The Road Less Taken

obama-looks-at-netanyahu-during-talks-at-oval-dataIsrael was not created in order to disappear – Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom. – John F. Kennedy

I was completely blown away today listening to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress. It has been a long time since I have heard such an eloquent speaker who has the credibility to back up his words. When Barack Obama was campaigning for president he talked of hope, change and transparency. Even though I didn’t vote for him I thought he might be what America needed. I was wrong. Anyone can speak eloquently. Hitler was a charismatic, eloquent speaker who spoke incessantly of change. I don’t compare our President to Hitler, although it has to be admitted that Hitler did institute change. Leadership has to be more than words. It has to be translated into actions that do create change and hopefully the changes will benefit all humanity, and I believe that was the point Netanyahu was trying to make in his address to Congress concerning Iran’s nuclear capability.

Netanyahu also spoke a day earlier at the AIPAC conference. The comment that struck a chord with me was, “America lives in one of the world’s safest neighborhoods. Israel lives in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood. America is the strongest power in the world. Israel is strong, but it is more vulnerable. American leaders worry about the security of their country. Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country.”

America’s 76 million baby boomers grew up during the Cold War, when a deep fear of nuclear weapons permeated American life. As children we were taught to “duck and cover” under our desks in case of a nuclear attack, an action that would have been totally ineffective. Bomb shelters were dug in backyards and stocked with provisions that would allow families to shelter in place and wait out the radioactive fallout. Looking back these actions seem foolish, but remember that Americans were only a few years from seeing what devastation an atomic bomb could wreak.

Not since the Cold War with Russia has the world been under such threat of nuclear war as it is now. Nine countries (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) together currently have over 16,000 nuclear weapons. Five nations also host weapons and 23 nations are in nuclear alliances. The U.S. and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high alert status – ready to deploy within minutes. Most of them are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. If a single nuclear warhead was dropped on a large city it could kill millions of people and the effects would persist for decades.

Despite the fact that the President and over 50 Democratic elected officials brought politics into Netanyahu’s address before Congress, I believe his impassioned plea to not accept a bad deal with Iran springs from a sincere desire to protect his country and the world from a nuclear disaster. In the Middle East, Iran dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. In his words, “At a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations.”

I do not trust Iranian leaders to make good decisions for humanity. Iran’s radical regime has a 36 year history of aggression. They hang gays, persecute Christians, subjugate women, suppress freedom of speech and imprison or kill anyone who disagrees with their ideology. While Iran is currently denouncing ISIS it is only because they themselves want the power in the region. As Netanyahu so aptly stated, “When it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.” He pointed out that while ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, Iran would be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.

The thought of radical Islamists armed with nuclear bombs makes cold chills run down my spine. And given the propensity of President Obama has for making monumental decisions without consulting Congress, I don’t trust him to make a deal with Iran that would guarantee they do not develop that capability. The President is an appeaser. He is viewed as weak and what I do know about the people of the Middle East is that they despise weakness in leaders. In Afghanistan they regarded our efforts to win their hearts and minds by showering them with billions of dollars with no accountability with derision and they do view us as weak. That is why I learned to haggle in the bazaars. If you pay what they ask they regard you as stupid. You always negotiate for a better deal. I recall at one meeting in Kapisa Province where members of five tribes were asked to a meeting. The Americans wanted them to all work together so we didn’t have to visit five different tribes. The men were saying “Yes. Yes. We’ll work together.” One man, who was one of the only truly honest men I met there finally said, “You know we will say whatever you want to hear while we are in this meeting because we want your money, but when we leave here today we will be trying to kill each other.” This is what I fear. If the President doesn’t show strength when dealing with Iran and lifts the sanctions against them, they will smile and say ‘Yes. Yes. We’ll work together.’, when in fact they will be trying to kill us when the President walks away with his deal.

As a footnote, the Nazis were very close to developing a nuclear bomb. The Norwegian resistance and Allied bombers eventually put a stop to the manufacture of heavy water, necessary for the production of atomic bombs. The truth is they ran out of time. If they had worked harder they would have succeeded and would not have hesitated to use it, and how would that have changed history? Nuclear weapons in responsible hands can serve as a deterrent to aggression but in the hands of the Iran regime headed by despots such as President Bashar al-Assad and the fanatic Ayatollah Khomeini is frightening. I am glad Prime Minister Netanyahu came to speak if nothing more than to be reminded what a strong leader looks and sounds like.

I’ll conclude with Netanyahu’s words, “History has placed us at a fateful crosswords. We must now choose between two paths. One path leads to a bad deal that will at best curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions for a while, but it will inexorably lead to a nuclear-armed Iran whose unbridled aggression will inevitably lead to war. The second path, however difficult, could lead to a much better deal, that would prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclearized Middle East and the horrific consequences of both to all of humanity. You don’t have to read Robert Frost to know that the difficult path is usually the one less traveled, but it will make all the differences for the future of my country, the security of the Middle East and the peace of the world, the peace, we all desire.”

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