Do we of western civilization have the intestinal fortitude to keep fighting generation after generation to preserve our values and our liberties? Or will we ultimately, in effect, surrender.
Our country’s recent foreign policy has not been encouraging. In Afghanistan, we have attempted to engage the Islamist terrorists including the Taliban by supporting the Karzai administration’s efforts to bring the Taliban into the government. The Taliban, which formerly ruled that country, gave Osama bin Laden a place of refuge when the conspiracy of 9/11 was plotted and executed. That conspiracy to murder caused catastrophes in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania resulting in the deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent people. If the Taliban agrees to forgo violence, does anyone believe they would keep such a pledge?
In Egypt, the opponents and successors in government to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, an authoritarian leader but long-time friend of the U.S., are overwhelmingly Islamists. When the so-called “Arab Spring” uprising spread to Egypt, we quickly dropped our support of President Mubarak naively forgetting that his opponents are not friends of this country and want to end Egypt’s peace with Israel.
The New York Times of August 21st reported:
“By removing Mr. Mubarak’s authoritarian but dependably loyal government, the revolution has stripped away a bulwark of Israel’s position in the region, unleashing the Egyptian public’s pent-up anger at Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians at a time when a transitional government is scrambling to maintain its own legitimacy in the streets.”
We will soon see if the Libyan rebels who appear to have toppled Muammar el-Qaddafi – he should have been assassinated by our special forces long ago – will be any different than their oppressor.
I do not mean to suggest that we should not support popular uprisings. My point is that we must judge each situation on its merits and not immediately conclude that those who take to the streets in the Arab World are like those who took to the streets to fight the Soviet Communist governments in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and elsewhere.
In the case of Syria, the popular uprising is most likely in the U.S. interest. However, we have been exceedingly slow in throwing our support behind the Syrian people’s efforts to topple a brutal regime that is a close ally of Iran. President Bashar al-Assad has ordered the killing of his own people. His soldiers have shot down several thousands of them in the streets of major Syrian cities – men, women and children. He ordered the Syrian Navy to bombard the seaside city of Latakia, inflicting civilian casualties.
NATO has been told many times not to take military action in Iraq and Afghanistan during Ramadan, a Muslim holy month. I believe in our wars against those countries we overwhelmingly observed those religious requests, but in Syria, the Muslim government didn’t hesitate to put down the revolt while Ramadan was taking place.
Israel is the only democracy in the Mideast with values similar to the U.S. It is a country of six million Jews and one million Muslims, surrounded by six Muslim states – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria – which have waged at least five wars against it. Fortunately, Israel won all five. Had it lost only one, it would have been subject to savagery beyond belief, as the Muslim world took its revenge upon the Jews.
The western world now demands that Israel engage in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority that now includes Hamas, which is described by western countries as a terrorist organization. While President Obama has demanded that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders with “swaps,” Hamas believes that Tel Aviv is part of the Palestinian inheritance, and that every Jew who entered historic Palestine after 1917 must be expelled. Yet, western nations expect Israel to negotiate with Hamas, which is reminiscent of Britain and France insisting at Munich that Czechoslovakia negotiate with Hitler.
If we are willing to pressure Israel to negotiate with a terrorist organization and we support Afghanistan’s negotiating with the Taliban, another terrorist group, can we be certain that our president won’t ultimately direct Secretary of State Clinton to negotiate with the Islamist terrorists to achieve peace in our time? Iraq, which we liberated from its oppressor Saddam Hussein, is now aligning itself with Iran and Syria.
It was shocking to me to learn that every Democratic member of the House of Representatives elected in New York City voted against renewal of the Patriot Act. The Act is the major law enforcement legislation used to uncover terrorists here and abroad. Fortunately, it passed in the House by a vote of 250-153 and in the Senate by a vote of 72-23. New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand voted “aye” and Senator Chuck Schumer did not vote.
I would ask the New York Congressional members who voted “no” or “abstained,” do you recall the Twin Towers of 9/11? Are you aware that when further acts of terrorism occur, it is highly likely that they will take place in New York City? If that occurs, will you then defend your vote?
Do we have it in us to stand up for freedom, no matter how long it takes to achieve victory and no matter the cost in blood and treasure? I wonder.
Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.