Last Updated:November 26 @ 10:08 pm

North: Send in the Clowns

By Oliver North

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."


Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller "Heroes Proved." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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  1. my04301933Comment by my04301933
    February 9, 2013 @ 9:11 am

    Frank Sinatra….finally a Hollywood personality who got it right…

    Thnx, Colonel

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  2. Grouchy OneComment by Grouchy One
    February 9, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    The only problem I have with this is the fact that once the Israelis/Jews were given land that wasn’t ours OR Great Britain’s to give, they set out to expand their land mass by trickery. That is how they came to gain that “battlefield” they made into farmland after making their swords into plowshares. People tend to forget that part.

    I understand that what is done is done and there is no going back now but I also understand why the rest of the people who once lived in that region were just a tad inflamed.

    I wish there could be peace but peace has to be made by two sides who are not at peace. As long as the rest of the world meddles in the situation and chooses sides, that is not likely to happen.

    Just my opinion.

    I, too, have watched the news from a foreign perspective. But more, I have read impartial books about history as opposed to the propaganda that has been passed off as truth by our government. Nobody can deny that the Jews were persecuted for decades, if not centuries. But they seem to feel it is OK to deny that the Jews, as Israelis, turned right around and started a massive land grab that they enacted through deceit and violence.

    Kerry? Well, I’ve never had a high opinion of him, so I don’t expect anything but mayhem.

    Haegel? If he can’t stand up to the scrutiny, he should have said no to the job offer. He isn’t lying that with obama as his boss, he won’t be making policy. That is a given. Still, he will be the one who goes down if things go wrong. That’s the obama way.

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    • retirednavyComment by retirednavy
      February 10, 2013 @ 11:17 am

      Hey Grouchy One, have you taken a look at US history. I don’t think the Europeans were her as natives either. Seem like most of our country was bought from the Europeans not from the natives of this country. (with the exception of long island). We won this country as the spoils of war. The natives didn’t want to give it up either. Maybe some day the world power of that day will look at us in the same way. Don’t be critical of a people, many of them former US citizens, for recouping the land that was taken from them with force. Supporting them would be supporting our own people.I don’t hink the islomics came fron this country. We have killed those that did.

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  3. antheauraComment by antheaura
    February 9, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

    Land grab? That land that Israel is on is historically THEIRS…and everyone seems to expect them to say “Thank You” for “allowing” them to live on it. There has been no people on EARTH who have survived the long term persecution that has been heaped upon the Jewish people since the beginning of time, practically. That IS their land, and the “disputed” portion of it is land that they WON fair and square. NO ONE else in the WORLD is expected to have to “give back” that which they won in combat. If that were the case, there would likely be very few nations in existence in present time, including our own.

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    • Grouchy OneComment by Grouchy One
      February 9, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

      That is all well and good but the US and Great Britain carved out a section of land where other people had been living and the “israelis” decided to expand their territory. I can understand why the people who were tricked our of their land or chased off their land are irate. And the rest of the world just keeps sticking a stick in a hornet’s nest.

      You are absolutely right that land obtained by force or war or whatever you want to call it is historically not been given back — and even though theirs is a war of deceit and manipulation in this instance, I’m not even saying it should be given back.
      The displaced Palenstinians, Syrians, Jordanians, etc. are persecuted instead now and it is what it is.
      What I said was that as long as other nations keep sticking their noses in and choosing sides, there will never be peace because it has to be the Israelis and their respective enemies who will have to make their own peace.
      Think about it. Suppose you have a dispute with one of your neighbors and all the other neighbors step in and start bullying you rather than look at both sides of the story. Next thing you know, other neighborhoods stick their noses in trying to take up for you. You are still in the middle of the mess and it’s still going to be YOU who has to make peace and all the yammering from neighbors who live across town isn’t going to help you solve your problem. All it is going to do is make the people who feel you wronged them redouble their efforts to make your life miserable.
      Sad, but human nature. That is just reality.
      In the Israeli/Arab nations dispute, the US gov’t gave Israel defense means and they were definitely smart enough to not only capitalize upon but perfect the weapons. When the Arab nations began to feel the sting because, let’s face it, missiles and war machines are not always used wisely, the US turned around and gave THEM weapons to keep Russia from getting a foot hold in the middle east. The story goes on and on and on.
      There can never be peace under those conditions. That is my point. Two wrongs don’t make a right, it just leads to three wrongs, then four, and so on.

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  4. gopuc12450Comment by gopuc12450
    February 10, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

    Col. North. They did send in the clowns. 435 in the Western side ‘Big Top’, 100 in the Eastern side ‘Big Top’ and 2 at the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.’Big Top’.

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  5. CharieComment by Charie
    February 11, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    Grouch, do you think perhaps the decision to allow the Israelis to settle where they did arose out of the Arabs being allies of the Germans during WWII? Frankly, I believe so. Remember the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

    Further, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iran attacked Israel immediately after the United Nations Partition and Israel beat them and kept the territory they had won in the war.

    At least once the Arabs were offered back most of that land and they rejected it because they wanted not only that land, but all of Israel. Compromise is not in their vocabulary. It’s all or nothing at all with them.

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    • Grouchy OneComment by Grouchy One
      February 11, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

      Charlie, I totally understand where you are coming from. But the fact remains that it is up to the nations involved to make their peace and all the meddling just makes it worse. I have to say that I think the the reason those countries attacked was BECAUSE of the Israeli Ben Gurion’s penchant for expanding his territory by tricking the people to leave so he could bulldoze their homes. I’m sorry, in my eyes that was NOT right. And, yes, what is done is done and I don’t know of any way to go back and change it. No, I don’t think that it is right for the opposition to con little kids into becoming suicide bombers. I honestly believe that Islam is a “sick” religion but I believe that all religions have some questionable parameters. I assume that when you say, “compromise is not in their vocabulary,” that you mean the arab world. Do you think it IS in the Israeli vocabulary? Therein lies the impasse. If we continue to stick our nose in it, how will that help? It’s kind of like stirring the pot. Yet we get ticked off if the opposition stirs the pot from their vantage point.

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