America’s Empty Foreign Policy: “What Our Enemies Must Understand is … ”

Ask an American politician, Democrat or Republican, what his foreign policy is, and you will rarely get an answer. He will not tell you what America will do, or what America should do. Instead, he will tell you what America’s enemies should do, or must do, or must understand.

Question to American Politician: “What should America do in response to the latest act of murder by Iran?”

Politician’s Answer: “Well, what Iran needs to understand is this. And North Korea must understand that. And Russia needs to do this. And we must persuade China to do that. ”

Sometimes, the politician will add the tough-sounding but actually very weak statement: “And if our enemies don’t understand this, then all options are on the table.” In other words: “My policy is that I’m not ruling out any policy. So, actually, I have no policy. If our enemies don’t understand, I don’t know what to do.”

Here are just a few examples, with some underlines added by me.

Secretary of State (under President Clinton) Warren Christopher, June 10, 1993:

Iran must understand that it cannot have normal commercial relations and acquire dual-use technologies on the one hand, while trying to develop weapons of mass destruction on the other.

Former US Secretary of State (under Presidents Nixon anf Ford) Henry Kissinger, October 2005:

Tactically speaking it would be unwise to rule out a military option. But every time someone says America should have this as an option, all hell breaks loose. It is important that we agree on the dangers of proliferation. And by this I don’t mean just having another meeting of foreign ministers. We should see what pressures and incentives we have at our disposal. But Iran must also understand that we all mean it seriously. Naturally nobody wants another crisis in this region.

Former White House political director (for President Reagan) Ed Rollins, March 30, 2007:

And sooner or later Iran has to understand that people are only going to tolerate so much and it may not be us, it may be someone else, but there’s a lot of forces out there that basically are getting very frustrated with this.

Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), January 23, 2007:

Iran must know that the world won’t back down. The recent UN resolution ordering Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium was not enough. We need meaningful political and economic sanctions. We have muddled along for far too long. To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep ALL options on the table, Let me reiterate – ALL options must remain on the table.

As to what to do, we should not take anything off the table. More serious sanctions need to be undertaken, which cannot happen unless Russia and China are seriously on board, which has not happened up until now.

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), October 16, 2007:

Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.

We must persuade China to join global institutions and support international rules by building on areas where our interests converge and working to narrow our differences.

President George W. Bush, March 19, 2008:

[T]he people of Iran must understand that the conditions exist in large part because of either management by the government or isolation because of the government’s decisions on foreign policy matters — such as announcing they want to destroy countries with a nuclear weapon. It is irresponsible remarks like that which cause great credibility loss with the Iranian government, the actions of which are affecting the country.

Then there are other Western leaders …

French President Jacques Chirac, August 27, 2004:

Iran must understand that it must create the conditions for gaining the trust of the international community, especially in terms of living up to its commitment to suspend enrichment.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, November 13, 2006:

I had a very long conversation with the president [Bush] on this issue, and we are in complete agreement over the objectives. Iran must understand that there will be consequences for not agreeing to a compromise. I cannot say what the consequences will be, but I support the president’s huge efforts regarding the issue.

Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister and special Middle East envoy for the Quartet group, December 6, 2007:

What will diminish the risk of confrontation and increase the possibility of a rapprochement is that Iran realises that those of us in the Western World who have criticised it want a good relationship with it. But it has to be based on compliance with international regulations on the use of nuclear weapons and stopping support of terrorism. If a different attitude is emerging, I can assure you most western policymakers don’t want anything to do with a confrontation with Iran. On the other hand, Iran has to understand what people have been anxious about.

If one’s goal is for the enemy to understand, then one’s foreign policy will be to talk with that enemy—endlessly, until one is killed by that enemy.

Then there is President Obama (February 9, 2009), whose “change” in foreign policy is to increase the irrationality to even wilder levels:

There’s been a lot of mistrust [!] built up over the years, so it’s not going to happen overnight. And it’s important that even as we engage in this direct diplomacy, we are very clear about certain deep concerns [!] that we have as a country—that Iran understands that we find the funding of terrorist organizations unacceptable [!]; that we’re clear about the fact that a nuclear Iran could set off a nuclear arms race in the region that would be profoundly destabilizing.

