Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is making headlines with her visit to Syria. I’ll ignore the headscarf nonsense that has some people all hot and bothered; and I’ll ignore the fact that she’s meeting with the leaders of Syria, a puppet-state of our dear friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran; and I’ll even ignore the fact that President Bush objected to her visit. Instead, I’m going to focus on a matter I believe is more important: just what the hell is she doing over there?

Let me back up a bit. The U.S. government is made up of three branches — Judicial, Executive, and Legislative. Madam Speaker is a leading member of the Legislative body. This simply means it is her responsibility to write the laws that the Executive will enforce. But what authority does the Legislature have in negotiating with a foreign nation? Here’s a quick refresher course in Constitutional limits on the powers of Congress:

Section 8 – Powers of Congress

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

That’s a fair number of things for Congress to do. So did you notice the part empowering Congress to negotiate with foreign dictators? Yeah, neither did I. Basically, visiting foreign countries and heads of state is not part of Speaker Pelosi’s job. But far worse than just going beyond the bounds of her job, Speaker Pelosi is actively undermining the President. Whether you like him or not, President Bush is responsible for representing the nation to others–not Speaker Pelosi, even if she believes she can do a better job.

To make the actions of Speaker Pelosi easier to understand, let’s think of an example closer to home. Consider a teenager who has come home way past his curfew for the third time in a week. His dad is reading him the riot act and reminding him that the agreed-upon punishment is being grounded for a full week. His mom can choose to stand with his dad, supporting him, or she can undermine his authority by playing “good cop” to the dad’s “bad cop.” If she chooses the latter course of action, the teenager comes to realize that Mom is a pushover, and all he needs to do is work on her to get out of any problem he happens to be in. This is a recipe for disaster.

And a disaster is exactly what Speaker Pelosi is asking for when she undermines the President. But what else would you expect from the party of defeat?

 Madam Neville Pelosi

Thank you, Madam Neville Pelosi. In addition to the comic above, Cox and Forkum nicely sum up Speaker Pelosi’s ineffectual discussions with Syria: “It’s impossible to have a “dialogue” about peace with an intransigent and bloody state sponsor of two groups who openly want to destroy the free state of Israel. This is the mess that Pelosi and her ilk refuse to see.”

UPDATE (4/5/2007 9:29:58 AM): More people are recognizing how Madam Speaker inserted her foot deeply in her mouth with her visit to Syria. What is the problem? The Washington Post explains the Speaker’s failure here:

After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that “Israel was ready to engage in peace talks” with Syria. What’s more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to “resume the peace process” as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. “We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria,” she said.

Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message. “What was communicated to the U.S. House Speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel,” said a statement quickly issued by the prime minister’s office. In fact, Mr. Olmert told Ms. Pelosi that “a number of Senate and House members who recently visited Damascus received the impression that despite the declarations of Bashar Assad, there is no change in the position of his country regarding a possible peace process with Israel.” In other words, Ms. Pelosi not only misrepresented Israel’s position but was virtually alone in failing to discern that Mr. Assad’s words were mere propaganda.

We have a Secretary of State for a reason — so buttinskies like Speaker Pelosi don’t blunder through mistakes like this gaff with the consummate skill of a head-scarfed cow in a china shop. Captain Ed of Captain’s Quarters summed up Madam Speaker’s gaff in this manner:

Pelosi somehow forgot the part about ending support for terrorism when she met with Assad. She told the Syrian dictator that Israel was ready to meet with Assad on a peace proposal, which only told part of the story. In delivering only part of the message, Pelosi not only arrogated to herself the role of American foreign policy director — which Condoleezza Rice has as Secretary of State — she did the same with Israel’s foreign policy as well.

Not a bad night’s work for an incompetent.

When diplomats meet with enemies, they make sure to get their positions coordinated with their allies and execute strict message discipline. They do not “wing it” — they check with their elected governments when any questions arise about the directions of talks. Only someone with an ego in inverse proportion to her talent would start making stuff up as she goes when dealing with the Syrian-Israeli relationship, one of the most explosive in the world.

Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea.

If you had held a gun to my head five years ago and demanded that I list the leading terrorism-sponsoring nations, I would have rattled off the list above. (What you wouldn’t have heard was my mental swear-thoughts directed at you for holding a gun to my head. I can’t believe you’d do that to me. I thought we were friends.)

