The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, October 30, 2006


The World Series is over, so it's a bit lame to use a baseball metaphor as the basis for a post. But I’m going to do it anyway.

It seems that all we (the USA) can do lately in the vast expanse of foreign relations is swing and miss. I recognize that the MSM tends to spin US interaction with any foreign country (military, political or otherwise) as negatively as possible. I realize that one political party is so obsessed with its hatred of the Bush administration that it provides little bi-partisan support for anything. I’m well aware that segments of the government (e.g., State, CIA, and the executive branch) are at each other’s throats and seem to be working at cross-purposes.

But still, it seems like all we do is swing and miss. Few hits and lots of strikes.

Where to begin? How about 1979? Iran invades our embassy and takes 400 plus American hostages. President Jimmy Carter is feckless in his feeble attempts to gain their release. The US is perceived by the Muslim world as a paper tiger that radical Islam has tamed. Strike 1.

The marine barracks in Lebanon is bombed by Hezbollah during the Reagan administration, killing 200+ marines, and we do absolutely nothing (except withdraw from Lebanon). Strike 2.

Saddam invades Kuwait and Bush 41 takes a strong stand. He expels Iraq, but doesn’t finish the job, bowing to Arab pressure and the correct assessment that overthrowing the dictator will lead to chaos. Infield single.

We experience a number of clear-cut terrorist attacks during the Clinton administration (1990s), including a deadly attack in Somalia in which US servicemen’s bodies are dragged through the streets. We do nothing except withdraw. Strike 3. One out.

The Clinton administration tries to negotiate with North Korea and believes its own nonsensical claims that negotiations have worked (strike 1).

The current Bush administration responds to 9/11 (Strike 2) with heavy military action in Afghanistan, overthrowing the Taliban and giving the Afghan people a chance at a better life (ground rule double). But then it miscalculates badly in Iraq and ensnares us in a civil war that cannot be won. Strike 3. Two out.

The current Bush administration insists on multilateral talks with the NoKos (foul tip) but a nuclear test occurs anyway. Strike 1. At the same time, Iran thumbs its nose at the US and the EU and proceeds in its attempt to build a nuke. Strike 2.

And Islamofascist terror lurks in the shadows, waiting for an opening while many in the media and most on the Left delude themselves into thinking that the real problem is the United States and its foreign policy. Strike 3. 3 out. No runs scored.

Democratic or Republican – it really doesn’t matter. Every administration keeps swinging and missing. I know the world is a complex place. I know that we can’t always win. But if you look at past history, the only reasonable conclusion is this: No balls, lots of strikes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

With a Whimper

Victor Davis Hanson, is, in my opinion, one of the most insightful commentators on our war against Islamofascism and the Islamic/Arab culture in the Middle East. In a recent article posted at Real Clear Politics and entitled “The Dark Ages -- Live From the Middle East!” he argues that Islamofascist elements throughout the Middle East are reintroducing us to the “nightmarish” world of the dark ages.

Only 10 years ago, most of us in the West would have believed that the horrors of the dark ages -- barbarity and beheadings, the complete subjugation of women, violent repression of free speech, and of course, rabid hatred of Jews -- were long gone. They have returned.

But many in the West refuse to acknowledge their currency, attributing these modern horrors to “oppression” or “humiliation” or anything that obfuscates the truth.

Hanson sees it very clearly:
Since Sept. 11, the West has fought enemies who are determined to bring back the nightmarish world that we thought was long past. And there are lessons Westerners can learn from radical Islamists' ghastly efforts.

First, the Western liberal tradition is fragile and can still disappear. Just because we have sophisticated cell phones, CAT scanners and jets does not ensure that we are permanently civilized or safe. Technology used by the civilized for positive purposes can easily be manipulated by barbarians for destruction.

Second, the Enlightenment is not always lost on the battlefield. It can be surrendered through either fear or indifference as well. Westerners fearful of terrorist reprisals themselves shut down a production of a Mozart opera in Berlin deemed offensive to Muslims. Few came to the aid of a Salman Rushdie or Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh when their unpopular expression earned death threats from Islamists. Van Gogh, of course, was ultimately killed.

The Goths and Vandals did not sack Rome solely through the power of their hordes; they also relied on the paralysis of Roman elites who no longer knew what it was to be Roman - much less whether it was any better than the alternative.

