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Crowds and Power

I was in France in the summer of 1968, working at the World Bridge Olympiad in Deauville on the Normandy coast.  Late at night--bridge tournaments run into the wee hours--I would hitch a ride into Paris to watch the street fighting, and one weekend--as I recall it was a Sunday--I watched a million or so demonstrators march down the Champs-Elysees calling for the resignation of President Charles de Gaulle.

It was a hell of a scene, the biggest rally since Liberation.  If you'd been there, you'd have been certain that the "revolution" was unstoppable, that de Gaulle would soon take command of the dust heap of history, and that you had witnessed a truly revolutionary event.

One week later, on the same avenue, another march took place, at least as big as the first one, but this time the million or so were chanting "Long live de Gaulle!  Long live France!."

De Gaulle won, rewrote the French Constitution, and ruled France for several years thereafter.

A march, even a monster march of the sort we witnessed in Paris, does not change the world by itself.  A change of the sort we desperately need in the West requires real action, a strategy to defeat our enemies, not just big marches and rallies.  At least Prime Minister Valls took the first, imperative, step:  he named the enemy, proclaiming that  the West is under attack from radical Islamists.

Most everyone knows that, but most Western "leaders" have shied away from speaking the simple truth, because once you've said it, you're obliged to do something about it. And they don't want that.

So now what?  Now we must win the war. We must go back to George W. Bush's description of the war:  we will not distinguish between the terrorist organizations and the states that support them.  Alas, he didn't sustain that policy, and he left the most important such state--Iran--untouched.  Obama added insult to Bush's injury by withdrawing ground troops from Iraq and now Afghanistan, permitting the jihadis to reorganize and advance.

The most devastating blow we can deliver to the radical Islamists is to help the long-suffering Iranian people bring down the Tehran regime.  That is not a military mission;  it's political, and it would be aided by a new round of time-linked sanctions that will soon come to the floor in Congress.  If the Iranians don't make an acceptable deal by early summer, the sanctions would be automatically imposed.  Whatever the economic effect, new sanctions would send a powerful political message to the regime and the opposition:  we don't like you, and we don't trust you.