In 2005, three-fourths of all Democrats but fewer than a third of all Republicans told pollsters that good diplomacy was the best way to ensure peace.
Relying on diplomacy with an enemy such as militant Islam is a recipe for appeasement. It means working out a deal in which we partially surrender in exchange for Islam withholding force. In other words, it is extortion, like paying the mafia protection money.
Diplomacy is proper between free countries that have values to offer one another. Diplomacy is improper with totalitarians who threaten the use of force; then it is weakness. Aggressive dictatorships have no value to offer us. The promise not to attack is not a value. If you give a burglar $100 so that he will not rob your house, he has not given you a value in exchange for that money. The burglar has used the threat of force to take your money.
Diplomacy with an aggressor does not give long-term peace. Quite the opposite, rewarding aggression ensures further aggression. If aggression buys payoffs, why not keep doing it? The only rational, long-term answer to force is force. The sooner an aggressor is met with force, the sooner he understands that aggression won’t work.
The short-term peace that diplomacy buys is the work of pragmatists who cannot think in long-term principles. They are happy to put off the crisis of the day, hoping that tomorrow they will use diplomacy to put off that day’s crisis. In the long run the principle of aggression thrives and freedom suffers. How much better would the world be if we had exterminated the regime of the mullahs on November 4, 1979, when they attacked the US embassy in Tehran?
Republican politicians are not as clear on this issue as Republican voters. They are every bit as pragmatist as the Democrats, though not in thrall to the New Left’s anti-Americanism. Reagan and Bush 41 failed to answer Islamic terrorism just as much as Carter and Clinton did, so the failure has been bipartisan. It makes election day decisions less clear. Pragmatist diplomacy has a way of muddying up a lot of things.