"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." Thomas Jefferson

Peace Through Strength, Not Hope and Change

Melanie Sturm | @ThinkAgainUSA Read Comments - 4
Publish Date: 
Thu, 09/27/2012


American revolutionary Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!” This month, furious mobs throughout the Islamic world decree death, a sentence they imposed on four Americans in Libya, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens – the first U.S. ambassador murdered in the line of duty since 1979. Before buying the spin that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video, Think Again.


According to Libyan President Mohamed Magarief, the video had “nothing to do with” the premeditated terrorist attack. Conducted on the anniversary of 9/11 in order to “carry a certain message,” the Benghazi attack and violent anti-American rioting elsewhere, reflect the ascendency of radical Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring. By attributing unrest to false pretexts -- not violent jihadists seeking to impose their totalitarian ideology – we incentivize further cycles of violence and legitimize the Islamists’ tactics.


As former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani explains, “protests orchestrated on the pretext of slights and offenses against Islam have been part of Islamist strategy for decades.” Rather than condemn real victimization and powerlessness – like the Assad regime’s slaughter of 20,000 Syrians; Saudi persecution of women, homosexuals and religious minorities; or the Taliban who spray school-going Afghani girls with acid – Islamists stoke anti-Americanism and spread anti-Jewish and Christian hate speech to consolidate power and distract “from societal, political and economic failures.”


But if these failures are the root cause of Islamic rage, shouldn’t we encourage the Islamic world to adopt the civil and economic liberties that are prerequisites for a humane society? If mutual respect is the goal, shouldn’t American leaders denounce Islamic intolerance and stop bragging about Osama bin Laden’s assassination?


Despite recent foreign policies designed to promote American popularity and mutual respect – engagement, “resets,” and “leading from behind” – America is still the “Great Satan” to Israel’s “Little Satan,” and contradictions and questions abound.  Yes, bin Laden is dead, but so is Ambassador Stevens, whose diary reveals worries about diplomatic security and assassination. As the 9/11 anniversary approached, why weren’t extraordinary precautions taken?


Throughout the “Arab Spring,” America supported rebels in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen – sites of the worst anti-American rioting this month – but didn’t secure power-sharing commitments to prevent Islamist domination. Having supported regime change in these countries, why didn’t America support revolutionaries in Iran or its client Syria, both of which pose graver security threats to U.S. and global interests, never mind Middle East stability?


As Iran’s nuclear weapons program nears completion, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised on Monday that Israel would be “eliminated.” Rather than characterize these existential threats to Israel as mere “noise,” shouldn’t we “affirm America's dedication to blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions through military force if necessary,” as Alan Dershowitz encourages?


Though opposed by our commanders in Afghanistan, America’s military surge was precipitously undermined by a fixed timetable for withdrawal, giving the Taliban and terrorists organizations a date-certain by which they could resume operations.  But why commit American forces to a conflict using tactics our military believes will undermine our mission?


Compounding the uncertainty and heightening suspicions were assurances (caught on an open-mic last spring) given to former Russian President Medvedev by President Obama that he’d have “more flexibility” after the election. Being no longer subject to electoral accountability grants flexibility to do what, beyond the already canceled missile-defense system our Polish and Czech allies had agreed to host? 


Rarely has America exhibited such uncertainty and equivocation nor diverged so dramatically from the bi-partisan foreign policy consensus forged over the last century. President Reagan called it “peace through strength” and President Kennedy encapsulated it eloquently in his inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”


America’s capacity to project this authority and secure our interests around the world is predicated on strength at home. Yet unable to live within our means and more indebted than any other nation in the history of the world, we’ve mortgaged our children’s futures and jeopardized control over our destiny.  At this critical moment, we must reclaim the America that inspires others to follow our lead.


As a refugee from Nazi Germany, Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Americans have always been a people willing to do “something about” evil.  If we’re to continue, we must stand our ground in defense of our values. 


Think Again – without America as a bulwark of liberty, how will the Islamic world ever come to embrace freedom and modernity?






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Couldn’t agree more that the

Couldn’t agree more that the Muslim world and religion is among the most dangerous threats to civilization today. Islamism is backward and oppressive, it is the most intolerant of religions, and it allows for and even encourages violence toward non-believers. It’s also the religion most associated with poverty and illiteracy and third worldness, so its believers are especially susceptible to using violence as a form of protest. Of course, not all Muslims are intolerant and violent, but enough of the billions are that it creates serious issues around the world. And of course, so much of the Muslim and Arab world is anti-Semitic that it presents a particularly troubling issue for Israelis and Jews everywhere. See, we agree…

But, unfortunately, solutions are not always that black and white. Putting aside for a second the election year, Republican, tough guy, table pounding rhetoric about how weak the US is and how we should we reassert our dominance, etc. etc. blah, blah, blah, do you think we ought to be going to war now with Syria, and Iran?? And if so, why stop there? Why not invade North Korea? They’re a pretty bad player in the world and every bit as insane and dangerous as Iran, if not more so since they already have nukes. And if you believe, as Romney apparently does, that Russia is our “#1 enemy in the world” why don’t we invade Russia?? Do you believe we have demonstrated our ability to fight, and win wars of choice based on the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do you think this country and its citizens could stomach and support another war at this moment, in terms of cost and lives? Covert ops and some intelligence and some air cover, like in Libya, maybe, but real wars? Wars in defense of our homeland, for sure, but nation-building and humanitarian wars?? This is where the rubber meets the road on this topic. Like Obama said a few days ago about Romney: “if you believe we ought to be going to war in Iran today, why don’t you say so.” All the rest is just election year hype and rhetoric.

Sounds like you really believe we ought to be invading all these bad guy countries, as many folks do, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple, or practical, especially given our recent history at war, and our big problems on the home front we have to solve. There are steps the US should be taking in all these hot spots, and many that are being taken, but it’s a big leap from there to full scale wars. And the question of whether the US ought to be the world’s police, or to what extent, is very debatable.

Having said all that, I believe it is inevitable that Israel will take some action against Iran’s nuke infrastructure, as it is the only way to practically slow down their machine, and the US will have to get involved, and should, in some fashion. But it will also not happen without great risk to Israel.

Very well written piece,

Very well written piece, Melanie. I see you have moved beyond issues to names, even quoting the President and directly criticizing Administration policies. I knew, especially in a tough election year, that you would likely find yourself where you are today. You know there is no going back at this point. And, I do think it makes the piece better and more personal.

Thanks Melanie! Once again

Thanks Melanie! Once again you have knocked it out of the park. I also like your original title: "Peace Through Strength, Not Hope and Change" better than what the Aspen Times editor changed it too. Great article!

I am not so sure we’ve had a

I am not so sure we’ve had a bi partisan foreign policy all these years. The war in Iraq, Vietnam, Iran-contra – all had big partisan plays as well…

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