Friday, April 13, 2007

McCain at VMI - the speech that almost was

Senator John McCain gave a speech earlier this week at Virginia Military Institute that has elicited various reactions, depending where you stand on the political spectrum.

The conservative Washington Times characterized it as `Churchillian', whereas the more Leftist dinosaur media characterized it as a cynical political ploy to try and rescue McCain's faltering campaign by ginning up the conservative base.

Both characterizations are, in my opinion sadly inaccurate. And that's unfortunate, because for all the things Senator McCain got right, he still appears to get the same thing wrong that the Bush Administration got wrong from the very beginning - who our enemies are and how to defeat them:

It's important to remember that Senator McCain comes from an older generation, one that still reveres the old values that the boomers mostly derided as old fashioned. Speaking at VMI, one of America's shrines to military valor, the Senator said some things he felt needed to be said, and it took a great deal of courage for him to do so.

Senator McCain spoke movingly about his recent trip to Iraq and outlined what he felt the stakes were there:

"..we confront a choice as historically important as any we have faced in a long while. Will this nation’s elected leaders make the politically hard but strategically vital decision to give General Petraeus our full support and do what is necessary to succeed in Iraq? (...) and hope that whatever the cost to our security the politics of defeat will work out better for us than our opponents? For my part, I would rather lose a campaign than a war."

Senator McCain went on to outline what he felt the war on terror was, the place Iraq had in that struggle,and America's vital interest in the outcome:

"America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse. In Iraq today, terrorists have resorted to levels of barbarism that shock the world, and we should not be so naïve as to believe their intentions are limited solely to the borders of that country. We Americans are their primary enemy, and we Americans are their ultimate target.

The senator also had some justifiably harsh words for the Democrats, who, lacking the courage to defund the war directly seek an easy way out by tying the funding up while appearing to `support the troops':

"In Washington, where political calculation seems to trump all other considerations, Democrats in Congress and their leading candidates for President, heedless of the terrible consequences of our failure, unanimously confirmed our new commander, and then insisted he be prevented from taking the action he believes necessary to safeguard our country’s interests. (...) In Washington, cynicism appears to be the quality most prized by those who accept defeat but not the responsibility for its consequences.

Before I left for Iraq, I watched with regret as the House of Representatives voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission. Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender? In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering.

Unfortunately, in other remarks Senator McCain made, he revealed that he, like many others, either simply doesn't understand or refuses to admit that we are not merely at war with al Qaeda:

"In the early days after 9/11, our country was united in a single purpose: to find the terrorists bent on our destruction and eliminate the threat they posed to us. In the intervening years, we have learned the complexity of the struggle against radical Islamic ideology. The extremists — a tiny percentage of the hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims — are flexible, intelligent, determined and unconstrained by international borders. They wish to return the world to the 7th century, and they will use any means, no matter how inhumane, to eliminate anyone who stands in the way. But the vast majority of Muslims are trying to modernize their societies to meet the challenges of the 21st century. While al Qaeda seeks to destroy, millions of Muslims attempt to build the same elements of a good life that all of us want — security, opportunity, peace, and hope.

The war on terror, the war for the future of the Middle East, and the struggle for the soul of Islam — of which the war in Iraq constitutes a key element — are bound together. Progress in one requires progress in all. (....) We must gain the active support of modernizers across the Muslim world, who want to share in the benefits of the global system and its economic success, and who aspire to the political freedom that is, I truly believe, the natural desire of the human heart. No matter how much attention their ruthless tactics receive, terrorists are not the true face of Islam. Devout Muslims in Lebanon, Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and in Iraq, aspire to progress for their societies in which basic human needs are met for more than the privileged few and basic human rights are respected."

What Senator McCain didn't address ( for whatever reason) is the simple fact that rather than a small, radical minority, we are at war with a substantial group within Islam..and an ideology actively sponsored, financed, trained and promoted by a group of nation-states who embrace jihad and the conquering of dar harb as a religious imperative.

To say anything less is simply to be disingenuous and dishonest.

