In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, a rough consensus emerged about the messages the Clinton administration was sending to potential adversaries. The failure to respond to the attacks on our forces in Mogadishu, the non-response to the bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and toleration of the assault on the U.S.S. Cole -- all persuaded al-Qaida that the United States was a "weak horse" that could be attacked without fear. Our limp response to provocations thus encouraged aggression.
It is a lesson that some never learned. The left wing of the Democratic Party (and the Paulite fraction of the Republican Party) believes that American misbehavior is what invites belligerence, and if the U.S. can demonstrate sufficient peaceful intent, we, and the world, will be safer.
President Obama, though seeking tough guy credentials by taking out selected terrorists and maintaining forces in Afghanistan, has been assiduously sending signals of peaceful intent to the Iranians -- to the point of farce.
One of the president's first foreign policy forays was to send a New Year's message to the Iranian regime expressing hope for a fresh start in bilateral relations. The mullahs' response was one of contempt. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted toward the end of 2009 that "I don't think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of positive response from the Iranians."
That's an understatement. Besides mowing down its own people in the streets, Iran arrested four American hikers and placed them on trial for espionage. It continued to supply its agents in Iraq with roadside bombs for use against U.S. troops. Flouting international entreaties and sanctions, the regime continued its illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons. Asked to establish a hotline with Washington, Tehran responded by saying, "The only way to end (American) concerns is for (the U.S.) to leave the region." As recently as last week, President Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and mocked U.S. concerns about nuclear weapons. If we are building a nuclear bomb, Ahmadinejad smirked, then "the fuel of that bomb is love (for Chavez)."