Fear is a useful tool, one that reliably gets results. If they don’t fear you, you’re doin’ it wrong.
The date was November 4, 1980. Ronald Reagan had just been elected president. Ironically, it was exactly one year to the day that over 50 Americans were taken hostage by Iranian zealots under Jimmy Carter. For the likes of Col. Charles W. Scott, it marked a full year in captivity at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
Scott later recalled the frightened reaction of his Islamist captors to Reagan’s landslide victory: “I remember specifically when one of the guards came in and said, ‘Reagan is now the new president. What do you think will happen when he comes into office?’ I didn’t say a word, I just went ‘BOOM.’ And they said, ‘Really?’ And I said ‘Yeah, the first day he’s in office after the inaugural ceremony, he’ll go back to the White House and say ‘OK, tell the Iranians if they don’t let those hostages go by midnight tomorrow night, its war.’”
A few weeks later, on January 20, 1981, quite literally as Reagan was being inaugurated, every single hostage was released. The double headline across the top of the New York Times the next day said it all: “Reagan Takes Oath as 40th President; Promises An ‘Era of National Renewal’; Minutes Later, 52 U.S. Hostages in Iran Fly to Freedom After 444-Day Ordeal.”
Richard V. Allen was Reagan’s foreign policy adviser during the campaign and his first national security adviser. I interviewed Allen on this subject. He noted that Reagan had “sought to be very careful not to inflame” or undercut the Carter administration’s diplomatic work, refraining “from doing or saying anything that would jeopardize whatever the [Carter] administration was doing to secure the release of the hostages.” But, said Allen, “we … never discouraged any journalist from thinking that, better yet, writing or saying, in effect, ‘the Iranians had better watch out, make their deal with Carter now, because once Reagan is in office, things will be radically different.’”
The outgoing Carter administration enhanced the Reagan threat through a high-level team engaged in negotiations with Iran. In the words of one Carter official, the team was ordered to communicate that “it will be a whole new ball game after January 20.”
The Iranians were convinced. The hostages were released on January 20 — the very moment that Reagan was being sworn in as 40th president of the United States.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that the release, coming at the precise timing of the inauguration itself, was both a slap at Carter and fear of what would come next,” judged Richard Allen.
Why mention this lesson now? Well, fast forward to the Trump years, and Joe Biden.
The same thing happened with liberals and Donald Trump. They portrayed Trump as a trigger-happy madman with his itchy finger dangerously near the nuclear button — like Reagan, a reckless cowboy. And yet, Trump rarely used military power as president. He actually got along with crazy Kim in North Korea, so much so that some of his gushing statements about the little dictator were outrageously embarrassing. What Trump achieved in the Middle East, with the president and his team getting multiple Arab nations to recognize Israel (the first Arab recognitions since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994), was tremendous. It would have earned a Democrat the Nobel Peace Prize. But no awards for Trump, as liberals were too busy framing him as a wild man.
Well, that liberal caricature probably had a positive effect in deterring someone like a Vladimir Putin.
Going back to 2014, recall that Putin plowed into the Crimea a year into Obama’s second term, and that Obama had infamously in an open-mic moment told Putin lap-dog Dmitri Medvedev in 2012 that he would have “more flexibility after the election.” A grinning Medvedev ghoulishly and greedily replied, “Yes, I tell Vladimir!”
Vlad listened. Putin, nurtured in the KGB, learned to respect strength and prey on weakness.
Again, a president who understood this was Ronald Reagan. “If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand, you had to have a sword in the other,” said Reagan. “We had to bargain with them from strength, not weakness.” Reagan’s motto toward the USSR was dovorey no provorey, Russian for “trust but verify.”
And yet, that was not what Barack Obama did. Obama had approached Putin with a dove in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other. Obama showed weakness, and the Russians exploited it. Putin abused it.
Reagan took pride in the fact that the Soviets didn’t gain “one inch of ground” while he was president. Indeed, they did not — and that was so after they picked up nearly a dozen satellite states in the immediate years before Reagan, under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
Joe Biden is bringing us back to the Obama years and even the Carter years, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan (seven weeks after the Iranians seized Americans as hostages in Iran) and picked up client states left and right.
Whatever Putin’s reasoning, it is undeniably striking that he didn’t seek to annihilate Ukraine under President Donald Trump. For four years, he hit the pause button. Now, his troops are everywhere in Ukraine. It happened under Joe Biden. That is a fact that cannot be shrugged off by Trump haters. In fact, fair-minded liberals get it: “OK, but if Putin thought Trump was really that supportive of him, why didn’t he invade when Trump was in office?” Bill Maher recently asked. “It’s at least worth asking that question if you’re not locked into one intransigent thought.”
It sure is.
Yet somehow—all the above being manifestly correct, easy to comprehend, and beyond debate—the Left will still go right on insisting that we rely on displays of abject weakness, groveling, self-abnegation, and piteous bowing and scraping to produce the desired bargain, restraint, or concession from our adversaries. It’s baffling, really. Are they just stubborn and stupid, clinging to failed strategies and tactics despite abundant historical evidence that they just don’t work—worse, that they often backfire, bringing about the exact opposite of the object they hoped for. Or is their knee-jerk, reflexive hatred for America and Americans—their implacable wish to see her brought low, their dogged belief that American failure and humiliation are GOOD things—so powerfully ingrained in them that bargaining from weakness is the only option their stilted intellects can conceive of, just as a matter of moral probity?
Are they simply bugfuck nuts? Madmen so secure in their anti-American, pacifist, collectivist catechism’s essential righteousness that it can, it will, it MUST ultimately prevail? Are they wilfully blind to observable reality? Forever locked into an untenable system of belief, an indefensible position, an unworkable ideology? Do they imagine themselves and their ideas so persuasive, so appealing, so obviously superior that sooner or later they will bring the rest of us into agreement with them, allowing them to get to work proselytizing the rest of the world, thereby finally bringing the dream of global socialism into real-world existence?
It’s a puzzle we’ll probably never put together, I guess. In light of that, we should halt any further effort to understand and/or accomodate them, and move on instead to suppressing them, to subjugating them. We should, at long last, teach them fear, re-implanting it so deeply in their minds that the mere thought of trying to regain their lost influence and power makes them involuntarily piss themselves.