Multilateralism 'til we're blue in the face

Posted: Nov 11, 2003 12:00 AM

The War on Terror was always going to be the driving issue for Democrats in the 2004 presidential election, but now that the economy is doing well, they will stay light years from the mantra, "It's the economy, stupid."

 That phrase is only operative as a campaign slogan if Republicans are in office and the economy is not doing well -- or can be made to appear, through Clintonesque propaganda, not to be doing well. Since that's not the case right now (the economy is doing quite well), the demagogues probably won't be able to get much traction through their class war assaults on Bush's demonstrably pro-growth tax cuts. Darn the bad luck!

 Besides, since 9-11, national security is on people's minds like no time since the height of the Cold War. But since Democrats have had a whale of a time in recent history making a credible case that they should be trusted with power levers over foreign affairs, what are they to do?

 Just think about their plight. There is one overriding issue sure to dominate the 2004 campaign, and they begin the race with a near-disabling handicap on that issue. What's the solution?

 It's easy. Just come up with an all-purpose buzzword that carries a little "gravitas" and sophistication, and have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Have it for snack time. And whatever you do, mention it every time you get a chance, and do it with an air of dignity, superiority and self-righteousness.

 That perfect word is "multilateralism." If I'm sounding it out correctly, it's got seven syllables -- yet there aren't that many letters in it overall. So it both rolls off the tongue easily enough that even red-staters can utter it, but is elevated enough that Harvard professors are proud to enunciate it.

 Plus, it has an uncanny versatility. It can be used to taint our military victories and scapegoat our post-war difficulties. Remember when we were getting ready to attack Iraq? Most Democrats -- who were privy to the same intelligence that the Bush administration was -- also believed that Saddam was feverishly pursuing WMD.

They knew they didn't have any reasonable objection on the substance of the decision to invade Iraq. So they decided to bellyache about process, and out of their playbook emerged the old standby, "multilateralism."

They had used it to criticize President Reagan's bombing of Libyan President Moammar Kaddafi following one too many terrorist-sponsoring activities. No reason they couldn't dust it off nearly a generation later to thwart President Bush's actions against terrorists. The word sounded good back then -- and it hasn't lost any syllables in 17 years.

So leading up to the attack on Iraq Democrats began complaining about Bush not working hard enough with other nations. Bush, they said, was a dangerous unilateralist, operating as the lone ranger, arrogantly conducting foreign policy as if his primary concern were American national security interests. Imagine that. How dare he not consider those delicate French feelings? How dare he not defer to the America-bashing, terrorist-coddling United Nations? What had gotten into that Texas cowboy anyway?

Then after we demolished the Iraqi army, Bush was entitled to no credit because he had alienated the nations of the world, notwithstanding the large number of nations in the coalition. You see, with "multilateralism" at your disposal, you can immediately transform your opponents' victories into virtual defeats. And it has the added advantage of relieving you of any obligation to answer the question of what you would have done differently (other than talk other recalcitrant nations to death, while paralyzing the United States and its security interests with inaction).

Democrats are coming out of the woodwork with this word. Senator Carl Levin used it on "Fox News Sunday." "We can't go it alone," said Levin, as if bringing in other nations (that, by the way, have steadfastly resisted) will automatically eliminate terrorist disruption and mayhem in Iraq. And Senator Joe Biden just wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying, "We have one last chance to bring the world into Iraq. It would require a genuine U-turn away from the unilateral model we've been following for securing and rebuilding Iraq."

If you don't believe the entire Democratic apparatus, from the bowels of Chairman Terry McAuliffe to the lofty reaches of its congressmen and presidential candidates, are using the word "multilateralism" to the point that they've seemingly forgotten about "Bush's tax cuts for the rich," then you just aren't paying close attention to current events.

If I were President Bush, I would make a unilateral, executive decision to continue ignoring these blowhards and their destructive rhetoric.

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