Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
February 8, 2009

  This past week, as North Korea seemed to be getting set for a test of a new ballistic missile, one reportedly with a range of some four thousand miles, a range that would put Alaska within its reach, Iran hurled a satellite into orbit.

Here's an imaginary briefing of the President.

   Good morning, Mr. President. We hope you slept well. Here are a couple of items to which you might want to give some thought. Iran now has a satellite in orbit, and North Korea is flexing its muscles -- another test of that Taepodong-2 missile seems to be in the works.  And then of course there's the economy. Sir, all of that money that we need to spend to jump start the economy? Have you thought of using a big chunk of that to rebuild our armed forces? Maybe with better pay for duty in an active combat theatre, better financial aid for the families of those who are in the thick of battle, a lot more money for veterans' hospitals and post-discharge medical care and even yet more to replace our wrecked and used-up equipment with state-of-the art new models, which of course means continuing our research and development projects. Sir, wouldn't all of that create a whole lot of jobs?

   And speaking of new equipment, shouldn't we maybe be doing something soon to respond to China's full-speed upgrade of its strike force? China has started to build aircraft carriers, and it already has that nasty fleet of super-silent submarines. And what about those Sunburn supersonic surface-to-surface missiles that maybe could effectively knock out much of our whole Pacific fleet in a few unlucky hours? And then of course they've got all those nifty ballistic missiles. Remember, sir, how it wasn't so long ago that they took out one of their own older satellites with an earth-to-space missile, just to show us what they can do? Come to think of it, maybe we shouldn't have sold them all that high-tech rocket guidance stuff back in the Clinton years. But anyway, that was then, and this, as they say, is now.

   Mr. President, wouldn't it be like kind of a good idea to do what Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan did--authorize a big time, no-holds-barred program to restore our ability to defend ourselves and in the process put a pretty good chunk o four workforce back to work? Wouldn't that maybe be a "win-win" solution to a lot of our problems?

   Of course, Sir, not for a moment would we want you to think that we don't agree with your directive to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to slash our military budget by more than ten percent. No, sir! Money is short these days, and we need to do so much more for our schools. All that $86 billion that you want to spend on education? Right on, Mr. President! We'll reap the benefit of that in the next generation. And that $8 billion to be spent on renewable energy projects? Yes, sir, it's high time we started putting all of that wind and sunshine to work! And you're really brightening Mr. Gore's day!

   But, and we hope you won't take this the wrong way, maybe you might want to think about rewording some of those campaign promises? Just tone them down a little bit? It does make some Americans perhaps just a little bit nervous when they hear you say:   "I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems." After all, didn't somebody say that "consistency is the vice of little minds "- Or something like that. Whatever. Anyway, Mr. President, that's about all we have to say this morning, and we hope you have a nice day. Oh, one other thing. You know that smarty-pants columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens? Well, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and he wrote an article the other day that might in fact give you like maybe a bit of comfort as you look around the Middle East. May we leave it with you now? I guess that just about does it for us today. Once again, Sir, we wish you all the best.

End of Briefing

*          *         *         *          *
   And maybe you, too, would like to read the Bret Stephens essay. Here it is.

Iraq is Obama's Mideast Pillar
    By: Bret Stephens
    From: The Wall Street Journal
    Date: February 3, 2009

   Imagine yourself as Barack Obama, gazing at a map of the greater Middle East and wondering how, and where, the United States can best make a fresh start in the region.
   Your gaze wanders rightward to Pakistan, where preventing ... economic collapse or the Talibanization of half the country [not to mention a war with India] would be achievement enough. Next door is Afghanistan, where you are committing more troops, all so you can prop up a government that is by turns hapless and corrupt.

   Next there is Iran, drawing ever closer to its bomb. You're mulling the shape of a grand bargain, but Israel is talking preemption. Speaking of Israel, you're girding for a contentious relationship with the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, the all-but certain next prime minister.

