For me, and I suspect for other Americans who did watch, it was a glorious moment. President Bush appeared determined to do what is necessary to protect America, but only consistent with our values. American values have always included the belief that war must have a moral component. Might does not make right, as Sen. Ted Kennedy said. Grandiose new doctrines of pre-emption and invitations for single-bullet regime change could easily be confused with bullying: Swagger loudly and carry a really, really huge stick is an unattractive foreign policy, to say the least. Americans believe we fight just wars against aggressors who threaten us or other innocent allied nations.
Through the long months post-Afghanistan, various administration officials offered their sometimes weirdly warring, partial, incomplete and occasionally appalling justifications for war with Iraq. Like many Americans, I withheld judgment, waiting for the president to speak for himself and our nation: Why Iraq? Why now?
Bush framed the casus belli with devastating clarity: "Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations." Even today, Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons that violate the terms of that treaty; he is rebuilding weapons facilities, assembling new squads of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles, and continuing to seek nuclear weapons, all clear treaty violations.
Saddam Hussein cannot assert an international or moral right to invade his neighbors, go down to ignominious defeat, sign a truce, repeatedly break the terms, and then try to hide behind the sanctity of his borders. Military action in Iraq would not be a new war, but a resumption of the Gulf War after a failed truce.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.