Is Iraq a distraction?
1/28/2003 12:00:00 AM - Mona Charen
House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asked on
television whether she supported military action against Iraq, kept
returning to the same two answers. We must consult with the United Nations,
and we must not let this distract us from the war on terror.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., expressed the same sentiments. The
Bush administration, he argued, is guilty of "blustering unilateralism," a
mistake President Kerry would never make. "The nation's chief priority
should be pursuing a war against terrorism, not a war" against Saddam
Hussein, the presidential aspirant announced, adding, "They (the Bush
administration) are really breaking a bond with the American people by
proceeding so hell-bent-for-leather, 'We've got to go no matter what.'"
As one who doesn't mind a little unilateralism now and then, I
find Kerry's accusation risible. What have we been doing for the past 12
months if not painstakingly consulting with the United Nations and our
"allies" (it's not entirely clear that France desires or deserves this
For what reason, other than scrupulous concern for world
opinion, did President Bush agree to this absurd charade of inspections?
It's absurd because Iraq admitted to having WMDs at the end of the Gulf War,
hid them from inspectors for seven years and finally booted out the UN
inspectors in 1998. Are we to believe that Saddam expelled UN inspectors and
then abandoned his arsenal?
Iraq now says that they have absolutely no weapons of mass
destruction, but as even Hans Blix acknowledges, they refuse to provide a
shred of evidence that their known stores have been destroyed. Far from
unilateral, the United States has arguably been multilateral to a fault,
providing France, China and Russia with an opportunity to strut their stuff
at our expense.
And what do the Democrats mean when they fret that the war
against Iraq (which will probably begin in mid-February) will distract us
from the war on terror? Someone should ask them what their concept of the
war on terror is. Do they mean the tracking and arrest of individuals around
the world? Those tasks, and others -- including blocking money flows -- are
important, but they are primarily police work. That was the way President
Clinton fought the war on terror. He treated it as a matter of criminal
justice. Bush's great departure was to treat terror as a matter of war.
In the first days after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush
clarified his new approach. We would make no distinction, he warned, between
those who commit terror and the regimes that harbor and support them. There
is no other way to take the battle to the enemy than to take on the regimes
that permit terrorists to operate. Do the Democrats believe that liberating
Afghanistan finishes the job?
We could spend the next 25 years carefully tracking individual
terrorists and assembling legal cases against them, and still never make a
dent in the threat that faces this country. The terror that threatens our
lives and our way of life arises from a poisonous mix of despotism and
religious extremism in the Moslem world.
Many of those regimes -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt --
promote violence and religious hatred, and we must deal with them each in
turn (though not necessarily militarily). But Iraq is both extremist and
reckless. Only Iraq has invaded two neighbors and used poison gas. Only Iraq
has been willing to create an environmental catastrophe (the Kuwaiti oil
well fires) out of pique. Iraq is a direct sponsor of terrorist groups and a
bitter enemy of the United States. (Critics of the war argue that Iraq was
not our enemy until we forced them to disgorge Kuwait in 1991 -- but that
proves what, exactly?)
Disarming Iraq is necessary for our safety and the world's, but
it is also an opportunity, because by invading and pacifying this crucial
crossroads of the Middle East, we may go far toward defusing the fires of
hatred that now burn in Arab hearts. If we are able to leave behind a
functioning democracy in Iraq, however flawed it will doubtless be, the
entire region will eventually be transformed for the better.