Much has happened since a certain fateful day in September 2001. Since then, Pakistan has become an ally in the war–not a staunch ally like the British or Australians have been, but they have made an impressive change. Another ally of the same “uh, I guess it’s nice to have you” variety is Libya. Qadhafi could see the handwriting on the wall and started to cooperate with the United States by turning over Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program which he was housing.

Now Iraq and Afghanistan have been changed from the Rule of Thug to the Rule of Law. Sadly, this required military action, and many lives were lost. But the end result is fifty million people who are no longer under the cruel thumb of dictators, and these nations have had both public and free elections. Score two big successes in President Bush’s column.

This leaves three nations in the list unchanged. Of these, North Korea is run by a loon. Jon Herskovitz sums up the “Dear Leader” well:

In the cult of personality in North Korea, Kim, a short, pudgy man with a pompadour and platform shoes, is king.

After all, this is a man who pilots jet fighters — even though he always travels by land for his infrequent trips abroad. He has penned operas, produced movies and accomplished a feat unmatched in the annals of professional golf, shooting 11 holes-in-one on the first round he ever played.

If we can believe Kim Jong Il–and why not believe such a skilled golfer?–then North Korea already has nuclear weapons. Presumably, these were being worked on while former President Jimmy Carter was leading North Korea into the Agreed Framework, a negotiated agreement to prevent the North Koreans from doing exactly what they claim to have done. Cox and Forkum explain easily how Kim could have lied to President Carter. Frankly, it is in the nature of a communist dictator to say what he wants. The decades of lies issuing from the Soviet Union should provide ample proof.

In a National Review Online article in 2002, John O’Sullivan put North Korea and Iraq together with the disaster of President Carter’s negotiations on behalf of then-President Clinton:

We now know, of course, that though presidential candidate George Bush was mocked by the “experts” two years ago when he criticized the Washington-Pyongyang agreement as dangerously lacking in “transparency,” he was absolutely right. Apply the lessons of North Korea to Iraq. North Korea and Iraq are both dangerous because they are both secretive totalitarian regimes bent upon maximizing their power through the possession of nuclear weapons. Those who ignored these transparent facts in the case of North Korea — including Bill Clinton, the U.S. State Department, the New York Times, Jimmy Carter (and not forgetting the Nobel Prize Committee) — should humbly observe a vow of silence on Iraq. Instead they are observing a vow of silence of North Korea.

“But we didn’t find any WMDs in Iraq!” I hear the doubters cry. While it is true that we haven’t found masses of WMDs in Iraq, there is evidence that 1) Iraq had manufactured/procured WMDs–witness Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds, and the terrorists’ use of Iraqi mortar shells containing mustard gas and Sarin in their IEDs, 2) Iraq passed a large supply of WMDs to Syria that were later caught as they crossed from Syria into Jordan, and 3) Saddam Hussein was most interested in getting his hands on working nuclear weapons. That is what his nuclear scientists were doing in Libya; when Saddam fell from power, Qadhafi didn’t want the presence of those scientists in his country to attract American ire.

And so we come to Syria. Another Ba’athist party-run nation, as Iraq was under Hussein, Syria has some very strong political ties with the deposed Iraqi regime. As mentioned above, Syria has been a long-time supporter of terrorism, and it has been controlling the disaster that is Lebanon for the past two decades. As the ever-so-lovely wife pointed out, “Lebanon is a NINO: a nation in name only.” But this NINO is starting to shake off its Syrian-forged chains. When I first started to write this article, those chains were still firmly in place, but things are changing in Lebanon. Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami said that he and his government are resigning: “Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead.” They are resigning because of the pressure being put to bear on them by the Lebanese people rising up and calling for Syria to leave Lebanon, which it has pledged to do.

Why is Syria reacting this way? It could swarm into Lebanon and put down the uprising, just as the Soviet Union quashed the Hungarian uprising in 1956. But so far it has not. Why? Could it be the armed masses of coalition forces parked right next door? Could it be that these armed masses of coalition forces parked right next door are increasingly not being tied down in Iraq? Could it be the armed masses of coalition forces parked right next door that are increasingly not being tied down in Iraq were also the force that destroyed the strongest military force in the Arab world in three weeks, and could squish Syria like a grape? Could be. And it could also have something to do with 8 million Iraqi people giving Syria the purple finger.

