Despite Sen. Trent Lott's demand that we all fall in behind the commander in chief, the Senate has a constitutional duty to debate the wider war the president has begun to pursue.
Far from being unpatriotic, such a debate is the quintessence of patriotism. In World War II, patriots argued the wisdom of FDR's "Europe-First" policy that left our men on Corregidor to the mercy of the butchers of Bataan. And U.S. generals wrangled ferociously with Churchill over where and when to invade Hitler's "Fortress Europe."
We are a republic, not an empire -- and republics do not go to war until all the elected leaders of the people, not just one, have decided on war. Moreover, since the Axis of Evil speech, the White House has moved far beyond the mandate of Congress to destroy the "evil-doers" of Sept. 11 and their accomplices.
In that speech, the president threatened war on Iran, Iraq and North Korea if they did not renounce weapons of mass destruction. Since that speech has come word the United States is building bases in four ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia and deploying 200 military advisers in Georgia. Last week, we learned NATO will be expanded to include three Baltic states. If Russian nationalists are going berserk, who can blame them? How would we react if Russian military advisers began turning up in Tijuana?
Why are we humiliating Russia when a first priority of U.S. foreign policy is to keep Russian atomic weapons out of the hands of terrorists and Mother Russia out of an embrace with China? What is there in President Shevardnadze's Georgia that is worth the risk of antagonizing a nuclear superpower like Russia? Congress cannot ignore these issues.
And now, even as our War Party is cawing for Phase II attacks on Baghdad, we learn that Phase I is not over. U.S. troops even now clashing with Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in the largest land battle yet. And before we begin the March to Baghdad, second thoughts may be in order in light of the latest Gallup Poll of the Arab and Islamic world. Apparently, America -- once seen as a benefactor and friend -- is despised from Morocco to Indonesia.
By 61 percent to18 percent, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Kuwaitis, Iranians and Turks do not believe our word that Arabs were responsible for Sept. 11. Only 9 percent of the Arab and Islamic world believes the U.S. war in Afghanistan is morally justified. Only 11 percent likes President Bush. By 55 percent to 22 percent, the world's 1 billion Moslems hold unfavorable opinions of the United States. The most negative views are held by Pakistanis (68 percent to 9 percent) and Jordanians (62 percent to 22 percent). Among Saudis, 16 percent has a favorable opinion of America, but 64 percent views us negatively, which is almost identical to the unfavorable opinion of America held by Iranians.
Who are we defending over there? Who are we fighting for? And why do hundreds of millions of Arabs and Moslems dislike and even detest us?
According to Gallup Poll editor Frank Newport, "These respondents have a deep-seated disrespect for what they see as the undisciplined and immoral lifestyles of people in Western nations." They see America as "ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked, biased." In short, Arabs and Moslems see us as the new Rome -- a ruthless and godless empire -- not as a Godly republic or a shining city on a hill.
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is now warning that if we attack Iraq, and the Arab world sees Arab civilians again dying under American bombs, the entire Middle East could explode. And Mubarak is a friend who backed President Bush's father in Desert Storm.
In the hubris and triumphalism of this war capital in the wake of our victory in Afghanistan and coming "cakewalk" over Iraq, many will ignore these polls. After all, who cares what Arabs think? But if we are going to war, we need to know the mind of those we expect to conquer and convert, lest we find U.S. troops receiving the same reception in Baghdad as Israeli troops get in Ramallah.
There is another reason Congress must say "yea" or "nay" to a wider war. This weekend, the press reported on the failed efforts of Al Qaeda to acquire an atomic bomb -- for possible use in New York City. As America is the probable target of terrorists anxious to acquire such weapons, Congress must answer two questions:
What is there in the Islamic world worth risking having such a bomb exploded in our capital? And is the better way to avoid that horror plunging in ever more deeply into that world that hates us -- or getting out altogether?
If Islamic peoples detest America, why not let them discover democracy in their own time, rather than trying to convert them with thermobaric bombs and cruise missiles?