Political Hay

Obama Can’t Be Trusted on National Defense

Should he withdraw now?

By 9.17.08

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A couple of weeks ago, the Left was having a grand old time yucking it up over Sarah Palin, even starting a little pool taking bets as to the date when Palin would withdraw. A couple of days ago, the Huffington Post called on Joe Biden to withdraw so that Hillary Clinton could take his place and save Obama from the Palin tidal wave.

But while they are reopening the Democrat ticket, they may as well replace the top of the ticket as well.

Should Obama Withdraw?
In 1991, when President George H. W. Bush was preparing to run for reelection, a devastating charge was raised by Gary Sick, who had served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. Sick alleged that during the 1980 campaign, candidate Ronald Reagan had dispatched his running mate George Bush to negotiate a deal with the Iranians to delay release of the American embassy hostages they were holding until after the election. In return, the Iranians were supposedly offered arms to be sent by the Israelis.

Sick actually had no evidence to back up his charge, except a record of a short trip by Bush to Paris in the fall of 1980. But the charge still caused a firestorm among Democrats and the media at the time, who were in agreement that if true the charges would amount to treason. The watchword among the liberal lynch mob was that even though there was no evidence to support it, the very seriousness of the charge required a complete investigation. So both the House and the Senate each did such a complete investigation, finding nothing.

Just two days ago, on September 15, the New York Post published an explosive article by Amir Taheri, an Iranian born journalist who has long covered the Middle East for a wide range of publications. He was editor in chief of Iran's largest daily newspaper from 1972 to 1979 and has in the past been a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Newsday. He has also long been widely published throughout Europe and the Middle East. He is currently a regular contributor to CNN, National Review, and the New York Post.

In the article, Taheri says that Obama has done in regard to the troops in Iraq what Reagan and Bush were alleged to have done in regard to the Iranian hostages. Taheri writes:

While campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence. According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

Taheri further reported:
Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops -- and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its ‘state of weakness and political confusion.'....Though Obama claims the US presence in Iraq is "illegal," he suddenly remembered that American troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate….His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the "weakened Bush administration," Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.

Taheri has far more evidence than Sick ever had, obtaining his information from the Foreign Minister of Iraq and other top Iraqi officials Obama spoke to while in Iraq this past summer. If the media is to have any credibility at all, it should reassign a few of the dozens of reporters it now has in Alaska investigating the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter to investigate the explosive charges now raised by Taheri. They can start by interviewing Taheri, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, and other Iraqi officials.

I am calling on Obama now to answer these charges, or withdraw from the race, freeing the American people from the trouble of having to impeach him after the election, if he should defy the now lengthening odds and somehow win the race.

Mission Accomplished
The desperation that may have led Obama to engage in this gross misconduct stems from his belated recognition of the new reality in Iraq: The war there is over. America has won. It is too late for Obama to surrender, on behalf of his uninformed, misguided, anti-American netroots.

Victory for America in Iraq has meant a disastrous rout for Al Qaeda's terrorists. As another New York Postcolumnist, Ralph Peters, wrote in July:

A terrorist organization that less than a decade ago had global appeal and reach has been discredited in the eyes of most of the world's billion-plus Muslims. No one of consequence in the Arab world sees Al-Qaeda as a winner anymore. Even fundamentalist clerics denounce it. For all of our missteps, Iraq's been worth it.

Peters also reported:
Al Qaeda has been driven from the Arab world, with nowhere else to go....Unwelcome even in Sudan or Syria, the Islamist fanatics have retreated to remote mountain villages and compounds on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border.

With this smashing victory in hand, American troops are already coming home. The surge troops have been withdrawn. Bush has accepted the recommendations of General Petraeus to withdraw more troops this fall. Most importantly, the Bush administration has negotiated a permanent status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The draft, which requires no congressional approval in the U.S., but still requires formal Iraqi approval, provides for Iraq to take over responsibility for security in every province next year, with American troops withdrawn from Iraqi cities and serving in a back-up role from military bases. A phased withdrawal would continue after that, depending on conditions inside Iraq.

Based on his Iraqi sources, Taheri reports Obama's attitude towards this American victory as follows:

Obama has given Iraqis the impression that he doesn't want Iraq to appear anything like a success, let alone a victory, for America. The reason? He fears that the perception of US victory there might revive the Bush doctrine of "preemptive" war -- that is, removing a threat before it strikes America.

But this is a vain hope, for, again, it is too late for Obama to turn victory into the defeat he prefers as a matter of both politics and policy. Sometimes, Obama tries to claim credit for the victory, arguing that the troops are coming home on his timetable after all. But this just ignores the huge difference between troops coming home in smashing victory, and troops coming home in devastating defeat.

Imagine if America had listened to Obama and his left wing base, rejected the surge, and withdrawn American troops in defeat. Al Qaeda would now be enjoying the surge of new recruits from all over the Muslim world, triumphant as the victors in the historic defeat of the newly failing American superpower, like Rome in its last days. Al Qaeda would be setting up a new base of operations in Iraq, from which to launch new conquests and terror attacks.

This is the defeat for America that Obama would have engineered. How could we possibly trust this man now with our national defense? What future defeats would lie in store because Obama is philosophically opposed to "removing a threat before it strikes America"?

