Undeclared wars

Posted: Feb 20, 2003 12:00 AM

It is a painful reminder of human folly, irresponsibility, and exhibitionism that millions of "anti-war" demonstrators have somehow convinced themselves that they have some special aversion to war. No sane human being wants war.

There would be cheers throughout the White House if Saddam Hussein decided to pack his bags and go into retirement somewhere. The real question is: What are the alternatives at this point?

The alternative proposed by France is precisely the alternative that led France into disaster and humiliation in World War II. France "gave peace a chance," both before and after that conflict began.

In violation of her mutual defense treaty with Czechoslovakia, France threw Czechoslovakia to the wolves at the Munich conference in 1938, by agreeing to Hitler's demand that the western portion of that country be turned over to him, without a shot being fired.

Even after formally being at war a year later, France's military inactivity for more than six months led people to speak of "the phony war." During that time, Hitler's main military forces were on the eastern front, invading Poland, and France had overwhelming military superiority on its border with Germany. But France just waited.

In May 1940, the wait was over. The main body of Hitler's troops were now on the western front. When they attacked, France surrendered to the Nazis after just six weeks of fighting.

France, of all nations, should understand that waiting can have a very high cost. That cost would have been even higher if not for France's liberation four years later by Allied troops landing at Normandy, where thousands of young Americans remain buried under a sea of crosses to this day.

"Anti-war" demonstrators act as if we have a choice whether or not to be at war. We were already at war before September 11, 2001, which served to shock many of us into an awareness of that fact.

International terrorists had already declared war on us. The countries that sheltered them and aided them could hide behind the fact that they had not declared war on the United States. They were fighting an undeclared war, using others as their hit men.

When Bill Clinton was president, he fought a "phony war," doing just enough to keep the media satisfied and the issue swept under the rug, but not enough to let the countries who were sponsoring terrorists get the message that we were serious.

President Bush has changed that with his invasion of Afghanistan, one of the centers of international terrorism. We haven't started a war. We have just recognized the war that others started, instead of burying our heads in the sand, as the "anti-war" demonstrators would like us to do.

Make no mistake about it, war is dangerous, regardless of who starts it. There may be body bags, not only overseas but also here in America. And you or I could be in those bags.

The truly catastrophic possibility is that North Korea could use their nuclear weapons themselves or they could fight an undeclared nuclear war by turning some of those missiles over to international terrorists. We can only hope that our leaders, who have far more information than we do, are dealing with this threat with cool heads, stout hearts, and strong nerves.

As for Iraq, should we let U.N. inspectors keep trying to find a needle in a haystack? Iraq is larger than Japan, nearly 50 percent larger than Italy and about 80 percent larger than Great Britain. And that doesn't count the places where it can hide its weapons outside Iraq, including on its own ships.

If we learn nothing else from this episode, it should be that we cannot allow the defense of American lives to be held hostage by the United Nations -- which has already given Saddam Hussein a final warning, and now wants to give him another final warning. And, if he doesn't heed that, they will threaten him with yet another warning.

If wars could be prevented by waiting and hoping, World War II would never have happened. Every mistaken step in appeasement was cheered by crowds and every attempt to build military defenses was denounced by them. If crowds are to be our guide, we are truly headed for ruin.