Tony Blankley

Nor is that all. Al Qaeda and other terrorists are already gloating that they have whipped the "cowardly Americans" in Iraq. We will be seen (in fact, we are already beginning to be seen) as a weak reed for moderate Muslims to rely on in their hearts and mind struggle against the radical Islamists. Bin Laden was right in one regard: People fear and follow the strong horse; even more so in Middle Eastern culture, where restraint is seen as weakness and murder is seen as strength.

In the face of such a dreadful likelihood, the emerging Washington consensus is an exercise in self-delusion unworthy of a 5-year-old. The almost consensus Washington argument assumes that if only we would formally talk with them, Iran and Syria would volunteer to pull our chestnuts out of the fire while we start removing troops from Iraq. Such arguments exemplify the witticism that when ideas fail, words come in very handy.

Iran has been our persistent enemy for 27 years -- Syria longer. They may well be glad to give us cover while we retreat, but that would merely be an exercise in slightly delayed gratification, not self-denial, let alone benignity. So long as Iran is ruled by its current radical Shi'a theocracy, she will be vigorously and violently undercutting any potentially positive, peaceful forces in the region -- and is already triggering a prolonged clash with the terrified Sunni nations. Our absence from the region will only make matters far worse.

We need to start undermining by all methods available that dangerous Iranian regime -- as the Iranian people, free to express and implement their own opinions and policies, are our greatest natural allies in the Muslim Middle East.

We have only two choices: Get out and let the ensuing Middle East firestorm enflame the wider world; or, stay and with shrewder policies and growing material strength manage and contain the danger.

Those who call themselves realists are the least realistic. Their great unreality is that they can't imagine that the passions of the people -- for good or ill -- are to be reckoned with. Thus it was they who for half a century supported and exploited the Middle East dictators who caused the Islamist pathologies that threaten the world today. It is they who will do business with the corrupt dictators to the very minute that they are overthrown by the Islamist mobs. They will keep the cash register humming until it is flooded with blood. The "realists'" unjustified conceit is, today, the most dangerous pathology facing America.

As in all struggles, each side will make mistakes. We have certainly made several. But as the last century's great chess master Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower once famously observed: "Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake." Retreating from Iraq would be the last mistake.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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