According to the chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Americans are less safe from terrorist attacks than they were a year or two ago.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal) said, according to a Washington Post report, that terrorist groups are more numerous and have more sophisticated, hard-to-detect bombs. That story included Cong. Mike Rogers’s (R-MI) statements that al Qaeda is growing and that terrorists are adapting to a strategy of smaller attacks.
Rogers, according to that same report, said al Qaeda is changing because groups around the world that used to operate independently are joining with al Qaeda.
This is no time to joke about Obama’s campaign rhetoric claiming that al Qaeda was dead and GM still alive because of him. Rogers and Feinstein are as well informed on these matters as anyone in Congress, and what they say must give us pause.
Once again we are faced with the question of whether our intelligence apparatus is as good as it can be and whether its assets are being applied to the best advantage. The answer to that is an unfortunate — and possibly tragic — no.
Speaking to a forum on Middle East policy on Saturday, President Obama showed how cavalierly he regards his nuclear deal with Iran. Obama said, “We have to be vigilant about maintaining our security postures, not be naive about the dangers that an Iranian regime poses, fight them wherever they’re engaging in terrorism or actions that are hostile to us or our allies.”
“But,” he added, “we have to not constantly assume that it’s not possible for Iran, like any country, to change over time. It may not be likely. If you asked me what is the likelihood that we’re able to arrive at the end state that I was just describing earlier, I wouldn’t say that it’s more than fifty-fifty. But we have to try.”
This is typical Obama: pose a brave stance at the beginning and then toss off the consequences of being wrong as if they are meaningless. He states the false premises so precisely and carefully that he usually gets away with his pose.
Hitler-Chamberlain-Munich-Appeasement comparisons have long become a cliché. The latest proposed nuclear deal with Iran may be unwise, but not every bad policy, however dangerous, equals 1938. The British prime minister who ceded Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in a vain quest for peace never recovered from his ignominy, although he later backed his successor Winston Churchill. Neville Chamberlain’s partner in appeasement was Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, the tall, slender nobleman who embodied British aristocratic understatement.
Halifax’s biographer is the distinguished British conservative writer Andrew Roberts, who now lives in New York, and whom I briefly met recently at a Winston Churchill symposium. The Holy Fox: the Life of Lord Halifax has been out of print for years and is hard to get. Roberts delightedly told me it’s being republished early in 2014. Days later, I happily found a rare old copy at a Washington, D.C. used book store.
Accidental wars only happen in the movies. What’s happening now in the East China Sea is a calculated Chinese provocation that could lead to war. At the same time, the Argentine-engineered crisis in the waters off the Falkland Islands is just as dangerous because Argentina may be more reckless than it was when Margaret Thatcher defeated it and Britain is so much weaker. It is of such events that wars can be made.
War for oil isn’t new. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, its principal grievance was the American decision to cut off most of its oil supply.
On November 23, China declared a new “air defense identification zone” that extends to the north close to South Korea, to the south within miles of Taiwan, and to the east to encompass the Senkaku Islands, a short chain of uninhabitable islands off southern Japan that the Japanese have claimed ownership of since 1895.
The agreement reached late Saturday night between Iran and the United States — and the rest of the United Nations’ “P5+1” gang — will enhance Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons whenever it decides to do so. It makes war in the Middle East nearly a certainty, rather than protecting us against it.
For Obama — and while he is president, for us — there is no responsibility so great that it cannot be sacrificed to political expediency, no duty so grave that it cannot be ignored.
America has an obligation to itself, and to allies such as Israel, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. Four American presidents — George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have recognized this duty by stating firmly an American policy that Iran is not to be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. The first three of those presidents share the distinction of having done nothing to enforce that policy. The fourth has assured his place in history by surrendering the policy to Iran’s ambitions.