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Feeding the Crocodile By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 24, 2006

We’re told it’s the Realists versus the Neo-Cons, and the Realists are winning.


On Monday, less than two full weeks after Democrats won the Congress on a platform of “phased withdrawal” from Iraq, Iraqi leaders bowed their heads in submission, announcing that they will hold direct talks with Iran and Syria in Tehran this weekend.


Right on cue, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group leaked on Tuesday its recommendation that the United States negotiate directly with Syria and Iran, to convince them to reduce their assistance to the terrorists in Iraq.


Also on Tuesday, the Syrians and the Iranians (and their agents in Lebanon) assassinated yet another pro-Western political leader, Lebanon’s ministry of industry, Pierre Gemayel.


Pierre Gemayel, the 34-year old scion of one of Lebanon’s most prominent Maronite Christian families, had joined forces with the anti-Syrian alliance led by Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated former prime minister. His uncle, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated by the Syrians in August 1982, just weeks after he was elected Lebanon’s president in an earlier élan of Lebanese independence. His father, Amin, was elected president to replace him.


To the Realist school of American foreign policy, such events are the sad necessities of life. We can’t keep murderers and thugs from killing each other. But through cautious diplomacy and the judicious use of force, we can keep them from killing us.


Nobody, in either school, believes this sequence of events is mere coincidence. Neo-Cons such as Michael Ledeen view these developments as signs of U.S. weakness and drift; a failure to pursue the terrorists who declared war on us in 1979, when Iranian “students” (including Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 54 diplomats and all of America hostage for 444 days.


To the Realists, whose current champions are former National Security advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, we never should have ventured into Iraq to depose the regime of Saddam Hussein. As Scowcroft hectored Condoleeza Rice in a semi-public forum 3 years ago, “at least with Saddam in power, we’ve had fifty years of peace.”


Besides the arithmetic exaggeration (Saddam only assumed full power in Iraq in 1979), Scowcroft’s argument is not unlike what we are hearing today from the Baker-Hamilton commission. Let’s negotiate with Syria and Iran. After all, these regimes respect power. They know we can do them tremendous harm. So we have leverage that we can and should use to achieve our goals. We don’t need to over-reach by seeking to overthrow them.


America’s goal, in the eyes of the Realists, is to get Syria and Iran to moderate their support for the insurgents, so we can prevent a few attacks today and tomorrow. Let’s decrease the level of violence, so the U.S. can withdraw troops from Iraq without destabilizing the country.


In exchange for their help in achieving a very temporary goal (which is certainly in their power, since they are backing the insurgents), the United States must abandon all support to pro-democracy forces in Syria and Iran and provide security guaranties to both regimes. That’s the deal that is currently on the table.


We get political cover for a troop withdrawal, and they tell their terrorist proxies to lay low for a time and half a time (if we’re lucky). All we really get is a fig leaf. But smiling as we put it on is called Realism.


Neo-cons view these events quite differently. They remember that these very same Realists called on the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War in March 1991, and then we withdrew, allowing Saddam to slaughter his opponents by the tens of thousands.


Neo-cons understand that Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is not bowing his head and slouching toward Tehran out of any desire to conclude a pact with Iran’s Islamofascist leaders. He is going there because he knows we are about to abandon his country once again.


But Neo-cons also argue that we have never seriously tried to achieve the policy goals the President has so eloquently laid out in speech after speech, where he has spoken of his “freedom agenda” and of breaking fifty years of stability that was based on U.S. support for regional dictators.


• We have failed to carry out that agenda in Iraq, by allowing an ill-chosen “Viceroy” to transform liberation into occupation through his monumental arrogance.


• We have failed to support freedom-fighters in Iran, bowing to pro-regime lobbyists in the United States and to the siren-songs of regime envoys, who claim their willingness to cooperate if only we would treat them with respect;


• We have never even tried to help the pro-democracy forces in Syria, while abandoning the Lebanese to Hezbollah militiamen and Syrian thugs.


The Realists argue, we don’t have time to wait for the seeds of freedom to sprout. Indeed, it may be that they are being sown on rocky ground and will never grow, at least not in our lifetime.


On the contrary, we don’t have the luxury of accommodating Islamo-fascist regimes that are hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and have no intention of abandoning that quest just because we kowtow before them.


The Realists are leading us into very dangerous territory. Where have James Baker and Lee Hamilton taken their cues when it comes to recommending direct talks with Iran? From Iranian officials and Iranian regime surrogates, among others.


Baker himself had a three-hour lunch in New York recently with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, while special envoy Frank Wisner has reportedly been meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s national Security advisor, Ali Larijani, in Stockholm and other places to discuss the terms of America’s surrender.


For 27 years, the United States has imposed various forms of punishment on the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a vain hope that pain would induce them to change their behavior. Clearly, it hasn’t worked, because the pain has been too slight.


So now the Realists are telling us that we should abandon those tools and simply ask politely, and hope for better results.


This is realistic? Even a flaming left-wing Hollywood screenwriter could go to town with that plot. That is precisely what Neville Chamberlain did in Munich when he negotiated with a very reasonable Adolf Hitler in 1938, and returned home to Britain proclaiming “Peace in our time!”


“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile,” Winston Churchill said famously, “hoping it will eat him last.”


Neo-cons got a boost from an unsuspected quarter earlier this week: Saudi ambassador to Washington, and long-time head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki bin Faisel bin Abdel-Aziz. Envisaging a future for Iraq of open civil war, massive ethnic cleansing, and the military involvement of Iraq’s neighbors, he told the Washington Post: “Since America came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave Iraq uninvited.”


The Democrats won Congress on a program of unilateral surrender. And they are about to reap the spoils as we prepare the terms of our submission to the Islamofascists in Iran and to the thugs in Syria.


Unfortunately, the rest of us are going to pay the price of their folly – and so will countless thousands of freedom-loving Iraqis, Iranians, and Lebanese, who so foolishly believed in us and our commitment to freedom.

We have seen the first victims over these past few days. Many more are about to fall.

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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).

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