Tonight at the Marriott Marquis Times Square, I attended a dinner at which Hillary Clinton spoke to several hundred members of AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) about how, if elected President of the United States, she would help advance U.S. interests in the Middle East and support our ally Israel.
Hillary’s no dope, and she knows her audience. She did not downplay the existential threat Israel faces, speaking at some length about Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference and threats to wipe Israel off the map. She spoke of the need to combat Islamist extremism. She even offered the following, “We cannot, should not, must not permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and, in dealing with this threat, no option should be taken off the table.”
She went on to speak about being a strong supporter of Israel’s right to build its security barrier, having spoken out against the International Court of Justice for its attempts to criminalize Israel for this life-saving measure.
Listening to this, I started feeling warm and fuzzy. Although I am a diehard advocate of Giuliani for President, it feels reassuring to know (to sound an extremely AIPAC-ian note) that support for the U.S.-Israel bond is rock solid on both sides of the aisle. It’s sort of like having a second insurance policy.
Or is it?
After the requisite statements about Israel’s right to security, Hillary started talking about “new tactics” for engaging “our enemies and Israel’s enemies.” Was it an accident that at this point in the speech, she seemed to falter, her words meandering in circles as if she wasn’t quite sure where they were leading her?
Here I quote her verbatim, with ellipses to mark any phrases I missed:
“I have advocated engagement with our enemies and Israel’s enemies because I want to understand better what we can do to defeat those who are aiming their weapons at us. This is a worthy debate. There are many, including our President, who reject any engagement with Iran and Syria. I believe that is a good faith position to take, but I’m not sure it’s the smart strategy that’ll take us to the goal we share.
“What do I mean by engagement or some kind of process? I’m not sure anything positive would come out of it, but there are a number of factors that argue for doing what I’m suggesting.”
And what was it she was suggesting, exactly? Well, she never said. Then she continued, “I don’t think we know enough about how the Iranian government functions. If we are having to pursue potential action against Iran, then I want to know more about the adversary we face. I want to get a better sense of what the real power centers are.”
And um, why would our enemy tell us that? (Isn’t that, like, what spies are for?)
She continued, “I also want to send a message to the rest of the world if [force] becomes necessary that we have exhausted all measures, because we will need friends to stand by us as we stand with Israel as we approach this long war.”
Okay, maybe there’s something to this last part. Then again, look how well the world remembers, respects, and stands by America for our efforts to exhaust all other measures (to the tune of 19 UN resolutions and an embargo for which we were excoriated) to contain Saddam Hussein, prior to the time force became necessary.
One hint of substance came near the end of her speech. She spoke about sending America’s enemies a message about what could happen if they don’t change, while using leverage to promote change.
It’s tough to know what Hillary would do were she elected President. On the one hand, some of her rhetoric sounds tough and realistic. But at the same time, there is her fundamental illogic, and that of all foreign policy liberals in the age of global terrorism and terror-sponsoring regimes: if the enemies of the U.S. and Israel were fundamentally reasonable, do they really believe we wouldn’t be talking with them already?
Hillary says she is a staunch supporter of Israel, yet tonight she tried to sell America’s most diehard Israel-supporters on the idea of diplomacy with Iran, a country whose stated objective is Israel’s destruction. The amazing and chilling thing is, many if not most of those in attendance at the dinner tonight seemed to buy it, or at least to be lulled enough by her rhetoric about the need to “stand by Israel” to miss the dangerous illogic here.
“It was thoughtful, introspective, almost as if she was reaching out and including us in her thinking process,” one woman told me after the dinner. “She was almost pleading with this group of people to consider different options, more strategic, intelligent, smart solutions.”
My new friend continued, “It wasn’t naive, not just ‘We’re pro peace. We’re living happily ever after.’ She was representing a serious appraisal of how hazardous the world is today.”
Of course, the idea of employing leverage short of war may have merit. And her mention of the threat of force combined with such measures as an alternative to war is worth noting.
But while Hillary’s rhetoric of “engagement” may sound good, the community of anti-terror activists and Israel-supporters must realize that, at the most basic level, engaging with people who wish your destruction–and are actively working to achieve it–means strengthening a pernicious enemy.
Remember: Hillary’s husband gave us 10 years of Olso; 1000 dead Jews later, liberals woke up to the reality that Israel had no partner for peace. Similarly, Bill Clinton’s “engagement” with North Korea amounted to providing Kim Jong Il goodies in exchange for “agreement” to stop his nuclear program. He took the money, turned around, and poured it into his nuclear program. So in fact, “engagement” can do a great deal of harm, when what that word actually means is appeasing–and thereby strengthening–the world’s worst human rights violators.
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