Secretary Gates at JINSA, Part II: Iran and Jihad

[Ed. Note: This is the second of a three-part series covering the speech delivered by Secretary of Defense Gates to JINSA on October 15, 2007.]

On “the elusive Iranian moderate”:

[Ed. Note: This is the second of a three-part series covering the speech delivered by Secretary of Defense Gates to JINSA on October 15, 2007.]

On “the elusive Iranian moderate”:

I remember back to November 1, 1979, when then-National Security Advisor Brzezinski was in Algiers… While we were there, the Iranian delegation asked to meet with (him). Brzezinski offered the Iranians – their Prime Minister and Defense and Foreign Ministers – recognition of their revolution, continuation of their partnership that had existed under the Shah – including military assistance to the new government, and focus on a common foe to Iran’s north – the Soviet Union. They weren’t interested. They only wanted us to give them the dying Shah. Brzezinski refused, finally saying that to return the Shah would be incompatible with our national honor. That ended the meeting.

Three days later came word that our embassy in Tehran had been seized, and two weeks after that, the prime minister and defense and foreign ministers with whom we had met were out of their jobs and/or in jail. Thus began my now 28-year-long quest for the elusive Iranian moderate.

We should have no illusions about the nature of this regime or its leaders – about their designs for their nuclear program, their willingness to live up to their rhetoric, their intentions for Iraq, or their ambitions in the Gulf.

Clear enough. As is his conceptualization of the nature of our war.

Where extremists have seized and controlled territory – in western Iraq or eastern Afghanistan, for example – the result has been misery, and poverty, and fear. The future they promise is a joyless existence – personified not by piety or virtue, but by the executioner and the suicide bomber. Symbolized by men kneeling not in prayer before their god, but kneeling and waiting for the executioner’s sword.

The United States and many of our allies, the prospect of terrorism on a large or prolonged scale is a relatively new concept, one that we are just beginning to appreciate. For Israel, however, it is something that dates back many years.

Despite many tactical successes, overall strategic success against violent extremism has been elusive. With the extent of the jihadist movement, with its breadth and numbers, even the most effective counterterrorism tactics can only reduce the number and lethality of attacks. Total elimination is infinitely more complex, part of an ideological struggle between the forces of moderation and extremism. It is a struggle currently playing out in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

At this end of this train of thought, and the end of his remarks, Dr. Gates returned to the U.S.-Israel relationship and our common political/military development, a stronger and more mature connection than the earlier “because it is right.” He quoted Herzl:

“As a people, [the Jews] have long lost the taste for war. They are… fully content if left in peace.”

And added what appeared to be a warning on behalf of both:

I think that is a fitting description of all the mature democracies in the world. We have no taste for war, no taste for the destruction and devastation that it creates. We are content to live in peace. But if we are not left in peace, if our security is challenged, we also know that there may be times when we have to defend in no uncertain terms our interests and our liberties.