Damascus - 27 km
Or so one sign on the 'Road to Damascus' surely reads. And that's about the sum total of what can pass for pleasantries along the way. Yet, American politicians, left and right, seem obsessed with traveling that road and enduring their own manipulation by a dictator and terror sponsor and exporter...so long as the resultant photos and news clips can be perceived as productive media.
But the adventures of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have squarely backfired as angry criticism is fielded from all sides. Hopefully, what can come of this ill-advised and self-serving junket is a lesson laid out plainly by Michael Barone today in a column titled simply, The Road To Damascus.
Akin to this is the feeling shared by most Democrats and, it seems, by most American voters, that if we can just get our troops out of Iraq, all will be well in the world.
I recall reading a few weeks ago an article on Democratic fund raising that quoted a woman as saying that "we were very safe under the Clinton administration." No, we weren't "very safe" — we just thought we were. Bill Clinton knew we weren't "very safe," and he took some steps — unfortunately, not enough — to make us safer.
You can say the same of George W. Bush during his first eight months in office. There are evil leaders out there — the mullahs of Iran, Mr. Assad and his thugs, Kim Jong Il, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and his pal Fidel Castro — who hate America and want to do us as much damage as they can.
They don't hate us just because the Republican Congress didn't raise the minimum wage or because George W. Bush has a stubborn streak and speaks with a West Texas accent. They hate us because of our freedoms and because we have worked to export those freedoms around the world.Friendship, hope, and a determination to be on the road to peace are not enough to protect us in this world. A speedy exit from Iraq might make many Americans less unsettled while watching cable news — for a while. But it wouldn't make us safer. It will just leave us more likely to face the kind of surprise we had on September 11, 2001.
To be sure, coddling dictators and terror sponsors is not the Road to Peace. The Road to Damascus remains quite simply the Road to Damascus. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing different than it has been in recent memory.
The sign may have said "Damascus, 27km." But if it was "Peace" they were looking for, the traveling parties need to calibrate their navigation equipment before setting out again upon the highways and byways of international relations and foreign policy.
After all, "friendship, hope, and a determination to be on the road to peace" are sentiments largely reserved for our friends and allies. But then, perhaps that linguistic compass requires more urgent calibration.