Friday, February 18, 2005

Diplomacy Always the First Choice?
By Alexander Marriott

President Bush, gearing up for a charm offensive on Western European states who have been less than impressed by the Bush doctrine of preemption and guilt by association, is trying to assuage his critics on the left by declaring that diplomacy is always the first option of the President in dealing with threats. He was referring to the escalating situation with the Iranian nuclear program and rumors flying about the paranoid (or optimistic depending on how you look at it) press concerning alleged U.S. plans to take out the Islamic theocracy based in Tehran. But is Bush's assertion that diplomacy always being the first option correct, especially in reference to a country like Iran?

It seems hard to believe that he, or anyone else, could believe such nonsense, but it is apparently "common knowledge" that is not challenged by many, if any, reporters or media commentators. Let us consider what the policy of the Iranian government is abroad especially as it concerns the United States of America. Iran, since the Islamic revolution of 1979, has been the world's most dangerous and open sponsor of terrorism directed almost entirely at Israel and its biggest benefactor, the United States. The "Islamic Republic" was born in terrorism, invading the sovereign U.S. territory of the American embassy and holding more than fifty Americans hostage for 444 days. Iran is the country that coined the term, "The Great Satan" in reference to its American nemesis. It is the Islamic Republic of Iran that has bankrolled and supplied Syria, which has (in conjunction with Iran) fostered and encouraged groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. The Syrians, with the logistical help of Iran (which in turn was helped by the Soviet Union), were able to make Lebanon, a once very moderate Middle-Eastern country, nothing more than a glorified province. This help to terrorist groups in the Middle-East allowed such acts as the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut to occur in 1983, carried out by Shiite Muslim terrorists. The Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 in Riyadh has been suspected for years as having been the responsibility of the Iranians, but this cannot be conclusively proven given a shameless Saudi cover-up.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C., Iran has been shadowy foe. The only country to openly applaud the attacks was not Iran, but Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Iranians having much more foresight than their western neighbor. And the Iranians have perfect reason to be careful, being the largest state sponsor of terror they are already heavily scrutinized. Plausible deniability is the order of the game, and trying to paint all of their efforts as anti-Israeli, a position which gains much sympathy in Europe. This subdued stance has not prevented various reports coming from the press and leaks from the intelligence community to the effect that Osama bin Laden's son is residing in Iran, and even that the terrorist master himself is there. Not only that, but it is an open secret that Iranian spies and commandos have been infiltrating into Iraq to foment unrest and manipulate the upcoming electoral processes in the infant government.

Back to Bush's assertion that diplomacy is always the first option of the President. In the history of the United States the President has only resorted to diplomacy in relations with countries at war with us in extreme circumstances. The overwhelming majority of these situations occurred in the first years of the republic. The Barbary pirates were allowed to torment American shipping for almost a decade primarily because a sufficient navy did not yet exist to deal with the problem. Therefore, the government was willing to pay ransoms to the various governments involved, but this did not go on forever. A naval war with France in the Adams administration built up a powerful core of experienced officers who were eventually paired up with powerful frigates in the Jefferson administration. America's several year conflict with the pirates eventually ended the system of tribute, not only for America, but the rest of Europe, which began following our example.

The other example from the early years was our cantankerous relationship with Great Britain from the Treaty of Paris in 1783 to the War of 1812. Affronted repeatedly in this period by Britain's navy and their refusal to abandon their Western forts, which they continued to use to arm and incite the Indians, successive American administrations deferred to diplomatic efforts and other means (like embargoes) to gain some kind of satisfaction. This was done because of the military might of Britain and the tremendous seriousness a war with that country would entail. But that situation did not last forever either, the United States declared war in 1812, seeing no alternative to repeated affronts with no prospect of it ending. Since this period, the United States has not put up with attacks by other countries, or been attacked and then trying to negotiate its way out of it, until the present era. Franklin Roosevelt certainly did not attempt to negotiate with the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, nor did he attempt any negotiation with Germany and Italy, not directly involved in the attacks. The United States began declaring war against every country involved in the Axis evil, including Vichy France, Hungary, Romania, etc.

President Bush is trying to set the clock back unnecessarily. Whereas we had to forego war because of weakness or ill-preparedness in the early years of the republic, we art not encumbered by these problems today. Diplomacy is not, and should not be, the first choice in every situation, particularly when we are already under attack, even if the country in question was not directly involved in the September 11 attacks. We only have one choice. Numerous gauntlets have already been used to slap us in the face and thrown at our feet. How many more must our enemies use before our leaders and our fellow citizens realize we are at war, and that in war, the first and only choice is victory, and it can only be gained through force of arms?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Book Recommendation

Today I am recommending Simon Schama's engrossing and insightful narrative of the French Revolution, Citizens. This book will take you through the events leading up to revolution and then, brilliantly, through the revolution itself until its demise on 9 Thermidore. What I really appreciated about this book was how Mr. Schama set the historical record straight, particularly as concerns many myths around Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette perpetrated by historians sympathetic to the revolution who were willing to look the other way and parrot Jacobin propaganda. You really get the great sense of how all strata of French society was corrupted by the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and how that very fact led to and emboldened much of the horrific violence that set the French Revolution apart from the American Revolution which occurred thirteen years prior. Despite its length, 875 pages, this book reads very quickly and is very, very interesting. Definitely the way history should be written.