April 29, 2002
That's moral clarity, Mr. President

Great op-ed in the WSJ by John McCain, courtesy of Kyle Still.

It is the unenlightened rule of Arab dictators, not the plight of the Palestinians, that condemns the Arab world to the civilizational crisis in which it finds itself. Which Middle Eastern nation grants its Arab citizens the most political freedom? Israel. Which countries' leaders have the blood of innocents on their hands but hear nothing about it from the Arab League? Iraq, Syria, and Sudan, for starters. Which country has the most egregious record of occupying another today? Syria, in Lebanon. In which countries do Palestinian refugees suffer without rights and the most basic freedoms? Other than Israel, only Jordan has treated these people with any dignity. Which nation in the region has matched its payments to the families of Palestinian murderers with money for health care, education, and other development in the territories? Not one.

How Arab leaders can abide their own hypocrisy is one question. Why they expect us to do so is a better one.

Arab leaders recoil in mock indignation from any suggestion that they have a responsibility to discourage Palestinian treachery. Instead, they demand that the United States pressure the government of Israel into forsaking its obligation to defend its citizens from terrorism that Arab governments celebrate and support.

I'm also distressed that some of our European allies are dismissing Israel's legitimate security concerns. In some quarters, Jews are once again threatened with attacks on their institutions. We are witnessing once again the torching of European synagogues. All world leaders must condemn, in the strongest terms, such despicable behavior.

It would be awfully nice to hear some of these self-evident truths be spoken aloud by our Commander in Chief. I recognize the need for realpolitik, but at some point you need to check your compass and make sure you're still heading in the right general direction.

I've become convinced that Bush's hopeless muddling of the Middle East situation is the best argument for a McCain-as-Democrat Presidential run in 2004. I have no idea if McCain sees it this way, but there's a lot of room to criticize Bush here, and I believe he'd draw a fair amount of Republican support (among voters, anyway) for doing so. McCain's military credentials would deflect any suggestion that he's somehow unfit (or worse, unpatriotic) to criticize the president on this issue. (John Kerry would presumably have this protection as well, but West Wing fantasies aside, I don't see any Northeastern liberals in the White House in the near future.) Of course, the general diminutiveness of the Democratic class right now makes blue-skying about McCain that much more seductive.

It surprises me that Bush has stumbled here. I grant that the Middle East is a tar baby of gigantic proportions. I grant that no one's hands are clean. I grant that we're forced to do business with some unsavory characters, and that it's neither wise nor desireable to risk the kind of Islam vs. the West war that Osama bin Laden was hoping to spark in the first place. But really, if there was one person you thought you could count on to see things in stark black-and-white, good-versus-evil terms, it was GW Bush. Somewhere along the line he forgot what he said in the days following September 11, and it shows.

What I want these days is simple enough. I want our President to remind the world, every day if necessary, what being a good guy in this fight is all about. I want him to remind us all that peace doesn't simply mean one side promising not to kill the other. I want him to stand firm for liberty and freedom. I didn't vote for him, and I have little faith in him, but even I think he's more than capable of this. Was I wrong?

The crazy thing is that if Bush had stood up more forcefully for Israel against the Saudi bloodsuckers and European anti-Semites, he'd have then had the moral authority to whack Ariel Sharon on the head with a cluestick and tell him that he wasn't making this any better or easier. Sometimes when everyone in a conflict is mad at the mediator, it means the mediator is doing a good job. Bush has clearly demonstrated that this is not always the case.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 29, 2002 to Around the world