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Jewish World Review March 18, 2004 / 25 Adar, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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Drifting, Dangerously: We must support freedom | ROME — There are two competing explanations for the Spanish vote on Sunday: Either the Spaniards were intimidated by the terrorists, or they punished Aznar for trying to trick them into thinking it was the Basques, when he had strong evidence that the jihadists were involved. I rather think it was the latter — it would be hard for me to think of Spaniards as easily intimidated — but whichever is correct, the political consequences are the same. The terror masters believe that they have successfully toppled a Western government by the use of force, and that will encourage them to do more of it.

We will no doubt learn a lot more about the specific components of the terror network that operated in Spain, but one important element in the story has been universally ignored in the Western press to date. Judge Balthazar Garzon, who has been a tower of strength in Spain's antiterrorist campaign (against jihadists and ETA as well) publicly announced several weeks ago that the evidence unmistakably pointed to the fact that al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in Iran. The mullahs do not take kindly to this sort of exposure, and if, as is quite likely, they were involved in the network that struck Madrid, this would have been an additional motive, and an additional reason for satisfaction at the results.

As for incoming prime minister Zapatero, the new hero of the European and American Left, his original proclamations — retreat from Iraq and willingness to sign the draft of the European constitution — have been both feckless and foolish. Feckless because he would have been in an excellent position to obtain considerable favors and concessions from Bush if he had said "let's talk, and see if there is an acceptable compromise," while now he is so firmly committed to his position of total appeasement that it is very difficult for him to back off. And foolish, because Aznar had held out against enormous Franco-German pressure to sign a constitution that would give Spain a position weaker than their current standing in the European Union. If Aznar had ever decided to accept the document, he could have exacted a considerable price for it, but Zapatero has sold out for an empty bowl. He will have to beg for his porridge.

Less than one might have expected from a law professor. But perhaps his quasi-official nickname, "Bambi," is psychologically as well as physically accurate.

So the previously sound "new Europe" has been deprived of its strongest pillar, and undoubtedly the other two principal supporters of the war against terror, Italy and Poland, are imminent targets. If the terrorists are as cabalistic as it seems (the eerie fact that March 11 arrived exactly 911 days after 9/11 has been noted, and should be underlined), then one possible target date is 6/11 — six being an inverted nine — which comes a couple of days before the Italian vote for the European parliament. Probably a good day to visit Baghdad.

It is not easy to judge the mood in Washington from this distance, but many of the public statements from our leaders are a bit disconcerting. Like the Europeans, the administration, Congress, and the media are narrowly focused on the consequences for our efforts in Iraq. But Iraq is only one battlefield in a larger war, and we cannot solve Iraq without bringing down the terror masters in Damascus and Tehran, without bringing freedom to Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The peoples of those countries know it and show that they know it. In the past few days there have been enormous demonstrations against the tyrants in Syria and Iran. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets, demanding freedom. (And do not listen to the sly journalists who tell you, accurately so far as it goes, that these demonstrations grew out of unrest in a soccer stadium in Syria, or from frustration at being prevented from celebrating the traditional Iranian New Year, Norooz; that only tells you about the spark, but the enormity of the inflammable material is the important thing. Mere soccer hooligans don't demand the political transformation of the country.)

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This administration has been carrying on for some time now about the importance of democratizing the Middle East. It follows ineluctably that we should be supporting these freedom fighters in the streets of our worst, and most totalitarian enemies in the region. But instead, the State Department sends diplomats to calm the situation in Syria, and our diplomats cluck their tongues about the unpleasantness in Iran.

About which there are two things that need to be said. First, we are indeed at war, but this president does not have a war cabinet. This kind of behavior is business as usual for Foggy Bottom; it is not what we need to destroy our enemies. Second, Secretary of State Powell by now owes the Iranian people profound apologies for the many times he has failed to vigorously support them, and proclaim regime change in Tehran to be our heart's desire. This policy is more urgent than ever, given the events in Madrid. It should be our policy even if there were no war against terror, simply because the mission of America is to support freedom whenever we can. We are not there yet, not by a long shot.

And so we drift on, led by a president with uniquely good instincts and rare courage, but who seems not to understand that many of his people are weakening the strength of his message and even, on occasion, acting in a direction counter to what he has long said was our national mission.

The terrorists will now be encouraged to strike whenever and wherever they can. We cannot possibly defend all their possible targets. This war cannot be won by playing defense, which is a chump's game. We have once again been offered a glorious opportunity to take the offensive, by supporting all those brave Syrians and Iranians who are crying out for freedom. Will we betray them again? Only the president can insist on supporting them, because it is clear that the others will not.

If we do not, the wheel will turn once again. The terrorists will strike, we will debate, and it will all become ever more difficult and costly. Meanwhile, innocents die and hopes dwindle, and our enemies march on, convinced that the West does not have the will to resist.

As I wrote when Baghdad fell and most believed that a glorious victory was at hand, we can still lose this thing.

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.


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

© 2001, Michael Ledeen