Newsweek's Hirsh: Renegade neocon cowboy Bush needs to be ... more unilateral

By striking Iranian nuclear facilities? Taking out North Korean Taepodongs on the launch pad?

Nah. By negotiating unilaterally, of course:

The lesson here is that America still has to lead like a superpower. And when it comes to dealing with the Mideast, or with Iran and North Korea—the last two members of the “axis of evil”—America isn’t leading, it is following. Burned by his bitter Iraq experience, Bush is hiding behind the skirts of multilateralism as an excuse for not grappling with these problems personally. In all three cases, that might mean negotiating directly with regimes he abhors: Tehran, Pyongyang and the Hamas-run government in the Palestinian territories. It would mean a bit more cowboy diplomacy, taking the bull by the horns, as it were, and finding a way out on his own, like Gary Cooper in “High Noon.” Instead, Bush is pretending he’s not at home when the bad guys get off the train. By all means, rely on multilateral pressures. But at least get involved.

Remember the scene in High Noon when Gary Cooper invites the Miller gang over for tea and they’re so grateful for the “dialogue” that they promise they’ll try to kill him only semi-regularly?

Or the scene where Gary Cooper finally organizes a posse but then sends them home because he doesn’t want to hide behind their skirts?

As usual, the ideological divide here boils down to how each side perceives the enemy’s motives. To Hirsh, Iran and North Korea are fighting an essentially defensive war:

There are a number of reasons why Iran and North Korea are building weapons of mass destruction. But fear of what America might do must rank high among them. “[Iran’s leaders] are obsessed by the Americans, really obsessed,” an Iraqi official who visited Tehran last fall told my colleague Scott Johnson. Kim Jong Il also has shown over the years that a U.S. attack is his primary fear. And while he has cheated on previous agreements, he’s shown a willingness to negotiate away his arms, for example with a 1999 moratorium on missile tests. A North Korea deal would instantly return to Bush the trophy that the Chinese have been coveting: that of the leading power in Asia. A broad security pact with Iran—a much harder prize now with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power than it was a few years ago when Bush rejected an overture from a more moderate Tehran—is going to be brutally difficult, but it’s not impossible either.

Can he really believe, after 25 years of Iranian terrorism, that promising the Miller gang we won’t arrest them will get them to stop breaking the law?

Say this for him, though: at least he wants the U.S. in the lead. One gets the sense from the nutroots sometimes that the real solution is to get a new sheriff.

You know who I’d bet could solve all these problems lickety split?


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