and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
May #4

Next president must be able to tell the sane from the evil
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, May 30, 2008

-- Part 2 of 2 parts --

I'm still celebrating Memorial Day, since the official date is May 30.

This year I needed extra time to think about war; with the presidential election it's important for ordinary citizens to try to understand America's foreign policy, in order to vote intelligently. Here's my best ordinary-citizen analysis:

World War II is the easy one.

Only the most pathetic peaceniks deplore our fighting the Nazis, and I think most people are glad we dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan before more Americans died invading its shores. I never really understood why it was necessary to drop the second bomb it seems that the point had been made but don't really care.

My son's grandfather was a sailor in the Pacific who returned in one piece. Then Japan, having been conquered, became a free and prosperous country that today sends tourists instead of bombs to Hawaii. Defensive, no-holds-barred war works, and the Americans who died in it created a better world.

I'm not sure about Korea or Vietnam. World order strategists might show what was accomplished in standing up to Red China and communism everywhere, sending the message that we wouldn't allow statist ugliness to take over the world one country at a time. This message culminated in Ronald Reagan's powerful rhetoric about the Evil Empire, and the policies, including Charlie Wilson's War (read the book) in Afghanistan, which took the demoralized Soviet Union to the edge of bankruptcy.

The message got confused in Central America, where some of the anti-communists were villains too.

It was also confused by the immoral use of the military draft, forcing young men into combat with an ill-defined mission.

But in the end, the American military distracted the Soviets, who wanted to dominate the world. We honor all the Cold War warriors who stopped the spread of communism and kept the peace until the Islamic threat surprised us.

The question remains, as part of the presidential debate, should we talk with our enemies? Some ridicule the very idea; others insist that "talking can't hurt."

I think of Ronald Reagan, first demanding that Gorbachev "tear down this wall," then meeting with him in Iceland from a position of moral certainty. Eventually, they looked like friends. Perhaps it was just a case of having the right leaders in the right place at the right time.

There was Northern Ireland, a seemingly intractable conflict, ending after decades of negotiation finally led to a conversation that worked.

I recall South Africa described as white people holding a tiger by the tail. Many experts thought the end of apartheid would result in wholesale murder, following patterns in other parts of Africa. Instead, an African nation was created that is more viable than most there because people from all over the world talked and assisted.

Clearly we can talk to our enemies under certain conditions. If the conflict makes some sense, demands on both sides can be met with compromise. When colonists wanted representation in Parliament, England should have given it to them and avoided the Revolutionary War. But after we fought hard and won, talking created a future good relationship between our countries.

Some long-ago leaders got concessions from Alexander, Caesar and even Genghis Khan. Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, after much bloodshed, were successful at the negotiating table; as were Reagan and Gorbachev, a matter of coordinated personalities and timing. It seems Saladin didn't actually want to conquer the world; he was posturing for other Muslim leaders.

But if one side really wants to conquer, convert or enslave us all, or engages in genocidal murder, or wants the Jews out of Israel, period, there is no discussion possible because there is no possible compromise. One can't talk with a Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin or Islamic terrorists. To try would show foolish weakness, and give them credibility.

Two sides can talk if the original conflict, even if not rational, occurred so long ago that new participants can get past the ancient grievances. The new participants must be evolved human beings who have moved past the predator stage of human existence, past a mindless religious fundamentalism that knows God is on its side and wants to destroy the other side, and past mindless revenge. In other words, the participants must be sane.

The Irish finally seem to have achieved sanity. Those in the Balkans are working on it too.

The genocidal maniacs in Darfur don't fit any criteria for conversation, which makes one wonder what "not on our watch" means when anti-war activists say it.

And what can we discuss with Muslim fundamentalists who want an all-Muslim world? The last thing I want to be is a Muslim woman. This Memorial Day week, I am grateful to all those who have fought to keep that particular religious fervor far from me and my grandchildren.

I'm not an expert on foreign policy, and am also not terribly impressed by many who supposedly are. But in a few months, we ordinary citizens must choose a president who can tell the difference between those world leaders who can be talked to, and those who want to destroy us no matter what we say.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and Eagle Tribune, and often in the Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.