In the next few days, President Bush will be making decisions that could determine whether a Free Iraq emerges from the ashes of Saddam Hussein's Stalinist state. The most important of these -- and the decision likely to determine many of the others -- is: Will Mr. Bush entrust the realization of the promise of a liberated Iraq to those whose military successes have nearly brought it to fruition in just over a fortnight's time?
Surely, Mr. Bush appreciates that the alternative -- turning this hugely important task over to those who either intentionally sought to forestall such an outcome, or who recommended policies that very nearly had that effect -- would be to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory. His own comments and those of National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice certainly suggest that they understand the pitfalls associated with giving the United Nations, NATO, the so-called "international community" or just about anybody besides the Pentagon the leading role in post- war Iraq.
Yet the President is coming under intense pressure from various sources, notably British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the State Department and the Congress, to deny the Pentagon the preeminent role it has earned with the development and execution of a brilliant battle plan for toppling Saddam.
For example, at the meeting with Mr. Blair underway in Northern Ireland at this writing, Mr. Bush can expect to be told that, if the UN doesn't run post-Saddam Iraq, Free Iraq will be denied the international legitimacy and financial help it will require. The State Department insists that a number of its most pedigreed Arabists must be given key responsibilities for building a new Iraqi government that will not offend or destabilize other regional autocracies.
Even more astounding, the Congress, in what appears to be State Department-inspired, late-night legislative skullduggery, last week adopted a supplemental appropriation bill denying the President any discretion concerning the expenditure of $2.5 billion allocated to rebuild Iraq and provide it with humanitarian assistance. Instead, this authority is vested exclusively in the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of State.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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