The president reviewed the history of disarming Saddam Hussein, and reminded us it is not pretty: violation of the 1991 armistice accords, obstruction of U.N. resolutions, sanctions, and inspectors, a record of aggression, hatred of America, and a propensity to abet and engage in terrorism.
He made a good case that we didn’t ask for this war. But war nonetheless has come due to the 12 years of U.N. dereliction and the moral cowardice of the world — a policy of appeasement that nearly ruined the 20th century, but in an age of frightful weapons would surely result in global suicide of our own.
The fact is that U.S. Marines will find more deadly weapons in the first hours of war than the U.N. did in three months. And by day two the world will have forgotten Dominique de Villepin and be listening instead to Tommy Franks, who will practice a different sort of diplomacy. Get out of town in 48 hours sounds tough — but not when it results in liberation, rather than subjugation, and reconstruction instead of destruction.
Critics have claimed that Mr. Bush has backed himself into a corner; it is hard to see how when his promise was democracy and freedom for a tyrannized Iraq. We should not underestimate the power of his message of human liberty or the need of overwhelming force to ensure it. The EU, the U.N., NATO, the European street, the American Left, and a host of others, by failing to understand the post 9/11 world and its requirement to neutralize Saddam Hussein, have unnecessarily put their perceived wisdom, prestige, and influence in jeopardy — and with the liberation of Iraq they all are going to lose big time.
Now the battlefield, Thucydides’s harsh schoolmaster, will adjudicate what talk cannot. The only question remaining is not the ultimate verdict, but to what degree the past failure of allies to support the United States emboldened Saddam Hussein, cost the American military tactical surprise, complicated logistics, and needlessly raised casualties.
Finally Mr. Bush’s grim speech was a reminder why “a peaceful but not fragile” America is different from the U.N. and the nations that are in it. They either use force or embrace principles, but rarely both and never at the same time. It is impossible to imagine a French or German statesman ever giving such a tough speech about the price of freedom, and harder still to believe any of their people would ever listen to it.