The Real World Intrudes

Mona Charen
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Posted: Dec 28, 2007 12:01 AM
The Real World Intrudes

The next to last assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto came on Dec. 13, when a man in the crowd got the former prime minister's attention. He was holding a 1-year-old baby -- Bhutto said later she thought it was a girl -- and tried to hand the child across the sea of bodies. Bhutto said, "He kept trying to hand it to people to hand to me. I'm a mother. I love babies. But the [streetlights] had already gone out and I was worried about the baby getting dropped or hurt." So she turned away and ducked into her armored vehicle. Just then, the baby's body, rigged with explosives, detonated.

That is the nature of the enemy. Thursday morning brought news that another bomber has succeeded in killing Bhutto. Early reports suggest that this time the terrorists relied on a suicide bomber and a gunman. Al-Qaida was quick off the mark. "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahedeen," said commander and spokesman Mustafa Abu al-Yazid in a phone interview with Adnkronos International. Whether al-Qaida really did the killing or opportunistically claimed credit is unclear. But there is no doubt that Bhutto represented a modernizing movement within the Islamic world and was accordingly seen as a threat by the seventh century zealots who rig babies with explosives.

That she was a woman was an added provocation. Al-Qaida's pronouncement reveals once again that however much we may wish to pretend that these overseas convulsions have nothing to do with us, however much we might want to avoid their tangled rivalries and primitive violence, they won't let us.

The world thus rudely intrudes on what had become a parochial, oddly detached primary election campaign focusing on competing Christmas greetings, quail hunting, and the bugaboo of "special interests." But now, at last, and perhaps just in time, the campaign season will get serious.

Among the Democrats, the question of foreign policy gravitas is moot. Their front-runners are a first-term senator who has been on the national stage for only three years, a former senator who served only one term but knows a great deal about getting money out of juries for malpractice cases, and a current senator whose tenure as first lady is her chief claim to foreign policy experience.

The Republicans offer a number of seasoned and sensible candidates, but the front-runner for the Iowa caucuses is not one of them. With a nuclear-armed Pakistan wobbling, do Republican caucus-goers really want to lend their considerable weight to Mike Huckabee, who compares America's world posture to a high school popularity contest? In Foreign Affairs magazine, Huckabee wrote "Much like a top high school student, if it [the U.S.] is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised."

This, mind you, is Huckabee's bid for foreign policy credibility -- Foreign Affairs is a wonkish publication. So is he serious? Does he really believe that international relations are governed by likeability (a Huckabee strong suit, admittedly) instead of power, self-interest, security, and ideology? And what exactly does Huckabee mean when he accuses the U.S. of attempting to "dominate" others? Huckabee approved of the war in Iraq -- a war of liberation, not domination, however clumsily it may have been prosecuted at times. But then, it's hard to know exactly where he does stand since he has also echoed leftist critics who claim that the Iraq War has been a "distraction" from the war on terror. Certainly Huckabee's determination to close Guantanamo seems to be a bid for international popularity.

Perhaps the high school reference was a one-time faux pas? No, the man seems to perpetually to compare international relations and conflicts to personal spats. "We haven't had diplomatic relationships with Iran in almost 30 years," Huckabee told radio host Hugh Hewitt, "most of my adult life. And a lot of good it's done. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent or a sibling, or even a friend, it's impossible to resolve the differences and move that relationship forward. Well, the same is true for countries."

No, it isn't. Emphatically not. The mullahs who rule Iran, the commissars who rule China, the dictators who control most of the Arab and African nations, and most of all, the terrorists who sent the world a deadly reminder of their ferocity when they killed Benazir Bhutto Thursday are not waiting for an invitation to the mixer. And to nominate for president someone who thinks so would be a disaster.