Fuzzy thinking at the New York Times

Posted: Mar 12, 2003 12:00 AM

Since the New York Times editorial page is the political Left's "paper of record" and thus fairly representative of the liberal anti-war sentiment in America today, I thought I'd analyze its recent missive "Saying No to War."

The crux of their position is "in the face of United Nations opposition ... long-running, stepped-up weapons inspections" is "a better option" than invading Iraq. "By adding hundreds of additional inspectors" and "using the threat of force" "the United States could obtain much of what it was originally hoping to achieve."

Sorry, but "obtain(ing) much" won't get it -- getting close doesn't work with mass destruction weapons. One event is too many, thank you. And "using the threat of force" begins to lose its deterrent effect if you never make good on the threat, which we didn't for 12 years, even when Saddam sent the inspectors packing.

The Left has consistently opposed troop deployment, yet that's what got Saddam to let the inspectors back in. Now they want to take advantage of our troop presence to deter his noncompliance -- as if that's what they favored all along. But if they'd had their way, we'd still be mollycoddling and our troops would be stateside.

President Bush, they say, has "talked himself into a corner" by demanding regime change, "making it much harder for Washington to adopt" stepped-up inspections. Bush hasn't talked himself into a corner. He's exactly where he wants to be. He's been clear that you can't achieve disarmament and eliminate the Iraqi WMD threat without regime change. The Times would be compelled to agree with this if they followed to their logical conclusion their own assumptions that Saddam "can never be trusted to disarm on his own accord" and "history shows that inspectors can be misled." President Bush would prefer that the United Nations remain on board, but he understands that his constitutional duty to protect and defend America doesn't include a U.N. approval contingency clause.

The Times says "there are circumstances under which" we'd "have to act "militarily no matter what the Security Council said," such as if America were attacked. Preemptive attacks, however, are presumably a worse option to them than national suicide. Under their logic we could not attack Iraq if it had nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at us and Saddam had his finger on the button.

Saddam represents a real threat, plus he's had years to comply. It's not as if this were unprovoked. What, after all, is the point of peace treaty conditions if compliance isn't backed up by the genuine threat of force? If the defeated nation repeatedly violates them, doesn't the enforcing body lose its credibility unless it employs the option of force -- the only one Saddam responds to?          

The editors admit that Bush's argument "for invading Iraq" for "its refusal to obey U.N. orders that it disarm" is "a good reason," "but not when the U.N. itself believes disarmament is occurring and the weapons inspections can be made to work." If we ignore the Security Council and act on our own, "the first victim in the conflict will be the United Nations itself." They continue, "The whole scenario calls to mind that Vietnam-era catch phrase about how we had to destroy a village in order to save it."

Of course, the demise of the United Nations -- a loose confederation of nations that, on the whole, doesn't even like us, much less want to protect us -- will cause me no tears. And their bizarre Vietnam analogy shows just how off base their thinking is. This is not about the United Nations, its fate or integrity, which, by the way, has already emasculated itself by letting Saddam walk all over it. It's about protecting ourselves and our allies in a dangerous world.

But more importantly, what if the United Nations is manifestly wrong about inspections -- as the editors admit it could be? Should we still defer, delegating America's national security to this incompetent, often hostile body? Was the Times opposed to Clinton acting without the U.N. in Kosovo?

Finally, they accuse Bush of changing "several times" his reasons for invading, citing his "theory" that we "can transform the Middle East by toppling Saddam." Our purpose mustn't be "fuzzy;" we can't "invade another country for any but the most compelling of reasons."

Sorry, gentlemen, but the only thing fuzzy is your thinking. These are not mutually exclusive goals. Ushering in democracy, if it occurs, will be a collateral benefit of disarming and removing Saddam.

President Bush has been consistently clear about his goal to remove and disarm Saddam for the most compelling reason that while in power he will always be a threat to the United States and its allies directly, and by supporting terrorists with whom we are at war.