I received an amazing response to my last column, in which I called loudly for the president – trying desperately to decide what to do in his newfound role as commander in chief – to issue the executive order to bring every last soldier in the Middle East home. By Christmas.
Amazing to me, because most of the response was overwhelmingly affirmative and positive. I write for conservative readers, and most conservatives, like me, want to bring our troops home to waving flags and proclamations of victory. Yet most readers seem to agree with my loud call.
What has become increasingly clear is that we won our victory in the first days of the invasion of Iraq. We hunted down and eventually executed Saddam Hussein, established that he had managed to sneak his WMDs over to Syria and out of our reach, and gave the Iraqi people a chance to create their own democracy – if they wanted it enough. We should have come home to the parades, declared "mission accomplished," and sent thousands of fighting men and women back to their families.
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But no. Partly in hubris, partly in a desire to "spread democracy," and mainly in determination to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden, we got sucked into a rathole, ambushed by amateurs with roadside bombs, and pushed into Afghanistan and Pakistan with our tanks and remote-controlled drones and flamethrowers – to be confronted with scarcely trained but highly motivated locals who hid in caves and bushes on the hillsides. Locals who were in too many cases eager to strap on bombs and die, killing whomever they could. America's intent was to give the locals a chance at life, a better life, but many of these locals have been brainwashed to actually prefer death, if they can take others, even some of their own countrymen, with them.
So what's to win? What is a "victory" for American troops in the Middle East? What can we accomplish that's worth the lives of even more of America's finest young? A couple more corrupt governments, maybe even severe setbacks to al-Qaida, possibly a dead Osama?
I propose a whole different strategy and battle plan, one that should even appeal to Mr. Obama.
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- Get all our soldiers loaded onto our own transport planes and fly them home for Christmas.
- Redeploy them along our borders, every 50 feet if necessary, to put an absolute stop to all illegal invasion and drug traffic. They signed up to defend our country, and they can do that a lot better here than 8,000 miles away in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Conversely, those who live to destroy us will be much less effective 8,000 miles away than here in our midst, having sneaked across our borders and embedded in our cities. Let our troops defend us here, where it really counts.
- With billions saved from a war effort in the Middle East, beef up our own home security and intelligence. If Americans are still the people I think we are, the kind of folks who gladly sacrificed some of our "civil liberties" during the Second World War to discover and thwart fifth-column activities on our own soil, I believe we can continue to find and prevent most, if not all, of the sabotage and mayhem our enemies intend to inflict on us.
Walk softly and carry a big stick. President Teddy Roosevelt took that position long ago, and it can take on a very serious meaning now. The world knows that America has the largest, most powerful nuclear capability by far. How many times have we used that power since the first time, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Right – zero.
Harry Truman introduced that awesome power to bring the war to a screeching halt, saving many thousands of American and Japanese lives. Ronald Reagan used just the knowledge of our superior power to face down Communist Russia and dissolve the Cold War. We've never used it on another enemy ... but it has helped tremendously to maintain balance in a very fractious, antagonistic world.
I propose we announce to the Iranian people, not just the madman Ahmadinejad and his mad mullahs, but to the millions of citizens of Iran: "We won't try any longer to keep you from your crazed quest to develop a nuclear weapon. But we remind you that we have hundreds of nukes, and if your irresponsible leaders even aim a nuclear warhead at a neighbor – to do something we've never done – we will inflict unimaginable havoc on those despots who intend to use such a weapon. Countless innocent Iranians will pay a terrible price for the lunacy of your leaders. You are fairly warned. It's up to you citizens to rein in your leaders – to prevent a nuclear rain on yourselves for their madness."
Reagan launched such an attack (not nuclear) on the saber-rattling Libyan dictator Gadhafi, and that ended his aggression. The Israelis in 1981 took out an incipient nuclear facility in Osirak, Iraq, and recently zoomed in to destroy a North-Korean-built facility in the Syrian desert. Preventive action is sometimes the safest and wisest course, regardless of "world opinion."
What's the value of a big stick if you don't use it to protect yourself?
Get bin Laden and cripple al-Qaida. How? There are ways, a number of ways. Ask the Israelis; they're good at it. We still have the drones, roaming over Afghan caves. At some point our targets will be exposed.
Publicly offer $10 million in gold for the body of Osama bin Laden.
Offer $5 million in gold or euros for verifiable proof of the death of al-Qaida top dogs. You could triple these amounts and not dent the cost of pursuing them on their own territory – so just let their own operatives do the job and retire to Tahiti or Switzerland. They will, like the man who fingered Saddam in his rathole.
- There's more, but this is important, and very controversial: Air "bomb" the Middle East with leaflets in their languages, by the hundreds of millions, telling them about a God who actually loves all people, who wants us all to prosper and live good lives – unlike a "God" they've heard of who instructs his faithful to kill or enslave all who don't accept him.
This is a war between two ideologies. Let the people know both – and decide which they prefer.