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Jason Holliston
Friday, November 07, 2003  
No Excuses

Andrew Sullivan points out some problems with a recent Wesley Clark speech today. The main piece at issue:

Clark said that too much U.S. pressure on these countries could produce dangerous results, and that a new approach was needed. "Right now, governments like Syria and Iran believe that if the United States is successful in Iraq, they might be next," he said. "We have to change that dynamic and have some kind of a constructive dialogue with those governments."

Mr. Sullivan makes the point that Clark's desire to "engage" the Iranian and Syrian government so they don't feel "threatened" by our actions in Iraq will just lead to another 9/11, eventually. I agree, but I'd also like to make the point that this type of foreign policy weakness and handing out of moral passes were the bane of the Cold War, and created a legacy we still live with to this day.

During the Cold War, America lent its support to many right-wing dictatorships, responsible for horrendous crimes against their people. They were given a pass because of one thing: they weren't Communist. It can be argued (as I would) that many of these passes were necessary at the time to combat a much more grave evil in the Soviet Union. Considering that hindsight is 20/20, we can now look back and see that some decisions were questionable, and did more harm than good, even in the light of the Communist threat. At the time, though, it did make sense, and there was a real danger to democracy and freedom.

Now, though, I can't think of a good reason to kowtow to these regimes. We don't have excuses, and not treating these regimes with contempt and hostility would be a horrible mistake. Syria and Iran should feel threatened. We want them, rightly, to feel pressure to change their ways, and give their people the freedom that all humans deserve. We, as Americans, need to set a standard that the world can look up to, and hopefully follow. We want to stoke their fears, not ease them.

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