President Bush is engaged in feverish diplomacy to stop an India-Pakistan war. He is mulling over an "American Plan" to end the Israeli-Palestinian war. And he has just sent his secretary of defense to NATO to line up allies to launch an American-Iraqi war.
Am I the only one that sees a small contradiction here?
The president's men say only a war on Iraq and Saddam's end can remove the threat of terror against us. Sharon says only the destruction of Arafat can end the threat of terror against Israel. Vajpayee says only the destruction of terrorist camps on Pakistan's side of the Line of Control can end the threat of terror against India.
Yet as we implore Sharon and Vajpayee not to let slip the dogs of war, the president wants to unleash the dogs of war.
If our allies seem reluctant to follow us, who can blame them? Our foreign policy seems increasingly erratic, and the president is beginning to sound like that bellicose virago, Madeleine Albright.
Candidate Bush disparaged the "indispensable nation" braggadocio of Albright. In 1999, he said in Simi Valley, Calif.: "Let us not dominate others with our power. ... Let us have an American foreign policy that reflects American character. The modesty of true strength. The humility of real greatness. This is the strong heart of America. And this will be the spirit of my administration. ..."
Here was Candidate Bush at his best, and in the debates he expanded on the theme: "(T)he United States must be humble. ... We must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course." But where was that humility, that statesmanlike reserve, in the president's address at West Point?
Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment are no longer adequate, the president said. "(N)ew threats ... require new thinking. ... If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long."
Is this the new Bush Doctrine: America asserting a right to launch preventive wars on any "rogue nations" that we catch building the kind of weapons we have had in our own arsenal for half a century?
This is a formula for endless wars, almost certain to produce the very horror the president seeks to avert -- the detonation of an atomic or biological weapon on American soil.
Where is Bush getting these ideas? Is deterrence really passe? What else but U.S. deterrence keeps China off Taiwan or North Korea out of the South? What other than America's deterrent power keeps Saddam out of Kuwait or prevents his using on us or Israel the poison gas weapons the War Party says he used on the Kurds?
"Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies," said the president.
But is Saddam or Kim Jong-Il or the latest Ayatollah more "unbalanced" than the mass murderers Stalin, Mao and the megalomaniacal Kim Il-Sung? If containment and deterrence worked with these monsters, why will they not work with the smaller fry of today?
"All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price," the president declared. "We will not leave the ... peace of the planet at the mercy of a few terrorists and tyrants. We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world."
The peace of the planet? Where does the president get the right to identify and punish every aggressor on earth? Can anyone other than a wild Wilsonian Utopian think that any U.S. president can lift the "dark threat" of aggression and terror from mankind? Israel cannot even do it in its own cities.
"The 20th century ended with a single surviving model of human progress," the president told the cadets. How humble is that?
"The requirements of freedom apply fully ... to the entire Islamic world," he added. But does not Islam mean "submission" to Allah? And if 1 billion Moslems and their rulers reject feminism and refuse to emulate President Bush by dialoguing with their local Log Cabin Club, who is to say they are wrong and we are right?
"We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name," thundered the president. But which is the evil side in Chechnya, Sri Lanka and Kashmir? In the Afghan war, we were aided by Iran, Libya, Sudan, Pakistan and Northern Alliance generals accused of massacres. In Desert Storm, we were assisted by Assad, in World War II by Stalin, in the Cold War by the Shah, Pinochet, Marcos and the South Africa of the Botha boys.
"Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time and in every place," said the president. As a Christian, he rightly believes it.
But, Mr. President, ask the Germans if what we did to Dresden was moral. Ask the Japanese if what we did to Nagasaki was moral. Ask your own family if abortion is moral. By dividing the world into good and evil, and threatening pre-emptive wars on all "evil ones," we may persuade the targets of our pre-emption to acquire the only kind of weapons able to deter a crusading U.S. president.