Now that the United States has decimated the Iraqi forces in such astonishingly short order with phenomenally few casualties the already exercised antiwar contingent is bound to be beside itself waiting for the next war-shoe to drop.
Antiwar voices on the political right and left have expressed the common concern that the war against Iraq is just the first step in America's plan to conquer the entire region.
They say that Bush is a puppet dancing to the tune of the militaristic, imperialistic neoconservative establishment. Who are the neoconservatives? They are former liberals -- thus the significance of the "neo" prefix, who became conservatives in the '70s and '80s. According to their critics, they are "moderate welfare Republicans" on domestic policy, but their major concern is foreign policy -- where they are allegedly warmongers.
One writer on the antiwar right describes them as "pro-bombing, pro-empire Washington policy wonks (almost never with a business or military background) [who] strongly favor U.S. military interventions overseas and becoming the world's policeman … they want… American Empire, Cold War level military spending, lots of new weapons, and a globalist policing mission that would project American military power deep into Asia and all points in between."
The anti-Bush, antiwar left has picked up on this theme with glee, saying that Bush, at the direction of his neoconservative puppet masters, is relying on a reverse domino theory, which holds that democracy in Iraq will inspire reforms throughout the Muslim world.
Who knows whether the antiwar left's criticisms are sincere? They may just be borrowing them from the right as further ammunition against their nemesis President Bush. But the antiwar right does strike me as sincere, though I think their concerns are largely unfounded.
Regardless of where neoconservatives stand on these issues, President Bush is no one's puppet; he is his own man. I don't believe he is hell-bent on forcibly exporting democracy (excuse the oxymoron), much less establishing and expanding an American empire. Nor do I believe he wants America to become the world's policeman, always intervening militarily in foreign nations where no vital American interests are at stake, such as with Kosovo. I'm personally not optimistic that democracy will sweep through the Middle East following the imminent Iraqi example (as we've seen, rebellions are difficult in Gestapo-controlled regimes), but I certainly can't fault President Bush for hoping for that desirable result.
Perhaps the best way to understand President Bush's foreign policy is to read his major speeches on the subject since the September 11 terrorist attacks. He means what he says. Manifestly, his primary concern is to neutralize the worldwide terrorist threat. From the beginning he has consistently articulated the message that terrorists simply cannot be effective unless backed by nation states. They need real estate and funds to conduct their training, recruitment, planning, commerce and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
Moreover, certain states, such as Iraq and Iran, embody a culture of terrorism. Their regimes are run by terrorists, they accommodate terrorists, they covertly support them, and they share with them an antipathy toward the West. Terrorism was so intrinsic to Saddam's regime that we would have been able to establish a circumstantial nexus between Iraq and Al Qaeda even if we hadn't proved the direct connection, which we have. Indeed, Saddam has ruled Iraq with an iron fist of terror; his celebrated forces are nothing more than glorified terrorists.
America's national interests will continue to guide President Bush's foreign policy. I believe that as circumstances warrant he'll issue further stern warnings to other regimes abetting anti-American terrorism, using the Iraqi success as a chilling deterrent. He'll take military action, unilateral if necessary, to prevent further September Elevens. Sometimes this may just entail bombing terrorist targets in other countries. In more extreme cases it may require dismantling the terrorist-sponsoring regime itself. In neither situation will it involve bullying or empire building, but rather safeguarding America's people and interests.
The antiwar movement clings to George Washington's admonition against entangling ourselves in foreign alliances. But if you'll pardon the oversimplification in this short column, Washington's advice was geared toward preserving America's national interests, which are enormously different today. Now that the world is smaller and America is vulnerable to terrorist attacks, including with WMDs, we must be ready and willing to act, preemptively if necessary.
President Bush is neither antiwar nor, in my estimation, a neoconservative. But he'll continue to be proactive against the terrorist threat here and abroad in accordance with our national interests, and America will be vastly safer as a result of his courage and leadership, for which I'm immensely grateful.