Third, civilization is forfeited with a whimper, not a bang. Insidiously, we have allowed radical Islamists to redefine the primordial into the not-so-bad. Perhaps women in head-to-toe burkas in Europe prefer them? Maybe that crass German opera was just too over the top after all? Aren't both parties equally to blame in the Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghan wars?

I would urge those

  • who make excuses for Islamofascist behavior,

  • who use moral equivalency to equate a legitimate defensive (or offensive) reaction to terror as the same thing as terror,

  • who argue that our multicultural sensibilities demand that we avoid criticism of Islam,

  • who suggest that we should grant rights to those who have no intention or desire to grant reciprocal rights
to reread Hanson’s words and consider them carefully.

Whether you realize it or not, the liberal freedoms you hold so dear are being eroded, not by the evil Bush administration or an intrusive FBI or CIA, but with the “whimper” of those who refuse to see the danger we all face.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When in Rome

I just returned from Brazil where I presented a keynote tutorial at a software engineering conference that was Webcast to more than 5,000 viewer’s across the country. The presentation went well. On the way home, we decided to stop in Rio de Janeiro for a few days of R&R.

We stayed in Leblon, a beautiful enclave at the southern end of the world-famous beach at Ipanema. Brazilians are wonderful, smiling people managing a country that is rapidly ascending into the 21st century. Their culture reflects their psychology, free and easy with a large dose of live and let live.

And that brings me to the Number 9 beach at Ipanema. Virtually every woman on the beach -- young and old, beautiful and not so beautiful, thin and not so thin – wears a bikini -- a very small bikini. In fact, a bikini that would be considered scandalous, even in the United States.

No one thinks a thing of it, and before long, it becomes just another part of the scenery, even for an American.

I live in South Florida with a huge population of Brazilian immigrants. I know they love the beach and I suspect they visit our “Ipanemas” every weekend. Yet, I have never seen anyone wearing a Brazilian bikini. Brazilian woman may, in fact, wear them in their backyard (and I suspect they do), but at the beach, they opt for the toned-down American version. They adapt their dress to their new country. It's a little thing (no pun intended), but it shows respect and cultural assimilation.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, another controversary surrounding “dress code” has surfaced in Europe and the USA. Some Moslem women who have chosen (key concept here: chosen) to live within a secular society insist on their “religious right” to wear nikabs and burkas – full face and body coverings in public –- even though these are deemed troubling by many in their host country.

An editorial in The Australian considers the danger posed by those who argue that we must bend to the “right” of any culture to express itself as it sees fit:
How tolerant must a free society be of those who are intolerant of the values it holds dear? This question is at the heart of a controversy that has flared up in Britain over the past fortnight concerning Muslim women who wear nikabs, burkas and other face coverings that allow little more than the eyes to be seen …

At its heart is the question of where tolerance should end and the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans", should kick in. While tolerance is certainly a positive virtue that should be strived for, it cannot be a cultural suicide pact. A culture that is tolerant of those who are intolerant of its freedoms is ripe for destruction, and bit by bit will see all it values eroded. And radical Islam knows this. Just as an Australian wouldn't go to Saudi Arabia to wear a bikini on the beach and drink beer in the corner pub, those who see the proper role of women as subservient, anonymous and under cover should not expect a postmodern secular democracy such as Britain or Australia to accommodate these beliefs. Australians, who quite properly want their daughters, sisters, wives and mothers to be able to achieve anything, are right to feel uncomfortable about religiously mandated coverings and the limits they imply. We do not allow practices such as female genital mutilation simply because they are practiced by an immigrant "other". Disappointingly, those who have traditionally been a positive force for the liberation of women against oppression in other spheres have here largely been silent on the question of Islam's beliefs concerning half of humanity.

If it is true that the past is another country, then what confronts the West today is not so much a clash of civilisations as a clash of centuries. The jumbo jets that have enabled the mass immigration from Muslim countries to the West are, in effect, time machines that have brought millions of people from a pre-Enlightenment world - where men are the unquestioned bosses, stoning and forced amputation are punishments rather than crimes, and sectarian differences are worth dying over - to secular, liberal and postmodern democracies such as ours. Integration in such circumstances will be difficult but should not be shied away from, even if it means newcomers will have to adapt. Mainstream British politicians have done a great service by opening a debate on this subject. Government-supported ethnic essentialism ultimately leads to segregation - anathema to an immigrant nation such as ours whose success lies in the adoption of common values rather than the preservation of divisive behaviours. In the debate over values, far better that we appeal to our shared humanity rather than encourage behaviours that seek to demonstrate separateness and superiority.

