President-elect Obama can and must take a harsh stand against the terrorists who are behind the bombings in Mumbai. Words alone will not stop them. Swift and steady action will. For the President-elect to advocate bold reprisal would be immensely beneficial to the nation as well as to his own stature and reputation. Doing so would rightly earn him much bipartisan praise. More importantly, it would deter terrorists from any plans they may have of exploiting the weaknesses of a new administration.
It is far more crucial, however, for President Bush to immediately announce a cooperative military effort with India to attack the terrorist groups responsible for the massacre. Assistance may come in the form of military equipment, personnel or financing. Any such proposal would almost definitely be welcomed by the Indian government. What is imperative, not just for India, but for the safety of the entire Western world, is that such a plan be announced publicly and acted upon immediately.
Let there be no doubt. The attacks in Mumbai were an attack on America. American, British and Israeli citizens were targeted for kidnapping. Moreover, the attack, launched in India’s financial capital, was an attack on the entire Western world. If the West goes into recession, India will be a rare light on a bleak financial horizon. The terrorists would much rather see China or Russia take a dominant role on the world economic stage, not India, a nation that has fought the battle against radical Jihad for decades.
Russia’s only battle with Islamic extremism is one that it itself provoked (with the Afghan invasion). China’s problems with jihadists exist, but they are minimal. Both are amenable to working with extreme Islamic governments, be they Shiite or be they headed by radical Sunni factions. India, which has been in a struggle with radical Islam since the 1946 Muslim League resolution to separate from British India and that has battled would be Islamic conquerors since medieval times, has no interest in working with radical jihadist regimes.
Let there also be no doubt that if we fail to respond, the bombings in Mumbai can act as a prelude to similarly styled horrific strikes here on our shores. As this column is being written, the FBI has already picked up on a plan to bomb New York City subways. And while that plot may have been foiled, we cannot expect to foil each and every plot all the time. Only swift reprisal abroad can ensure our survival at home.
One important fact must be made clear to every American. It is one that President Bush has been mindful of (and we can only hope that so has President-elect Obama – and now is the time for him to show it). The single most effective move that this administration has undertaken to ensure America’s safety was the overthrow of two sympathetic regimes in the aftermath of 9/11. The message was clear: “If you attack us, we’ll take out your supporters and allies.” And so the Taliban, which harbored al-Qaeda; and Saddam, who sent money to families of suicide bombers, were removed from power. Islamic extremists a world over decided that they’d prefer not to have a repeat.
If President-elect Obama reacts, it will send a clear signal that even the left understands what needs to be done to defend the homeland. But if President Bush doesn’t react, publicly and demonstrably, if he does not publicly announce a cooperative plan with India to physically strike the terrorist groups responsible for the Mumbai massacres, it will send a far worse message; that even the right has abandoned the struggle.
Why are the actions of an outgoing President more crucial than the policy course being pursued by an incoming administration; policies that are designed to affect the next four years? The answer is simple:
If an Obama administration pursues a naïve and dangerous policy of appeasement, it will be opposed at every turn by what will inevitably be a strong and growing Republican right. The American people will not put up with repeated attacks and every time a western country has tried to negotiate or seek compromise with terrorists, the result has been a steep increase in attacks in order to secure even further concessions. This concept is considered as fact by federal negotiators, which is why their protocol forbids them to acquiesce to the demands of terrorists during an attack. The same holds true on the national level.
Just take Israel as an example. According to figures obtained from Peace Watch, a non-partisan watchdog group charged with monitoring compliance with Mideast peace agreements, in 1992, the year before the Oslo Accords, 39 Israelis were killed in terror attacks (an increase from 26 the year before, when a center right government was in place). That number increased to 73 in the year following the Accords and only receded upon the election of a tougher government under Benjamin Netanyahu (dropping to 31 in 1997). Attacks increased again in 2000, when then Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to negotiate further land for peace deals. If the history of the radical Islamic conquests of Africa and Europe are to teach us nothing (other than the fact that no country is immune), let us at least take those recent figures as an example of the pitfalls of appeasement.
So if President-elect Obama shows weakness in the face of terror, the opposition will quickly grow to a level that cannot be ignored. But if President Bush, a man who is viewed as “the” leader of the war on terror fails to act now, it will send a signal that even the right has lost its way and that no side is willing to take up the fight. We as a nation cannot allow for that to happen.
President-elect Obama can confound the critics, present company included. He can urge the Bush administration to react swiftly and decisively. In so doing, he will be considered to have taken part in the mission. In so doing, he can prove us at least partially wrong, and earn our thanks and goodwill. But if President Bush does not react, we are in far more serious peril than we could ever imagine.
And so, I will end off with an appeal to President Bush: Mr. President, no leader has shown a greater determination to fight America’s enemies or to protect this nation from terror than have you. For almost eight years you have resisted the voices of those who favored political expediency over national survival. While I know that you require no encouragement to do what is needed in defense of our homeland, I also recognize that any parting administration is loath to engage in new projects of any magnitude. Still, I and many supporters have full confidence that you will do what is needed to protect America, a mission that will, in retrospect, go hand in hand with any historical depiction of your administration. Indeed, it is within your grasp to ensure that the term “Bush administration” is one day viewed as being synonymous with the words “American safety.”
Mr. President, while you have stood up and faced the task of keeping this nation safe time and time again, the events of the last few days may well be the greatest and most formative challenge of your administration. These latest events may well be your defining moment and if history is to provide any indication, you are more than up to the task.
As a parting note, I would ask readers to contact the White House (firstname.lastname@example.org) and encourage the President to once again do what is needed to safeguard the nation. It pains me to pressure a leader who has shown tremendous dedication to our national security, to the point of putting his entire political career on the line for our safety. But the pressures against him are strong and he needs to hear our voices. When all things are considered, there are only three words that terrorists understand: Swift American Reprisal.