I’m becoming hopeful that Syria will see the changing tide in the Middle East and will change itself. It is showing this change in how it is reacting to the changes in Lebanon, by its choice to turn over to Iraqi custody Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and 29 other high-level people. I can practically hear Syria saying, “What Iraqi Ba’athists? Oh, you mean these Iraqi Ba’athists. Gosh, how did that ever happen? Here, you have ‘em.”

Finally, there is Iran. I saved this nation for last, because it is both the most populous and, arguably, the most dangerous of the seven nations. Iran has been the most active state-sponsored terrorist nation for decades. It has been led since the 1970s by religious leaders who have taught the Iranian people to hate the U.S with a passion. Don’t believe me? Recently, Iranians in the United States wanted to hold an anti-American celebration in the Marriott hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. While this Washington Post article explains that the event was shut down, it doesn’t report the planned event’s full name: “Twenty-Sixth Anniversary of the Glorious Victory of the Islamic Revolution and Death to America Day.”

Iran is currently at work on its own nuclear program. Yep. This nation, possessed of vast oil reserves, ostensibly needs nuclear plants to provide power for its people. But we don’t have to worry about Iran creating nuclear weapons because their plans are completely peaceful. You can trust them. Really.

France, Germany, and Britain have entered into an agreement with Iran to supply the bits and pieces necessary to get the country’s nuclear reactors up and running, and Iran in turn has promised not to enrich the uranium into bomb-capable material. At the same time, the three countries are recognizing that Iran has the right to go ahead and enrich the uranium. In other words, these three nations have become tools to the Iranians. Why shouldn’t Iran enter into nuclear negotiations with the West when it has learned from the way the West has treated North Korea? Daniel Eisenberg explained this in a article which has since disappeared from CNN’s website, but is still accessible via the Google cache:

Meanwhile, the IAEA has discovered that despite its agreement to temporarily suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment, Iran was continuing to do maintenance work on a uranium-enrichment plant in southern Iran.

At the same time, the Iranians have allegedly finished designing a prototype of a detonator for a nuclear bomb, according to an opposition group based in Paris. Taking their cue from North Korea, the Iranians have seen “that you can extend a negotiating process and still build nukes,” says Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

Thank you, President Carter, for setting Iranian expectations about negotiations, thanks to your Agreed Framework failure with North Korea.

Europeans are concerned about a possible military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as a “mistake.” This is understandable when one considers that several European countries have a financial stake in Iran, providing the country’s nuclear reactor parts. This is strikingly similar to the “oil for peace” buyoffs that France, Germany, and Russia were receiving from Saddam Hussein. No wonder these three countries were so loud in denouncing President Bush’s plan to remove Hussein from power. They could see their gravy train leaving the station once Hussein fell.

And this year’s Neville Chamberlain Cluelessness Award goes to… *envelope opening* the Democrat Senator from Delaware, Joseph Biden! An article in the Boston Globe states: “Biden said that even if Iran was a full democracy like India, it would want nuclear capability, like India. What the world needed to address was Iran’s emotional needs, he said, with a nonaggression pact.”

The most recent notable non-aggression pact was between Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union. It didn’t last very long. But Neville Chamberlain is remembered now for a document he signed just before the beginning of hostilities by Nazi Germany. Chamberlain, the British prime minister, visited Hitler and signed a negotiated non-aggression pact. As he stepped off his plane back from Germany, he waved a printed statement that was “symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.” He announced later, “I believe it is peace for our time.”

Prime Minister Chamberlain learned, to his sorrow, that signing papers and entering negotiations with dictators is pointless. President Carter has hopefully learned this lesson after finding out that his negotiations with North Korea were likewise meaningless. But Senator Biden still holds faith in a non-aggression pact.

Here’s your Chamberlain Cluelessness Award, Senator. I hope you don’t come to regret your words as much as Chamberlain did.

Addendum (3/7/2005): Still doubt that President Bush’s action against Saddam Hussein has had an effect on the people of the region? Here is a quote from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Turkish Press:

At the end of the interview, which was conducted last week, Assad said: “Please send this message: I am not Saddam Hussein. I want to cooperate.”

It might have been the photos of a grubby Saddam Hussein being pulled out of his rat hole.