Here’s the deal: When Saudi Arabia allows a church or synagogue in Mecca (the outskirts would be OK) and further allows those who practice in these houses of worship to do just that, the West might reconsider its uneasiness with full face masks. But until that happens, we should flatly reject any attempt by any group that demands “rights” while giving none in return.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


This small post is the 101st commentary that I've written for OnCenter since November, 2005, when the blog was created. I hope that at least a few of my first 100 posts have spurred you to think.

We live in very difficult times -- the threat of global Islamofascist terrorism has not abated and will be unlikely to do so in my lifetime. The war in Iraq is going poorly and is unlikely to improve. Worse, Islam has done virtually nothing to excise these monsters from their midst. North Korea claims to have tested a nuclear device, and Iran is likely to follow within a few years. Both of these rogue nations represent a real threat to world peace and security. The Palestinians and Lebanese have allowed terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, into their government, thereby indirectly supporting the notion that Israel has no right to exist. Worse, many in the world community (particularly among the angry Left and the anti-semitic Right (e.g., Pat Buchanan) condemn Israel for defending itself again them.

The UN remains a fectless organization, unable to act in any meaningful way on any important challenge facing the world community. That simple reality is unlikely to change. More troubling, there is still a significant percentage of the Washington establishment that looks to the UN to solve problems. I have to wonder if they truly believe that the UN has benefit or whether they use the UN as an easy way to avoid responsbility.

Many on the Left do express concern about terror and Korea and Iran and Darfur, and many other world issues, but offer no meaningful or realistic strategy for dealing with them. Some an the Left refuse to even acknowledge these threats. Instead, in a classic example of reaction formation, they blame the actions of our nation for the barbaric behavior of our enemies.

Many on the Right refuse to adapt their approach to the threats we face as conditions worsen and feedback indicates the need for change. On a domestic level, the Right seems to be more worried about the imaginary "threat" of gay marriage than they are with the very real threat fostered by our dependance on Arab oil. So they work to pass laws to prohibit the former and do absolutely nothing to address the latter. It is, to speak bluntly, a travesty.

Domestically, Democrats are on the verge of regaining leadership in both houses of congress. I can only hope that they will abandon their hatred of George Bush long enough to shown those of us in the Center that they are qualified to lead our nation. Early indications are not promising, but we must all give them a chance.

When troubled by some problem that appeared to be intractable, my father would sigh and say, "This too shall pass." As I look at the world today, I can only hope that he was right.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


North Korea is providing Iran with a excellent tutorial on how to operate as an infant member of the nuclear club. Those countries who express concern or who advocate sanctions against North Korean are threatened. Reuters reports on the NoKo’s latest comments:
"We will take strong countermeasures," said Song Il-ho, North Korean ambassador in charge of diplomatic normalization talks with Japan, according to a report by Japan's Kyodo news agency from Pyongyang.

"The specific contents will become clear if you keep watching," Song said. "We never speak empty words."

Japan, arguing that Pyongyang's nuclear weapons poses a direct threat to its safety, is expected to formally approve additional sanctions on Friday, including banning imports from the impoverished communist state and blocking North Korean ships from entering Japanese ports.

The NoKos recognize that in the bizarre world of international diplomacy, bellicose threats can be made with few real repercussions, and measured words of concern, when expressed by your adversaries, can be characterized as “acts of war.”

The world community is witnessing the unraveling of nuclear non-proliferation. The UN security council will act, but in its typical tepid fashion. In the US, the Democrats blame the Bush administration for failing to negotiate bilaterally with the NoKos. The Republicans blame the Clinton administration for entering into an agreement (brokered in 1994 by Jimmy Carter) that accomplished little except to buy time for the NoKo’s nuclear program. Recriminations are senseless – the facts on the ground are what matter.

