First, let’s be clear about exactly what the Speaker did. She put pressure on Syria to do exactly what the president claims he wants Syria to do. She put pressure on Syria to do exactly what Israel wants Syria to do.
If there is any message received by Syria from this trip, it is that the Speaker and Democrats join the president in demanding Syria provide security guarantees to Israel, stop any support for terrorist groups, and stop any action that helps those in Iraq killing Americans.
What the Speaker did was advance the goals the president publicly says he favors, unless in truth the president prefers yet another unwise war to what he claims he wants diplomatically.
Second, let’s discuss what is really happening.
There is one common denominator to every American president from Eisenhower through Clinton, and it is this: America negotiates with enemies and adversaries, as well as with friends and allies, to achieve our goals.
Kennedy said we should never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate. This was followed by the most conservative and the most Republican presidents. Eisenhower talked to the Soviets when the Soviets were at their worst. Nixon talked to the Soviets and to the Chinese communist leaders. Reagan talked to the Soviets, and not only Gorbachev — he also wrote a personal plea to Brezhnev.
The policy of George W. Bush is deviant, extreme, radical and unprecedented in the history of Republican and conservative U.S. presidents, indeed of all previous U.S. presidents.
George W. Bush is inexplicably hostile to achieving American goals through diplomacy on those matters, which are many, where he prefers to achieve American goals through war, in ways destructive to American goals, leading to disaster.
It will take a generation to undo the damage that George W. Bush has done to the American military through attitudes and policies that are radical, extreme, unwise and disastrous.
Even today, we learn that more National Guard will be called up — which is in itself an additional violation of common sense and sound military doctine and more proof of the crisis of readiness and deterrence that this president’s policies have brought to the American military.
There will be more Guard call-ups coming soon, mark my words, write it down. The president wants to escalate and surge wars without the troops to fight them. This latest Guard call-up will be the first of many, until the policy is changed. There will be even more damage to our Army, Marine Corps, Guard and Reserves, specifically in the areas of training and preparedness. Preventable American casualties will continue unabated.
And this is not even to mention the scandal surrounding the treatment of our wounded troops — treatment that has been woefully, unconscionably underfunded for four years now, and for which the president “apologized” only recently. One cannot help but feel that new revelations will be coming to light any day now.
The president cannot protect our wounded troops from rats, mice, lice, urine, and feces while he escalates the surge. He escalates the call-ups of National Guardsmen, without any rational military understanding of force structures and unmet military equipment and personnel needs, which escalate by the hour, under his policies.
As former Secretary of State James Baker has pleaded privately and stated publicly, the one major area of potential diplomatic achievement to serve American objectives is with Syria.
Of course the Syrians are not nice leaders, no more than Krushchev, Brezhnev, Chernenko, Andropov, Mao and Chou En Lai were when Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush all supported negotiations with them.
Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell understands the need to attempt diplomacy with Syria. Former Secretary of State James Baker understands it. The entire Baker Hamilton Study Group, including every Republican without one single exception, understands it. While they cannot say it publicly, virtually the entire command structure of the United States military privately understands it.