The Right Opinion

Send in the Clowns

By Oliver North · Feb. 8, 2013

TIBERIAS, Israel – Atop the Golan Heights, there are thousands of fruit trees, vineyards, acres of wheat, vegetables, herds of cattle and a half-million or more land mines. The livestock and produce were brought here and cultivated by Israeli citizen-soldiers – people who beat their swords into plowshares to wrest farmland from a battlefield. The land mines were planted by the Syrian army. The Golan plateau is an object lesson for American policymakers who believe that the Israelis need only trade a little more land in exchange for peace. It just isn't so.

While we were en route to the Golan plateau, the U.S. Senate confirmed John Kerry as America's new secretary of state. Kerry says “the Mideast peace process” is his “No. 1 priority.” By the time we returned to this ancient city beside the Sea of Galilee, the Senate Armed Services Committee had commenced confirmation hearings on former Sen. Chuck Hagel's fitness to serve as secretary of defense.

Watching “news” from the United States in a foreign country is often a surreal experience. My natural default mode when I'm overseas is to defend my country, but the Hagel hearings made this task challenging, to say the least. The Israelis watching the “highlight reel” frequently asked questions such as, “Why would Obama pick a person who hates Jews to be your secretary of defense?” What's the pro-American answer to that?

From here, Hagel looks “confused,” “uncertain” and “ignorant of reality.” And those are among the kindest observations appearing in Israel's English-language media. His bewildering, deer-in-the-headlights muddle about the Obama administration's “containment policy” toward Iran's nuclear weapons program was undoubtedly acclaimed by the ayatollahs in Tehran. But here in Israel, it affirmed the worst fears of people who see Iranian nuclear weapons as an existential threat to the survival of the Jewish state.

There were many other issues in which Hagel provided perplexing, even alarming, responses to questions posed by Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. For those of us who served in the Vietnam War, the exchange with Sen. John McCain about the “surge” in Iraq was simply bizarre. McCain asked Hagel whether he stood by a statement in 2007 that the surge in Iraq represented “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” Before the surge, he said, “If it's carried out, I will resist it.”

In a lengthy and heated back-and-forth, McCain repeatedly challenged Hagel on whether he still agreed that the Iraq surge was a mistake. Hagel refused to answer. Unfortunately, nobody asked a far more important question: What was it about Vietnam that Hagel considers to be a “blunder”?

The answer to that question might well have been more revealing about Hagel's perspective on current events than a debate over whether George W. Bush made the right decision in 2006 to put 30,000 more American troops into the fight in the Land Between the Rivers. Does Hagel – a Vietnam War veteran – think it was wrong that America honored its treaty commitments with the Republic of Vietnam? Does he recall that American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam in 1972? Does he recall that the North Vietnamese invasion and victory April 30, 1975, came less than five months after the U.S. Congress cut off all military aid to the Republic of Vietnam?

America – and the Defense Department Hagel wants to head – is now commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. There is no question about the outcome. After 12 years of war, the North Vietnamese finally conquered their southern neighbor. Millions died and fled the country we pledged to defend. But the war wasn't lost on the battlefields of Vietnam. It was lost in the corridors of power in Washington. Does Hagel consider the “blunder” of Vietnam to be our getting into the fight? Or was it our precipitous withdrawal and removal of all support?

Those are the kinds of questions that should have been asked – and that Israelis are now asking privately as they await the outcome of these hearings. Hagel says, inexplicably, that he isn't going to be a “policymaker” if he becomes secretary of defense. Officials here know better – but none of them is going to go on the record about Barack Obama's appointments.

Privately, they note: “There is chaos and turmoil all around us. Washington tells us sanctions will stop the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. Forty years of sanctions haven't kept the North Koreans from building atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Will the U.S. honor its commitments to us?”

After news broke about Obama's plan to visit Israel, one of my friends shook his head, took out his smartphone and pressed a button. From the tiny speaker came Frank Sinatra singing “Send in the Clowns.”



sfj in Alabama said:

We don't need to send in the clowns - they're already here. Hagel - Panetta - clinton - reid - and the biggest clown of all; odumbo. This country is finished.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:42 AM

Retired Sarge in Rockville, IN said:

Without a doubt, when we turn our back on Israel (as if the U.S. hasn't already), God will indeed turn His back on us.