In my view, 50 years of continuing diplomacy have not resulted in any moderation of the NoKo regime. The Chinese, acting in their own self-interest (understandable) don’t want to destabilize the NoKo regime because they fear a flood of starving North Koreans at their door step. The South Koreans fear that destabilization might lead to a desperate attack in which hundreds of thousands could be killed in the first days. These concerns are real, and the result is that NoKo— the poster child for failed welfare states with a starving population that survives on food and fuel handouts from China and South Korea—holds the trump cards. All you can do is shake your head.

There are, of course, ways to stop the NoKos, but they are draconian. The hermit kingdom can be toppled, and the way to do it is from the inside out. The catalysts, sad to say, are cold and hunger. The agent will be the NoKo populace, aided by the NoKo army. If all welfare to North Korea ceases (the onus here is on China), the populace will begin to starve in a matter of months and freeze as winter sets in. Some will argue that it isn’t fair that the NoKo populace should be made to suffer. They’re right, it isn’t fair, but it may be the only way to save the NoKo populace from a much greater catastrophe down the road.

But no one thinks “down the road,” and frankly, no one much cares about the NoKo populace. As someone once said, “nations do not have morals, they have interests.” And because these “interests” often conflict with those of other nations, effective multilateral action is difficult to achieve.

And the Mullahs in Iran watch, and learn, and smile.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The War In Lebanon—Revisited

Immediately after the Israeli-Lebanese war cease-fire, I wrote:
… Hezballah did win, because it didn’t lose. Syria and Iran won, because they can now rest assured that the sponsorship of international terrorism has no consequences. Nasrallah did win, because in the delusional world of Arabic thinking, a terrorist thug who has fought the “occupier” to a standstill is a greater hero that a true leader who would bring them out of their self-imposed darkness.

Now that I’ve had a few months to ponder the outcome, I can only conclude that I was wrong.

Nearly everyone in the West, friend and foe, judged Israel’s success using unrealistic and ill-formed expectations. In an excellent review of the war, Mark Halperin provides a clearly reasoned analysis of the outcome from both a tactical and strategic point of view.
To judge the war solely according to its devastation (for which Hezbollah, deliberately sheltering missile launches against Israel among its own people, was entirely responsible and too little condemned), by its tactical efficiency, by numbers and metrics, in view of carelessly stated objectives, or in thrall of the compelling testimony of the participants and victims of both sides, is to overlook its greater import.

It was a war like most of Israel's wars rather than the few, and its egregious missteps beg for correction. But as Churchill said of a weak, 17th-century England that did not enjoy the wealth and power of the Victorians who condemned its immoralities in the affairs of state, "We had to keep ourselves alive and free, and we did so." Israel has lost the battle for public relations but achieved a number of necessary objectives--reducing the growing arsenal arrayed against its civil population, putting a large stick in the spokes of Hezbollah's wheels, perhaps buying a period of relative peace in the north, and holding Lebanon to account for grafting onto its political structure a Spartan state at war with Israel for the purpose of its destruction.

But the really important outcome of this war was not the battles or the destruction or the cease-fire. It was the message, sent not to Hezballah, but to Iran.

In the US and Europe, we try to communicate with the Iranians using negotiation and diplomacy. Amadinejad and the Mullahs laugh, and view our pathetic moves at containment as just that -- pathetic, ineffectual, weak. They proceed as if there is no existential threat to their cause, because there isn’t any -- at least from us.

Israel took a different tack. They responding to Iran's proxy forcefully, maybe even disproportionately, without much regard to world opinion. Halperin comments:
Both it [Iran] and Syria possess chemical and biological weapons, Iran's stockpiles being rich and varied. And yet not one of Hezbollah's 10,000 missiles capable of carrying a chemical or biological warhead was so equipped. Without guidance, they would not have achieved maximum impact, and merely turned the public relations battle on its head. But, more importantly, had they been used, they would have given Israel not only the occasion it does not need to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, but reason to attack Iran itself. Iran now knows exactly what kind of game it is in, and will calibrate its moves accordingly: perhaps emphasizing deception all the more, hardening its facilities as never before, or even reaching some sort of deal. Whatever it does, it has been unambiguously put on notice. The dense traffic in symbols and signals among proxies and principals, as in the conduct of the Cold War with a similar language and millions of casualties, has moved all parties closer to the denouement.

