If you had five minutes to speak before the secretary of Defense, what would you say?
At this point, I’m sure, if Gen. James Mattis is reading this, he is probably muttering to himself: “Here we go again.”
You see, every time I run into the secretary of Defense, I try my best to make the point that we’ve been at war too long in too many places.
Gen. Mattis, as well as the head of NATO, the head of the UN, and virtually every voice of reason in the foreign policy world, acknowledges that there is no military solution to the unending Afghan War.
For that matter, most agree that there is no military solution to the Syrian civil war or the Yemeni civil war. And yet . . . the same voices that admit there is no military solution keep sending more troops.
The Vietnam War strategy of taking one more village to get a better diplomatic deal still rules among many decision-makers.
I, for one, will keep pushing for a declaration of victory and a grand celebration as our troops come home.
For diplomacy to ever work in the Middle East, though, we need to discover what ideas prevent us from finding peace.
First — Islam must police Islam and eliminate terrorists. Only Islam can ultimately eradicate radicals who promote violence against civilians.
Every time a terrorist is killed by an American, 10 more terrorists are inspired. Islam must police Islam. Only when the people who live in the Middle East rise up and say “no more” will the violence be controlled.
Second — there is no military solution to the wars in Syria and Afghanistan. Nor is there a military solution to our conflict with Iran.
Peace in the Middle East will have to involve diplomacy.
Peace in Syria will have to involve talks at the very least between Russia and the U.S. This is why the multitude in Congress who criticized President Trump’s meeting with President Putin are an obstacle to peace in Syria. In all likelihood, peace is also dependent on considering the desires and concerns of the Turks, the Israelis, Bashar al-Assad, the Kurds and the Iraqis. Also, any Peace Plan will have to acknowledge the status quo on the ground.
A diplomatic peace with Iran is also possible but will have to acknowledge that the Iran Nuclear Agreement, while not perfect, was indeed a step forward - that it will be infinitely harder to negotiate a bilateral agreement with Iran on nuclear AND ballistic missiles.
To find a diplomatic peace with Iran, negotiators will have to acknowledge upfront that Iran will never negotiate away her ballistic missiles unless the agreement is multilateral and includes equal concessions from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Sheikdoms, and Israel. Asking Iran to unilaterally disarm is a non-starter.
Any diplomatic peace in Afghanistan is possible but must acknowledge the status quo on the ground, the historic Afghan aversion to centralized power in Kabul, and the futility of continuing to spend $50 billion a year in Afghanistan, and it will only occur when the U.S. directly negotiates with the Taliban.
So there, in five minutes I believe I’ve called for ending three wars and given the roadmap to peace in the Middle East.
We all know peace in the Middle East is likely not that easy, but I think many of us also know that continuing to try the same policies year after year and expecting a different outcome is foolish.
My hope is that this administration, that has shown signs of a willingness to challenge conventional thinking, will have the courage to accept a peace that could happen when the United States relinquishes the idea that we must be the world’s policeman.