’s deployment of Pershing II missiles in Europe. Reagan was vilified as a warmonger. His move was portrayed in the liberal media as destabilizing and inviting reprisal and escalation from the Soviets.

Here, laid naked, was the left’s dissolute moral reasoning and the gross misapprehension of liberals. The United States was, as it is today, the bastion of freedom in the world. It was American resolve and power that prevented the long night of communist tyranny from descending over much of the world.

And here is where liberals proved most lacking in grasping the nature and intent of the enemy. Or the nature of the conflict. In the 1980s, as the Cold War was reaching culmination, as the United States was on the verge of a victory comparable in magnitude to that over the Axis powers in World War II, liberals joined with the left to excoriate President Reagan. They opposed him at the very time he was defeating the Soviet Union.

President Reagan was a practiced and successful negotiator. He saw the value of negotiating with the Soviets when there was advantage to the United States. He understood, as all good negotiators do, that negotiations need to take place from a position of strength. And he understood that when negotiating with an enemy, it’s not enough to be backed by strength, but to convey a willingness to use it. And use it, if need arises.

Finally, President Reagan would have had the good sense not to engage in talks or negotiations with fanatics or madmen, whose words and deeds, like Ahmadinejad’s or Kim Jong-il’s, demonstrate that there is no advantage to the United States. Such talks only legitimize and embolden men who speak of mass suicide or apocalypse as quite reasonable options.

Now let’s bring this full circle. Senator Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi reacted touchily to President Bush’s words because they indirectly expose them – the simple fact is that liberals still don’t get it.

When has any liberal of note, including Obama, publicly acknowledged that it was the resolve and policies of President Reagan that won the Cold War? Did liberals learn the right lessons from the American victory? And, if so, what were they?

Ancient history, you say? Then consider the unwillingness of liberals to acknowledge the progress made by General Petraeus in Iraqi, or if they do so, they do so grudgingly and with freight-loads of qualifiers.

Or consider this. The United Nations and Europeans, most notably, have been engaging Tehran in talks and negotiations to relinquish its pursuit of nuclear weapons. What have those talks yielded?

Is Senator Obama so full of himself that he believes his personal engagement with Ahmadinejad will accomplish what U.N. missions and European delegations have failed to accomplish? And if Obama wins the presidency, and he winds up spending a couple of days touring Tehran, backslapping, photo opping and negotiating, and the Iranians still go ahead with development of a nuclear weapons capability, what then?

It’s the “what then” that is especially troubling. Good liberal that Obama is, will he see the necessity of military action and muster the resolve to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, or will he find a way of rationalizing Tehran’s actions? Will he settle for demonstrations of American displeasure – mostly symbolic, of course – and rally allies to join in those demonstrations?

Unreasonable, you say, to make an assumption of weakness on the part of Senator Obama and his cohorts. Yet, recent history tells another story. And the liberal record on the Iraqi war points to other facts. So the conclusion stands: liberals still have far more of an affinity for Jimmy Carter, and more the approach of Neville Chamberlain, than they do for Ronald Reagan or of Winston Churchill.

Jeffrey Schmidt is a public affairs consultant based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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