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Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2005 / 22 Shevat, 5765

Michael Ledeen

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The Vision Thing | Bush the Elder was roundly and rightly criticized for a lack of vision at one of the most dramatic moments in contemporary history, and he himself, with a certain aristocratic indifference, agreed that he wasn't very big on the "vision thing." Now comes Bush the Younger, paradoxically under fire for an excess of vision and a lack of realism.

The widespread, sometimes almost feverish, deconstruction of his second inaugural address, springs from several impulses, some entirely legitimate and even admirable, and others rooted in baser concerns of personal status and political power. Having lost its ability to understand the course of world events, the Left denounces it as an exercise in neoconservative hysteria if not unrestrained imperialism. But if the president had instead spoke of the need for calm, measured steps and patience about the slow advance of freedom, they'd have accused him of abandoning principle to cover up his strategic failure. Some conservatives, as always dreading foreign entanglements and fearing contamination from mass movements, bemoan the speech's idealism and faith, and warn that the president is raising expectations that cannot possibly be met. Still others lament its lack of proper "context," and wish that the president had been more focused on our "real" situation, namely the war on terror and the battle for Iraq.

I think that the president had it right. He put our real situation in its real context, which is the fight for freedom against the tyrants who are waging the terror war against us. We are engaged in a war against the terror masters, not just a battle for the security of the Iraqi people. He not only recognizes the true common denominator of our enemies — tyranny, rather than "fundamentalist Islam" — and he recognizes that military power will sometimes be necessary, but our most devastating weapons are political.

Those who argue that we should narrow our attention on Iraq and resist the temptation of a global crusade have the context wrong. The attacks launched on the United States and the West itself (even if many intended victims refuse to see the war plain), starting 25 years ago in Tehran and continuing uninterruptedly through 9/11 September 11 and onto Iraq, Madrid, Bali, and Jakarta, is the continuation of a very old war, our national war, the war that was described and defined by Alexis de Tocqueville nearly a century and a half ago when he forecast a great struggle between Russia and the United States. He realized that there was no escape from this global conflict because each incarnated one of the basic political visions of mankind: The Russians stood for tyranny, while the Americans represented democracy. In like manner, the terror masters attack us today because they are the latest incarnation of tyranny, and thus they must attempt to destroy us.

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That's the context, and the president did a fine job of presenting it. He knows that there is no sense of urgency among the American body politic — except the urgency of his enemies, who wish to cause an American retreat from Iraq and the downfall of the Bush presidency — and thus he feels he must restate both the nature of our times and the content of our mission. That's entirely appropriate for an inaugural address, and I hope he elaborates on it in the State of the Union.

The great failure of this president and of his aides is not lack of vision, but lack of will to wage the war on the required scale with the full panoply of weapons of political destruction. There will be no peace and quiet in Iraq so long as the terror masters rule in Syria and Iran, and so long as the Saudi royal family continues to fund terrorist groups and jihadist tracts around the world. American men and women are dying in Iraq because of the flirting with Iran and Syria and the odd affection for the Wahabbists in Saudi Arabia. Thank heavens there are stronger wills and clearer minds in Congress, where bills calling for regime change are now in process. Once those bills have become laws, it will be difficult for this administration to refuse to apply the president's eloquent words to the tyrants in Damascus and Tehran, and do whatever he can to bring them down, such as helping to fund the various radio and television stations broadcasting to Iran and Syria. And it would be good to hear the Cabinet secretaries speak repeatedly about the grim repression and runaway violations of human rights.

If this does not happen, if we are in fact going to just fight the battle of Iraq and then come home, then there would be a truly legitimate criticism of the inaugural address: that the president had raised passions and expectations without any intention of following through in the real world. And so we close with the usual prayer: Faster, please.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


01/26/05: Hersh Predux
01/24/05: The Hersh File
01/11/05: Circle Squared: Iran, Iraq, Syria
01/07/05: Not-So Great Debate: Torture and the war
12/31/04: Journalists at war
12/24/04: Values and Interests: The “insurgency” and the future of the Middle East
12/03/04: The End of the Left’s History: The world has moved on
11/30/04: Europe’s Ritual Dance: The Western counterpart of Iran’s deception
11/18/04: Porter’s Purge: What spymasters? 10/10/04: The War Cabinet: President Bush needs to reshape his top structure
10/08/04: Guardian Angels: Once again, our enemies save America
10/06/04: Iran, when? The war on terror cannot be won without addressing Iran
09/28/04: Know Thine Enemy: The beheadings are about them, not us

09/27/04: Iran, Impossible? Nope. The mullahs will go the way of the Evil Empire
09/21/04: Iranian Tales: An evil regime
09/01/04: An improbable molehunt
08/17/04: The Terror Masters Revisited: Let’s go to the videotape
08/16/04: The Iran-Iraq War, Again: Listen to the Iraqis (And, faster please)
08/11/04: Intelligence and Imagination: The only real 'fix' is good leadership and accountability
07/27/04: The Nature of the Enemy: Win first. Hearts and minds will come
07/26/04: The 9/11 Vision: Better, but not there yet
07/20/04: Are you sitting down? Iran is a terrorist state
07/13/04: The Great Intelligence Committee Report: Some mysteries remain unsolved
06/30/04: The Fears of the Terror Masters: If we want a peaceful Iraq we will have to confront the mullahs
06/29/04: The Iraqis and the Neocons: Arab democracy is a work in progress
06/23/04: Ready for $60-a-Barrel Oil?: The Iranian election strategy at work
06/15/04: Iran is making trouble, and finessing it is a dangerous strategy
06/02/04: Reagan Seen Plain: He changed the world 06/02/04: Quattrocchi's Killers: We are dealing with a truly international terror network
05/25/04: The Agency Rides Again: Angleton on Chalabi
05/24/04: Lying into the mirror: Misunderstaning the war on terror
05/18/04: Kristof’s Iran
04/19/04: The Iranian Hand: Regime change in Tehran is necessary for peace in Iraq
04/15/04: Dealing with the Libyans: Is Khaddafi about to cash out?
04/08/04: From Tyranny to Freedom: Democracy in Iraq has precedent
03/18/04: Drifting, Dangerously: We must support freedom
03/02/04: Once Upon a Spymaster, Part II: Returning to a conversation
02/24/04: The Great Iranian Election Fiasco: What actually happened; what we must do
02/20/04: Stalinist Mullahs: The Iranian regime is in open battle with its own people
02/11/04: The Jihadis' Primal Scream: Zarkawi's "Yaarrrhhh!"
02/04/04: Inelegant Lies: Making sense out of mullahs
02/03/04: Potemkin WMDs? Really?
01/27/04: The Jihad on Iraq: Bad analysis and bad policy
01/20/04: Our Moment of Vainglory: A p.c. mess
01/06/04: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran
12/02/03: Managing Iraq: We can't continue this way
11/26/03: Back to the Angleton Files
11/25/03: The Turks, Italians & us — never again
11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2005, Michael Ledeen