After witnessing the United States' desertion of the Republic of Vietnam, it's no wonder the Israelis look at us with caution. I seriously think that if s**t hit the fan over there, Obama would sit with his arms folded.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:54 AM

Doktor Riktor Von Zhades in Western KY replied:

Agreed Sarge! He'd just consider the Israelis as 7.7 million bumps in the road towards peace.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Doktor Riktor Von Zhades in Western KY said:

As a side note, I looked at the headlines of USA today, and read that Congress is yet again cutting military spending. Why is it they can cut and gut the military, but can't cut one lousy penny out welfare?

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 9:40 AM

PH in DE said:

I wish someone would cut off the money Obama wastes on his trips, most of which are vacations or campaigning or for photo ops. That would be a good start to spending cuts.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:02 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

Seems the Israelies have the situation figured out, Chairman Obamao has a group of clowns to do his bidding. And Dempsey's testimony as chairman of JCS proves he is a politically appointed yes man to Chairman Obamao, a despicable idiot pawn of the marxists. He and Hagel may make our military as effective a Notre Dame was against Alabama.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Doctor of Democracy in Wake, NC said:

Thanks, Colonel, for keeping the record straight on the UN-mandated Republic of Vietnam, the liberal 1974-5 Congressional abandonment of ARVN, and the despicable Communist violation of the Paris Accord as well as UN mandated borders in violating a free state.
The same mind set that went into allowing or abetting the assassination of Diem, purposefully hindering the advance of Western-style liberty, is what this administration has in mind all over the world. It is manifested today in U.S. policy towards Arab states (all 57 of them!) whereby "we" encourage "democracy" movements that ensure the installation of Islamofascist totalitarian regimes. And then they blame the resulting violence on an internet video to cover up!

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

Let's face it folks, Our Generals and Admirals are no longer leaders but politicians. They will do whatever it takes to get promoted and to hell with the very folks they are supposed to lead. Dempsey is one of the sorriest excuses for a Army General that has ever worn the uniform. This is the supposed leader who told his troops in Afghanistan they were the reasons the Afghan police and Afghan soldiers were killing them. He is also the same idiot who did nothing to help the 4 Americans who died in Benghazi because he didn't have the guts to tell Odumbo that action needed to be taken to help those people. If Odumbo can gut the military and put in place a National Police Force then he will have total control of the country. The Hispanics, the liberal whites who suffer from "white guilt", and the blacks will never raise a hand to stop his agenda. A large percentage of Hispanics and Blacks are too busy holding out their hands for the "free goodies" to worry about what will happen if Odumbo gets what he wants, a third, fourth, or fitth term. If he can get amnesty for the supposedly 11 million illegal aliens in this country then what or who is left to stop him. Only those who are armed and willing to stand up for freedom and liberty. Biggest reason for pushing for gun control is to disarm the public.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:31 AM

HP in Kalispell, MT replied:


Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Henry in Illinois replied:

Mr. Miller , I agree with your statement(s) 100 % and then some . And as far as this " so called general" dempsey is concerned , he is just a usefull idiot .

Monday, February 11, 2013 at 1:28 PM

JLS06 in Houston, TX said:

Right on, Wayne Miller! All too many of our military leaders today are consumed by the need for "political correctness" to further their own careers. I wrote a commend in a North column about my great disappointment in the non-action taken by the III Corps Commander when MAJ Hassan committed murder on his turf, and he, fearing the possible loss of a fourth star, did nothing about Hassan. As Corps Commander, he had the power to have Hassan executed by a firing squad the very next day. This did not happen. As we all know, Hassan is still a U.S. Army Major, flaunting (and hiding behind) a beard, prolonging his murder trial (going on THREE years) and still probably drawing full pay and allowances. It makes me so very sad to know that today, this is not the same Army I served for 37+ years.

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:19 PM

Mark in Fullerton said:

Dear Col. North,

The answer to the question of why The Coward of Benghazi does anything is that he is a traitor and a destroyer who hates everything good and right in this world.

Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 5:38 AM