When grappling with deterrent threats and the task of keeping them credible, there is always a temptation to seek an easy way out. ... The answer to this question, of course, has to be "no." ... If our opponents are really to believe that we shall sacrifice American lives and risk terrible destruction to oppose their aggression, we must, for all practical purposes, be in fact willing to do so. We cannot say we are firm and be cowardly, for our words will be a "specious appearance." In managing a deterrence policy, there is no substitute for courage. - pg 154
As Bob Kerrey mentions in regards to President Obama's foreign policy vision, there is not a coherent policy. And Kerrey chastises the President for apologising too much. As the above quote shows, such apologia creates an impression that the United States is unwilling to shoulder any burden in the name of democracy and freedom.
When the opponent offers a choice between war or retreat, the statesman chooses, without hesitation, war. ... How, in the nuclear era, does one muster the courage to say "Well, then, it is war."? To a large extent, the roots of courage lies in understanding that the opponent can have a war whenever he chooses. ... Hence, when faced by an ultimatum of retreat or war the statesman should calmly say - and mean - "it is war." If the ultimatum was a bluff, then no war results and no retreat is made. If the ultimatum is real, then the resulting war was actively risked by the enemy and the responsibility for it is his. The 1961-62 Berlin crisis illustrates the error of holding oneself responsible for a possible war provoked by an aggressor. ... Illustrative of the fright was George Kennan's comment, reported by Schlesinger: "I am expendable, I have no further official career, and I am going to do everything I can to prevent war....the only thing I have left in life is to do everything I can to stop war." But Kennan was apparently assuming precisely what the United States should not have assumed: that we should have done anything to prevent a war. ... It is dangerous to believe that we can do anything to prevent war when an aggressor wishes to risk it, because there is one thing we can do and a panicky search will lead right to it: retreat. - pg 154-156
Looking at the above passage, one has to think on North Korea and Iran. Starting with the Clinton administration, everyone has tried to reason with North Korea while offering incentives from a basketball to grain to fuel oil. All that has accomplished is more North Koreans starved to death while their dear leader gained an atomic weapon. And the same mistakes have been perpetrated in regards to Iran. The UN, EU, and now the US are caught up in a mental box of their own creation, if they could only negotiate better with the Iranian mullahs, the mullahs are reasonable and see the value of the negotiations. Thus they can prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. This ignores the fact that Iran has multiple nuclear facilities and has spent a vast fortune to get these weapons. England and France both thought negotiations at any cost were better than another war in Europe, in the end they got that war anyway; in the meantime countries like Czechoslovakia and Poland fell victim to naked aggression before those remaining countries had had enough and were willing to risk war.
"Are we going to have another Vietnam in Thailand?" ... Rather it appears that this question is a rhetorical way of advancing an interpretation of the Vietnam war: The United States has got into a costly and unfortunate war. South Vietnam isn't really worth such a war. ... Therefore, we should learn our lesson and never again become involved in such a war. This view is perhaps the most dangerous, most destructive interpretation that could ever be placed upon our involvement in Vietnam. ... That we should make such sacrifices in Vietnam is the best evidence we can offer our opponents that we shall oppose them if they attempt aggression elsewhere. ... To reverse this interpretation, to tell the world that we shall never fight again in Southeast Asia is to weaken our threat and encourage aggression. It is difficult to imagine a more senseless way to squander the American blood that has been shed in Vietnam. - pg 157
In 1975, the Democrats in Congress cut off further military aid to South Vietnam so the country finally fell to Communist aggression. In the following decade, millions of people fled what was South Vietnam while millions more died in Cambodia; all this stemmed from the Untied States buying into the myth put forward by the likes of Jane Fonda and John Kerry that Vietnam was not worth it. We have seen this cannard be put forth in regards to Iraq, which as Kerrey points out President Bush had the courage to double down, listen to Gen. Petreaus, and send in more troops that turned around the situation in Iraq. Now we are hearing from pro-Obama sectors that the fraud in the Afghanistan election is reason enough for the United States to ponder this war is not worth it. Or we hear from Vice President Biden that we, the Afghan government and US, surrender the countryside to the various terror groups while trying to strike at them from secure enclaves. The Soviets controlled the cities and lost all of Afghanistan, but this plan is what Biden is proposing the United States do. Which would mean a democratic Afghanistan would fall and the pogroms to enslave Afghan women will start again. Bob Kerrey's advice should really be listened to by the Obama Administration. Or the view of the bin Ladens of the world will be confirmed again, when things get tough the United States packs up and runs away. Which will beget more violence.
End notes: Passages were quoted from The American Threat - The Fear of War as an Instrument of Foreign Policy. James L. Payne. Markham Publishing Co., Chicago. 1970. 241 pages.