WASHINGTON, D.C. -- To those of us with a memory for American
military action in the world, the sudden and seemingly increate controversy
over whether to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein is another example of public
persons frivoling with serious matters.
Of course, after all the hand wringing and strutting subsides,
we are going to take out Saddam Hussein. He is a dangerous man whose
treacherous ambitions have made the most dangerous place on earth -- the
Middle East -- even more dangerous. For three or more memorable decades
during the last half of the 20th century the most dangerous place on earth
was the geography near the Iron Curtain. American military force saved
Europe and much of the world from the domination of tyrants and the
incineration of nuclear war. We had no other option but to resist the
tyrants. We have no option now.
When we stood staunchly against Soviet might, "hawkish" America
was the butt of ridicule. Poets and playwrights satirized our generals and
our hard-line politicians. Their plays and films look foolish now that the
Cold War has been concluded peacefully, the American policy of resistance
having been vindicated. When we chose to resist the Soviets in 1947, they
possessed the most powerful army on earth and the world's largest empire.
Now, we face roaming bands of suicidal terrorists and a backward country a
malevolent dictator, who is developing weapons that will be able to cause
Saddam will never have the Soviets' nuclear arsenal, but his
arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons would be a grave menace
to the world. Moreover, he is more apt to use it than the eminently more
rational Soviets were to use theirs. It is only a matter of time before we
do the rational thing and oust him.
Yet from nowhere the handwringers have emerged. I am not
thinking of the anti-war elements on the left. They have been pretty much
marginalized. Their instinctive anti-Americanism gives them away. Their
record of false prophecies and of futile diplomatic panaceas has discredited
them with the American people. But over the last two weeks, we have seen the
emergence of such handwringers as Brent Scowcroft, Rep. Dick Armey and, in
the media, The New York Times and its confreres. In a refrain that we have
heard before, they depict those who would eliminate Saddam as cowboys and
war hawks unmindful of coalition-building and the long-term consequences of
toppling Saddam. They raise the specter of another Vietnamese quagmire.
The sudden controversy puts me in mind of the very same
controversy that preceded our last attack on Iraq in 1991. In the most
august circles of influence, the handwringers were wailing. I well remember
a CNN television show where I was surrounded by the likes of Al Hunt, Mark
Shields and Pat Buchanan, all prophesying endless war if we hit Saddam. Even
Robert Novak seemed hesitant.
My response then was the same as my response today, to wit: "If
Saddam is so powerful, how is it that Israel has remained in existence?" Why
has Saddam not conquered the lands Alexander the Great took with an army on
foot? I was never invited back on that television show, and the false
prophets of our doom have never acknowledged their error.
Today, Saddam is vastly weaker than he was in the early 1990s.
His appetite for weapons of mass destruction is as great as ever. And the
Middle East is possibly even more incendiary than it was before our first
attempts at "regime change." America is going to have to act. There is no
doubt that we shall consult our allies. Nor is there any doubt that we shall
demonstrate the prudence that we have customarily demonstrated when using
our military might. The poets and the playwrights' satirization of "hawkish"
America is precisely the opposite of the truth.
As I said at the beginning of this column, there is something
almost increate about the present controversy. For months, there seemed to
be unanimity about the need to remove Saddam. Nothing has changed. Yet, now,
seemingly without cause, a posture is being struck by instant opponents of
war, such as the editors of The New York Times. The Times has even hazarded
its own credibility by misidentifying Henry Kissinger as an opponent of the
Bush policy, though Kissinger has written that there is "an imperative for
pre-emptive action" in Iraq.
This controversy is not serious. It merely reflects the
frivolity of some of the country's leading public persons. In the end they
will quiet down, and after consultation the administration will act for the
straightforward reason House Majority Whip Tom DeLay intoned this week:
"Defeating Saddam Hussein is a defining measure of whether we will wage the
war on terrorism fully and effectively."
After Sept. 11, the majority of Americans understand that we
have no alternative. Not even the Soviets gave us such exigent reason to