Exclusive to Seraphic Secret
By Jake Novak
Last night I was extremely lucky to be invited to spend a very stimulating evening with Dr. Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post and frequently-quoted thinker on Seraphic Secret.
The event was arranged for the biggest donors to a very excellent charity called Shalva, which caters to children with mental and physical disabilities and their parents primarily in Jerusalem but also here in the United States. Please visit Shalva’s web page at www.shalva.org and consider making a donation to this organization that performs incredible acts of kindness every hour of the day.
The evening began with a 20 minute talk by Dr. Krauthammer at the 5th Avenue home of James and Merryl Tisch. Later, I was lucky enough to enjoy a private dinner with Dr. Krauthammer and a just about 10 other people. The dinner did not end until well after 10pm.
For those of you who do not know, Dr. Krauthammer is wheelchair-bound, the result of a devastating car accident in 1972 while he was a first-year student at the Harvard medical college. It was clear to me during his remarks that he is in constant physical pain that he alleviates somewhat by frequently adjusting his mechanical chair. I mention this only to emphasize the fact that it is astounding that a person with such physical difficulties can speak so eloquently no matter what the setting. I also bring his disability up because he happens to be a general opponent of embryonic stem cell research, (although he does believe President Bush’s policy against it is too harsh), and he stands as a strong example of why we should not assume that every American who is paralyzed or similarly incapacitated does not care about the ethical ramifications of unrestricted embryonic research.
Dr. Krauthammer touched on many topics during his remarks. Here are the highlights below, (I endeavor to use the exact words Dr. Krauthammer used as much as possible, but obviously there is some paraphrasing here):
On the War on Terrorism
“America is now facing a similar situation as it did in the early days of the Cold War. Eventually, we came to realize that we faced a menacing threat from two major centers, one in Moscow and the other in Beijing. Today we face a battle against radical Islam, with the Wahabist Sunni power center in Saudi Arabia and the other in the Shiite power center of Tehran.
“Both of these enemies are extremely dangerous and more akin to the Nazi and fascist threat we faced in the 1930’s and 40’s than they are like the slightly less menacing Communist threats of the next 50 years. But even worse than the Nazi menace, is the fact that these newer enemies are much closer to acquiring nuclear weapons than Hitler was at any time during his 1933-45 reign. More on this later…
“The Shiite enemy is more dangerous right now and if the Sunni-Shiite battles escalate beyond the current low-intensity conflict, the United States must back the Sunni powers in heart-wrenching, but necessary “choose Stalin instead of Hitler” kind of way.
“The Shia enemy axis is centered in Iran, with its satellites Hezbollah in Lebanon, and to a growing extent, its new clients in Syria and within Hamas. Syrian Muslims are not purely Shia or Sunni, but they are leaning toward full compliance with Iran in the absence of any other sponsor and protector at the moment. Hamas is 100% Sunni, but it too has decided to align with Iran. Recent protests by Fatah groups in Gaza have included the taunts “Shia! Shia!”, as a way of accusing their Hamas opponents of surrendering their religion to Iran.
“The Sunni enemy is less organized and strong than Iran’s Shia network, because of America’s success in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. Al Qaeda poses a much smaller threat than Hezbollah as it is on the run and Hezbollah is getting more entrenched in Lebanon every day, Syria has been unmolested, and Iran gets closer to nukes.
“But the focus on the weapons themselves is clouding the fact that we must be more concerned right now with the delivery systems. Even if Iran never gets a nuclear warhead, its missile-launching capacity is greater than ever before right now. The U.S. needs to have a good strategy to destroy those sites instead of trying to neutralize the nuclear program which is mostly underground and spread out all over the country.
“The recent report in the Sunday London Times that Israel has a plan in place to use tactical nukes to hit Iran is complete rubbish, as is everything else that appears in that newspaper. There are important reasons why striking Iran is problematic for Israel, and the biggest reason is that Israel would need somewhere to land and refuel to execute a strike and it is unlikely it could find such a place where it would be allowed to do so right now. Turkey and Iraq are possibilities, but not today. The recent decision to deploy an American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf was a welcome event and hopefully it will send a cautionary message to Iran.
“Some of the Sunni-Shia conflict can work to our benefit. Secretary of State Condi Rice is working with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and some other Sunni regimes on setting up some kind of “Sunni NATO” that will give them a stronger military card to play against Iran and possibly Syria in the years to come. It’s not clear whether this idea will work, but it’s worth trying.
“More importantly, the world must get serious with the radical Islamist threat and be ready for a prolonged war in the region. Europe is not only not a realistic ally militarily, but it along with Russia and China will make sure that all the non-military options like negotiations and sanctions will never work. President Bush’s steadfast belief in facing the enemy threat militarily and trying to promote democracy in the region are our best hope. However, for the first time, I am seeing a weakening in the President’s resolve vis a vis Iran and that is very disturbing. Even before the November elections, I spoke with the President and his response to my question about a possible military strike on Iran was met with a meeker answer than ever before.”
On the Situation in Israel
“Israel is straddled with the worst government it’s ever had in its 59-year history. Olmert and company are incompetent, but just competent enough to stay in power and avoid new elections.
“Olmert’s biggest failure was last summer’s war where he bungled a chance to destroy Hezbollah. Sharon had ignored many similar provocations from Hezbollah before, but he never struck back because he was not ready. Olmert struck back, but he too did not have a strategy and he tried to fight the war on the cheap.
“The right man to lead Israel now is Netanyahu. The problem is, and I say this as a strong personal friend of his, he is almost inept at building a coalition and has so many personal problems that he may not be able to win over the Israeli voters ever again. Netanyahu is too clever by half, as was evidenced by his resignation just before the Gaza pullout instead of months before when Sharansky resigned on principle, which is the way to do it. The result was that Olmert solidified his position as Sharon’s successor and Netanyahu can now see that he would today be Prime Minister had he not quit the Sharon government. On the other hand, Netanyahu does have a strategy and is likely to act on it if he is put back in charge. He had one of the most successful terms of any Prime Minister in Israeli history and he was absolutely the best finance minister the country ever had.
“Speaking of Sharansky, he is my
all-time hero. I’ve met many other people who came out of the gulag and situations like that. He is the only one who clearly became a better person in every facet of his life because of that experience. This is in contrast to someone like John McCain who is still quite wounded emotionally from his experiences as a prisoner in Hanoi and still struggles with these handicaps every day.”
On the 2008 Presidential Elections
“This is the first time since 1952 that no President or Vice President is in the race, and that’s why we are seeing so many candidates. However, it is nearly impossible to think of any plausible scenario other than Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee and John McCain for the GOP. This is encouraging because Hillary is running to the right of all the other Democrats and McCain is remaining steadfast in his support for the war in Iraq.”
On Jews and American Politics
“The fact that 80% of Jews vote Democratic and vilify President Bush is not only puzzling, it is suicidal. While I differ with the President on many issues myself, most notably abortion that pales in comparison to his support of Israel. This also plays itself out in the way American Jews fear and loathe Evangelicals. This reminds me of Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s visit to the U.S. in 1978 when he met with Jerry Falwell. Jewish groups attacked him and asked how he could meet with someone who ‘only supports Israel because of some Christian belief in the second coming.’ To that, Begin answered, “That does not bother me. But when the Messiah comes, I will ask him: ‘Have you been here before?’
“I am a secular Jew, and I see that Reform Judaism serves a special role by keeping a lot of Jews within the community, but its priorities are way out of whack.”