Last night, Lindsey Graham spoke to an estimated crowd of 300 at the Stern Center on the campus of the College of Charleston,sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program of the College. Press notices had indicated that Graham would be speaking on Israel and the Middle East. The event was open to the public, and your scribe found a packed Stern Auditorium upon his arrival.
The loyal readership knows that we have found much not to like in positions taken by Senator Graham, from supporting the horrible Akaka Bill favoring sovereignty for native Hawaiians, to the ill-fated Immigration Reform bill, to imposing a secret hold on the nomination of Jim Haynes to a seat on the Federal Bench.
On the other hand, supporters of the Senator have pointed out that Graham is a politician of independent views. Even though he is a reliable conservative that reflects the attitudes of his constituency, the Senator is not afraid to express his own views on matters, preferring the middle ground to the edges of the partisan battles in Congress. We should respect his forthrightness, even as we disagree with some of his positions.
Last night, both his conservative inclination and his independent perspective were on full display. The Senator, in his remarks and in the question period that followed made the following points:
1. Radical Islam is at war with the rest of the world. The war is global in nature, and the enemy does not wish to control territory, desiring instead to force non-believers to accept Islam or die. An enemy that willingly dies in battle, that does not recognize or accept the use of diplomacy, and cannot be accommodated by ceding territory is an implacable foe. For us, there are two choices….fight or appease. There is no in-between.
2. Among the enemy, Senator Graham considers Iran the most dangerous threat. He noted, repeatedly, his belief that we have 2 -5 years to arrive at a political solution to the Iranian threat, and its development of "nuclear tipped missiles", before that regime attacks Israel. Once Israel is attacked, the world will have passed the point of no return in a conflict that will last generations.
3. Although he considers Iraq "a mess", by inference pointing the finger of blame at the President, he firmly believes that leaving Iraq before achieving our goals would throw the region into further chaos, empower Iran and the radical Islamists, and prove to the Muslim world that Bin-Laden is correct in his opinion that we lack the will to fight. As a corollary to that position, he stated that the proposed division of Iraq into separate Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish states would serve only to fan the flames of religious and political conflict in the Middle East.
4. He believes that Russia has the same degree of influence over Iran as China has over North Korea. And to the extent that Russia works against the US, Iran is given implied permission to continue on its path of developing nuclear weapons. Graham does not think that Vladimir Putin is a friend of the US, and his complicity will cause the world much harm in the near future.
5. Senator Graham said that, today, this period in history reminds him of the "20s and 30s", wherein the world refused to take seriously that words and acts of Adolph Hitler. He thinks that, again, there is a very narrow window of opportunity to take diplomatic action to dis-arm Iran. Iran is telling us what their intentions are…they intend to destroy "the little Satan" Israel and then move against "the Great Satan", the United States. Our failure to achieve a diplomatic solution will inevitably lead to a war that will exact a terrible toll on this country and the world.
6. We have "two years"………
A well delivered speech, with words that should give each one of us pause on this day. The threat is real, the danger great, and our options shrink with each passing day.