The Talking Fool
The sweeping, historic victory in Iraq still leaves the grave threat of Iran. Islamic extremists have remained firmly in power there since 1979. Their current front man is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the ruling mullahs have expressly said that he represents their thinking.

Ahmadinejad, of course, has said several times that Iran intends to "wipe Israel off the map." Less well known is that another Ahmadinejad theme has been to ask Islamic audiences to imagine a world without America. That is now possible, he has said

Iran has long been the chief state sponsor of terrorism in the world. It is also the chief barrier to peace in the Middle East, providing the key support to those who insist on fighting to eliminate Israel rather than settling with it. It is the source of the rockets that Hamas rains down on Israel. It is the financial patron of Hezbollah, arming them with another store of rockets. It is Syria's patron as well, keeping them in the fight.

Now Iran is undeniably developing nuclear weapons. What is Obama's plan? His plan is to talk to Iran.

Obama is under the delusion that he is the only American in history who has thought of this. But every American President has pursued talks with Iran going all the way back to Jimmy Carter, who was furiously trying to get the hostages released before the 1980 election. The Bush Administration has pursued talks through the UN, through the IAEA charged with enforcing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, through the European Union with England, France and Germany as the negotiators, even through Russia, and even directly, particularly in regard to Iranian attacks on US troops in Iraq. At the very time that Obama was spouting his hot new idea of talking to Iran earlier this year, the news media was filled with discussion about what Condi Rice was considering offering to Iran through the EU negotiations to get a deal to end the nuclear program.

All to no avail. The UN and the EU have even imposed sanctions to get Iran to negotiate. The Iranians have stood firm. They have said they will continue to pursue their nuclear programs no matter what, even war. They have said in so many words that they are not interested in whatever material buyoffs the West can offer. A cataclysmic final war with Israel is a central feature of the fundamental religious vision of the ruling Iranian madmen.

So Obama's breakthrough concept of talking to Iran has been tried and failed. What's next? There is nothing next in Obama's world view, except "aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy" and "tough negotiations."

Talking with our enemies is not a problem, the reality being that America's diplomats are in constant touch with everyone around the world, even rogue dictators. The problem is Obama's delusion that anything is going to be achieved through talks with the mad, murderous dictators that rule Iran.

After a primary win in the spring, I watched Obama say that we need to talk to our enemies "like Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy did." He has apparently forgotten the history of Roosevelt's negotiations with Japan. Japanese negotiators were in Washington for continuing talks on the very morning that the Japanese navy bombed Pearl Harbor. And that is the danger of blind faith in endless talks with Iran. While those talks continue, the Iranians will continue to build their nuclear weapons. We don't want to see, on the very morning that Iranian negotiators meet with American diplomats in Geneva, nuclear bombs go off in Tel Aviv, and New York, or high above the American homeland, frying every electronic device with an EMP surge and booting America back to the 18th century. This is another reason why Obama cannot be trusted with our nation's defense.

Give Peace a Chance
In a speech entitled "A New Beginning" on October 2, 2007, Obama elaborated on his defense policy, saying: "America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons." He explained, "As we do this, we'll be in a better position to lead the world in enforcing the rules of the road if we firmly abide by those rules. It's time to stop giving countries like Iran and North Korea an excuse. It's time for America to lead."

In other words, these rogue dictatorships are seeking nuclear weapons because we have nuclear weapons. A world armed with weapons of mass destruction is all America's fault. If we would just get rid of ours, they would get rid of theirs. Obama reiterated these themes in his summer speech in Berlin and in a Washington, D.C. foreign policy speech on July 15, 2008.

Obama did say he would pursue this goal through international negotiations, not unilateral disarmament. But even such a negotiated nuclear disarmament is not a good idea for America. We would be giving up a huge national defense advantage America has now. Worse, we cannot trust countries like Russia and China, let alone North Korea and Iran, to abide by any such commitments. Obama would naively lead us into a world where Iran has nuclear weapons and America doesn't!

And can we really trust Obama in any event to maintain our nuclear deterrent? Those weapons deteriorate over time, and need to replaced and updated. Could we trust him to maintain the SDI missile defense system? Could we trust him to modernize all of our weapons systems over time? He has said he is opposed to "weaponizing space," even though China is vigorously pursuing space weaponry and Russia would follow.

Can we trust our national defense to a man who has said that America's moral standing to object to Russia's invasion of Georgia is undermined by our invasion of Iraq? He cannot see the difference between Russia's invasion of a democratic country that threatens no one, and America's liberation of Iraq from a murderous dictator with no moral legitimacy to govern, who committed genocide against his own people, and who threatened the whole world with terrorism.

As I discussed in detail in my commentary last week, Obama has spent his whole life swimming in a sea of left wing extremism. Can we trust these national defense issues to such a man? What about his left wing, anti-Israel, foreign policy advisers who have said the way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is for Israel to unilaterally destroy its nuclear deterrent? What left-wing extremists will Obama appoint to Defense, State, and the Energy Department that oversees our own nuclear deterrent?

The answer is no, we cannot trust Barack Obama with our national defense. A mistake here could lead to deep suffering for the American people.

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.