Friday, September 13, 2002

Coming Around

Sure enough, the world is coming around to the administration’s opinion about Iraq. Beginning on the domestic front, Bob Kerrey acknowledges the need for action against Saddam. As he puts it, “in a very real way the war against Iraq did not end in 1991.” We have been militarily engaged with Iraq for the last decade, enforcing no-fly zones and the embargo and protecting Iraqi Kurds and Shiites. The real choice is not between doing nothing and attacking; since we are already engaged, the choice is between containing Saddam or removing him. Nothing could make Brent Scowcroft’s and James Baker’s doubts more irrelevant than this piece from the former Democratic Senator who clearly has a much more subtle understanding of foreign affairs than they do. Even the New York Times had to admit that "Mr. Bush's assessment of the Iraqi threat and the need for a firm, united response by the United Nations were well-put." So much for Susan Sontag.

If you’re interested in more academic debates regarding “realism” and “idealism,” you can’t help but be astonished at how impressively realistic the so-called idealists are. They grasp more clearly what our current actions in the region constitute (engaged containment or even perpetual, though half-hearted, invasion) and why regime change is needed as a preparation for our eventual withdrawal from the region. It is the so-called realists who are mired in intellectual abstractions like “balance of power” (whatever that is).

On the international front, Kofi Annan admits that “If Iraq’s defiance continues, the Security Council must face its responsibilities.” Bush’s fine speech at the U.N. yesterday has left European appeasers of Saddam in a difficult situation: they have been duly warned about Saddam defying the rules that the international community established for him and to which he consented as a term of the original peace. Bush sought the Security Council’s approval without being servile; he presented the facts and left the diplomats to ponder them. After this speech, the appeasers will have a difficult time of it. Our president is not as rhetorically-challenged as his detractors once thought.

Only the liberal blogger, Josh Marshall, seems unimpressed. He thinks that Bush’s speech betrayed Cheney bluster but Powell policy. Marshall seems to have confused style for substance, however. The reality is exactly the opposite of his analysis; Bush was rather Powell-like in his rhetoric, citing the UN sanctions, without altering his tougher policy of going it alone against Saddam if he must.

This Bush continues to incorporate the best of his father and Ronald Reagan, though he takes more from the latter. He’s seeking international approval without denying the U.S.’s unique position as the beacon for liberty around the globe – and with the willingness and ability to enforce its status as such. When the regime is finally ousted in Iraq, it will be Bush’s doing, having countered and eventually turned both domestic and international opinion even before the first shot is fired. This is developing into a textbook illustration of how to mold public opinion and not be constrained by it. For someone who is supposed to have “ambled into history,” Bush is doing quite a decent job of managing it.


Post a Comment

<< Home