Steve Chapman

On today's five-stop swing through Iowa, he seldom mentions Iraq. But writing in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Giuliani calls for sticking with the current policy for as long as it takes, because we can't accept "the consequences of failure." Such as? "Our enemies today would conclude that America's will is weak and the civilization we pledged to defend is tired. Failure would be an invitation for more war, in even more difficult and dangerous circumstances."

It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that lamenting the results of failure is not the same thing as averting it. What Giuliani never addresses is: What if we can't find a way to succeed? Stubbornness is not a strategy.

When it comes to other countries, he entertains similar fantasies. Iran, he insists, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, suggesting that with him in the White House, eliminating that problem will be as easy as melting a butter sculpture on a steamy August day.

But military action is not exactly an ideal solution. It's not at all clear that air strikes would get everything we need to get, and it's very clear that a ground invasion of Iran would make the Iraq nightmare look like a -- what's the word? -- cakewalk.

No worries. Giuliani implies that once he's elected, the Iranians will capitulate. He reminds the fairgoers that Iran once held American hostages for 444 days -- only to free them as soon as Ronald Reagan was inaugurated. "That tells me you have to deal with Islamic terrorism from strength," he declares, as if expecting someone to disagree.

What he forgets is that Iran's recent push for nuclear weapons didn't come under Jimmy Carter, but under George W. Bush. If the ayatollahs aren't cowed by Bush, they aren't likely to surrender to Giuliani.

In many ways, Giuliani resembles the many vendors who surround him today. At the State Fair, it's easy to imagine you can thrive on a diet of corn dogs, cheese-on-a-stick and Dippin' Dots, and it's easy to believe his manly bromides about national security will deliver us to safety. Reality is another matter, for another day.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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