In Iraq, for instance, the US is now trying to `stabilize' an Islamic Shiite Republic that has already committed what amounts to ethnic cleansing against Sunni Muslims and Christian Iraqis, with a constitution based on sharia and with substantial ties to Iran , a country that regards itself at war with us and conducts itself accordingly.

A short distance from of VMI, where the Senator was speaking, one can easily find mosques and madrassahs funded and controlled by the Saudis promoting jihad and fundamentalist wahabi dogma and the national headquarters of CAIR, also funded by the Saudis and the UAE.

And Pakistan and Lebanon are noted both for jihad against native Christians and for proactively harboring Islamic terrorist groups - al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Not least, the senator makes the same mistake President Bush did - assuming that the vast majority of Muslims either want or value Western-style freedom, and that they will choose it over tribalism and Islam.

The elections in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt suggest a very different conclusion.

If we are still, after all that's happened, reluctant to be honest about whom our enemies are and where their allies are, we will not be able to defeat them.

I agree with the senator that victory in this war is imperative, and that our civilization's survival depends on it. I even agree that a precipitous pull out in Iraq would not be in America's interests. Where I disagree ( and I think events, unfortunately, will continue to prove me right) is with the notion that we can continue to play whack-a-mole with a `small minority' of jihadists as we pick them up on the radar while avoiding dealing with the source of the problem...the jihadist nation states that fund, arm, finance and support them and their ideology.

By this, I mean no disrespect for Senator McCain. I have always respected his courage and patriotism, even in those areas where I have disagreed with him. And it may even be that, privately, he recognizes the truth of what we face.

However, he failed to articulate it. I wish he had. That truly would have been a momentous and Churchillian speech.

One of the worst dilemmas I had in the 2000 election was the choice offered, between one candidate who was a continuation of the corruption and vacation from history of the previous eight years and another whom I suspected (correctly, as it turned out) lacked the stature and leadership for the job.

I still wonder whether a younger, more energized President McCain, without the baggage he incurred from McCain-Feingold and his attempts to find common ground and mend fences with the Bush Administration on various issues might have had a very different reaction to 9/11 than the current occupant of the White House.

Like Senator McCain's speech at VMI, that remains something that almost was.


Anonymous said...

i wonder if this speech was vetted by the group of 14.

Anonymous said...

FF, I still don't understand why you continue to insist that most Muslims don't want liberty, prosperity, and the respect for human rights that come with modernization. All one needs to do is to examine the massive millions who have emigrated from their home nations to the West in order to improve their lives over here. Or the hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan who have joined the police and military forces of those countries, and are risking their lives alongside our guys.

There is definetely a problem within Islam, an ideology that spreads hate and intolerance towards non-Muslims. I think most of it has to do with Saudi funding of radical mosques and their training of radical clerics. I'm personally acquainted with quite a few Muslims, and they are far from being religous fanatics. I think the majority of Muslims are loyal, hardworking people. I see no reason why the Muslims we have here are much different than the ones in the middle east.

Anonymous said...

Hi Louie, Nazar...

Nazar, be fair - I never ever said `most' -just a significant amount.Enough to be a major problem.

And,if we're being honest here, it is the younger generation the ones born here that are being radicalized in Saudi financed mosques..which we allow to flourish on our soil.

You might also look at the last few democratic elections in the region..Iraq, Palestine and Egypt. Did they not proceed along fundamentalist, tribal lines?

The exception was Egypt, where Mubarek abruptly stopped any pretense of a democratic election. If he hadn't the Muslim Brotherhood would be in charge there now.

As for the hardworking moderate Muslims we both know, I again refer you to my 20-60-20 formulae.

Or even better..find some Armenian Christians, Jews or Bah'ais who were forced to leave Iran after the revolution and listen to what they tell you about how many of their tolerant and peaceful Muslim friends changed once Iran became an Islamic republic under sharia.

You also, I'm sure, have the common sense to realize that many of the Muslims who left to come here voted with their feet.

Unfortunately, the wahabi fundamentalist mosques also eventually followed them here. And THAT'S the problem, right there.

We also have to face the simple fact that many Muslims overseas simply do not want what we want. They want jihad and to submit to fundamentalist Islam.

Thanks, as always for dropping by..