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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

Message to Obama: Don't coddle a thug

By Victor Davis Hanson

President Obama came into office apparently believing that his non-traditional background, charisma and good intentions could placate dictators hostile to America and ease global tensions.

In these first six months, the new administration has made clear to Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Russia's Vladimir Putin and other strongmen like them that Barack Obama is not a mean-talking George Bush. A kinder, gentler United States has promised to push the "reset" button. In the interest of peace, an American president would finally be listening rather than lecturing, and willing to talk to authoritarian bullies without preconditions.

But so far the world's thugs do not seem to appreciate that new goodwill. Intelligence reports indicate that North Korea's Kim Jong-il had planned to launch a ballistic test missile in the direction of Hawai'i between July 4 and July 8. Russia's Vladimir Putin would like to replace the dollar as the global currency.

Most recently, Obama kept relatively silent for a week after the fraudulent Iranian election and the ensuing government crackdown against protestors. He was apparently worried about offending Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs above him who truly run the country and thereby making it more difficult to negotiate once the resistance was put down.

Obama's confusion about the world's bad actors suggests that he needs a general refresher course in the world of thugs.

Lesson One: Thugs only want America, the world's most powerful democracy not others to apologize. Iran's Ahmadinejad does not care whether his friends the Russians slaughtered Muslims recently in Afghanistan and Chechnya, or have meddled in Iranian affairs for over two centuries. Iranian mullahs only want Russian nuclear expertise, not their apologies.

When President Obama says he is sorry to Iran about American involvement in a coup 66 years ago, thugs like Ahmadinejad likely interpret our apologies as signs of our own confusion and so a green light for more troublemaking.

Lesson Two: Being anti-American and mouthing tired charges about imperialism, colonialism or capitalism do not make a thug authentic or populist. By definition, thugs acquire power illegitimately. They keep it unlawfully. And they exercise it illegally regardless of their professed concern for the "people" or their gripes against America.

Lesson Three. The more we speak out about the harsh rule of thugs, the more oppressed people will come to respect us. Our past resistance to Ahmadinejad may help explain why the Iranian people seem to admire us more than many in the Arab street, whose dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Egypt we so fawningly have praised.

Lesson Four. Thugs can never be trusted whether an Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin of the past or the rogue's gallery of today. Kim Jong-il continued his nuclear program when he promised that he would not. Syria's Bashar Assad hid his nuclear reactor under construction.

Lesson Five. Most of the world's problems are caused by a handful of thugs. Any time one can be isolated and replaced by a consensual government, the world gets just a bit safer.

If Iran were to embrace a free and fairly elected government, it would likely not be threatening to wipe out Israel or funding terrorists in Lebanon and Palestine. Once Saddam disappeared, so did $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers on the West Bank and Iraq's plan to conquer the Persian Gulf.

So, Mr. President, do not talk to a thug unless you absolutely have to. Do not apologize to or put our trust in one. And whenever people rise up against a thug, speak out immediately and forcefully on their behalf and let the thug, not America, worry about the consequences of the spread of freedom.