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What Bush Knows

By: Ed Koch

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We are now getting down to the homestretch as we wrap up the Democratic primary and begin the race to the November general election. We will be electing the next president of the United States, and almost everyone expressing an opinion, informed or uninformed, believes the Democratic candidate will be Barack Obama.

I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton, but I too believe the odds of her defeating Barack Obama are overwhelmingly against her. It looks as if Senator Obama will prevail in the Democratic primary before or at the Democratic convention.

It has become fashionable for Americans to hold President George W. Bush up to derision. As many know, I crossed party lines in 2004 to support the president’s reelection, saying at the time that I did not agree with him on a single domestic issue, but I did believe he was the only one running who appreciated the threat of Islamic terrorism to American values and Western civilization and was prepared to wage a war to defend those values.

I have no regrets for having made that decision and helping the president win a second term. Today, according to the most recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, “71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president, an all-time high in polling.” Bush’s position can be compared with that of Harry Truman, who left Washington unpopular and alone in 1953. Today, most historians, and certainly the American people, see Truman in a different light, primarily for his willingness to stand firm against Soviet aggression and proclaim the Truman Doctrine, effectively defending the free world from Soviet efforts to expand their hegemony.

Like Truman, George W. Bush, in my view, will be seen as one of the few world leaders who recognized the danger of his time – in Bush’s case, Islamic terrorism – and was willing to stand up to it.

In the days of Yasir Arafat, Western European countries had understandings with Islamic terrorists that if the terror was confined to acts against Israel, the European countries would allow the terrorists to function without challenge. What those European countries came to understand was that they could not buy peace by offering up Israel as a sacrificial lamb, because the ultimate goal of the supporters of Osama bin Laden, and other jihadists throughout the Islamic world, was and remains the reestablishment of the caliphate (or Islamic religious rule) in all Muslim lands, including in any nation that was once under Muslim rule, e.g., Spain.

As part of their master plan, the jihadists intend to bring the West to its knees, and to replace moderate Arab regimes with Islamic republics, ultimately to become part of the reborn caliphate.

For most of Osama bin Laden’s career, the destruction of Israel was not a priority. This has now changed as the jihadists believe that Western countries have grown weary of unending war and may be convinced to offer Israel up as a sacrificial lamb.

Earlier this month, President Bush went to Israel to celebrate its 60th birthday as a nation and addressed the Knesset. He said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have an obligation to call this what it is: the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

Bush’s remarks were heavily criticized by leading Democrats, particularly Barack Obama, who said, “Now that’s exactly the kind of appalling attack that’s divided our country and that alienates us from the world.”

Really? Is it wrong to call the philosophy supporting negotiating with terrorists and radicals at the highest levels, president to president without pre-conditions, by its rightful name – appeasement?

The president was accurate, in my opinion, in recalling the specter of Neville Chamberlain’s pre-World War II efforts to satisfy Adolf Hitler. Those efforts were in response to Hitler’s siren call that all he wanted was the Sudetenland, with Chamberlain responding “yes” and returning to Britain waving a paper and announcing “peace in our time.”

Must we really learn the terrible lesson of Munich all over again seventy years later?

Israel and the Western world are in great danger from a declared enemy that knows no limits when it comes to achieving its goal of destroying Western civilization and spreading militant Islam through threats and terrorism.

The danger to Israel comes not from any unwillingness of its citizens to fight. They are willing to fight the enemy, and Israel is willing to suffer the deaths of its young in battle to preserve its values and its very existence. But the West appears – in many parts of Europe in particular – to have lost its self-confidence and willingness to stand and fight an enemy willing to continue the war until victory is achieved and their goals met.

When one side loses its resolve to fight and win and the other retains its resolve, the side that has lost its courage will look for ways to appease and entice the enemy to bring the war to a conclusion. If the enemy says, understanding the weakness, “Give us the Sudetenland” and later says “Give us all of Czechoslovakia,” such demands, as we know from history, will be met.

Bin Laden, recognizing the willingness of some in the West to give up Israel, in two recent messages has emphasized his demand that Israel be delivered to the jihadists. In fact, in most prior bin Laden threats, Palestine and Israel were rarely mentioned. Bin Laden believes that with war-weariness rising in the U.S. and Europe, and anti-Semitism escalating in Europe, there are fertile grounds to make Israel the new Czechoslovakia.

The reason I believe history will redeem President Bush is that he is one of the few leaders on the planet today who understands the larger picture. He has not lost his courage and vision of the future. He knows what calamities await the world if it engages in appeasement and deserts an ally in order to buy an illusory peace. We will recognize his worth long after he is gone.

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