Why don't they fear us?

Debra J. Saunders

9/20/2002 12:00:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders
Lefties love to pose this question: Why do they hate us? "They" being not only Islamist terrorists, but citizens and leaders of countries such as Iraq. The real question is: Why don't they fear us? Saddam Hussein doesn't fear us because, even in defeat, Hussein found victory. He learned that U.N. and U.S. troops could flatten his front line in a matter of days, bring him to the brink of defeat -- and then, when any other army would have crushed him, invite him cry uncle and let him save his sorry skin. Months after Hussein lost the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and agreed to U.N. demands that he "unconditionally accept" giving up weapons of mass destruction and allowing U.N. weapons inspections, Hussein began playing games and slamming doors. He understood that he could break his word, with the mild downside being that he'd have to watch bombs drop on Iraqi civilians (not him) and with the pleasing upside of increasing his arsenal. How he must have laughed at the world's major powers -- right up until the moment when he effectively kicked U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq in 1998. Now, Hussein's at it again. After President Bush made a compelling appearance before the United Nations, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri wrote to the United Nations announcing that Hussein would agree to allow inspectors to return to Iraq "without conditions." Note: The letter didn't say the U.N. investigators could inspect without conditions. London's Evening Standard reported Tuesday that the London ambassador of the Arab League noted that Iraq's civilian sites would not be open to the inspectors. Lucky for the world, Hussein would never hide a weapons cache in a school or hospital. (That was a joke.) So, why don't they fear us? Because President George H.W. Bush withdrew troops in the Persian Gulf War prematurely and then failed to support Hussein's enemies. In his book, "The War Against the Terror Masters," Michael A. Ledeen laments Bush pere's decision. Ledeen also writes of the decades of U.S. intelligence failures that occurred because Washington didn't want to know when our enemies were plotting against us. "America has a bad history of leaving too soon and leaving things incomplete," Ledeen lamented. You have to commend Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for not laughing out loud when demonstrators interrupted his testimony before the House with their shouts for U.N. inspections, not war. As if inspections will work and make the threat of Hussein go away. If there is no muscle behind the inspections, they are worthless. If there is no certainty of military retaliation if Hussein toys with the inspectors again (and he will), the inspections are worthless. Or as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quipped last week, "Saddam Hussein is as likely to allow a robust and effective weapons-inspection regime as I am to be the next astronaut." Other senators have been wringing their hands, worrying about what burdensome commitments the United States might have to make after invading Iraq. The real worry, au contraire, should be that there won't be enough follow-through -- enough real commitment -- after invading Iraq. Americans should be worrying that Washington and international politicians will keep America from finishing the job that began with the Persian Gulf War. We shouldn't be afraid of commitment. We should be afraid that history will record that we were too happy, or self-confident, or both, to get the job done well.