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Schoenfeld's October Surprise - Commentary

“Are we due for an ‘October surprise?'” asks Gabriel Schoenfeld in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. “Several factors have converged to make this more probable than in any recent election.”

According to the famous COMMENTARY editor and blogger, we should look for Iraqi insurgents to step up violence as a means of discrediting John McCain. J. E. Dyer, who often posts comments in this forum, replied to Schoenfeld by saying that the “October surprise” may be Iran temporarily appearing reasonable in order to give a boost to Barack I-will-talk-to-any-tyrant Obama. In any event, as Schoenfeld notes, the world’s worst leaders are hoping to defeat the Republican candidate in November. Unfortunately, they essentially get to “vote” in our election by perpetrating-or refraining from perpetrating-horrible acts.

There are two ways for American presidents to undermine autocrats. One is to adopt a conciliatory posture, deprive them of a foreign enemy, buy off crucial segments of their regimes, and expose them as the despicable creatures that they are. The second is to confront them at every turn and destroy them when the opportunity arises.

Of course, our enemies do not actually want to negotiate with us or be our friends. Fidel Castro, for instance, did all he could to derail attempts to end the American embargo because he needed an excuse for his own economic failures. Kim Jong Il, similarly, has worked hard to make sure the United States remains an enemy so he can keep his people in line.

Yet, as Schoenfeld notes, the world’s rogues are now publicly endorsing the Democrat. Why do they ostensibly favor him? Of course, as a matter of appearances they have to say they like Obama’s friendly approach. But there is a much more important reason. At this moment, they fear American military might. Yet they think trends are with them and that we will only weaken over time. In other words, our adversaries believe they can wait us out and think Obama’s engagement will buy them time.

I don’t buy their prediction of American decline, but they are acting on their beliefs and, as Schoenfeld notes, are already trying to elect the next American leader. They obviously think the contest in November is that important. So should we.

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