Evidently, Obama “hopes” that Iranian President Ahmadinejad will say something like this: “You know, I always thought that murdering Americans, Israelis—anyone, really—was acceptable. But Barack and his friends made it so clear to me that such behavior is really unacceptable. No one ever took the time to explain this to me before. (Sniff, sniff.) Now I understand. Thank you, Barack. Shalom.”

Here is what Americans must understand.

America must not depend on what our enemies think, or on what they will do. We must not depend on evil rulers turning good. We must not depend on people who have allowed their own countries to be ruled by evil governments. We need a foreign policy that protects the rights of Americans no matter what our enemies think or do.

If America had a reputation for taking strong military action to defend Americans, perhaps the threat of force by America would be enough to make our enemies cower. But American leaders have earned a reputation for appeasement and a lack of moral courage. Therefore, the only way now to stop our enemies is to defeat them by force.

Obama criticizes the previous administration for not having talked with our enemies. Talking vs. not talking is not the issue. What previous administrations did wrong was that they did not take military action.

Bush’s forays into Afghanistan and Iraq were not wars; they were sacrificial police and welfare programs for Afghans and Iraqis. If we had fought a real, declared war against these countries—and against Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc.—the war would have ended in a day.

Both Bush and Obama have acknowledged that Iran actively finances, trains, protects, and publicly praises and exhorts terrorist groups—including Hezbollah and killers of Americans in Iraq—that have repeatedly committed acts of mass murder against Americans and other civilized peoples. What more evidence do we need that we must destroy this enemy by physical force?

The longer America delays, the stronger Iran and its allies grow, and the more Americans will be murdered by this axis of evil.

Even a rat fights when cornered. But a man of reason and courage does not wait until his loved ones have been murdered and his own survival hangs by a thread. He fights well before it is almost too late.

In the 1930s, free Europe tolerated Nazi acts of terrorism, infiltration into governments, and conquest. Europe was avoiding World War II, and paid a terrible price for it. America must not avoid World War III. We must win it.

For my condemnation of the philosophic tradition behind Bush’s America-sacrificing foreign policy, see The Age of Invisible Virtue. For more of my own recommended policy toward America’s enemies, see Why and How to Conquer the Savages; here is an excerpt:

Our problem began when we Americans, failing to defend our rational self-interest, put wealth in the hands of savages by letting them rob our oil fields. It will end when we use our might, including our nuclear arsenal, to crush their evil governments, take back our property, and isolate, colonize, and settle the lands the savages now roam.

On a radio talk show years ago, a caller chided me for talking tough when I was not myself in the military. I still stand by my reply: I volunteer to pull the lever to drop the first nuclear bomb on Iran.

4 thoughts on “America’s Empty Foreign Policy: “What Our Enemies Must Understand is … ”

  1. Thank you for the article. You have identified an underlying problem (a nonobjective idea of the relationship between aggressor nations and their victims) by digging up the roots of seemingly innocuous statements (about the enemy needing to “understand”).

    You have also offered a positive alternative: recognizing the necessity of a principled foreign policy of self-interest, one that requires bold action in the form of destroying proven enemies.

    You have managed to do all of that without resorting to invective (“Idiots,” for example), a common weakness in public discussion today. Instead you speak respectfully to a thinking audience.

    P. S. — I do have one question. You say: “But American leaders have earned a reputation for appeasement and a lack of moral courage.” Would you, or another commenter, explain what you mean by “moral courage”?

    I assume it isn’t a contrast to “immoral courage,” which would be a contradiction in terms.

    Does it instead mean the following? Courage not only in particular circumstances, such as rushing into a burning house to save one’s child, but the courage to act consistently and always on moral principle. In other words, courage in the realm of moral principles.

    If that is the meaning, then there is a problem: Most politicians don’t have such principles of rational self-interest, and so the issue of having courage to follow them doesn’t arise. The problem isn’t courage but the lack of the principles to begin with.

  2. Burgess, thank you very much for your compliment and for the excellent issue you raise. I think you are right that principle is the deeper issue. You have got me thinking, and I will try to write a fuller reply or a follow-up post in the next day or so. In the meantime, perhaps another commenter will have something interesting to write.

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