False friend?

Yet at this, of all moments, Obama chose to issue a public demand that Israel pre-emptively surrender its essential security buffer of land. It’s nothing less than a reward for Hamas and for the Palestinians unswerving dedication to Israel’s destruction. A false friend can do more damage than an open enemy. (From Mona Charen’s republished column in the Spokesman-Review)

I had just finished reading Bob Woodward’s “The Veil” about the CIA’s covert wars during the Reagan era.  At the time, the CIA was headed by William Casey who ultimately died before Reagan’s second term was over with.  And because of Casey, Reagan was confronted by the Iran/Contra scandal.  I was originally thinking of doing a book review of this now almost 30 year old book.  And then I saw Ms. Charen’s latest attack and figured that the quote from her column as presented above would be a good segway to the book.

Whether Ms. Charen likes it or not, current events in the Middle East can be decades in the making.  Foreign policies of earlier decades can have unforeseen consequences in this current era.  Ronald Reagan’s main foreign policy goals were that of combating communism and communist encroachments into “right wing” (read authoritarian dictatorship) societies.  To that end, the president would use what ever he had to, including a CIA running amok under DCI Casey to bring communism to its knees.  As a corollary, to combat state sponsored terrorism that threatened and killed fellow Americans.  A side note here, while Mr. Woodward did discuss a bombing of a disco in Germany frequented by American service people late in the Reagan presidency, there was in fact another terrorist attack committed I believe by red terrorists some years prior.  One that targeted the Munich Oktoberfest about a year before I left Germany.  The fact that we (mother, friend, and myself) were only hours and some miles away from getting caught in the middle of that, was to my mind luck.  Others were not so lucky.  Woodward never mentioned that, and maybe it was “Germany’s problem” even though American and NATO forces were targeted.  The terrorism in the early 1980s got bad enough that we were literally confined to our posts.  Ultimately, the red terrorists were brought to heel by the West German government.  But that was perhaps something of an oversight on the part of Woodward, who spent a very lengthy book describing in-depth how William Casey worked to fight communism and terrorism through the covert action of the CIA.   

Where things went wrong, was when Casey as a “true believer” against communism decided that the CIA could foment a war against the pro-Marxist Sandanistas through CIA sponsored Contras.  Where he, Oliver North, Poindexter, and others figured they could use Iran as some kind of hostage broker to trade weapons for the release of  hostages in Lebanon.  As a consequence, the rule of law was broken, President Reagan was unquestionably manipulated into going against his own executive orders, Congress felt legitimately betrayed…  Against a background such as this, what were the prospects that because of such active U.S. meddling in Middle Eastern affairs and for purely ideological reasons that it set the stage for all that would follow afterwards and render the U.S. post Reagan as less than an honest broker?

It seems, at least according to Woodward’s book, that the late William Casey wasn’t satisfied with the State Department actually establishing foreign policy initiatives for President Reagan to pursue.  Casey had his own agenda, and basically usurped State’s role.  Casey pushed regime change in Nicaragua and Libya.  He supported secret armaments for Afghan rebels.  All he needed was President Reagan’s signature on classified findings.  Regardless, because Reagan was ultimately the president, it really wasn’t possible for his cabinet to shelter him completely from the full consequences of scandal.  No, he wasn’t impeached, but Iran-Contra does haunt his legacy as president to this day.

It was also one of the reasons why I dislike voting for people who claim to be ideologically pure.  Seems, the more they push a purity test for the reasons of being voted for, or voting for others, the less pure in principle they happen to be.  I’ll take the squishy middle any time.  There is much more of a principled type of people in the middle than will ever be found on the fringes.

Since Reagan’s time, plenty of presidents had sought a solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Former President George W. Bush had also pushed a two state solution.  Quite frankly, I wonder why Charen wasn’t screeching about GW’s threatening Israel’s right to secure borders against Hamas’ and Palestinian extremism?  Only because GW happened to have an R after his name.

And of course, because Obama happens to be a Democrat, he can never hope to do anything right, even when he does. 

I’ll agree with Charen on one point, Israel does have a right to secure borders and to be safe from terrorist acts.  But is America since Reagan the go to guy to convince the Islamic world to recognize Israel’s right to exist?  I’ll bet that memories are especially long in the Middle East.  And that 30 years later, the answer may still be:  no.

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