A wisdom and judgment deficiency in terror war

The Baltimore Sun

ARLINGTON, Va. -- And now for the definition-impaired, the meaning of the word naive: "deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment."

There was plenty of that on display last week in Pittsburgh and Washington.

At the annual National Conference of Editorial Writers Convention in Pittsburgh, Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania governor and former general chairman of the Democratic National Committee, addressed a group of pundits on the subject, "Will the Real Democratic Party Please Stand Up?" He ran through standard Democratic boilerplate issues: increase the minimum wage, raise taxes (except property taxes), spend more on education, and, curiously, "the Bible has nothing to say about abortion and gay marriage" (but it has plenty to say about sexual relationships and life's value at all stages). Later, Mr. Rendell invoked biblical mandates to justify his view that God meant government, not individuals or the church, should help the poor and "disadvantaged."

Mr. Rendell was asked what he would do about Iraq if he were president. He said that on the day after his inauguration, "I would go to Iraq and ask to be on TV throughout the Middle East, and I'd say, 'We came here with the best of intentions and wanted to create freedom and democracy for all and 3,000 Americans have died. It is clear to me we have become the main problem. I'm going to ask the international community to develop a peacekeeping force and reduce our presence. We're going to help you build houses, provide aid and economic opportunity for your people.'"

That isn't a peace plan; it's a plan for surrender. Like liberal Democrats in the 1980s, who believed the best way to handle the Soviet Union was to demonstrate we meant them no harm by unilaterally disarming, Mr. Rendell and many of his fellow Democrats believe there would be no consequences for America and the world should we fail to support democracy in Iraq, for which millions of Iraqis have voted. Does he seriously believe such a retreat would not be seen as surrender and weakness, playing into the hands of jihadists, who would be emboldened to keep on fighting until they dominated all of Europe and then come after America? This is why liberal Democrats cannot be trusted to run the foreign policy of the United States.

Democrats are not alone in suffering from the naivete virus. Several Republicans last week exhibited a similar deficiency in wisdom. Sen. John McCain of Arizona may have severely hurt his chances for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination by suggesting the United States should be bound by the Geneva Conventions in dealing with stateless terrorists determined to murder civilians. Murdering civilians is condemned by those same conventions, but the jihadists are not persuaded to conform to these treaties. Mr. McCain (who was joined by a handful of other Republican senators and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell) suggested that "torturing" terrorists to extract information that might save American lives could put U.S. soldiers at risk and that other nations would be more likely to abuse U.S. captives if Americans appeared to sanction such conduct. The North Vietnamese imprisoned and tortured Mr. McCain for 5 1/2 years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. The communists were not influenced by America's adherence to the Geneva Conventions. Neither are the terrorists - who kidnap and force their captives to convert to Islam, or, in many cases, behead them - influenced by America's behavior toward enemy combatants.

The jihadists know nothing but intimidation and domination. They believe us to be weak. They believe religions practiced freely within our borders are inferior to theirs. If they have their way, all of those who practice any religion but theirs will be killed or severely discriminated against. They also believe their god has told them to take over the world. That's what they say in their sermons and media. That is what they demonstrate by their actions. Why do so many believe otherwise?

It's easy for the elites to talk warm and fuzzy, as if being nice to killers can persuade them to be nice to us. That's because most of the elites have escape routes or bunkers in which they can hide during a future attack. The rest of us are on our own. We should not have to pay for their naivete.

Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is cal@calthomas.com.

Columnist Steve Chapman will return Monday.

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