December 07, 2006

Then & Now


Today President Bush responded to the just-released Iraq Study Group report, including its recommendation to open talks with Iran and Syria (see below). Bush was receptive to the idea while emphasizing that "victory in Iraq" is important to our security. But with today also being the 65th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, I couldn't help but recall, and be inspired by, an article in the latest Objective Standard that I linked to earlier this week: "No Substitute for Victory": The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism by John Lewis. In this excellent, must-read essay, Dr. Lewis compares today's approach to war with that of the 1940s. Here's another excerpt:

In 1945, Americans knew that there was truly "no substitute for victory," as General MacArthur said in his farewell speech to Congress. In 1945, Americans also knew the meaning of "victory." It was not a mere word, empty of content. It named a specific task, and a precise goal. To say that our aim today is "to attain victory" can be as empty and futile as urging a college student to "do well," or a businessman to "succeed." What constitutes "doing well"? What is "success"? How will we know when we have achieved "victory"? The question is: What is it that we really need from the enemy?

History offers yet another example. The words proclaimed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which defined the terms of victory, and which he held intransigently for over two years, are "Unconditional Surrender." Bringing long-term peace to the world, said FDR,

involves the simple formula of placing the objective of this war in terms of an unconditional surrender. . . . Unconditional surrender means not the destruction of the . . . Japanese populace, but does mean the destruction of a philosophy . . . which is based on the conquest and subjugation of other peoples.

In other words, continued FDR:

We have learned that if we do not pull the fangs of the predatory animals of the world, they will multiply and grow in strength . . . [they] must be disarmed and kept disarmed, and they must abandon the philosophy which has brought so much suffering to the world.

The term "Unconditional Surrender" has been closely linked to Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant, who demanded "no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender" from his southern foe at Fort Donelson, Kentucky. For this victory, Grant was heroized as "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. To Americans of the time, "U. S." stood for Ulysses S. Grant, for the United States, and for Unconditional Surrender. Americans demanded nothing less than victory, and equated victory with their own identity as a nation.

This is what we must regain today: the sense of ourselves as right to drive victoriously over a viciously evil enemy. We must demand the unconditional surrender of the Islamic State in Iran--and of every other Islamic Totalitarian State on earth--to the legitimate laws of man, the laws that protect individual rights.

This is just a glimpse of the essay's analysis, so as I urged before: Read the whole thing. And when you do, contrast it to what Bush said today about our enemies. The CNN headline captures the essence: Bush tells Iran, Syria how they can join Iraq talks.

After talks with his top Iraq war ally President Bush on Thursday indicated that Iran and Syria might be included in regional talks about Iraq, if they meet certain conditions. ...

The Iraq Study Group report also called on the United States to hold talks on the war with Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran, a nation which has not enjoyed diplomatic relations with Washington in the nearly three decades after the Iranian revolution.

"Having an international group is an interesting idea," Bush said.

"We have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a possible change in U.S. policy, a policy that's been in place for 27 years," said Bush. "And that is that, if they would like to engage the United States, that they've got to verifiably suspend their [nuclear] enrichment program."

So there's been a "change in U.S. policy." Bush would like us to believe that we nonetheless have Iran on the defensive and that the West has set the terms. But in reality it is Iran that is setting the terms. The Islamic Republic is an openly hostile enemy who is not only pursuing nuclear weapons in violation of numerous agreements but is also actively involved in killing our troops in Iraq -- and yet they have suffered no negative consequences. It is an act of appeasement to even consider talks with Iran because it rewards their past behavior. Iran has set the terms by pursuing whatever policies are in their interest while the West merely reacts with words. Why would Iran suddenly begin to punish themselves for our sake, just because we asked, when their current strategy is working just fine?

Until the Iranian regime is defeated militarily, there can be no meaningful talks. Bush may admit that the situation in Iraq is "bad," but until he admits that Iran is the real source of the problem, the situation will only get worse.

UPDATE -- Dec. 10: Tim Sumner comes up with at least one good reason to talk with Iran.

Posted by Forkum at December 7, 2006 04:31 PM