Round Three in the Cheney Obama Cage Match

Perhaps, if the Obama Administration could stop blaming every problem on l’ancien régime, Dick Cheney would feel less compelled to openly criticize the subsequent administration… And while I am glad to see that George W. Bush has hewed to the tradition of not criticizing his successor, I am just as glad to see Cheney taking the fight back to Obama.

From former Vice President (and former Secretary of Defense, and former Representative) Cheney’s address this evening at the Center for Security Policy (as prepared and reported on by The Blog at The Weekly Standard.) contains the following gems:

Most anyone who is given responsibility in matters of national security quickly comes to appreciate the commitments and structures put in place by others who came before. You deploy a military force that was planned and funded by your predecessors. You inherit relationships with partners and obligations to allies that were first undertaken years and even generations earlier. With the authority you hold for a little while, you have great freedom of action. And whatever course you follow, the essential thing is always to keep commitments, and to leave no doubts about the credibility of your country’s word.

So among my other concerns about the drift of events under the present administration, I consider the abandonment of missile defense in Eastern Europe to be a strategic blunder and a breach of good faith.

It is certainly not a model of diplomacy when the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic are informed of such a decision at the last minute in midnight phone calls. It took a long time and lot of political courage in those countries to arrange for our interceptor system in Poland and the radar system in the Czech Republic. Our Polish and Czech friends are entitled to wonder how strategic plans and promises years in the making could be dissolved, just like that – with apparently little, if any, consultation. Seventy years to the day after the Soviets invaded Poland, it was an odd way to mark the occasion.

I think the former Vice President is far too kind on this matter. The abandonment of our agreement with the Czechs and Poles, and especially the timing of it, stank to high heaven. Both nations took considerable political and security risks in making the commitments they did, and the abandonment of those commitments is both shocking and shameful.

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I have long been skeptical of engagement with the current regime in Tehran, but even Iran experts who previously advocated for engagement have changed their tune since the rigged elections this past June and the brutal suppression of Iran’s democratic protestors. The administration clearly missed an opportunity to stand with Iran’s democrats, whose popular protests represent the greatest challenge to the Islamic Republic since its founding in 1979. Instead, the President has been largely silent about the violent crackdown on Iran’s protestors, and has moved blindly forward to engage Iran’s authoritarian regime. Unless the Islamic Republic fears real consequences from the United States and the international community, it is hard to see how diplomacy will work.

A stick without a carrot is far more effective than a carrot without a stick when it comes to an entrenched enemy which has been waging an undeclared war against you for thirty years. Yet the Obama Administration has been all carrot and no stick. Proponents of this policy are referred to ghost of Nevil Chamberlain…

Next door in Iraq, it is vitally important that President Obama, in his rush to withdraw troops, not undermine the progress we’ve made in recent years. Prime Minister Maliki met yesterday with President Obama, who began his press availability with an extended comment about Afghanistan. When he finally got around to talking about Iraq, he told the media that he reiterated to Maliki his intention to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq. Former President
Bush’s bold decision to change strategy in Iraq and surge U.S. forces there set the stage for success in that country. Iraq has the potential to be a strong, democratic ally in the war on terrorism, and an example of economic and democratic reform in the heart of the Middle East. The Obama Administration has an obligation to protect this young democracy and build on the strategic success we have achieved in Iraq.

This, sadly, would not be the first time the Democrats have abandoned an ally in which we have invested the blood of our Armed Forces. While I would hope that such a treacherous replay does not lie in our future, the treatment of the Czechs and Poles bodes ill both for Iraq, and the “Good War” in Afghanistan.

President Obama has said he understands the stakes for America. When he announced his new strategy he couched the need to succeed in the starkest possible terms, saying,

“If the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”

Five months later, in August of this year, speaking at the VFW, the President made a promise to America’s armed forces.

“I will give you a clear mission,” he said, “defined goals, and the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That’s my commitment to you.”

It’s time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America’s armed forces are in danger.

Indeed he must.

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