So the question, really, is not whether Israel won, but rather what did it accomplish? And the answer to that question is simple—it accomplished what it needed to accomplish. In the final paragraph of his article, Halperin say’s it all:
To the Iranian de facto declaration to Israel, the Arabs, and the West that it possesses a belligerent outpost on the Mediterranean, Israel has weathered world condemnation to reply that the rent for this outpost is high and can be made higher. When Iran spoke to Israel in the language of war, Israel spoke back with absolute clarity even if not with the mythical brilliance attributed to it by friend and foe alike. Which is not to say that it is incapable of fighting the stunning existential battles that once it fought. For it is indeed capable of them, and they are yet to come.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Godfather’s Rules

Remember Ted Koppel, an excellent left-leaning journalist of the old school who hosted ABC’s NightLine for many years? Since leaving ABC, he has generally espoused a progressive point of view. I don't always agree with his arguments, but they are always worth considering.

In a recent op-ed on Iran and nuclear proliferation in The New York Times, reprinted in the International Herald Tribune Koppel takes a position that surprised me. He begins the article by arguing that sanctions against Iran will not work. I agree.

But then, unlike many on the Left, he faces the very real danger of an Iranian proxy planting a nuclear device in the West. He begins with a question and a story.
What, then, can the United States do to prevent Iran from developing nuclear technology? Little or nothing. Washington should instead bow to the inevitable.

"You insist on having nuclear weapons," we should say. "Go ahead. It's a terrible idea, but we can't stop you. We would, however, like your leaders to view the enclosed DVD of 'The Godfather.' Please pay particular attention to the scene in which Don Corleone makes grudging peace with a man - the head of a rival crime family - who ordered the killing of his oldest son."

In that scene, Don Corleone says, "I forgo my vengeance for my dead son, for the common good. But I have selfish reasons." The welfare of his youngest son, Michael, is on his mind.

"I am a superstitious man," he continues. "And so if some unlucky accident should befall my youngest son, if some police officer should accidentally shoot him, or if he should hang himself in his cell, or if my son is struck by a bolt of lightening, then I will blame some of the people here. That I could never forgive."

Koppel then looks briefly at the bright side, before taking a detour into the darkest of outcomes:
If Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it.

The elimination of American opposition on this issue would open the way to genuine normalization between our two nations. It might even convince the Iranians that their country can flourish without nuclear weapons.

But this should also be made clear to Tehran: If a dirty bomb explodes in Milwaukee, or some other nuclear device detonates in Baltimore or Wichita, if Israel or Egypt or Saudi Arabia should fall victim to a nuclear "accident," Iran should understand that the U.S. government will not search around for the perpetrator. The return address will be predetermined, and it will be somewhere in Iran.

It’s interesting that a reasoned, mature, progressive journalist like Koppel would take a position that many progressives would decry as “collective punishment” or worse. Looks like he’s beginning to see the threat clearly. I can only say, it’s about time.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

1000 Cuts

The soon-to-be released movie, Flags of Our Fathers, tells the story of the battle of Iwo Jima during WWII and the famous photograph of US Marines planting a flag on the summit of Mount Suribachi. The battle for Iwo Jimo spanned many weeks. Over 2,300 marines were killed in the first 18 hours—almost as many as have been killed in Iraq in almost 4 years. Over the course of the battle of Iwo Jima, 26,000 US troops would die. And all of this for a 7.5 square mile island in the middle of the Pacific.

In a thought-provoking article written on the 60th anniversary of the battle (hat tip: Pierre Legrand commenting at the Belmont Club), Arthur Herman suggests that there are lessons that can be learned from a battle that has been characterized as “a nightmare in hell:”
Yet even this valor and sacrifice is not the full story of what Iwo Jima means, or what Rosenthal's immortal photograph truly symbolizes. The lesson of Iwo Jima is in fact an ancient one, going back to Machiavelli: that sometimes free societies must be as tough and unrelenting as their enemies. Totalitarians test their opponents by generating extreme conditions of brutality and violence; in those conditions--in the streets and beheadings of Fallujah or on the beach and in the bunkers of Iwo Jima--they believe weak democratic nerves will crack. This in turn demonstrates their moral superiority: that by giving up their own decency and humanity they have become stronger than those who have not.

