Aftershocks of war

Posted: Dec 26, 2003 12:00 AM

``Libya Vows to Give Up Banned Weapons; Two Decades of Sanctions, Isolation Wore Down Gaddafi''
-- Washington Post headline, front-page news analysis, Dec. 20.

WASHINGTON -- Yeah, sure. After 18 years of American sanctions, Gaddafi randomly picks Dec. 19, 2003, as the day for his surrender. By amazing coincidence, Gaddafi's first message to Britain -- principal U.S. war ally and conduit to White House war councils -- occurs just days before the invasion of Iraq. And his final capitulation to U.S.-British terms occurs just five days after Saddam is fished out of a rat hole.

As Jay Leno would say, what are the odds? The nine months of negotiations with Libya perfectly frame the war on Iraq and the fall of Saddam. How is it possible to ignore the most blindingly obvious collateral benefits?

Imagine this kind of thinking 50 years ago: ``Japan Surrenders --Years of War Deprivation Proved Too Much.''

Dateline Tokyo, Aug. 14, 1945. Japan capitulated yesterday to the allies, worn down by the accumulation of hardships from the war begun with the sudden outbreak of violence in Hawaii in December 1941. The housing shortage in Tokyo had become particularly acute, especially since the nights of March 9 and 10. And there also has appeared to be an abrupt downturn in recent economic activity in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Sen. John Kerry was equally ridiculous in his explanation of the Libya deal: ``An administration that scorns multilateralism and boasts about a rigid doctrine of military pre-emption has almost in spite of itself demonstrated the enormous potential for improving our national security through diplomacy.''

Unlike Howard Dean, Kerry is not a foreign policy ignoramus. Does he really believe that the Libyan surrender is a triumph of multilateralism? Does he really think that Libya's capitulation -- coinciding precisely with a pre-emptive war that destroyed Saddam Hussein -- is a contradiction of the ``rigid doctrine of military pre-emption''?

What kind of naif thinks that this is a triumph for ``diplomacy,'' as if, say, Bill Clinton had sent Warren Christopher to Tripoli and he chatted Gaddafi into surrendering his WMDs?

The Democrats seem congenitally incapable of understanding that force has not just the effect of disarming the immediate enemy, but has a deterrent effect on others similarly situated. Iraq was not attacked randomly. It was attacked as part of a clearly enunciated policy -- now known as the Bush Doctrine -- of targeting, by pre-emptive war if necessary, hostile regimes engaged in terror and/or refusing to come clean on WMDs.

Mullah Omar did not get the message and is now hiding in a cave somewhere. Saddam did not get the message and ended up in a hole. Gaddafi got the message.

Diplomacy is fine. But we are dealing not with Canada but with gangster regimes. In rogue states, the only diplomacy that ever works is diplomacy at the point of a bayonet. Why, even the hapless Hans Blix went out on a limb to speculate that ``I would imagine that Gaddafi could have been scared by what he saw in Iraq.''

Ashton Carter, co-director of the Harvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project, agreed that ``what we did in Iraq put countries like Libya on notice that we're really serious about countering proliferation.'' To be sure, Carter prefaced this obvious truth with the Blixian phrase ``one certainly hopes that.'' But that is to be expected from an adviser to Howard Dean.

Do the Democrats really not see the larger picture, or do they pretend not to because it is an election year? The domino effects of the Iraq campaign are already in clear view. It is no accident that Iran has agreed to surprise nuclear inspections. Mind you, I do not hold much hope for this; it will take far more to disarm the mullahs, possibly U.S. airstrikes during a second Bush administration. But for now, Bush's willfulness and determination in Iraq have persuaded Iran to grab a European plan for inspections rather than face the wrath of the United States.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Hezbollah has been quiet since the war. Syria has made its first peace overture in years. Libya has now confessed and capitulated on WMDs.

And that's not counting Iraq, which with Saddam captured has finally turned a historic corner and may be on its way to establishing the first pluralistic, representative pro-Western Arab polity in the region.

These are not triumphs of diplomacy. These are the aftershocks of war.