   What about Israel's neighbors? Palestine is riven between feckless moderates and pitiless fanatics. Lebanon and Hezbollah are nearly synonyms. You'd love to nudge Syria out of Iran's orbit, but Bashar Assad isn't inclined. In Egypt, a succession crisis looms the moment its octogenarian president retires to his grave.

   And then there is Iraq, the country in the middle that you would havejust as soon banished from sight. How's it doing? Perplexingly WELL.

    The final tallies for Saturday's provincial elections aren't in yet. But a few conclusions are warranted. This time the election seems to have been mostly free of fraud; four years ago, it was beset by fraud. This time there was almost no violence; four years ago, there were 299 terrorist attacks. This time, 40% of voters in the overwhelming Sunni province of Anbar went to the polls, four years ago, turnout was 2%.

   In 2005, Iraqis voted their sectarian preferences. Now sectarian parties are out of fashion. "Those candidates who campaigned under the banner of religion should be rejected," Abdul Eareem told Al Jazeera. "They corrupted the name of religion because they are notorious for being thieves. Religion is not politics." Mr. Kareem is a Shiite cleric.

   Also out of fashion: Iran, previously thought to be the jolly inheritor of our Iraq misadventure. In 2005, Tehran's political minions in the Iranian-funded Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq-itself the funder of the dreaded Badr brigade-swept the field. Candidates loyal to anti-American fire-breather Moqtada al-Sadr also did well. This time, Sadr didn't even dare to field his own slate, and early reports are that the Supreme Council was trounced.

   What's in fashion, electorally speaking, are secular parties, as well as the moderately religious Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This wasn't supposed to happen. The Palestinian parliamentary election of 2006 that put Hamas in power was taken in the West as proof that Arab democracy was destined to yield illiberal results. Saturday's election suggests otherwise, assuming there is a structure that guarantees that Islamists must stand for election more than once.

   What about security? A month ago, General Ray Odiemo predicted that "al Qaeda will try to exploit the elections because they don't want them to happen.  So I think they will attempt to create some violence and uncertainty in the population." But al Qaeda was a no-show on Saturday.  Meanwhile, more U.S. soldiers died in accidents (12) than in combat (4) for the month of January.  The war is over.

   So what are you going to do about the one BRIGHT spot on your map-an Arab country that is genuinely democratic, increasingly secular and secure, anti-Iranian and, all-in-all, on your side? So far, your only idea seems to bid to it good luck and bring most of the troops home in time for Super Bowl Sunday, 2010.

   That's a campaign promise, but it isn't a foreign policy. Foreign policy begins with the recognition that Iraq has now moved from the liability side of the U.S. ledger to the ASSET side. As an Arab democracy, it is a MODEL for what we would like the REST of the Arab world to become. As a Shiite democracy, it is a REPROACH to Iranian theocracy, As the country at the HEART  of the Middle East, it is ideally located to be a BULKWARK AGAINST Tehran's encroachments.

   There was a time when American strategists understood the role countries could play as "PILLARS" of a regional strategy. Israel has been a pillar since at least 1967; Iran was one until 1979. Turkey, too, is a pillar, but it is fast slipping away, as is Egypt.

   Within the Arab world, Iraq is the ONLY country that can now fulfill that role. For that it will need military and economic aid, and lots of it. Better it than futile causes like Palestine, or missions impossible like winning over the mullahs. With Saturday's poll, Iraq has earned a powerful claim to our friendship.

   Yes, you'd rather look elsewhere on the map for a Mideast legacy. But Iraq is where you'll find it. Don't miss your chance.
[Emphasis added].

*          *         *         *          *

  Correction: In last week's Pastor's Page, we erroneously included former Senator Tom Daschle in the list of pro-abortion nominees who had already been confirmed by the Senate for  service to the new administration. Not a blessing in disguise but a blessing pure and simple was the Senate's hesitancy in the matter of confirming the abortion-friendly Mr. Daschle.