For months, President Bush has condemned, reviled, warned and
threatened Saddam Hussein. It was hard to see what this gained us, though in
telegraphing our punch, we clearly offered Hussein a protracted amount of
time to reinforce his fortifications, hide his nuclear weapons (if he has
any) and prepare for battle. Teddy Roosevelt's wisdom, let's recall, does
not suggest speaking loudly and carrying a small stick.
Still, it might be argued that Bush was preparing the American
people, not the enemy, with his bellicose talk. And since our Constitution
requires a declaration of war, we could not achieve surprise anyway.
But those arguments now seem antique in light of strong evidence
coming out of Washington that President Bush does not intend to make war on
Iraq at all. First, stories in USA Today and The Washington Post suggested
that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had succeeded in postponing (possibly
indefinitely) an attack on Iraq. The uniformed military was reportedly
reluctant to deploy the estimated 200,000 troops that would be required to
oust the Saddam regime, and were further inhibited by worries about the
Iraqi dictator's possession of chemical and biological weapons. If he's in a
fight for his life, they argue, he won't have any incentive to show
restraint, as he did in 1991, in the use of weapons of mass destruction.
Following the appearance of these stories, Bush himself told
German Chancellor Gearhart Schroeder, "There is no war plan on my desk."
Saddam Hussein did not show "restraint" in 1991. He was
deterred. The United States made it quite clear that if he used chemical or
biological weapons against our troops, we would use
ITAL) of the weapons in our arsenal in retaliation.
To quote the president himself, time is not on our side. If our
military is frightened of a chemically and biologically armed Saddam, how
much more cowed will they be by a nuclear arsenal? Suppose a nuclear-armed
Saddam decides to obliterate Israel, or to sell a bomb to Al Qaeda? Saddam
has the will (witness his plot to kill former President Bush and his likely
participation in the first World Trade Center bombing) and the means to do
us great harm. What he has lacked so far is the opportunity.
Why is the idea of sending 200,000 American troops to depose one
of the most dangerous men on the planet so daunting? We sent double that
number to fight the Gulf War. And as the president has reminded us
constantly since Sept. 11, the war on terrorism will not be short,
casualty-free or easy. During his address to Congress, the president said:
"Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat of violence from
our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our
efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will
If after months of threats, President Bush now shrinks from
action, the results for his presidency, and more important, for the country,
will be disastrous. It will be a thousand times worse than George H. W.
Bush's betrayal on taxes. He will lose all credibility and be stamped, once
and for all, as feckless and unserious. Our enemies will be emboldened, and
our friends dispirited. The stakes are that high.
(A million thanks for the thousands of emails, letters, cards
and other expressions of support for us and our son Jonathan. The outpouring
of prayer and good wishes was quite overwhelming and deeply appreciated.
Jonathan has made an incredible recovery. In the space of just
three weeks, he went from comatose to nearly normal! At first, we thought
he'd be in the hospital and rehab for weeks. As it turned out, he was
released after just two and a half weeks. Only a residual weakness in his
right hand and scars on his chin and neck tell the tale of his awful ordeal.
There were some terrible hours, particularly in the beginning.
But after the immediate danger had passed, it was actually a joyful (if
anxious) process to watch his capacities return: first recognizing people,
then squeezing hands on request, pointing to "Coke bottle" and "motorcycle,"
and finally speaking and walking.
Throughout we were buoyed by the prayers and fond wishes of so