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Offer Syria the same deal we gave Iraq
By Doug Patton
"Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
George W. Bush
Remember the scene from the movie "Patton" (no relation), when the gutsy old general begs his superiors to let him take the 3rd Army into Russia and take care of America's next enemy? Well, as it turns out, old George knew what he was talking about. Imagine how different the last half of the 20th Century would have been if he had been granted that request.
Just as General Patton led the liberation of Europe, General Tommy Franks has now led a masterful liberation of Iraq. And just as it would have been prudent to allow Patton to complete the task of ridding the world of its worst dictatorships in 1945, it would be equally wise for George W. Bush to allow Franks to finish the job in the Middle East.
We are sure to find weapons of mass destruction in and around Baghdad, but no matter how many we find, we can't know how many others were smuggled into Syria to be distributed to terrorist groups. Thus, the same deal should be offered to Bashar al-Assad, son of the late Hafiz al-Assad and now head of Syria, as was offered to Saddam Hussein with a slight twist: cut off all ties to terrorism or face the American military.
Since Syria's support of international terrorism is every bit as well known as Saddam's weapons programs, this seems a reasonable request. They are either with us or they are with the terrorists.
Of course, after the squalling we heard out of the United Nations Security Council, the gasp of disbelief over this would be deafening. So what? They were predicting the end of the world before we went into Iraq, and look what happened. They never get it right.
We have a quarter million U.S. troops in Iraq, and as Patton pointed out to the politicians at the end of World War II, we will never have another opportunity like this one.
At the same time, it would not take much to topple the current government in Iran. This is a shaky regime with a great deal of civil unrest, fostered by 25 years of repressive Islamic rule.
If these three nations Iraq, Iran, Syria were to be free, democracy, which is contagious, could spread across the rest of the Middle East just as it has spread across Eastern Europe as a result of the courage of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to win the Cold War.
Exporting freedom is what the United States has always been about. In this case, it is merely a side benefit. Our first goal must be to defeat terrorism. When we were attacked a year and a half ago, we were, as President Bush stated, "put on notice." We are the world's only remaining superpower for now but we are not immune and we are not impenetrable.
We should make the offer to Syria and be prepared to back it up. For all his blustering about holy war, Osama bin Laden has to be stunned at what we have done in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq. He thought America was weak. He thought we would cower into our little corner of the world with a whimper after 9/11. In his twisted Islamist mind, he really believed he could frighten us with terror. He was wrong; all he did was make us angry.
The United States should continue to drive home the point until terror is so expensive no one is willing to use it against anyone.
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a political speechwriter
and public policy advisor at the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns
can be read in newspapers across the country and at www.GOPUSA.com. He also writes
for the Talon News Service. Readers can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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