A simple list of Who Opposes Thus-and-So, as compared to one
showing Who's For It, isn't the kind of evidence that lawyers call
Yet considering that aligned against any U.S. rough play in Iraq
are the likes of: 1) the French, 2) the Germans, 3) Jesse Jackson, 4) Kofi
Annan, 5) Martin Sheen and 6) the D.C. peace marchers ...
And that action against Saddam Hussein seems to enjoy the
backing of 1) the British, 2) Don Rumsfeld, 3) Colin Powell, 4) the
commander in chief himself -- and 5) a majority (still substantial) of
plain, ordinary Americans ...
Considering all this, I say, the lay of the land becomes easier
to discern than otherwise might have been the case.
Lining up people against each other in such an arbitrary manner
is outrageous -- I agree. Why should Martin Sheen's views on foreign policy
matter? (Hint: They don't.) And shouldn't hawks take into account the
antiwar declarations of a great Christian saint, John Paul II?
Lists of this nature are trivial. For all I know, the imperial
wizard of the KKK has plans to stow away on a Navy cruiser and personally
ride the first cruise missile aimed at Saddam's bathroom window -- reprising
Slim Pickens in "Dr. Strangelove." What would I say if that were so? I would
say that the world is full of oddities. Maybe the oddest in a purportedly
rational world is the discovery that great decisions are an amalgam of good
and bad and ugly.
Yet out of the Iraqi chitchat we have endured for months, a
certain clarity emerges. Those against kicking the unholy stuffing out of
Saddam Hussein tend to favor a passive, if not pacifist, role for the United
States in world affairs: a role in which United Nations inspectors call the
tune, and conciliation trumps unilateralism; in which "peace" -- a word
seemingly requiring no explanation -- trumps other considerations; while,
nearby, an acoustic guitar forlornly pings away. "When will they ever learn,
when ... ?"
No part of this is per se wrong. A cautionary tale for war fans
can be found in any account of the last week of July 1914: uproarious and
boastful crowds, skimmers waving exuberantly in the sunlight, Paris certain
that Berlin would fall by Christmas, Berlin equally confident Paris would
fall. Memories of the First World War -- the war that wrecked Western
civilization -- are grotesque and horrible.
Overruling the impulse for peace can be the hardest thing a
national leader like George W. Bush ever does. Pretty plainly that is what
he will do in a matter of weeks -- whether his poll ratings rise or fall on
the perceived strengths or weaknesses of his State of the Union
This thing -- the war -- is plainly going to happen. (The U.N.
weapons inspection report Monday shows the Iraqis at their foot-draggingest:
sublimely tuned-out to what is at stake.) If it happens, we're going to win.
Might as well get used to it. The really big job then follows -- the
reconstruction of Iraq and, if all goes well, the interment of Middle
At this point, we get on with real peace. You might suppose this
prospect would offer the peace faction some consolation: more peace,
actually, in Iraq and the Middle East in consequence of bombs dropping than
would have been the case without them. Note here another of those oddities
mentioned above -- good and bad scramble-egged together in about the fashion
What is the difference in the end between those on the two
lists -- those we might call the Jackson-Sheen and the Bush-Rumsfeld
factions? On the part of the former, a certain lack of realism; a tendency
to engage in wishful thinking; to put faith in words rather than actions; to
hold the United States to Utopian standards while kissing up on left-wing
Whose side will most of us take when the picking comes? Let me
think for -- oh -- about a millisecond.