Free societies can afford only one response. There were no complicated legal issues or questions of "moral equivalence" on Iwo Jima: It was kill or be killed. That remains the nature of war even for democratic societies. The real question is, who outlasts whom. In 1945 on Iwo Jima, it was the Americans, as the monument at Arlington Cemetery, based on Rosenthal's photograph, proudly attests. In the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, it was the totalitarians--with terrible consequences.

In watching the media and many politicians move from one military “scandal” to the next, excoriating our troops for using excessive force, for killing civilians “needlessly,” for not properly applying the Geneva conventions against a barbaric enemy who cuts off the heads of captives, I wonder if we have lost our way and our will. Those who take on the mantel of self-defined moral superiority argue that we must maintain the moral high ground, adhering to rules that were never designed to address the enemy we face today.

There is a certain hubris in this view. Subconsiously, those who support it, believe we cannot lose – that the anti-liberal forces aligned against us will be defeated by the high moral positions we take, not the military actions that we prosecute. Sadly, they are wrong.

The Islamofascist enemy can win—not in a month or a year or a decade, but over a long period of time. Until we realize that the Islamofascist strategy is death by a thousand cuts—an occasional terrorist strike, followed by disruptions to travel, commerce, and peace of mind; accelerating self-censorship in the West driven by political correctness (e.g., the Danish cartoons, the German opera, the ridiculous criticism of the Pope’s comments), and the erosion of freedom of expression (the fatwa against Salmun Rushdi, the death of Theo van Gogh).

Each is a small cut, but over time, we may very well bleed to death.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Looking Ahead (or Backward)

With less than a month until the November electrions, it appears that the Democratic party will gain a majority in the House and may very well also take over the senate. George Will comments:
If after the Foley episode -- a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries -- the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work.

But politics is what the Dems do, and they’re going to get the opportunity (after many years in the wilderness) to lead the parade. My concern is what they’re going to do as leaders.

Will the Dems spend their time looking backward, chairing “investigations” of the Bush administration and attempting to learn what nefarious activities the new Satan and Rummy were up to? Or will they show the American public that they can lead — looking forward and proposing concrete, rational alternatives to the Bush doctrine in foreign policy. I’m sad to say that I suspect the former, although I long for the latter.

We live in a very dangerous world, one in which appeasement and retreat will do great harm to the country today and even more harm in the future. Ed Koch, the former Democratic mayor of New York City comments on this when he writes:
It makes no difference in determining our current position whether we were right or wrong to go into Iraq in 2003; we are now there. To those who say, if we were wrong initially, we can never justify staying, I say, ridiculous. The enemy is worldwide Islamic terrorism, and its center today is Iraq. If we were to leave Iraq, would al-Qaeda and other groups allied with it stop their attacks on Americans? Certainly not. We were not in Iraq, nor was George W. Bush our President, when in 1993 Islamic terrorists bombed the World Trade Center killing six and injuring one thousand people; when Islamic terrorists blew up the U.S.S. Cole, killing 13 and injuring 33; when they blew up U.S. Army barracks in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 and injuring 515; when they blew up two American embassies in Africa, causing 257 deaths and 5,000 injuries. We were not in Iraq, and Bush was the President, when Islamic terrorists hijacked and drove passenger planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing some 3,000 people.

The Islamic terrorists have declared their ultimate goals to include the destruction of the U.S. and the takeover of such moderate Arab states as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf countries. Why do we continue to refuse to believe their stated aims? They couldn't be more clear than Musab al-Zarqawi, the number one al-Qaeda operative in Iraq before he was killed by a U.S. airstrike, who stated before his death, "Killing the infidels is our religion, slaughtering them is our religion, until they convert to Islam or pay us tribute."

Can the Democrats lead by looking backward? Can they lead by refusing to clearly acknowledge the threat we face? I think not. Will they propose clear alternatives to the hated Bush doctrine that are not viewed as appeasement or retreat? We’ll see.

Those of us independents who reside in the center will be watching their “leadership” carefully. If they truly do lead on an international level, they will regain the Presidency in 2008. But if they do what I suspect and look backward for the next two years, they will squander yet another opportunity to become what they once were—a party populated by pragmatists who never let liberal ideology get in the way real leadership.